Dear Crabby,

My spouse is susceptible to bad speech habits she learns from others.

When she gets a new co-worker I soon notice her using a new favorite word or expression. Most often it doesn’t bother me; I likely do the same thing.

But a few months ago she started interjecting “yeah, yeah, yeah” during conversations, always when someone else is still talking. It doesn’t feel like an acknowledgement that she is listening. It feels like an interruption. It stops me mid-thought when I’m talking. When I hear her interrupt others the same way it feels rude.

However, I have now noticed many others doing the same thing, on podcasts, at work, other friends and relatives. Any chance I can learn to ignore this?

Please help.


No, No, No

Dear No,

Tone is everything in cases like this.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah” can mean “enough already; I get it,” which is indeed rude. But it can also mean “I wholeheartedly agree with you; I’ve finally found someone with whom I am completely simpatico, and I am excited to express my joy in that.” It depends on the tone.

I don’t know exactly what your wife means when she says, “yeah, yeah, yeah,” because I haven’t heard it with my own ears. You suggest it feels like an interruption rather than an acknowledgment she’s listening, but your paternalistic opening line — “My spouse is susceptible to bad speech habits she learns from others” — leads me to believe you may not be the best judge of tone.

It’s possible people who hear her say “yeah, yeah, yeah” don’t get offended in the first place. Regardless of how your wife’s “yeah, yeah, yeah” comes across, though, there’s nothing you can do about it. Or at least there’s nothing you SHOULD do about it. She’s the one saying it, not you. She’s the one potentially coming off as rude in conversation. And, while that might be uncomfortable for you, it’s not your job to police what your wife says or how she says it. We can’t control our spouses, nor should we want to.

It’s different if she’s talking with you one-on-one and she does it. Then you have a right to tell her it hurts your feelings. Communication is important in a marriage, and you don’t want some conversational tic (she probably isn’t even all that aware of) to foster resentment down the road. But if you hear her say it to someone else, leave it alone.

I think you know this already. Despite that opening line, you’re coming at this issue in a reasonable way. You didn’t ask how to get her to stop; you asked how to learn to ignore it. That’s the right question (though, for tone reasons, you might’ve used “accept” instead of “ignore”).

My advice in that regard is to pause and remember you love your wife. That sounds really simplistic and dumb, I know. But presumably you do love her. Act like it.

Hope that helps.



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