Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to email@example.com.
I recently reconnected with an old friend. We haven’t been close in some time, geographically or emotionally — it’s been almost 15 years. But she moved back to the Bay Area and we’ve become friends again. I treasure the friendship I had with this woman and was very excited to reconnect. But every time we get together, she talks all about herself, and only about herself. She asks me basic questions (like “How are you?” and “How are the kids?”), but before I can even answer, she’s going off about herself. I think this could be a very special friendship again if my friend would let me get a word in edgewise. How do I politely bring this up? L.P., San Francisco
Alexis: This is a sensitive subject, and there are a few ways this cookie could crumble. There’s a chance your friend is completely oblivious to the fact that she’s hogging the talking time — I know plenty of people who are better talkers than listeners, though they mean no harm. There’s also a chance that your friend is just more self-absorbed now, and not as interested in what you have to say as you would hope. Tread lightly while you feel this out. Try starting a story with, “I am so excited to share …” or “I have to tell you about …” Perhaps this will help her better understand that you want to talk, too. If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to be direct: “I love hearing what’s going on in your life, but I feel I haven’t gotten to share what’s going on in mine! I’d love to tell you all about it.” Then see what she says — and how well she can listen. Whatever happens, you’re going to have to create a new set of expectations for who your friend is today; this will likely differ from 15 years ago.
Saul: Putting a positive spin on this situation, perhaps your friend’s excitement to see you and share all of her life stories has led her to ignore your need to share and catch up about your life, too. Maybe her desire to tell you all about the past 15 years is overriding her listening skills. Try a few more hangout sessions before judging your old friend too harshly.
Sharon: As the oldest member of this advice team, I have to say that a lifelong friendship is a special relationship that cannot easily be replaced. All those years of history and memory-making create a very deep and lasting connection. If your friend is absorbed in the retelling of her journey, she must be looking for the thoughtful response and perspective that only one who knows her well, as you do, can give. It may be your impatience to tell her your story that is making her lengthy tale hard to wade through. I suggest making a date that is clearly all about you and giving her an opportunity to share her reflections on your life story, too. You will both be delighted with the clarity an old, dear friend can offer based on knowing one another so well. Cherish one another and enjoy the chance to reignite a close friendship.
Jessica: The real question is this: How will you tell her you’re feeling slighted if she won’t give you the chance to open your mouth? I think friendship, like most other relationships, isn’t always balanced. I sometimes find that when I have nothing new or exciting to share, I am happy for a friend to take the floor. I believe your friend is completely unaware that she’s dominating the conversation. Perhaps you could try getting in closer communication with her, and start sharing your own stories through text or email. This may help you kick-start that close (and more balanced) friendship.
Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.