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I am a 19 years old male living in Canada.

Sometimes, when I'm having a discussion with friends, two of them will start telling me something at the same time, each of them ignoring the fact that the other person is also talking to me.

I usually react by only listening and responding to only one person but I feel like that's rude to the other person whose statement gets ignored, especially since both of these people are good friends of mine.

My question is: how can I answer only one of 2 friends talking at the same time without sounding rude or offending the second friend?

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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. (cc @NaiceGuy1) – Mithical Feb 26 '18 at 17:38
  • @op Talk with both person :-) – I am the Most Stupid Person Feb 27 '18 at 12:00
  • @IamtheMostStupidPerson I can't reply to both at the same time, that's the point. – OfficialQueensbridgeMurderers Feb 27 '18 at 22:52
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I'll tell you how I've seen it done, as I'm often one of the many people talking to, say, X.

X calmly closes his eyes, and raises his hands. If the talking continues, he firmly says: "Stop guys, not getting anything..." He smiles at us, and then gestures at the one nearest to him to start over. This works hassle free and no one feels hurt. Also, you don't have to be rude this way.

When someone is being spoken to by more than one person at a time, s/he can't hear any of them properly, and end up irritated, or dazed with bits out of both people's words. That's why sometimes, people feel that rudeness is necessary (as @sphennings said), but I personally don't think so. Anything that can be done rudely can be done nicely as well.

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  • +1 for there always being a nice alternative to rudeness – Rainbacon Feb 26 '18 at 19:00
  • I think we're effectively suggesting similar solutions. We're only in disagreement on whether interrupting people is rude or not. – sphennings Feb 26 '18 at 19:02
  • I think this is a good way of handling the situation without being rude to anyone. – OfficialQueensbridgeMurderers Feb 27 '18 at 22:54
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Rudeness is an important social tool when used correctly. In this case interrupting one of your friends to tell them to be quiet because you're trying to listen to someone else, while definitely rude, clearly communicates that their behavior is disruptive and not OK.

To get the most mileage out of your deliberate flaunting of the social convention of politeness, be direct, and clear. Interrupt, point out that others were already talking, and cede your turn.

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  • I personally don't really agree to that, although it does work. In any conversation/discussion, there's always a chance that rudeness might lead to further agitation, and ultimately an argument, however smartly the rudeness is used. – user157 Feb 26 '18 at 19:00
  • @AbhigyanC There's always a risk that a discussion will lead to agitation and an argument. If you normally aren't cutting people off, the sudden change in behavior is an indicator that this speech act is significant enough that you are willing to risk the social consequences of rudeness to say it. – sphennings Feb 26 '18 at 19:06
  • Yes, there always is a chance of an argument, but tactfully cutting people off is the key. The behaviour change is important, but it can be done with greater ease than being rude. Finally, rudeness has a stronger chance of working than being feeble about it, but I've answered what the op asked – user157 Feb 26 '18 at 19:15
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    Is it rude to point out that others are making conversation difficult? Telling people "one at a time please" is the opposite of rude IMO, compared to just ignoring one person, or missing everything said. It's blunt; but I wouldn't call it rude if you aren't being insensitive about it (which there's really no need to do). – JMac Feb 26 '18 at 19:48
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    @sphennings I take excuse me as "excuse my interruption"; but interrupting is not always rude. This is one of the times where it's completely fine and isn't inherently impolite. Your interruption is completely relevant to the situation; because you're unable to understand what is being said anyways. Interrupting to (in essence) say "I cannot process this information right now" isn't rude at all. It's letting the other party know that if they keep going it will not be productive; and there is an issue you have to resolve first. – JMac Feb 26 '18 at 21:15
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If the two start talking at the same time

Do not add your voice to the two already talking. Instead, raise both your hands, each one with the palm towards the two friends, and say something like

Hey hey hey, I've got two ears but only one brain. Only one person speaking, please.

Then you look at them and leave the task of deciding talking turns to them. Like this you don't favor a friend over another, you're just stating that this kind of communication is ineffective. It's up to them, now, to choose which one is going to talk, and, since it's their agreement, it's likely that they are going to respect it.

If one of them is talking and another follows

Now this is different. The second friend is being rude, so you can interrupt him and point out that the first one was talking -- he can resume telling his story afterwards. Just do not make a mountain out of a molehill: be short and do not rant about you friend's habit of talking over other people.

Often, the difference between a rude sentence and a firm one lies in the nonverbal. To convey that you're not angry or think ill of the second friend, do not frown, do not raise your voice (or, if you have to do it to be heard, soften it as soon as a loud voice is not needed anymore), look at your friend in the eyes.

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    Good answer. I accepted @AbhigyanC's answer because it was posted earlier and less broad. – OfficialQueensbridgeMurderers Feb 27 '18 at 22:59

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