Etiquette: Joan

Etiquette: Joan

"I'm easily irritated by certain sounds. My family cannot be around me when they're eating certain things: chewing on gum, chomping on ice, when they're eating sunflower seeds and just outright smacking food," complains Joan.


She calls her husband, Bob, the Sunflower Seed King, and becomes aggravated when he cracks open shells. "She's holding her ears and she's screaming, 'Please stop! Please stop!'" he reports.


Joan's son, Scott, says, "The thing that drives my mom crazy is the clanking of the spoon against the bowl."


Her youngest daughter, Emily, shares another one of Joan's pet peeves. "Nuts drive her nuts," she says.


"This becomes an issue at least four or five times a day," Joan reports. "There are certain restrictions on what they're allowed to do or not do around me. I prepare the meal, and then they all just go to their rooms, and I will go to my room and eat. Not being able to sit around a table and eat together as a family, that really bothers me."


Joan works from home and often puts her headphones on to drown out the noise her family makes. "Am I overly sensitive, or do the people around me just have horrible etiquette?" she asks Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil explains his definition of normal. "If what you're doing is interfering with your life ... then it's not normal. It has become toxic in some way," he tells Joan. He also notes that she doesn't eat dinner with her family and wears headphones while she's working at home. "Would you say this is, therefore, not normal?"


"I would say it's probably not normal," Joan says with a laugh. "When he's watching football " I like football too " but when he's chewing, I want to cover up my ears."


Dr. Phil cautions Joan against giving her children ammunition by making them aware that their habits annoy her. "They're going to know they have immense power if you continue to react," he warns.


"It's impossible not to react," she says.


"This is a stress response," Dr. Phil says, observing that major noises don't affect Joan as much as minor annoyances. "What we want to figure out is what some of the stress triggers are and give you some techniques that will allow you to not respond to that. It will probably change in a very short period of time."