I suffer from Misophonia, meaning that certain sounds cause me to experience irrational irritability, anger, frustration and nausea. My trigger is the sound of people eating or drinking.

Often my boss will sit next to and work with me, and often he will be eating his lunch at the same time in close proximity to me which I find unbearable.

How do I professionally request him sit away from me while he eats? Can I expect empathy from someone who is unaware of my condition?

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    Under no circumstances would I find it rude or unprofessional to request me not eat lunch/near their desk, regardless if this was a medical condition or a personal preference. – Daniel Siebert May 19 '15 at 19:28
  • What is he eating that's causing enough noise to be bothersome at a distance of 2 meters? – alroc May 19 '15 at 20:10
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    Everyone is different. But I am a boss and just today, eating in my quiet shared office I was wondering if I was making unpleasant sounds and whether my employees would say anything if I was. Here's another vote for "please, say something". It's to no one's benefit to let non-personal annoyances like that fester. – WinnieNicklaus May 19 '15 at 22:08
  • @alroc: ... it's not about he the noise' volume ... – phresnel Sep 20 '17 at 11:40

Depending on the culture this may be an unusual request. You should be open about your reasons, possibly focusing on the physical manifestations rather than the psychological ones. "Hey boss, I've got this condition called misophonia. It causes me some terrible nausea to hear people eating or drinking which in turn really affects my concentration. Would you mind eating before or after we meet?"

If you choose not to disclose your condition and make this request you run the risk of being viewed as picky or eccentric. While not positive neither of these things is the end of the world.

  • I have this, as well, to varying degrees. I've snapped at my wife a few times, and she's my wife! And it's difficult to explain to my wife that sometimes the sound of someone chewing (wet chewing in particular for me) irritates me to the point of wanting to scream. I like the idea of going over the physical manifestations instead of the mental ones like Myles suggested. And definitely mention it, because you can't suffer in silence and expect it to get better magically. – Garrison Neely May 19 '15 at 21:58
  • To reinforce the point, definitely reinforce the physical points and downplay the mental aspect. Most modern culture is still very backwards in how even minor mental differences are treated and it can cause problems if your manager or others in your office label you are mentally ill, even if only in their subconscious. – Lawtonfogle May 20 '15 at 19:50

I don't know if your job requires you to be able to hear what is going on around you, but is there any possibility that you can use headphones (either with music or sound cancelling). Even if you find them uncomfortable to wear for an extended period of time you might just keep them around specifically for lunch breaks. I keep a pair around for whenever my coworkers get a little loud and I find it helps me even when I'm not wearing on them because I don't dread and hyper-focus on noises because I know I can make them go away whenever I want.

This may be awkward if your boss wants to talk with you as he is eating but you could try smaller, lighter headphones. I use this technique when I want to listen to music but at the same time listen to what is going on. If you put them not over your ears but in front of them the sound conducts to your ears but doesn't block outside noise. I also sometimes wear just one earphone. This may be distracting enough that the sounds of his eating will blend into the background.

  • While he's eating lunch just pop in your headphones. It's better than spouting 'omg go eat somewhere else you slovenly hog'. If your boss asks you whats up with that just say you find that eating is highly distracting, no need to get into your 'condition'. – easymoden00b May 19 '15 at 20:17
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    @easymoden00b I have never had a boss who would be cool with me suddenly popping in headphones while we were working together. – Myles May 19 '15 at 20:25
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    @Myles I've never had a boss that was okay with me telling them to 'go away' when we were working together either. – easymoden00b May 19 '15 at 20:33
  • @easymoden00b I could have sworn that there are more options than just saying "go away" or putting in headphones. – Myles May 19 '15 at 22:03
  • @Myles initially op formulated this question as, in so many words, 'should I tell my boss to go away because I can't stand him eating feed near me'. – easymoden00b May 20 '15 at 12:10

Can you take your lunch or a break at the same time? That would seem to be the easiest solution.

If you truly cannot change this situation, I would schedule a meeting with your boss to go over this. Explain your condition, and remember that not everyone is sympathetic to unfamiliar conditions. Have a plan to remedy the situation, and ask for ideas from your boss.

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