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Context: I am 23, studying in Switzerland. I have a really good relationship with my father. Often when I visit my dad(55) we go for a walk or just have a tea. We talk about all kinds of things and from time to time he will tell jokes he has told many times. This is boring and annoying to me.

My goal is to make him stop tell these jokes, but without directly saying so. Because saying something like: "Don't tell me this joke, it is boring and you told me before" is very offensive.

What I tried: I tried numerous things which nearly never had an effect. He usually just proceeds to tell the joke. Sometimes he goes "Ah" and stops but that is rather rare and next time we meet he goes at it again.

  1. Not laughing at all at the joke, just lifting the sides of my lips a little bit in german "müdes lächeln"(tired smile)
  2. Saying: "Oh I heard this joke before"
  3. Saying: "You told me this joke before"
  4. Finishing the joke for him.

I think his intentions are to create a good mood and be funny. Now while I am not impacted much by this and the mood when we meet is always great and I enjoy seeing him, these joke have the opposite effect. How could I react to achieve my goal, but also fulfill his intention of creating a good mood? To me the mood is already good and we talk about interesting things no need for an old joke to "lighten the mood". An answer from the perspective of a dad is very welcome, maybe I am misunderstanding what this joke interaction is about and a dad can tell me the story from the other side.

Note: He also does this, repeating these jokes, to others as well. The jokes are not related to the topic we are talking, and often some random internet jokes you would find if you type 'jokes' into the google.

  • I know that he listened to me too. I am not blaming him. No in general he is not forgetful and remembers most things quite well. – Hakaishin Feb 23 '18 at 14:51
  • Is it only jokes or is he also repeating same old stories you heard before from him? There are people who really like talking about themselves or their own experiences and they try to do that given any opportunity. – user1880405 Feb 23 '18 at 15:06
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    Can people stop questioning the OP's father's health in the comments? Comments are for clarifications to the question, not a way for you to accuse the father of having Alzheimer's or being an alcoholic. The question is How can it stop?, not Why is this happening? – caird coinheringaahing Feb 24 '18 at 11:51
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There's an aspect of this that you're missing: your father may be repeating those jokes because he thoroughly enjoys them, and because he feels that it's a sort of tradition/bond between the two of you. Perhaps listening to a couple of jokes you've heard before is not really as big a deal as all that, in this context.

Second, have you tried simply challenging him to research new jokes?

Oh, you told me that one last time. Tell you what, surprise me with a new joke, and lunch is on me. (or you win a beer, etc.)

Alternatively, you could make it a competition:

That one's getting a little old. Here's a new one for you: [tell a joke]. Think you can do better than that?

This really shouldn't be a difficult conversation to have.


My dad loves repeating some jokes. Every once in a while we'll be doing something together when he'll - completely out of the blue - say: "Listen to this one:", and then launch into the telling of a joke he's said at least a dozen times before. And he knows it.

We're both aware that he's telling it because he enjoys doing so, so he's not expecting me to act as if I've never heard it before. However, in my particular case, my dad is usually laughing by the time he delivers the punchline, or at least smiling from ear to ear, and I find his joy at telling that silly joke (he's a super serious engineer type) so funny that I just laugh it up with him.

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You have two options as I see it.

1.Be honest. Put your hands on his shoulders, and tell him, with the compassion, love and respect you obviously have for him, that the same jokes over and over again are driving you nuts. Ask yourself how you would want to hear it, and do that.

  1. Take it.

Edit

I've been asked to expand my answer, so I shall.

It seems that hints, even blunt ones, have proved ineffective. What is left but honesty, or acceptance?

In my experience, authenticity and sincerity are very powerful. If a valued friend or loved one felt it necessary to tell me I was doing something that was driving them nuts -- and they have, believe me -- I would want to hear it with love and respect.

Still, human feelings and motivation are rarely if ever rational, and expecting somebody to react in a particular way, even someone we know well, to criticism is hopeful at best. I think that because of this, respectful and compassionate criticism is always the best approach. But there are no guarantees.

If indirectness and hints have failed, and if unwilling to risk the possibility of an uncomfortable or unpleasant encounter, then what is left but option 2?

I hope this is a better answer.

