If your roommate is smacking food, peer pressure is the first place to start. Begin by gently mentioning how it’s bothering you. In the West, it means your roommate is rude and doesn’t know better, but also appreciate that in Japanese and Chinese cultures, slurping food is a sign of good manners.
If you are extra sensitive about it, you could have misophonia.
Some of us are bothered by our roommates smacking food due to a difference in our brains. Some roommates eat noisily because it is good manners in their culture or a bad habit. Some say chewing with an open mouth makes food taste better.
No matter the cause, this guide has the best 11 solutions to make the situation better.
My previous roommate smacked food, and it was annoying. I’m going to start with what worked for me and then go into what has worked for other people.
1. Sort it out with Peer Pressure
This solution is the first one I tried, and it worked for me.
Each time he smacked food, I communicated in the gentlest way possible that he was doing it, and he got the message.
I did it very gently, and that was enough to make him stop.
I made sure I was firm but fair and was never impolite as it could have made my roommate not be nice back or give him an excuse for not being so.
I made sure not to give him positive attention for smacking food—like a child might do something naughty to get attention. So I gave him a look of derision.
Also, because he was smacking food, I would ignore other things he wanted attention for doing, such as when he wanted to boast about his achievements.
As it was a habit, he never completely stopped doing it, so I often had to remind him to stop, but when I looked at him in this way… he would stop doing it. So I never even had to say anything.
A well-designed look is so much easier than having to say anything.
If there’s more of you living in the apartment and it’s annoying them too, then peer pressure is even more powerful.
2. If your roommate says there’s nothing wrong with smacking food
The first time I asked my roommate to stop smacking his food, he refused to do so.
I then said to him how annoying it was.
He said that smacking food is fine and doesn’t matter.
So I then told him the things I thought are okay but had stopped doing because he didn’t like them. In return, he agreed he would stop smacking food.
If you are helpful to your roommate in all kinds of ways, hopefully, they will be the same back.
You have to be the one who starts the initiative on this one, such as by doing their dishes on some occasions and so on.
It’s even easier if you become friends or do things together that they value, like watching Netflix, as then you have a relationship of cooperation and helping each other.
3. Your Roommate is Smacking Their Food or Slurping Soup, as They Think It’s Good Manners
Hello, Global Citizen! Believe it or not, making loud noises while eating is considered to be proper etiquette in some countries.
The Japan Guide instructs that “slurping noodles is considered evidence of enjoying the meal and enhances the flavor”.
Information about Chinese eating customs suggest that making noise when eating food shows that you are enjoying your meal (very important when you are a guest at someone’s house or someone has invited you to a restaurant.
It could also bring good luck and keep bad energy away (like the firecrackers at a Chinese New Year celebration).
And just to show you that YOU YOURSELF might be eating in a way that others consider rude, an article on the (aptly-named) website, Global Citizen reports that in Thailand, it is considered bad manners to eat with a fork.
Forks, to the Thai people, are just ways of getting food onto the spoon—which is the correct utensil for eating.
Now that’s ‘food for thought’!
4. Your roommate doesn’t realize how rude it is
In Western cultures, it’s considered rude to smack your food.
I have known quite a few lovely people who smack their food; they don’t realize how rude it is.
So maybe your roommate does it because they don’t know any better.
Then it’s up to you to show this to your roommate, hopefully in a friendly way, so they see it as you being helpful by educating them and not that you are telling them off.
If they don’t believe you that most other people don’t smack their food, especially educated and respectable people, then ask them to look at other people the next time they go to a restaurant. You may need to go with them to point it out.
5. Your roommate smacking their food drives you crazy, because of something in you
Perhaps you have misophonia. Don’t worry…it’s not contagious! According to an article in Time magazine, misophonia is an “extreme sensitivity to the sound of people chewing, coughing or eating”. Other things which might get on your nerves are heavy breathing, tapping toes, gum chewing, rustling papers, and/or repeated pen clicking.
Researchers at a UK university found that misophonia is caused by a slightly different brain structure than usual. Studies show that this difference is in the brain’s frontal lobe. Simply put, the brains of people with misophonia “overreact on hearing triggering sounds”. Results include a higher heart rate, sweating, discomfort, and even rage (extreme anger).
Having misophonia is its own condition. In other words, it is not a symptom of something else such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Nor does it mean that you are being overly critical of other people’s habits.
Misophonia.com is a online resource run by Paul N. Dion. Dion has misophonia himself. He has worked an an occupational therapist and has an up-to-date social work license. Dion’s site is a good place to find out more about this condition and what to do next if you think you might have it.
6. Your roommate smacks food as it’s a bad habit
Most of us have got at least one bad habit. Perhaps noisy eating is your roommate’s?
Bad habits can be changed with persistence and hard work. This article speaks about a six-stage process that is essentially a continual cycle:
- precontemplation—Thinking about making a change…usually due to some significant or life-changing event.
- contemplation—Really thinking about it.
- preparation—Getting information about how to change what you want to change.
- action—Making the change.
- maintenance—Sticking to the change even after you achieve your goal(s). For example, continuing to exercise even after your health goals have been achieved.
- relapse—Returning to the bad habit.
Which leads us back to precontemplation….
There are techniques which can help people change their behaviors. This study identified 15 such techniques. Three of them are action planning, social support, and feedback. This is where you can be really helpful.
