Ask Marge

My Friend Eats Loudly on Our Calls and It’s Driving Me Bonkers. What Should I Do?

published May 30, 2020
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Dear Marge,

My friends and I have a regular Zoom cocktail hour once a week. I love seeing them (I MISS them!!!) but one friend not only slurps her drink, she also snacks really loudly throughout the call. It drives me crazy — to the point where I can’t even focus on the conversation. Is there any way I can talk to her nicely? I really love her and don’t want to hurt her, but it irks me beyond belief.

Thanks for your help,

Dear Chew-to-Yourself,

I feel you. I really, really do. I also suffer from misophonia. For some of us, the sound of someone snapping their gum (I got all prickly even typing those words) is such an irritant that we have to leave the situation to avoid tearing the gum out of the person’s mouth with our bare hands. (Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but sometimes, misophonia causes one to think that way.)

One small study reported on by Harvard Health showed that people with misophonia showed signs of real physiological stress — increased heart rate and sweating — when exposed to their trigger sounds. But while science proves what we feel is real, and we know what we feel is real, most people think we are just being pernickety and difficult. 

Which brings me to your specific situation. It sounds like she is a close friend who you can be honest with. Put the issue on you, not her: Explain what misophonia is, and that because of it you have trouble focusing on Zoom calls when you hear her eating or drinking. Your ability to rein in your misophonia-induced stress may vary greatly depending on the context and what is going on in your life. It is helpful to have some coping mechanisms in place, if possible. To that end, there are some techniques and support available — go to Misophonia Association to learn more.

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