How to Get Alexa to Talk Less

How to Get Alexa to Talk Less
Photo: Sharomka, Shutterstock

While I appreciate everything a smart speaker assistant can help me with, I don’t want to get caught in long conversations with Alexa. I certainly don’t need her to respond out loud to every request or make suggestions on totally separate topics when all I asked her to do was turn off the lights.

Thankfully, there are a few settings you can change on your Amazon Echo to limit Alexa’s verbosity — though you probably won’t be able to cut out unwanted responses altogether. Here are the options for getting Alexa to talk less.

How to turn on ‘Brief Mode’ on Alexa

Brief Mode eliminates verbal confirmations like “OK” when you make a request. Instead, you’ll hear a brief tone. To enable this setting, open your Alexa app and tap the More menu. Click Settings > Voice Responses > Brief Mode to toggle on and off.

You’ll also find the admittedly creepy Whisper Mode setting here. If you enable this and whisper your questions or commands — let’s say you’re trying not to wake someone who is sleeping — Alexa will whisper back in an unsettling but quiet manner.

How to turn off purchase suggestions on Alexa

Alexa has also been known to follow up on simple requests (like, say, for a weather report) with suggestions to buy stuff on Amazon — serving up ads, basically. Turns out there’s a setting for that too: In your app, go to Settings > Notifications > Amazon Shopping and turn off the “receive personalised recommendations and deals based on your shopping activity” option.

How to turn off ‘Things to Try’

Another Alexa quirk is her penchant for saying “By the way…” as a preface to the loosely related information she’s about to share. Apparently, there’s not one single setting to disable this, but you can turn off Things to Try, which may help limit some of her chatter. Go to Settings > Notifications > Things to Try and toggle off.

How to turn off Alexa ‘Hunches’

If you use Alexa to control smart home devices like lights and thermostats, the Hunches feature (enabled by default) will alert you if something isn’t operating as expected. You’ll find options for this in Settings > Hunches > Settings > Suggestions. You can also set Alexa to take care of these issues automatically.

How to set up an Amazon Kids user profile

The most extreme option for disabling unwanted notifications is to use your Amazon Echo with a child’s account (h/t CNET). The downside is that some other functionality will be limited — though Alexa will still be able to respond to basic requests, play (non-explicit) music, and control your smart home devices.

To turn your Echo into a kid-friendly device, go to Devices in the Alexa app, tap Echo & Alexa and select the device you want to reconfigure. Tap Amazon Kids, toggle the bar on, and select Setup Amazon Kids. If you have a child’s profile already set up, you can select it. If you don’t, select Add Child and follow the prompts.

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