Dodging A Shrill Voice Next Door

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Aug 17, 2016

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PROBLEM: My family and I recently moved into a new building. One floor below us lives a woman with children about the same age as mine. She’s been wonderful about inviting my kids over and encouraging the friendships, but that comes with one problem: She likes to talk to me, too, for long stretches of time. And she has a truly, truly annoying voice. I can’t even describe it. What do I do? I can’t live like this.


SB: Sorry to say, but I think you just have to suck it up. There is a version of this lady for every parent in every building. She comes in the form of the lonely old lady who lives next door and comes over for various questionable reasons during the week, or the door man that won’t stop chatting in chirpy high pitched voice first thing in the morning before you’ve had your coffee.

At least you get the child care perks along with the annoyance. Hopefully you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone!

MM: The fact that you haven’t yet been able to invent a reason to escape from this means you’re either too polite to lie, or that lending a patient ear in exchange for child care is your idea of repaying the favour. The only solution is to stop feeling guilty! (If you find a way to do that please tell me how.)

Or if you’re motivated enough you could patent a new design for the un-hearing aid: drains out all unwanted noises and is the perfect way to deal with annoying neighbours, crying babies, boring dates and the like. Good luck!

LG: It’s a bit like when a tree falls in the forest. If you’re not around to hear it, is her voice actually annoying? Maybe you just have easily annoyed ears.

Yes, that’s right. I’m turning a question on a neighbour with a grating voice into a philosophical examination on the nature of annoyance. Because otherwise the only answer to this is: If she’s a good person and her kids’ friendships are worth it to you, get over it. If she isn’t or they aren’t — avoid. It’s that simple.

SH: I agree with LG. You really need to prioritise. If you think your kids’ new friends are worth having around, it’s time you invested in ear muffs. Better still, master the art of small talk. Be at your politest while speaking to your neighbour, but don’t give her any scope to venture into your life.

Or, return the congeniality, but find some topics she doesn’t care about and wax eloquent about them. Neighbourhood friends are becoming a rare species; hold on to them if they mean no harm!

First World Problems is a funny advice column wherein The Swaddle Team weighs in on their own and others’ ‘problems.’ Write to us at contact@theswaddle.com or tweet @The_Swaddle with a #firstworldproblems hashtag if you’ve broken a nail, felt a little blue, yellow or green lately, or had a strange encounter of the any-numbered kind. We’ll help you sort it out.

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