Miss(ed) Manners

September 24, 2007

Ask Dave! Vol. 13

Filed under: Ask Dave — missedmanners @ 11:19 am

Dear Dave,

One of my co-workers constantly chomps while eating, even candy. How do I politely bring to her attention she sounds like a pig? I have tried talking about getting on to my children for this same thing, thinking maybe she would take a hint, but no, she just keeps chomping along.

Stressed in Ohio

Among the proudest moments of my life are the following:

1) Receiving my D.A.R.E. certificate in Middle School and then being photographed for the local newspaper receiving said certificate and then stealing said newspaper clipping from my parents then hanging it on my wall and then doing some drugs in front of said stolen photograph of said received certificate.

2) Making it through a four hour high school graduation after drinking two huge bottles of water and NOT wetting myself when I got my diploma. The bladder damage I caused myself is not on this list.

3) Living out a sexual fantasy and having it be way cooler than it was in my head, causing me to develop new, more intricate and nearly physically impossible sexual fantasies. Most involve zero gravity.

and finally:

4) When I realized that people are as trainable as small pets.

It’s so true. In fact, the only difference between training humans and animals is the snacks you offer for a reward. Stressed, you can do one of two things to bone up on your training skills: Either read all of Pavlov’s collected works on positive reinforcement or 2) Start watching The Dog Whisperer.

The only thing keeping you from modifying the behavior of all those around you is your level of interest and how much effort you’re willing to put in. The main idea here is consistency. If you come up with some sort of punishment for your noisy mouthed co-worker and enact it every time she chows down in your audible range I guarantee you will start to see a change in her behavior. The trick here, is of course to do it subtly, so she doesn’t know she’s being trained. That’s always the trick.

For example: Say every time she smacks her horse-sized gums together over a piece of gum you set off a remote noisemaker that you’ve taped to the bottom of her desk. You can get these at any Walmart… like a key finder or something. It’s got to be loud enough that she notices it, but not loud enough that she goes searching for it. This will interrupt the behavior. Obviously this would work a billion times better if you could shock her every time she chews loudly, but unfortunately, that’s kind of illegal. Stupid, I know.

Combine that with positive reinforcement like, for example, complimenting her whenever she chews quietly. Nothing over the top, just something nice like, “you’re looking a lot less bloated today!”

The change won’t be instant, but it will be permanent, only if you’re consistent. Remember, negative reaction for negative  behavior, reward for positive behavior.

Some people might call this line of action immoral, and they would be absolutely right. But isn’t it also immoral to chew so loudly that you distract all those around you? Time to do some rationalizing and get yourself okay with tampering with this chick’s mind. On top of bettering your own surroundings, the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you’ve successfully altered her subconscious behavior is immense.

Now, if you’re not comfortable with this line of action, and you very well might not be, you’re in a pickle. There’s no way to politely ask her to stop. Loud chewing is, as I said before, a subconscious behavior. Something you do without thinking about because your parents never berated you for it as a child, so you’re not trained not to do it. If you bring it up directly, she’ll probably resent you for it. There’s simply no easy way to do this.

The only other possible effective form of addressing this issue is call her out on it publicly. There is no greater agent of change than social embarrassment. People will do all sorts of things to fit in, from tight rolling their jeans to sleeping with every member of the opposite sex in a particular group of friends… we all just want to be loved, am I right? If you call her out in front of everyone else in your office for being a cud-chewer, she’ll be so embarrassed that she will stop, immediately, no work required.

Though she will hate you forever and ever and you’ll probably never get an invite to Thanksgiving dinner. Though, with what we know about her eating habits, I don’t think you’d be missing much.



  1. hey man! i know it’s been like forever since i’ve been here and in fact it has been. dont take it as a personal slight as much has been going on in my life.

    i read your comment and i do agree that sometimes the guilt and shame does in fact make us happy. i advice to you is to continue doing whatever makes you happy as long as it doesn’t cause you to be in jail, hurt, hurt someone else, or some other form of disadvantage.

    your advice on this problem is hilarious. Personally, i might just have to ask if she eats out much. that kind of eating habit might be an attractive additive in the bedroom *snicker*; publicly it’s just plain unattractive. maybe she’s a through back from the caveman era.

    Comment by blujewel — September 25, 2007 @ 1:56 pm | Reply

  2. Hey sweety!

    No worries, I’ve been crazy busy myself. Going here, being there, seeing this, doing that, etc.


    So great to hear from you though!

    Comment by missedmanners — September 25, 2007 @ 2:25 pm | Reply

  3. This is a good thing for you, David. You’re good at this..you’ve a real affinity for it. Interjecting MUCH needed humor right where it’s needed.

    I thought about venturing into it myself..you know, funny self-help Q&A, but you beat me to it and besides, I think you’re already better at it that I could ever be.


    Laurie Kendrick

    Comment by lauriekendrick — September 25, 2007 @ 3:09 pm | Reply

  4. Hehe.
    Thanks, Laurie!

    I’m super awesome at telling people what to do. Listening? Nah.

    Comment by missedmanners — September 27, 2007 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

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