How to Deal With a Friend Who Talks Over You

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One of the basic needs we all have is to simply be heard. We want friends to listen fully in order to understand our feelings and opinions. In order to do this, a friend needs to be proficient in active listening, where they not only pause to let you speak, they take in the nonverbal clues you’re giving them as well.

People are rarely good at listening. This is true even of our best friends at times.

We live in a busy world, and the ability to put it all aside and focus on someone else is lacking in our society as a whole.

The problem is, friendship dies when one of the friends doesn’t feel validated. If you have a friend who constantly talks over you, here are some tips on how to handle it.

“You’re Talking Over Me” or “Please Hear What I Am Saying”

We have to educate people in how to treat us. Perhaps a friend doesn’t realize that talking over someone else is a bad thing. Maybe they grew up in a family where everyone interrupted each other and they think this is normal behavior. Perhaps they feel talking over someone shows enthusiasm, or maybe they really do believe they know better and don’t want to hear what you’re saying.

If this person has many long-time friends or one close best friend, chances are they have developed a habit of interrupting. This is true of solid friends who have known each other a long time and understand each other’s personalities.

Interrupting gets more frequent and forgiven because they know their friendship won’t be damaged by it.

But even with long-term friends, there are times when one person just needs to remain silent and give their full attention to the other friend. If your friend’s constant interrupting is hurting your friendship (even if they don’t mean to harm the relationship), you have to let them know.

If you continue to say nothing and instead get silently frustrated when they blab over you, you’re giving them the message that this is okay. So it’s up to you to let them know it isn’t.

First, start small with the obvious. Some things to say to stop their interruptions:

  • “You’re talking over me”
  • “Please listen to what I am trying to say”
  • “Please hear what I am telling you”

Say one of these phrases calmly to give your friend a chance to take a step back and realize that the way they are aren’t responding isn’t acceptable to you. It gives a clear halt to the conversation that lets them know you need to be heard.

When Interrupting Continues

Some friends make a habit of interrupting which becomes part of their personality. If you’ve let them know you don’t appreciate it and they continue, you have to speak more sternly about it.

First, use specific instances when they have interrupted you. Don’t say “you always butt in” or “you are always cutting me off.” Give them an example of when they cut you off and how it made you feel. For example, “You talked over me when I was trying to tell you about my sister. I feel like you haven’t really heard what I’ve tried to say about her situation.”

Your friend may respond, “I know what you’re going to say, that’s why I interrupt” or “I’ve heard it a million times.” If that’s the case, ask them to please reserve judgment and really listen.

Tell them that while they think they’ve heard it all, you don’t feel heard, and you’d like to be able to explain yourself without them interrupting you.

Keep Your Cool With Someone Who Interrupts

People that interrupt you all time have their own problems, but that doesn’t mean you need to point them out. Chances are that a friend who talks over you is insecure, afraid that their own opinions will be challenged. Attacking them verbally in retaliation isn’t helpful to the current problem or your friendship as a whole.

Don’t:

  • Point out how many times you’ve sat and listened to them. (Chances are you’ve listened to them far more than they’ve listened to you, but they won’t see it that way.)
  • Use the “always” phrase to describe their behavior. (“You always interrupt!”)
  • Talk about the things they mention all the time and you’re sick of hearing. (Someone that interrupts a lot probably talks more about their problems than other friends.)
     

    How to Maintain Dignity With an Interrupter

    Interrupters aren’t just rude, they also get loud. The louder you might try to talk to be heard, the louder they’ll respond. This means you’ll both be raising your voices to each other and neither one of you will be listening.

    Instead, back down. Remain silent, remove yourself from the situation (walk away from them or politely hang up the phone), and regroup. A person who repeatedly interrupts either isn’t aware of their behavior or doesn’t know how to really be a friend. This is especially true if they complain or vent to you but yet interrupt when you need center stage.

    Spend some time away from that friend and limit conversations with them. Perhaps there are just certain subjects you find you can’t talk about, so you can see your friend and just avoid those topics.

    Perhaps you find that they weren’t the good friend you thought they were. Where you needed someone to give support they could only hear their own voice. In this case, move on from them and seek out other, kinder friends who understand what give and take in a friendship is all about.

    Most of all, don’t get angry with this person. Forgive them and understand that not every friend you meet will be able to respond the way you wish they would. Continue meeting new people and slowly showing your vulnerable side to the people you’ve developed trust with.

    What to Say When They Ask What’s Wrong

    Your friend may not have any idea why you’re upset with them or why you’ve pulled away, so if they ask, tell them calmly why you’ve stepped back. Don’t use this moment to unleash your hurt feelings or anger on them, but tell them kindly that this issue is important to you and you simply wanted to be heard. (Here’s more about being gently honest with a friend.)

    Remember that everyone has a different level of comfort with communication and even friendship. Your friend may fail to see the issue even after you explain or even find your feelings “silly.” Allow them their feelings and move on to share your stories with another friend who will care enough to listen.