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Understanding the same story syndrome

Do you have someone in your life who tells the same story over and over again? It might be a milestone memory, a career accomplishment or poignant moment of the past. Whatever the story may be, it’s so gripping to them that they tell it to you again and again and again.

As you sit there with your eyes glazed over (and possibly feeling irritated), you might wonder why they forgot that they told you this story a thousand times before.

Or perhaps you make judgments about how he repeats himself because he has no life, she just loves to hear herself talk, he is self-centered or maybe she doesn’t feel heard. Regardless, it’s as if they’ve entered a story-telling time warp.

Reason for repeat

So what do you do? You can use compassion and understanding as strategies. Often as age sets in, the art of conversation and a desire to take interest in others diminishes.

As a result, these story tellers become limited in their ability to connect with others and only talk about what they know, which is themselves.

The reason why they repeat themselves more and more often is because the past becomes more prominent in their minds than the future, and the more they talk about the past, the more they remember it.

As well, there’s a common need that we all share, and that is to make sense of our past and give pause to what our legacy will be. In the last 100 years or so, the average life expectancy has increased by 30 years.

This additional time gives us a chance to view our past with distance and some perspective.

Retelling stories is one way to process our past. Understanding all of this is the pathway to patience. It is humbling to think that this could easily be one of us one day.

Tactics to consider

One way to handle the interaction is to validate their story, distract and redirect them to something in the present. The “here and now” is a powerful place to live in.

>> Validate their story. Gently celebrate their story and remind them that you’ve heard it before by saying, “Oh yes! And what I love most about this story is how in the end you made a touchdown.” Kindness can help assure that his or her life experiences matter.

>> Distract them. Direct their attention away from the past by gently leading the story to something in the present. “Wow! So, how’s your football team doing this season?” These disruptive distractions help them snap out of the past replay and create enthusiasm for the present moment.

>> Create an experience. Talk about something happening in your life and in this moment. “Boy dinner is great. Look what I made just for you.”

The best way to create an awareness for the present moment is to communicate meaningfully about what’s happening in life and remember to ask: “What’s new?”

Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit

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