Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Someone I’m very close to recently told me, “You know, you talk about [Topic] way too much. It’s getting really boring.” [Topic] is something that’s very significant to me right now, and while I guess I knew I was talking about it a lot (to this person and others), it still really hurt me to hear that I’m boring others with it.
Now I’m self-conscious about ever mentioning [Topic], which is a lonely feeling. What do you think I should do to keep from hurting friendships by being overly focused on this one thing?
Your very-close someone gets points off for tactlessness but still did you a favor. Painful as it is, it’s better to know you’ve maxed out at least one person’s listening capacity than alienate others as you unwittingly prattle on about [Topic].
So, what to do next:
1. Hire someone to listen to you. Whatever [Topic] is, there’s someone out there with the expertise to help you. If you can’t afford that, then dig a little more. While alternatives to expensive/scarce professional guidance are inadequate to the need, there are people trying to improve access, be it through sliding-scale fees or group care or affiliation with a larger entity that can absorb some of the costs. Start looking for your safe place to unload. Talking about it beyond even one listener’s limits likely means it’s time to find a way to stop talking and start moving forward, whether it’s a persistent problem or a dramatic life change preoccupying you.
2. Don’t banish [Topic] from all conversations but be mindful of others’ limits, and, ideally, open about them: “I realize I’ve beaten [Topic] to death, but I have something I’d like to bounce off you. May I impose on you for 15 minutes?” And stick to the time limit you promised, unless the other person is plainly okay with running long.
3. Avoid [Topic] around the person who spoke up. No point in looking for loopholes there.
Good luck making peace with [Topic], so it’s not always first in mind.
I had assumed [Topic] was not a problem, but something “Philadelphia” had gotten passionate about — the equivalent of being a parent with a new kid, which takes up a LOT of your brain space, for which others have a loving but finite tolerance. So you try to stay within that tolerance — even if you have to artificially cap your enthusiasm.
That’s possible too — and for that, the solution is to save [Topic] for those similarly immersed in it. Diaper talk with other new parents, hobby talk with similar hobbyists, etc.
I would add: Get really good at listening to other people about their [Topics], so you are reciprocating in your relationships. Ask people, how’s X going for you, or whatever else you want to talk about? Then people might be more likely to keep listening to you on [Topic].
“Listen” might be the single most useful bit of advice, for friendship, romance, career, parenting . . . even basket-weaving, though at some point you’ll probably have to weave a basket.
Would you mind letting us know what “[Topic]” was?
It’s the thing in the briefcase in “Pulp Fiction.”