Dear Heidi: Is there a nice way to tell someone they’ve already told the same story multiple times?
The first few times, that little tale was amusing. Now, it's just the same old story...
It’s usually fun and exciting to hear someone tell a story, but the third, fourth, or fifth time around, the fun and excitement wane, and annoyance settles in. However, there’s probably a reason why you're hearing the same story over and over.
First, examine the storyteller. It is a loved one with diminished mental capacity? Perhaps they are the victim of a terrible misfortune such as dementia or Alzheimer’s? If this is the case, please take your cue from the medical professionals first and foremost, but my unscientific advice is to be kind and listen.
On the other hand, if this is a friend who keeps repeating him or herself, ask yourself why are they are doing this? Perhaps they're not receiving the response they want to hear.
For example, your friend may say to you,
“Did I tell you that I just received a promotion at work, and I’m now a division head?”
Barring memory loss, if they keep telling you this, they are not satisfied with your reply. Are you impressed enough, are you gushing sufficiently? Maybe not. The next time your friend mentions her promotion, go overboard and say,
“How marvelous, that is wonderful news! You are the star in the division, and I am not the least bit surprised your organization recognizes your contributions and accomplishments — I just wonder what took them so long! Congratulations, well deserved!”
Hopefully, this will suffice, your friend can move on, and so can you.
In another scenario, perhaps, you have a friend who can be a bit scatterbrained at times and really can’t remember if she told you a story or not; she probably regales it a lot. In this case, be upfront with her, and when she begins, “Have I told you…..” You can reply, “Yes, actually you have, and what a great story it is!” You can politely save face for her, and continue your conversation. She will appreciate your grace.
I think at one time or another, most of us have repeated a story or two. I know I’m guilty of it, and I always appreciate it when a good friend lets me know she’s heard it before, respectfully and politely.
Best practice, be mindful of the storyteller, the circumstance, and always be appreciative that someone wants to share a story with you—receive it in the spirit in which it is presented. Be kind.