The word Karen is one that haunts my nightmares. As a person with misophonia I am constantly uncomfortable and feeling like the world is against me. I don’t want to feel this way, but it’s a fact that many of the sounds that trigger misophonia and the visuals that trigger misokinesia, are ones that are made by other people or by machinery used by people. Some of these include lawnmowers, loud base music, rattling car engines and exhausts, whistling, among others. I’m not mentioning chewing or sniffling here because these are sounds that I genuinely think we can’t even bring up to strangers since they are necessary to life.
I have politely asked people in public to stop whistling. My script (which isn’t really a script but an in the moment thing, is usually something like this).
Me: Excuse me, I am so sorry to ask, I have a hearing condition and I was wondering if you could please stop whistling? Again, I am so sorry to ask.
Yes, the Canadian in me says sorry twice. I hate inconveniencing people in general so asking them to change their actions to suit me is something I genuinely don’t want to do. Yet, by asking politely, I have noticed that a lot of the time people are happy to adjust. I will say that sometimes I feel far too aggravated and dysregulation to ask a person to stop, so the avoidance and resentment of my fellow human beings starts to come into play.
I think the key to not being a “KAREN” is to ensure that you are being polite and mindful of the other person, acknowledging that what they’re doing is not wrong and that you are not entitled to their compliance, yet asking in a way that is kind and polite. If the person does not stop the behavior, unfortunately there is very little that can be done, so hopefully you don’t have to be around them too often. UNLESS this is somebody who you have to be around every day (such as a colleague), then it would be reasonable to escalate the matter in my opinion, especially since (and only after) you tried to calmly and politely address the subject.
This week I have been dealing with loud contractors outside of my home playing base music loud enough it can be heard inside my house.
Today I did two things, and both of them have me wondering if I did the right thing. One is that I emailed the army housing board as I live in army housing—think of them as an HOA with more power. I emailed politely asking if they could ask the contractors to please keep their music down. I was not rude, nor demanding. However, I also wrote a note that was short and polite directly to the contractors about the noise in case they weren’t aware it was harming residents. I posted it on the door of the job site. While I could have talked to the contractors directly, as I actually have in the past (different ones), I was feeling far too dysregulated and worried that I would be rude about it.
Writing a note may seem passive aggressive, but it is a way of making your position and voice known. Does that make me a Karen? I personally don’t think so since self advocacy is an important part of this terrible disorder. The key difference between self-advocacy and being a Karen is not to be rude or demanding, yet be firm in your requests.