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    Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? Why do you say to take this course of action? What’s the thought process behind this answer? As this currently stands, this is essentially a “Try this!” answer. We require that answers provide some sort of explanation for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that. – Arwen Undómiel Feb 25 '18 at 7:53
  • Certainly, although I think any suggestion regarding human behaviour is a "try this" answer...on the level of feelings and motivation we are essentially irrational. – Mambo Bananapatch Feb 26 '18 at 18:25
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First and most important you are NOT a bad person because you don't love all your dad says!
Some jokes can be a real laugh at the first time - and a pain at the x-st time.

You have already found your solution but let me give some thoughts anyway.

If you'd like to talk to your Dad about this, the mentioned Ah situation is a great hook to do so. Be honest, it's already spoiled somehow so it is a wonderful opportunity to ask "oh Dad you see I've run out of options what to respond a long time ago. Would it be ok to stop that?".
You can prepare for this phrase, adapt it to your dad.

It's great to let him enjoy telling jokes. But then he should enjoy the whole thing. Are you sure he doesn't feel embarassed when he notices the silence after his joke not only with you but with others too? Does he try to do better next time? Then he might like to hear that telling jokes is often funny only for the person who tell them.

I wonder why asking for the reason should be a problem. Isn't finding a reason the only way towards a change?

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Pretty sure the joke is just a trigger for an happy memory : He's trying to catch the magic of something that happened before when he told the joke to you, or the joke was told to him, and that context is what makes him laugh. I don't think the joke is the point, but the vehicle. Especially if that memory is related to you, maybe it just reminds him of that cute face you did 10 years ago or something when he tells it.

Like how most in-jokes relates to the original event, and why "you had to be there" to get it.

Maybe try asking him if that's why he does it; if it is, he can tell you that context and maybe you can share that trigger in the future.

  • I agree with the behaviour being associated with better times / happy memories, but I don't think you can realistically ask someone stuck in such a cycle why they are doing it. – Engineer Feb 26 '18 at 15:14
  • Perhaps the solution might be drawn out of this. The joke is a self-contained positive experience, ritualistic and it never fails for him. To break the loop, you need to turn it into more than a challenge-response. Start a conversation with "Hey dad, you tell that joke a lot. do you remember the first time?" and perhaps you'll turn his thoughts a different way. Then the next time he goes to make the joke it'll hold a new connotation in his head and he'll pick a different one. – Ruadhan2300 Mar 16 '18 at 14:42
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Tell him the joke(s) first

This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you tell the "same old" jokes before he gets a chance to it might just clue him in. Alternatively if beats you to the punch, follow up his joke, with his second most frequently repeated joke.

Once you've got a couple of the repeated jokes out in the open, mix it up with some new that you are fairly sure he hasn't heard before. If he tells a joke you haven't heard (or that he hasn't told you) be appreciative.

  • Get him a Facebook account. He’ll still tell you jokes you’ve heard before, but at least they’ll be new to him. – WGroleau Feb 23 '18 at 23:28
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You can stop him by completing his jokes and changing topic/resuming the previous topic immediately. This kills it instantly.

Dad: -Ah listen to this good joke: there is a camel that goes into a bar...

You: -Yes, and then meets the fish with shoes. I remember it as well, it really is a good one! (smile) Now speaking about fish, how did you cook that fish that you caught last Sunday?

No need to tell this with hard feelings or while rolling eyes.


My personal two cents: my dad has a core of puns that repeats very often. We (my brother and I) know them by heart, and I feel they have become a sort of family tradition. Of course they stopped being exaggeratingly funny some years ago, but that doesn't mean they are stale; instead, they turned into "how our father is" much like the shape of his nose or his voice.

Are these jokes so unbearable to you that you must find a way to stop your father? Or could it be just an innocent way for him to express himself?

