How to silence noisy people

How to silence noisy people

Last week I visited Freiburg, a lovely city with nice cobble stones and old buildings. While walking through the city with my friends I encountered the ‘column of tolerance’ (Säule der Toleranz, see the movie). In the evening it shows different colors depending on the time in order to remind people not to make too much noise.

 I thought it was a sympathetic way of communicating with your citizens, better than sending the cops to such a nice place with great atmosphere. So I checked the reactions and expected to find positive reviews. I was wrong: people reacted very negative to the column

The ‘column of tolerance’ is neglected, plastered and peed on. People on the square do not respect this ‘gentle reminder’.

 I think this has to do with a big error in the choice for colors the city made.

The mayor has said that the city is obliged to take coarser measures to keep the noise under 50dB after midnight since the column was not working as hoped. Right now the noise is around 77dB (comparable to an alarm clock next to your bed).

What possible reasons are there to disregard the column?

I just cannot imagine that people would prefer police interruptions over a lighting column; hence I do not think the reaction of the major appropriate. The tone of voice the city has chosen sounds more like preaching than communicating in a tolerant way.

The column turns bright red (associated with you are doing something wrong) at 23:00, giving the people that visit the square a feeling of being controlled, being told they are doing something wrong, given penalties and the like.

What I would try

The ‘column of tolerance’ is meant to be a reminder that means that the column does not have to turn red at 23:00 if the sounds are not too loud.

Sometimes people have so much fun they just forget about the noise they make. A gentle reminder to keep quiet would then be enough to shush them. Since it is allowed to sit on the square, also after 23:00, the column only has to remind people to quiet down if they are making too much noise.

If it is after eleven and still quiet enough: let the column be in rainbow. And if the noise gets too loud, let the column change to red through orange, or from the bottom up: do not turn it red at once as if those whom are having a good time should be punished. What you give is what you get: show some respect to the people that try to be quiet but simply forgot and I expect the reactions to be friendlier too.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/



Innovation and Research Officer at Sugar Habits
Judith studied behavioral change (applied social psychology) and is currently finishing her masters in philosophy with special attention for philosophy of action and intentionality. She works for SugarHabits a social media platform that helps people unlock more of their potential through learning new habits.

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2 Responses to “How to silence noisy people”

  1. Hey Judith, how nice to see that you have actually written about the Saule der Toleranz. I am really amazed to read how the thing actually works! I can’t understand that people invent such a nice thing and then fail to implement it in a constructive way. The way you describe the current functioning of the Saule almost reminds me of the ‘Mosquito’, a device that is used in the Netherlands to keep noisy youngsters away from certain places. A horrible device. Maybe you can write about it as well.

    • I found it hard to believe too, such a shame!
      I think the mosquito is horrible too, but it is intended to be annoying from the beginning, where the column is about tolerance, a basic principle I like better (just the implementation could (and should) be so much better).