conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Help: My Friend Talks Past Me! (Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #19)

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Vary Your Response to Train Your Friend

Q: My friend and colleague stops by many times a day to chat. We do a similar job but in different areas so it’s helpful to compare notes. The interruptions are mostly welcome, save for this one habit of hers that drives me crazy: she cannot seem to hear me. It doesn’t always work this way, but when she gets agitated, she keeps saying the same thing over and over. She doesn’t seem to hear my answer and then she just keeps repeating herself. Sorta endlessly. I want to thump her forehead with my index finger to get her attention, but that seems improper behavior between two adults. What to do?


Wait--let's talk.

Wait–let’s talk.

A: It’s good you hold off from thumping your friend’s forehead. Treating each other as adults is a top-notch approach to human interactions and is definitely the right way to go. Your friend gets stuck in an endless anxiety-driven loop she cannot escape. The loop and anxiety are so strong she gets a little lost.

Help you friend by coaxing her off the endless merry-go-round of anxiety. Start by slowing her down—you are trying to break into the endless loop and it may take more than words. Stand. Look into her eye. Hold her shoulder. Speak slowly. Do what is necessary to get her attention. Bring the kind of attention you reserve for those serious situations where you might be delivering bad news, say.

Mind you: you are not talking down to her. Try not to say, “Calm down!” as you might a child who has lost control. This is not a time for condescension or disparaging or ridicule. Your adult friend just needs another perspective to intervene, that’s all. And that’s what you are going to provide. We all need another perspective—probably more often than we realize.

Deliver your response in slow, measured tones. Your point is not to solve the anxiety loop, but just to engage in conversation. Your goal is to work through the problem together, to discuss and sort out next steps. It’s the conversation that is the remedy.

That’s what friends are for.

Keep that up and—just possibly, given time—your friend may see the anxiety loop before she steps on.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

June 18, 2014 at 10:05 am

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