Dear Annie: I have a longtime friend who has become quite difficult to be around because she talks nonstop about herself. She is a single professional woman who is intelligent and talented. But I think living alone causes her to unleash all of her thoughts on me. Honestly, I sometimes don’t even make an effort to talk about what’s going on in my life.
This has not been a huge problem for me, because “Sue” lives in another state and I see her only a couple of times a year. When I speak to her on the phone, she usually talks for about 30 minutes without a pause. As soon as I speak, she says, “I have to go.”
Recently, however, Sue told me she plans to move to my area when she retires. This isn’t so far into the future. I need to address the imbalance in our relationship for our friendship to continue, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings. How should I handle this? – Tired of Listening
Dear Tired: A certain amount of hard feelings may occur no matter how sensitive you are when telling Sue she doesn’t let other people talk. She is not “trained” to listen to anyone else. Retraining is best done in person and will take repeated efforts. It’s also possible that Sue talks incessantly in order to cover a hearing loss.
The next time you see her, touch her arm to get her attention and say, “Sue, can I get a word in?” She may be unaware that she monopolizes the conversation. You also can tell her how much it would mean to you if the conversations were more give-and-take. And you can ask whether she’s having difficulty hearing you. We can’t promise things will change or that Sue won’t be offended. But if she wants to remain friends, she will make the effort.