Buddy, Can You Keep It Down?

Is there a nice way to tell strangers to be quiet?

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Comments (25)

(21) Gary Katz, May 25, 2013 8:54 PM

A little humor?

I was at a music performance and 2 women behind me wouldn't stop talking, despite my giving them "the look" several times. At the end of intermission, I told them, "Now that you've had the whole intermission to tell each other everything you needed to say, we can all just enjoy the second half of the performance, right?" I threw in a half smile, for good measure. I them heard one of the women telling her friend, "I was hardly talking!" But they did keep it down the remainder of the show.

(20) Anonymous, February 3, 2013 11:54 PM

Challenge of Communication

In pursuit of our peace, we perhaps can do more than we ever thought we could. However when it comes to cell phones, the challenge is always there. Cell phones are practical when we need them for urgent matters, but on the other side of the coin, they are becoming the coldest way of communication for most, including the texting system while ignoring others, and talking loud disturbing the peace. We sit at a restaurant, and have to listen to somenone's phone conversation at the next table. We wait at the airport to board our plane, and cannot have a peaceful moment because someone sitting next to us, is loudly talking and disturbing us. We go shopping to a supermarket or Department store, and someone is loudly detailing on the phone every item they see around them. I think it is rude and unconsidered to do that in an oblivious way, and very disrespectful. The listener, Jewish or not, should have the right to ask a loud and disturbing individual, to please keep it low. However, there is also danger in doing that, as one never knows how the culprit will interpret the request, and if that person is a violent person, it may very well missinterpret the request, and the situation may turn ugly. Also, other elements may play a role as well, such as race and skin color, depending of who is being loud and who is making the request for someone to lower his/her voice, which may be used against the person complaining. I simply think that in all fairness, cell phones should not be allowed inside of the airport except for emergency. Rabbi Salomon, thank you for another interesting topic.

(19) Eric Brand, January 22, 2013 7:45 PM

It's impolite (and unJewish) NOT to say something!

As usual, a good video from Rabbi Salomon. In answer to your question, should a person (in particular, an identifable Jew) say something to someone who's disturbing the peace (in particular, yakking on a cell phone), it's admirable that you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and that you're concerned about making a chillul HaShem (desecration of God's name). But that assumes that passivity in general and acceptance of bad behavior in particular is appropriate in all instances. In fact, bringing someone's bad behavior -- and its effects on others -- to their attention is a mitzvah among Jews, and certainly acceptable in wider society. Of course, it has to be done correctly, with respect and only in the person's (and innocent bystanders') interests. Taking a stand for what's right, stopping people from doing the wrong thing, protecting the innocent -- aren't these Jewish values? I've occasionally gotten applause from the group of strangers around me when I've suggested that a noisy cell phone user might lower the volume or even choose another time for his converation. People want to say something, but are timid. Perhaps we've gotten to the place where we've confused timidity with politeness. Edmund Burke said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." A little grandiose for cell phone abuse, but you get the idea.

(18) Anonymous, January 20, 2013 10:01 PM

Can you keep it down solution

The loud talkers are probably suffering from hearing loss. I suggest that you carry a business card for a good audiologist with the following question prionted on the blank side: Do you know how loud you are? The worst that could happen is that the loudie will throw away the card. The best that could happen is that the loudie could get treated (business for the audiologist) and always remember 'that Jewish guy who helped me save my hearing' with gratitude and other loudies will also get clued in based on that loudie's testimonial. The people immediately standing around you will be grateful and probably think "I wish I'd thought of that' and maybe even ask about what you are doing and could they also have a card. If it is presented with respect and compassion, how could you go wrong?

(17) Anonymous, January 17, 2013 12:59 PM

How to shoosh fellow congregants-- respectfully

Was hoping to learn some hints re: how to respectfully ask my fellow women shul congregants to be quiet-especially since many of those who are talking during davening & Torah leyning are senior citizens-decades older than I Any suggestions?????

Dena, February 10, 2013 3:37 PM

forget it

It's hopeless. Try changing places. And before you do, look at them so maybe theyll understand why you got up. I once stopped dovening at a certain shul because of the talking and there were no other available places. I don't think a younger person can tell a senior citizen to stop talking.

