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In my workplace there is a specific person who will repeat themselves over, and over. A 2-minute conversation is repeated, without adding anything, multiple times.

How can I politely tell them that they literally said that under a minute ago?

11

I can think of three basic reasons why someone would repeat themselves:

  • it's a personal tic, like Foghorn Leghorn - I say, son, I say you better normalize that database, I say normalize it now!
  • they believe, from your verbal or nonverbal responses, that you don't yet "get it" so they repeat, perhaps using the exact same words (not so useful) or perhaps rewording
  • the meeting is over, but you're not leaving, so they rather desperately wrap up and summarize to let you know - So, yeah, basically, that's it, just normalize it, that's all really, yeah, normalize it, if you could take care of that ... the normalizing ... that's really all there is....

None of these will be cured by you asking them not to repeat. The first you need to ignore and the second and third mean that you and this person have your cues set at different levels. Try being "up a level" with your "got it" and your own summaries, and try wrapping up the meeting once you know what you need to know. Try explicitly asking "is there anything else we need to talk about" once you've heard things once.

Don't interrupt a repetition, but do reply to it. Either "yes, I get it, three new reports, by Friday" kind of summary or [read notes] "yes, I have all that." Acknowledge what you're being told - especially if it's "make it so" because I have told you three times what needs to be done, but you're still standing in my office!

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Write down bullet points of what they say.

As they are about to launch their tirade, grab a pen and paper and say Just let me make a couple of notes...

For each point they make, write down a bullet point

When they start repeat a point, put your pen on the relevant bullet point and interrupt them saying yep, got that and show them your notes.

Their tirade will be politely halted when they see in black and write that they are repeating themselves.

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Along the same line of listening and paraphrasing what you heard back to them. Take notes and show the notes back to that person. Or use a whiteboard to help them keep track of what they're saying while they're saying it.

Also, you could have a sequential written agenda prepared before the meeting even takes place. And you could require that person to have that agenda prepared in advance before you even agree to finalize the time for the meeting.

There is also something to be said for setting a time limit beforehand and enforcing it with an egg timer or an hourglass. Or mandating that the meeting be stand-up only, so that no one gets too comfortable.

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I would try saying it back to them,
i.e. Person: "Well Terry, I think xyzkcd" XXX blah blah blah other conversation XXX Person: "I think xyz.." Terry (interrupting) " I totally agree with you, like you said before xyzkcd!"

If you take control of the conversation, they won't be able to repeat themselves so much, you can then end the chat at that point too. Don't be shy about it, what you take as being polite and letting them talk this person may be taking to be you not listening/ taking in what you're saying.

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