Miss Manners: How do I tell my neighbors to dial down the volume on their conversations?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in an old, established neighborhood where new homes are being built on the available plots. The one behind my own home is angled so that its back porch and dining room/kitchen are basically within a foot of my property line. The owners also replaced much of the lawn with a patio and pool, which reflect sound rather than absorb it.

When they entertain, or just dine at their kitchen table, the acoustics are such that I can literally hear every single word of their conversations. This is not only distracting, but also makes me uncomfortable about being privy to their conversations.

When they moved in pre-pandemic, I went over and brought some welcome gifts, but I am now unsure of how to approach this problem. Shout “Too loud!” over the fence? Drop a note in their mailbox? Text them, if I can find their number?

And how do I avoid looking like some old neighbor who just seems too fussy and sensitive?

GENTLE READER: Paranoia will be of greater assistance to you than bluntness: Tell your neighbor that you feel they should know that -- in spite of your strenuous efforts to keep windows closed and not to listen -- the sound from their dining room can be clearly heard in your living room.

The more embarrassed you can look while confessing this, the more motivated Miss Manners believes they will be to do something about it.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: I like to travel and have been many places in the world. I am very prone to seasickness, though, so waterborne vessels rarely make an appearance in my travels. (As I write this, I am mentally reliving a one-hour turbojet ferry from Hong Kong to Macau -- gah.)


People often ask me why I don’t go on cruises, but when I answer with the seasickness response, they won’t hear of it. They are sure that whatever boat they have in mind -- from a gigantic cruise ship to a paddle-wheel riverboat to a canoe -- will be fine for me because of XYZ. Or that a particular body of water won’t cause seasickness. Or that this motion sickness device will work a charm for me, as it did for them.

The reality is that all boats on all bodies of water make me queasy. I’ve tried all the “cures,” and I still suffer mightily. Is there a courteous way to tell these well-meaning people that waterborne travel is not in my future, ever?

GENTLE READER: As what you call the Seasickness Response has not discouraged people, perhaps your version of it is less demonstrative than Miss Manners had originally pictured -- gah.

Assuming whoever you are speaking with is not proposing to rent Jet Skis posthaste, perhaps it would be quicker to agree that you will take their suggestions under advisement -- and then change the subject.

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Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to