(16) Shirley, January 16, 2013 7:27 PM

Decibel levels

It appears that most people nowadays seem to be suffering from identity crises - ergo they speak very loudly, and attempt to draw attention to themselves in any way, shape or fashion possible. Part of the problem is that due to the exceedingly loud decibel level of rap crap, hip hop slop (music), younger people's hearing abilities have most certainly been damaged - it's been proven. One has to judge the situation carefully prior to requesting that the individual lower their voice, or crease and desist from their annoying/bothersome behavior - some people are just plain crazy and can richochet with something more letahl or harmful than just ignoring you. I.E. marauding teenagers on a subway train, screaming, running, etc. - you do NOT confront anyone of this ilk, you either change subway cars or notify the conductor (like they're going to do something), or if you have the capability, calling 911 and reporting it, or just remove yourself from the scena - getting off the train, bus, or relocating to a different spot. It's a hit or miss thing, but there is no reason for people to divulge their entire blow by blow account of an event or evening, etc. in public. That's inconsiderate, classless, boorish, and unacceptable. It is NOT the actions or behavior of ladies and gentlemen, unless the individual is truly hearing impaired, in which case, they will probably tell you. Hope for the best, but expect the worst.

(15) Boomie, January 16, 2013 6:22 PM


So I guess saying " Say hello for me" to a complete LOUD talking stranger is out of the question???

(14) Melanie Vliet, January 16, 2013 5:43 PM

Rights in Public

I always enjoy your videos and find your viewpoints well-thought-out and insightful. In the current instance I certainly understand your annoyance, but unless you're in a place where an expectation of quiet exists, such as a library or a theatre or concert hall during a performance, I don't see that you have any right to impose your views with respect to how loud is too loud on others. Rather than try to impose your will on others, the appropriate response to your discomfort is to get out your ear plugs and use them to diminish the sound that reaches your ears. It seems to me that the problem lies as much with you and your sound level preferences as it does with those who are communicating with others. By the way, I noticed that you referred only to cell phone conversations and not to face-to-face communication. Do you have more tolerance for the latter? If so, can you justify that? I can't think of a way to do so.

(13) Anonymous, January 16, 2013 5:38 PM

some thoughts on this matter.....

b"h #1: i'm shocked, really, in this post-sandy hook and other shootings; in this 'poor economy' where peoples' temperaments may be volatile, that the Rabbi doesn't realize the very real risks of 'telling' a stranger to be quieter! #2: here,anyway, is an idea which might work and NOT 'set' someone off: to write on a piece of paper the following and hand it to him/her discretely: "i care SO much about other people, that when i hear someone on their cellphone i always wonder if i can help them in some way. if you don't need any help, perhaps you could lower your voice so that i won't hear something i think i need to help you with." i think something written (prewritten and kept in one's purse or wallet) gives the other person a chance to save face and also to better absorb my message.

Anonymous, January 17, 2013 4:30 PM

Stop w sand hook already

That had nothing to do with someone telling someone else to shush. Lanza was a nut job who should have been committed, his mother should have been armed 24x7 and shot him when / before he got out of hand, and the school should have had armed teachers / guards. (and i f you don't believe any of that, please put a "I have no guns in this home!" sign on your front and back doors)

(12) Anonymous, January 16, 2013 5:25 PM

No, don't risk embarassing that person

I used to have a problem talking too loud due to a hearing defect which has since been corrected but once in awhile my voice will still get a little loud out of habit. I'm not aware of it and if someone points it out I'll feel ashamed, embarrassed and hurt for a long while. It's not a big enough deal to risk hurting feelings or embarrassing person by letting them know we notice. Putting up with an annoyance such as this doesn't cause us any real pain but it's very hurtful to the other person. Chances are they don't know they're doing it.

(11) John, January 16, 2013 5:19 PM

Use yuour own phone

Hold your own phone up & make some comment to your phone - something like - hey Frank - you won't believe this - have a listen to this guy

(10) Anonymous, January 16, 2013 4:43 PM

Obviously not a private conversation.

