A Story Repeater
Your father-in-law is telling you that story about foiling the pickpocket in Moscow―for the fifth time. Do you let him know you’ve heard it before and can tell it better than he does? “If the story is longer than a minute and the two of you are alone, do interrupt to tell him that you’ve heard―and enjoyed―that story once before,” says Margaret Shepherd, a coauthor of The Art of Civilized Conversation. Try: “You had everyone in stitches when you told that story last Christmas.” No need to add that you’ve heard the story for the last four Christmases. “Segue to a related topic,” suggests Shepherd, and if possible, draw in another person to freshen up the conversation.
With older people whose memory may be slipping or when you’re in a group, though, it can be cruel to interrupt, says author Letitia Baldrige: “Patiently listen and wait for a chance to change the subject. If they’re thrilled to be telling the story, dismissing them too suddenly is like smooshing an ant.”