Headphone Etiquette ...for the Office, Sidewalk and Bus

Headphone Etiquette ...for the Office, Sidewalk and Bus

Taryn Williford
Oct 14, 2010

Proper etiquette will differ depending on your company and location, right? Belching alone in your living room is quite different from letting out a loud one in your boss' office. So it stands to reason that you should approach your headphones differently depending on where you happen to find your air-drumming self, right? We've got suggestions for three of your everyday spots: the office (or at school!), the sidewalk and the bus.

First of all, kudos to you on realizing the first step of proper music-listening etiquette: Always use headphones in a public place.

But even once you slip those 'buds in and pump up the jams, consider these guidelines:

In the Office or at School:

  • Don't keep it too loud. This is good advice for any headphone scenario. It's normal to expect that outsiders will hear a bit of a buzz from your 'buds, but if you think the guy in the next cube can make out every lyric, turn it down.
  • Respect others' headphones. Some people use music to get in the zone, so be wary of interrupting them. It's better to shoot an email.
  • Don't talk loudly. You know how people wearing headphones tend to not realize the volume of their own voice? Yeah, don't be that guy. People are trying to work.

On the Sidewalk:

  • Keep it kind of quiet. Yes, you don't want to be bothersome with too-loud tunes. But a considerate walker also needs to be listening for outside noise—like cyclists coming up behind you or somebody trying to return your dropped $20.
  • Take your headphones out when someone speaks to you. The courteous thing to do when you're interrupted by a casual friend or a stranger is to pull out both earbuds and listen to the person speaking.

On the Bus or Train:

  • Again, the loudness thing. Buses are loud. You can turn up the volume a bit, but don't get carried away.
  • Sit far away. When you step on the bus, grab an isolated seat. People expect to hear all kinds of noise on public transportation—headphone music, crying babies and crazy people's insane mutterings—but you can be a courteous passenger by sitting someplace far away.

(Images: Mashundie, Complex)

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