If your roommate agrees, you and she can create a program to change her food smacking. First, you two will need to create an action plan. The idea is to create the new ‘sticky’ habit of quieter eating. (A ‘sticky’ habit is one that is not easily broken or ignored.)
Your action plan should contain S.M.A.R.T. goals…goals which are:
- Specific: clear, detailed, not a lot of general ‘fluff’
- Measurable: can be checked objectively to see whether they have been achieved or not; for example: measuring a waistline, counting the # of exercise reps
- Achievable: realistic, suitable, can be done
- Relevant: worthy of time and effort
- Time-Bound: linked to some measurement of time; for example: every hour, once a day, by the end of the week/month
The internet has lots of examples of action planner templates and worksheets which you can use.
Next, decide on how you can help your roommate with your support and feedback. Are there specific phrases you will say (or not say)? Are there rewards which will be earned? Remember that support and feedback can be both negative and positive.
7. OK…none of the above…guess it is time to talk to your roommate about her smacking her food
Communication is key in all relationships. In this case, smacking food is getting on your nerves, but your roommate is probably unaware of that! As much as your roommate is annoying, the last thing you would want to do is assume that they are aware of how they are making you feel.
To have a successful discussion with your noisy-eating roommate, we suggest these three steps:
- Inform your roommate about how you feel
Gather your courage, and in the most polite way possible, tell your roommate how you feel about them smacking food. True, easier said than done. However, keep in mind that by not doing so, you will remain the biggest barrier to your own comfort.
If you are having a hard time figuring how to go about it, write down a few notes on a piece of paper, and rehearse how you will present your problem.
- Listen to your roommate’s Point of View
After communicating to your roommate how you feel about their behavior, the next important step is allowing them to respond and air their point of view.
We totally get that you may not want to hear anything except, “Sorry! I’ll eat quietly.” However, be prepared for other outcomes.
As long as you presented your problem in the most polite way possible, your roommate’s response will, most likely, give you some important information about this situation. Many roommates will say that they had no idea that their smacking food bothered you so much. They will continue by communicating their willingness to find a solution.
Unfortunately, there will be some roommates that are not ready to change despite being aware of the discomfort they cause you. If you have a roommate like this, I would advise you to change your roommate ASAP—if you are in a position to do so. If not, have a look at our ideas in the next section (Solution) of what you could do on your own to make things better.
III. Come Up with a Solution Together
So, your roommate is willing to explore a solution for their food smacking behavior. Great! Start by asking your roommate for suggestions. People usually suggest solutions which seem reasonable to them, aren’t offensive or insulting to themselves, and that they are more likely to stick to.
If one of your roommate’s suggestions also works for you, then the job is done. If not, suggest some options of your own. (You can also use these suggestions with food-smacking roommates who are not interested in cooperating). Here are some ideas:
- During a shared meal, gently ask your roommate to eat more quietly.
- If you are eating separately, try to stagger your eating times, so that when they are eating, you are somewhere else.
- Use headphones and play music while your roommate is smacking her food.
- Get involved in some activity that requires a lot of your concentration. By distracting yourself, you might not even hear the noisy eating.
Roomie success tip: Mix and match solutions so that the atmosphere at home stays pleasant. Remember: nobody likes a nag!
8. If your roommate smacking food is driving you crazy, other people would be driven mad by it as well
It’s easy to think that you should be able to tolerate noisy eating, and the problem is you—especially if your roommate thinks that them doing it is okay.
The truth is that most other people would not be okay with your roommate smacking food!
It drives a lot of people crazy. Even though they have great relationships with their roommates otherwise, when the noisy eating begins, they get “driven insane..and want to smash [their roommate] in the face”. Extreme, right? But perhaps you are feeling the same way.
You have a right to a decent living environment, and there’s no need for your roommate to deprive you of your right.
9. You are worried it may hurt your roommate’s feelings to talk about how they smack food
If your roommate is very sensitive or even a bully, this can be an issue.
Some people are worried about “hurting their roommate’s feelings or sounding like a total *****”. I hear you! It’s a tough situation, but basically, it comes down to grinning and bearing it, bravely trying to get to a solution with your roomie or moving out. Which do you prefer?
With my roommate, I made sure I said it nicely, so I did not hurt his feelings. Then my roommate understood it was an issue that affected me, and I was not going to back down on this one.
Each time he smacked food, I communicated in the gentlest way possible that he was doing it and he got the message.
10. Your roommate is not going to change and stop smacking their food
If you don’t do anything, your roommate is not going to change and stop doing it. They have probably been doing it all their life, so why would they change now?
I found people who had the opinion that food-smacking roommates are not going to change. That might be, but you are not going to know unless you give it a real try. I think that everyone deserves a chance to step up and be a better person. So, we recommend giving your roommate that chance. They could very well surprise you.
My roommate didn’t stop doing it a lot of the times he sat down to eat, but at least he stopped each time I pointed it out to him.
After a while, my roommate was used to me gently pointing out he was smacking his food and was okay with it because each time I mentioned it without hurting his pride and self-esteem.
I did it in a way that my roommate thought he was stopping smacking his food to be kind to me and so was proud of how he was being considerate and helpful.
11. Don’t try and get revenge
And just in case the thought crosses your mind to retaliate (do something to your roommate to bother them back, get revenge or payback, etc.), we suggest you think again.
This interesting article has the opinion that social retaliation is never a good option. It says that when we retaliate, “we lose the ability to control the outcome” of the situation.
End result? We could find ourselves in deeper trouble than we were at the beginning…even a life-threatening situation.