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This is one of a series
of brief articles on how to respond effectively
to annoying social behavior. An "effective response"
occurs when you get your
well enough, and both people feel
This article offers (a) perspective on
people who repeat themselves, and (b)
illustrates effective responses to them. The
assumes you're familiar with...
Can you think of an adult or child who
chronically repeats themselves? This can take
many forms - repeating memories / jokes /
expressions / ideas / worries / preaching /
nagging / questioning, and so on. Whether their
repetition is annoying or endearing depends on
Some forms are more irritating than others. For
instance, nagging ("reminding") is
repeating requests or demands flavored with
disapproval or criticism. It can imply "I don't
trust you," and/or "You displease me."
Preaching or moralizing over and over
implies "I know more or better than you." Repeating
stories or jokes implies "I'm focused on filling
my needs now, and I'm not aware of (or I minimize) your needs."
Understanding why people repeat
themselves can help to form an effective
response. Possibilities: they...
adequately heard or understood
by the listener;
didn't get the
response they needed from the listener;
emphasize the importance of their point;
saying _____ before, or whom they said it
want to re-enjoy
sharing something amusing or entertaining;
need to avoid
some other topic or an uncomfortable
aren't able to
articulate their real opinion, need, or
through normal grief over an important loss
(broken bond); and/or...
you think of other reasons kids and adults
repeat themselves? Would knowing your repeater's
need/s alter your attitude and response to them?
you normally feel with chronic
repetition? Bored? Irritated? Frustrated?
Resigned? Distracted? Amused? Impatient? Numb?
Weary? Victimized? Compassionate? Critical?
you normally do -
Interrupt? Tune out? Shut down? Pretend interest
(be "polite")? Chuckle? Joke? Confront? Snap?
Complain? Yawn? Leave? Change the
subject? Comment? How do you feel about the way
you respond? Does it nourish or harm your
An effective response to over-repeaters depends
on your and their needs. With your favorite
repeater (or nagger) in mind, consider these...
how to give
as dignified persons.
feel with an overly-repetitive
specific outcome you need from responding to
the person - to vent, inform, learn,
cause change, set or enforce a limit,
problem-solve, or something else.
if s/he is open to some personal feedback.
If s/he says "No," you have a different
problem to respond to. If the person agrees,
choose an option like these, depending on
what you need...
what outcome you need, choose one or more of
To Vent, Inform, or Learn
"So you want me to know __________."
(Summarize the main points the
speaker has made)
"(Name). are you
aware of how often you repeat yourself?"
"You've told me
"Do you feel I'm
hearing you well enough?"
"What do you
need from me now?"
"When you need
to repeat yourself, I feel _________ (and I
start tuning you out)."
third time you've told me that."
To Cause Change or Set a Limit
in what you say, but not when you repeat
"(Name), I don't
need to hear that again."
"From now on,
when you repeat yourself, I'm going to call
you on it (or put my fingers in my
to hold up a finger for each time you repeat
not sure I'm hearing you, ask me for a
With any responses like these, expect the
other person to "resist" - e.g. to deny, explain, excuse, whine,
blame, change the subject, bring up the past,
get huffy or angry, go silent, over-apologize,
or something similar. Use
respectful empathic listening to acknowledge
them, and then calmly repeat your response
with steady eye contact. Do this as often as
needed until you get your needs met or your
Responses to Avoid
Responses like those above work best if your
true Self is
and you have a genuine
If these aren't true, you risk making lose-lose
responses like these:
brain dead? You already told me that!"
the gold medal for nagging, (Name)."
(disrespect and sarcasm)
have to go through this again?"
color me bored!"
(indirectness and implied criticism)
(with an eye-roll and
"'Bye!" (missing a
chance to assert and/or problem-solve)
is a dishonest double message. It may
diminish your self-respect and rob the
speaker of awareness and a chance to
If there's a repeater or a nagger in your life,
imagine using responses like these to get your
needs met respectfully. Recall our
definition of an "effective response" (above). Do you think these
responses would "work" for you? How do they compare with the way you usually react
to excessive repetition? Responses like these will
work best if you express their theme in your own
language and style, rather than parroting them.
This is one of a series of brief illustrations
of how to respond effectively to common annoying
social behaviors. This offers options for
responding to someone who repeats themselves
"too often" in your opinion.
Effective social responses
are based on...
having your true
clarity on your
feelings, needs; and mutual
fluency in the
Do you usually meet
these criteria in social situations? If not
(yet) - what's in your way?
Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read
this article? Did you get what you needed? If
you need? Who's
these questions - your
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