Is it rude to shush someone? The majority of people in the United States seem to think so.
This article will discuss the implications of the results of a recent survey done in the US and will also explain the different reactions that people have to be shushed.
Is It Rude to Shush Someone?
76% of the 102 people we surveyed from the United States thought it was rude to shush someone. Only about a quarter of respondents consider this to be okay occasionally.
So, whether you’re in a business setting, relaxing with friends, or engaged in a discussion with a romantic partner, it’s not a good idea to shush anyone.
Why Do Some People Shush Others?
People shush others for various reasons. For example, if someone doesn’t want to hear what another person has to say, they may sometimes try to shush them.
If someone is watching a program on the television and they don’t want to be interrupted, they may also shush another person. This directly communicates that what they’re watching is more important than asking the other person in a civil manner for whatever they need.
Some people shush a person, tell them to shut up, or use other insulting comments when they’re no longer interested in listening to what another person has to say.
It’s always inappropriate to do so. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking to an adult or a child.
Some people may even use shushing in a business context. For example, a boss or supervisor who doesn’t think whatever a coworker has to say is important, may shush them. This can be embarrassing in any context but especially when it happens in front of other people in a meeting.
What Does Shushing Communicate to the Other Person?
No matter the reason for it, shushing someone else is never a good idea. It communicates a lot of things that you might not intend.
Shushing says that what the other person has to say isn’t important. It says that you don’t value their opinion.
If you find that you’re shushing someone or attempting to shush someone, examine yourself honestly. Is it that you really think they have nothing to offer? If you’re too busy to take a minute or two to listen to someone else’s opinion you may be missing out on a lot.
Research has shown that people who aren’t interested in the opinions of others run the risk of overestimating the value of their own opinion.  People who think their opinions are superior to others often miss out on the chance to learn more.
Shushing communicates that you don’t respect them enough to communicate your needs in a better way. It says that you prioritize other things above hearing what they have to say.
This can make them feel like you don’t value their input. In other words, it can make them think that you don’t really care about them or what they think.
Shushing Communicates Disregard
Shushing communicates disregard and disrespect. It doesn’t matter where it happens when it happens, or what relationship is between the parties.
If someone is shushed in a negotiation that’s held in private in an office, they’ll feel disrespected. Similarly, if a couple is in their bedroom and one shushes the other when that person is trying to make their point, the person who is shushed will feel disrespected.
If a customer is shushed by a sales representative or someone else with whom they’re doing business, they’ll feel disrespected. When a person shushes someone else they say that they’re not important. Their opinions aren’t more important than whatever that person is doing at that point.
They communicate that they don’t care what that person has to say or what that person thinks. As such, the other party will feel disregarded.
Shushing Causes Anger from Hurt Feelings
When you shush someone, they’re very likely to be hurt. No matter how old a person might be, it still hurts when another person communicates that their opinion isn’t important.
Shushing literally says be quiet and stop talking. It can make an adult feel like they’re being spoken to as if they were a pet.
In several cases, after someone has been shushed they become angry. They might not show it overtly but they feel that way. Those who aren’t overt in their reaction may change the way they relate to the person who has shushed them.
For example, if someone previously sought out another person’s company in front of the television, they’re likely to stop doing so in that context as well as in other situations. They’ll do that because they feel that they’re just expected to sit beside the other individual and become invisible.
People want to be heard, respected and cared for. They don’t want to be condescended to and will react badly if they feel that’s the case.
In situations where it’s unintentional, individuals are likely to forgive. However, most people think that it’s understood that such a method of communication is disrespectful. As such when someone does it, they’ll think that the person was intentionally being rude.
Being Quiet in Specific Settings
There are certain settings where everyone is expected to be quiet. For example, it’s understood and even plainly stated on signage in hospitals, that in clinical settings people are required to be quiet. In fact, in hospitals around the world, efforts are constantly being made to improve patient satisfaction and healing by ensuring that the environment is quiet. 
Similarly, people are constantly reminded by signage to be quiet in libraries. If you enter any other environment where people are studying or need to focus, you should also be quiet.
However, even in these settings, a person should never ask another person to be quiet by shushing them. It’s rude and it may produce a result that’s exactly the opposite of what’s desired.
The person who is shushed may become angry and decide to elevate their voice. It then becomes a power struggle with the person trying to remind others of the rules for the space, being in a noisy confrontation with someone reacting out of hurt feelings.
Matt Vargas is an author and public speaking coach with a degree in sociology and more than ten years of practical experience. Matt is responsible for the empirical surveys at everyday-courtesy.com, is a passionate recreational musician, and blogs here about his experiences in the field of interpersonal communication.