  • No of course they are bearable and yes this is "how my father is" but I was always a perfectionist and was never happy with a sub optimal solution. I mean I am not going to not see him because of this, but if somebody had a similar situation, maybe they found a good way to handle this. – Hakaishin Feb 23 '18 at 14:49
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    @Hakaishin "suboptimal solution", however, is not an objective category. Probably the goal of telling these jokes is not amusing you, but strengthening the bond that you share. Or simply he finds it amusing to tell that particular joke. For him, his way of delivering jokes may already be optimal. :) – LinuxBlanket Feb 23 '18 at 15:02
  • Of course it is not objective, but optimal in the sense of maximizing our joint utility functions ;) Of course you can't look at it this technical, but still you get the point :P – Hakaishin Feb 23 '18 at 15:25
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    @Hakaishin re: "I was always a perfectionist and was never happy with a sub optimal solution", maybe your father is attempting to teach you to be happy with something that traditionally doesn't make you happy. If you truly are interested in maximizing your own happiness, then finding a way to derive happiness from less-than-perfect situations will have better long-term payoff than finding ways to create perfect situations. There are no "rules" in psychology; you are allowed to cheat and be happy for no reason at all. Just force it. – Luke Griffiths Feb 23 '18 at 16:44
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    This is exactly how my kids got me to stop applauding when they asked for "a hand". Damn, I miss that joke. ;-( – T.E.D. Feb 23 '18 at 17:12
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I had a similar problem with my dad. He would tell the same stories over and over again. They were usually "cute" stories about his children when we were little. It drove me crazy until my brother told me he loved hearing the stories because he knew that at some point, our dad would be gone and we'd no longer get to hear them. This gave me a completely new perspective and now I like listening to the stories, although this is getting more rare as he struggles with Alzheimer's.

I realize this is somewhat different than hearing jokes repeated, but since your dad obviously likes telling the jokes, you might want to approach it with a different attitude and let him have the enjoyment he gets from telling them.

  • Yes, me too. I used to hate the nickname my grandparents used to call me when I was growing up and, you know, trying to get a serious image for myself. But now I really miss being called that nickname. – NVZ Feb 23 '18 at 19:38
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    But that said, I fear this answer might be seen as "not answering the question". Can you expand it to answer the OP's question as well? – NVZ Feb 23 '18 at 19:41
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    "Although this is getting more rare as he struggles with Alzheimer's." Time for you to recount those jokes, then ;-) That will certainly have its little effect ... Alzheimer patients need to use their brain as much as possible to contain the damage! BTW, I am a dad, I know I would love that ;-) Good luck! – thecarpy Feb 23 '18 at 23:44
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You have an interesting challenge. You want to spend time with your father, but you want to do it on terms you define.

As we get older, we get into habits. Our memory fades a little bit. We tend to repeat ourselves. We tend to stick with jokes that we've told before, both because we like them and because it's a challenge to remember new ones.

These jokes are a part of your father, whether you like them or not. So, by asking him not to repeat himself, you're asking him to deny part of himself when you're together. This is going to be hard for him.

I suspect that Swiss culture still commands a certain amount of respect for parents and elders, which makes this harder.

I'd suggest using these to continue to bond with him. Let him start the joke, and you finish it. You may develop a closer relationship with him based on your ability to tell jokes together. If nothing else, it's some variety and you don't listen to the same old one over and over - now you're an active participant. That has to be better than listening to the same thing repeatedly. You probably won't ever change him without a lot of effort on both of your parts, so accepting it and somehow working with it is probably the best option you have.

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    I think the assumption that he is retelling jokes because of his age or memory isn't necessarily a good one. My experience with this kind of joke-telling (dad jokes) is that the punchline is really the exasperation of hearing a stupid joke for the millionth time. "Dad, I'm hungry!" "Hi Hungry, I'm Dad." "Ugghh!" It's just a form of teasing, almost ritualistic. – BlackThorn Feb 23 '18 at 17:03
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    @BlackThorn - Yes, I agree. As a dad - and someone who doesn't like guessing games - when my kids were little (8-10 years old) and were excited about something, they'd say "Dad! Guess What!" They wouldn't take "I don't want to guess, just tell me the news" as an answer. So, whenever they'd say "Guess What" I'd always answer "42." Every. Single. Time. At first they'd just get exasperated with me until they'd tell me the news, but now it's an "inside joke" of the family. – zmerch Feb 23 '18 at 17:25
  • because, 42 is the answer. – Max Vernon Feb 23 '18 at 17:45
  • Side note: "I'm hungry!" "Hi Hungry, I'm Dad." <--- this is an educational pun, a person is NOT supposed to say "I am hungry" unless the person has been starving/fasting for several days. It is not really meant as a "funny joke", it is a pun ... if your dad laughs after it, it probably means that you still do not get it. Use the word "appetite" instead ... "I have quite an appetite right now" or better "Can I help with breakfast/lunch/tea/dinner/supper/whatever?" – thecarpy Feb 24 '18 at 0:02

protected by A J Feb 26 '18 at 12:25

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