HSP trumps3I remember the time when I heard someone playing music in their cubicle. It was several cubes away, but I could still faintly hear it.

I worked in a cube farm, as it is so affectionately called. Dozens and dozens of cubicles all next to each other in a giant room.

I remember sitting there, straight up, with a look of super annoyance on my face as I thought about what to do. I was a writer, and I needed silence to write. I could deal with the typical ambient noise of the office, but something like music distracts me. Because this person decided they needed to hear some tunes, now I couldn’t work.

Listening to music in a cubicle–when you are surrounded by dozens of other people in cubicles–is inconsiderate and selfish. You have just made the decision for everyone that they will now listen to your music as well, whether they want to or not. To me, that is the utter height of rudeness. Plus—why couldn’t she use headphones?

I sat there in my cube, getting more and more annoyed about how inconsiderate this person was. I was getting worked up. I debated with myself of what to do. “Just ignore it,” I told myself. But I couldn’t.

Finally, I stormed over and found the offender. I told her, nicely, that I was sorry but could she turn her music off because I couldn’t work? She turned it off. I’m sure the second I walked away, she IMed all her co-workers, “OMG some crazy chick just came over and told me to turn my music off, wtf?!” I couldn’t care less.

Some people like to listen to music when they work, or have the TV on in the background, or go to a café where there is ambient noise. Then there are people like me that prefer complete silence with no distractions.

Both of these preferences are okay. But we all have to live and work together in this world. This is how I see it: My right to silence trumps your right to noise. Why? Because my silence won’t bother you and distract you from your work. You can wear headphones to listen to music if you need to, just don’t pollute my air with your soundwaves. Your need for noise will bother me and distract me; my silence won’t bother you.

So, in my mind, the right to silence always wins.

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When you can’t avoid noise at work, pop in your headphones and listen to white noise. Or, if you like ambient noise of a coffee shop, try Coffitivity.