Question: “I work in a small office with a woman who loudly cracks and snaps her chewing gum. This lady is pushing 40 years old, so her behavior seems very unprofessional. The popping noises drive me crazy and make it hard to concentrate. I’ve tried earplugs, but they get in the way when I need to answer the phone or talk to people. I spend my breaks with the gum chewer, so I don’t want to aggravate her. How do I handle this?” —Need Some Quiet
Answer: Some people can easily screen out background noise, while others hear every little sound. So the snapping that bothers you may not even be noticed by other colleagues.
If you decide to approach your coworker, frame the request as a favor, not a criticism. For example: “You may find this odd, but I’m one of those people who is hyper-sensitive to noise. Would it be possible for you to chew your gum without cracking it?”
But if you choose not to address the issue, then you need to stop obsessing about it. If you’re constantly on edge, waiting for the first crack, you’ll be irritated before she even pops the gum in her mouth.