Service of Let Me Talk

September 17th, 2020

Categories: Compassion, Conversation, Depression, Listen, Stress, Worry

Sometimes friends repeat a story, describe an incident, share a worry or anticipated stressful encounter again but not because they forgot they’d already told you. She may be trying to get something out of her system or find a solution by speaking out loud or he may wish you to hold his hand and reassure him virtually, if not actually.

The trick, if you’re the listener, is to know when your friend is in a rut, or has changed the conversation or their actions even just a bit to stimulate change. I knew a woman who went over precisely the same ground when complaining about her husband never altering her behavior or approach yet expecting a different outcome. She listened to nobody, including her psychiatrist. Her complaints became tedious because she refused to try another tactic to improve the dynamic with her spouse. Sad ending to the story: She divorced him to live with a much younger man who soon left her and her ex died suddenly. Only then did she realize what she’d lost.

Staying silent about a pal’s repetition can also be a matter of manners or compassion. A friend posted information on social media about a suicide hotline. The first comment written by an angry woman who usually put him down was “This has been around before.” In my response to her comment I asked if she’d noticed the same TV commercials about a car, medicine or flooring company ad nauseam and noted that marketers pay for such repetition for good reason. Similarly, I continued, you couldn’t publish the number of a suicide hotline often enough so in addition to a “like” and a comment, I shared his post.

For a listener, the 60 seconds it takes to hear something again isn’t going to ruin your day. Cutting off someone with  “I know, I know,” when they are trying to work out an emotional kink isn’t necessary, unless it’s the same old same old over months or years.

Have you felt frustrated if a friend has stopped you when you wanted to vent?  For a more satisfactory outcome should you preface your vent with “I know I’ve said this before but hear me just one more time please…..?”

9 Responses to “Service of Let Me Talk”

  1. Helen Rabinovitz Said:

    Omg I’ve been on both the talking side and the listening side. I have one friend in particular who always will say(not in a nice tone)you already told me that. I hate this about her but she’s my friend. I always listen to her…over and over with the same story. I do not say, in any tone of voice, You already told me that. You bite the bullet and you listen to your friend. I think especially now, that you just sit and keep your mouth shut and listen! Throwing in an occasional really or that’s terrible and I understand!!!

  2. Hank Goldman Said:

    One should not need to preface a vent with, you may have heard this before. A good friend will just listen… Joanie and my Jennifer, who’s in the business of coaching, always say let them talk… You’ll do them much more good if you just let them talk. I think that’s what your column is about? Let people get it out. An occasional “Oh” or, “I see,” helps them go on sometimes.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m with you. After a while, when the friend takes a breath, if he/she treads over precisely the same path during each conversation, I think it’s legit to say, in a nice voice, not the irritated one you described, “since we last spoke about this, what have you done that’s different?” or “What are you planning to do about it?”

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You got the point that I probably buried in the post. Let the person get it off their chest so that they can get over whatever it is and move on.

    If, however, after a reasonable amount of time they don’t do what my mother used to suggest, “fish or cut bait,” then you’d do them a favor to recommend that.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Much depends on who is speaking and the closeness of the relationship. More depends on one’s tolerance for repetition and ability to cope when it becomes constant. Being a good listener and able to know when to interject a crucial word of support is an asset which may have saved many lives, or pulled friends or family members from the brink of insanity.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    So true. I don’t suggest, however, that week after week after week a friend subject another person to the same complaint or anxiety. With a good friend you should not need to. They know what you are going through and watch out for you. Some hurdles are bigger than others and a good friend will know the difference between a small tiff with someone or an irritating interaction with a salesperson and dealing with a terrible boss when the person needs the job or losing a job or a best friend or spouse.

  7. MarthaTakayama Said:

    I try not to ever remind people that they are repeating a story as if they think I have never heard it. I don’t like to hurt people, or make them feel uncomfortable. If they are telling a story because they feel the need to get it off their chest, because it is a pet peeve, or they are hoping to get some positive enforcement or useful information about how to deal with the matter at hand, I try to be supportive. We all need to talk and may repeat a story and we all should be able to be supportive and be listeners to nurture our friendships.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    One of my friends, a supportive, quiet woman, once told me something it was hard to hear but she was right. I heard her, was grateful and knew that her advice was sage.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Jeanne B, I am more than aware of what it takes to listen to a troubled person. Much of my Junior year in college was spent in efforts to coax a friend out of suicide. Over and above studies, there were sessions upto 2-3 in the morning or later. I was faced with a similar situation years later. I felt like Lucy of Peanuts — but without charging the 5 cents! I’m currently “out of business,” and may it stay that way!

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