Friends Who Constantly Repeat Themselves

When a Friend Tells the Same Story Over and Over

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Sometimes friends repeat themselves. Blend Images - Dave and Les Jacobs/ Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this before! Very often, that’s the way a friend will start a story they think they might have told you but can’t remember. Chances are, you’ve heard their story not just once before but several times. Why do friends repeat themselves? More importantly, how can you deal with this habit? Here’s some advice.

The Friend Who Repeats Because They Have No Life

Some people don’t have a lot going on in their lives, and they repeat themselves because they only have one or two stories that they think people want to hear.

If they lack a life, they probably lack friends, too, so go easy on these folks. Try to gracefully change the subject or ask them to do a few new activities with you so they’ll have some new stories to tell.

People Who Repeat Because They Love Talking

Some friends are storytellers. They’re on the extroverted side and enjoy talking, so their best stories are told again and again. One way to handle a repeat storyteller like this is to say:

“That is a really great story, I agree. I’ve heard it so many times now I feel like I could tell it myself.”

Or:

“That’s one of the funniest stories you’ve ever told me. I remember it in detail.”

If someone enjoys talking, they’ll think nothing of retelling a story so even if you point it out to them, they might not stop, thinking that you’re enjoying hearing the story as much as they’re enjoying telling it to you. For these people, you’ll have to just accept that this a habit you’ll never break them of.

People Who Are Self-Centered

For some, having friends means more people to cater to them, and that includes listening to their stories. Selfish friends feel that everything is somehow about them, and have a knack for turning every conversation to them, no matter what it is. These folks don’t care if you’ve heard a story before, because they think any story about them is worth listening to again and again.

Selfish friends in general are hard to be around because they lack self-reflection, so you’ll have a difficult time interrupting them or getting them to change topic.

Friends Who Don’t Feel Heard

If you’ve got some challenges when it comes to listening to friends, you may find that people repeat themselves because they can never finish a story, or because they just don’t feel like you’re hearing them.

They may begin a story all over again from the beginning the next time you see them, thinking that because you didn’t let them finish you didn’t hear any of it. Listening is a skill developed over time, so for these friends try and do a better job of active listening.  

We All Need to Work on Our Destination Memory

When it comes to communication, we’re more apt to remember where we heard something (the newspaper, another friend) than who we tell something to. This is called our destination memory, which one study found was “relatively weak” and can cause a friend to repeat something over and over.

While we know that repeating ourselves can happen, we don’t exactly know why. Perhaps the emphasis in gathering information is on our sources. If we repeat something we want to make sure that the place we’re quoting is reputable, so we remember where we heard it in order to tack this bit of evidence on to the story we’re telling.

Regardless of why we repeat ourselves, we need to get better at honoring the attention our friends give us by adding new stories and information to our conversations. Reminiscing is one thing, repeating a story for no reason is another. If you’re the one listening to a repeater, go easy on them but let them know that you heard their story already. Ask them what’s new instead.