If they are talking loud enough for me to hear them from what should be well out of earshot, I yell, "Say hi from me, and has that latest bout of herpes cleared up yet"? If they tell you it's a private conversation, you know the answer to that.

(9) Noel, January 16, 2013 4:01 PM

Slip them a discreet note

I never tried this, but if you discreetly slip them a quick handwritten note, that might work. Something like "please try to be quieter". People don't want to be publicly embarrassed and perhaps a note might avoid this

(8) Emil Friedman, January 16, 2013 3:03 AM

Perhaps he's hard of hearing?

I am somewhat hard of hearing and often don't realize how loudly I'm talking. Not only do I not resent being asking to lower my voice, I usually say, "Sorry. Thank you for telling me. I don't hear so well and sometimes can't tell when I'm talking too loud." I've even asked co-workers to let me know when I do it.

(7) Anonymous, January 15, 2013 2:22 PM

People Talking Loudly on Their Cellphones

One of my pet peeves when traveling is people talking loudly on their cellphones as well as listening to their music on high volumes. There were times where I've motioned people to lower their voices. Some complied while others ignored me. In this day in age where consideration for others in public domains are no longer a primary concern, it almost seems like a futile cause to ask people to be a little more respectful. Even when I've politely asked people to be considerate, either I get reciprocated with four letter expletives or quizzical looks. But when I seldom ask people to talk softly, that request usually falls on deaf ears. Yes, people should know better and their is no excuse or legitimacy for rude behavior anywhere. I suppose if you are going to tell people to speak quietly, please chose your words carefully.

(6) SusanE, January 15, 2013 2:42 AM


Is there a nice way to tell strangers to be quiet? Nope. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Usually it is better to mind my own business.......because that's what the other 20 or 100 people in and around the area are doing.

(5) Lisa, January 14, 2013 12:17 PM

I take it all in......

I don't think there is a nice way to say... "Please can you lower your voice"... So enjoy the moment ....listen in....& hopefully get a good laugh out of it!!

(4) Baruch, January 13, 2013 10:51 PM


Generailly, one gets the right message if you put a finger to your mouth with a smile and happy eyes. Then the other person understands that it is not so much about bothering me as it is about me helping them not embarass themeselves. Same goes with chinuch in general. Modesty starts with, "It's NOT about ME."

Rachel, January 16, 2013 6:08 PM

Ear Plugs to the Rescue

I never travel anywhere without ear plugs. They are the most important item I take along on any trip.

(3) Joshua, January 13, 2013 7:32 PM


Yes. Please G-d (not men) and speak (the truth) with authority.

(2) M. Hillson, January 13, 2013 2:18 PM

Discretion also Needed

Sometimes, the person blabbing on the cellphone is obviously agitated, and "butting in" will inevitably trigger an outburst , acheiving only more noise. "Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says: Do not try to appease your friend in the midst of his anger" (Pirkey Avot Chapter 4 Mishnah 18).

(1) Alan S., January 13, 2013 11:26 AM

Sadly, in today's world, there is no way to tell a stranger to keep it down. That stranger just might hold a grudge and want to retaliate in some manner. Rabbi Solomon, while it is commendable that you want to put your best face forward as a Jewish person, unless you are a cop or other security person, regardless of who you are, outsiders usually resent being told anything that might infringe upon their 'rights'. In fact, being Jewish might make their response worse. The only way I've seen this work -- I take a train into Manhattan all the time -- is if someone in an outer area asks for the loud talker to 'keep it down' or if a few people shush the loud talker. Othertimes you're just a captive. It might pay for you to bring noise cancelling headphones with you for just these times. It's so sad to say that politeness and consideration for people surrounding you are long lost traits.

Avraham, January 15, 2013 3:30 PM

I sadly agree with you Allen. There is no fail proof method of telling someone to quite down. Key word is "telling". That person most definitely will become deffensive and become irritable. The only way I can think of avoiding this is keeping some music or a nice shiur on a device of some sort that you can listen to. You could also try standing right next to the person and making a phone call and then somewhat loudly repeat "I'm so sorry I can't hear what your saying, it's so loud in here"...


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