Yakety-Yak

16 Jan

Letterbalm Woman on CellphoneDear LetterBalm: My friend “Agnes” and I have been good friends for decades, since our first job together, continuing our friendship when she moved away 10 years ago for her work. She’s told me she plans to move back to my city, also her hometown, when she retires next year. Agnes has always had a tendency to talk about herself to the exclusion of all others. But lately during our phone calls and visits, this habit has become so ingrained that she goes on ad nauseam. Agnes is smart, amusing and generous, but this is wearing me out. I don’t try to get a word in about my life anymore, and she doesn’t even ask how I am. In fact, when I get a moment and start talking, she announces she has to go. All this stuff is creating real resentment in me. It wasn’t so bad when I saw her once or twice a year, but if Agnes is going to be in my life in a big way, I have to handle it.

–Sore Ears

This is something that will hurt your friend’s feelings, no matter how gently you inform her that she’s … well, a blabbermouth. It’s possible Agnes has issues that make her chatter on – a hearing loss, confusion, financial worries – that you don’t know about. Or, she’s lonely and knows she will be retiring from work that she may feel defines her. Ms. L.B. advises you to take all these things into consideration. You’ll have to talk with Agnes in person after she moves to your town, and you’ll have to get her to stop and really listen. It will take several efforts as you reassure her of your affection for her, with timely reminders. Do a kindness for Agnes and don’t discuss her behavior with others. Invite her for coffee to your home. Rinse and repeat:

Agnes, I must ask that you let me talk without interruption about something important. I’m very happy that you’ve retired back home. I’ve missed you. We’ve been friends for so long, that I think I can speak frankly, and I don’t mean to hurt your feelings. My dear, you’ve developed a habit of talking on and on about yourself without interruption. You never ask about me or my life, and you end our conversation – which has become very one-sided – as soon as I try to get a word in edgewise. This incessant talking really bothers me. I’m wondering if you have some issues you’re reluctant to consider. Do you think you might get your hearing tested? Are you concerned about retirement? Is there anything I can help you with? You know you’re my lifetime friend, and I’ll always be concerned about you. But we have to resolve things so our talks are more give-and-take. I don’t want resentment to build and negatively affect our friendship.

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