When someone keeps asking you the same question that you’ve already answered

This is my newest pet peeve.

Someone asks me a personal question. I answer it. A few days later, she asks me the exact same question, and it happens over and over again. It’s not like a question where the answer changes over time, and she’s checking for updates. The answer remains the same, and I give her the same answer each time.

I know that people are preoccupied with their own lives, so I understand if you don’t remember something the first time I say it. But to ask the same question week after week? To the individual you’re asking, it looks like you don’t really care.

Back in college, a girl in my statistics class kept asking me what I wanted to major in. I gave her the same answer every time, but a few days later, she’d ask me the same question. I concluded that she’s exceptionally forgetful.

Recently someone asked me if I had done something yet. I already told her two months earlier that I decided not to do it. Either she is extremely forgetful, or she likes to make conversation, or both. I’ve also noticed that she’ll bring up a past topic for the sake of giving advice. I know she means well, but it is extremely annoying to be nagged about something that isn’t her business.

I am a quiet person. While I’m not actively participating in conversation, I am observing. I tend to remember what people say, even if they weren’t talking to me directly (but I’ll pretend I don’t know, so as to not seem like a creepy eavesdropper). More importantly, if I truly don’t care about what’s going on in your life, I won’t pretend to care by asking you questions and then forgetting your answers. I will only ask if I actually care, and I will remember what you say.

Since I don’t engage in this repetitive questioning, I’m trying to understand why people do it. Here are some reasons I’ve come up with:

  1. Forgetting. This person honestly is interested but is seriously forgetful.
  2. For the sake of making conversation. What is discussed only matters in the present and is promptly forgotten.
  3. To give unsolicited advice or to disparage.
  4. For their own entertainment. This is quite rare and happens more with small children and immature adults.
  5. They don’t like your answer and are hoping for a different one.

I’m hoping that most people fall into the first two categories, and not the third. However, regardless of the reason, I still find it annoying.

I’d like to know what would be the best way to handle such questions. As much as I would love to say, “I already told you last week,” it might appear rude and embarrass the asker. I care about other people’s face and don’t want to embarrass anyone by correcting them publicly.

Someone has suggested to give a different answer each time, to mess with the person who’s asking. After all, it doesn’t matter what you say because they’ll forget it, anyway! I like that idea. However, it won’t work with questions like “Have you done _____ yet?” since the answer is either “yes” or “no.” I could try to mess with her by pretending I have no idea what she’s talking about, but that might spiral out of control. So far I have been giving answers along the line of “working on it” or “looking into it” but it really is something that I do not wish to discuss with that person. Saying “I’d rather not talk about it,” will make things awkward, but might be necessary.

I am confused.

Why would someone ask another person the same question over and over again, after the person has answered it? What would you do if you’re on the receiving end of such repetitive questioning?

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5 thoughts on “When someone keeps asking you the same question that you’ve already answered

  1. A recognized conversational technique, when talking with somebody you don’t know very well, is to ask a question. Sometimes people repeat such questions simply because they did forget the answer — sometimes it’s a way to let you know that they did hear you previously and are following up on that initial outreach. In normal social conversation, though, since people like to talk about themselves, it opens conversation. Once nicely answered, it’s easy to ask the other person a question about themselves or to change the subject in some other way. “I already told you,” immediately shuts off communication, and there’s not likely to be any further conversation. With somebody you know really well, sometimes it can work, but not usually with people who are just acquaintances.

  2. Maybe, just maybe,

    5. They don’t really have a good idea of what they keep asking about.

    So, a mere “Nah, never mind that” might just do.
    And on the case that it turns out otherwise..
    Voila! You’ve just made them less forgetful! 🙂

  3. I have a friend who tends to “forget”. I don’t believe that she is actually forgetting, but more like erasing. From what I’ve noticed from my friend, sometimes she would ask me about my height repetitively knowing my answer already for the past few months. It was until one day when I had an open conversation with my friends and her, I said I felt extremely offended when “someone asks me about my height”. That was when she stopped pestering me about my height; she knew I meant her, so I suspect she already knew or is purposely asking the same questions to gain some sort of attention, which I don’t mind, but not when her interrogation goes out of hand. Although I see her as a kind friend, she just seems to ask the same question to strike some sort of conversation.

    This was only one of my examples, I’ve had more of these experiences with the same person and hopes that she fixes her habits.

    • From what you stated, it looks like some people who ask the same questions think those topics are safe to talk about, or a familiar way to relate to you, and therefore attempt to start conversations that way. Once your friend knew that was not an okay topic for you, she stopped asking it. This makes me wonder what might have happened had I made my displeasure known.

      Thanks for sharing, and I hope for the best.

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