From interrupting your chill dinnertime playlists with the “ding, dong!” alert of an incoming package to blaring out full-throated responses in the dead of night, Alexa has a bad habit of piping up at the wrong time. Yes, Alexa is just trying to be helpful, but sometimes she tries a little too hard, and pretty soon you find yourself bellowing “Shut up, Alexa!” to your faithful but fitfully annoying voice assistant.
Of course, the most foolproof way of keeping Alexa from ever bugging you again is simply to unplug her. But if you’d still like Alexa in your life, there are five settings you can tweak to make her a little less annoying.
This story is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart speakers, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.
Turn on Brief Mode
Alexa can get a little chatty when she’s responding to even simple voice queries, sometimes repeating your commands or even chiming in with a suggestion for another feature (“By the way…”).
To keep Alexa’s responses to a bare minimum, you can enable Brief Mode, which will cut back on the chatter and may occasionally substitute a short “beep” for a verbal response. Unfortunately, Brief Mode won’t entirely nix Alexa’s “by the way” digressions, which are a constant source of ire on the Alexa subreddit.
To turn on Brief Mode, tap More > Settings > Voice Responses, then toggle on the Brief Mode setting.
Amazon Echo Show 15
Reviewed with $29.99 Sanus tilt stand; price as reviewed: $279.98
Turn off package and “subscribe and save” notifications
If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you’re probably familiar–and perhaps too familiar–with Alexa’s orange light ring, which pulses whenever there’s an Amazon delivery or a pending “Subscribe & Save” order.
Alexa’s delivery alerts can be handy when you’re expecting a package from Amazon on your doorstep, but the accompanying “beeps” and Alexa’s lengthy descriptions of what just arrived can be annoying. And while you can order Alexa to dismiss all her notifications, she’ll always ask you to confirm, which means it’s generally easier to simply ask her to read the alerts.
If you don’t want to see Alexa’s orange light rings for incoming packages anymore, tap More > Settings > Notifications > Amazon Shopping, then adjust the toggles for Out for delivery, Delivered, and Order Updates (which includes Subscribe & Save alerts).
Turn off hunch suggestions
One of Alexa’s most advanced features is her ability to make suggestions based on “hunches.” For example, if you leave one of your Alexa-connected smart bulbs on all night, Alexa might suggest that she turn off all your lights whenever she “has a hunch” that everyone’s asleep.
These “hunches” (which are based on cues such as recent Alexa interactions and the status of your smart devices) may represent an impressive example of Alexa’s ever-evolving AI, but they can also be annoying, especially if Alexa keeps bugging you with hunch suggestions or douses the lights while you’re still in the room.
To keep Alexa from nagging you about hunch suggestions, just tap More > Settings > Hunches, then turn off the Hunches suggestions setting. You can also turn off any already enabled hunches under the Automatic actions heading on the Hunches screen.
Turn on Whisper Mode
You’re doing your best to keep quiet as you hunt for bathroom tissue in the dead of night, but you need Alexa to turn the pantry lights on for just a few moments. “Alexa, turn pantry lights on,” you say quietly, only for Alexa to blurt out, “OK, PANTRY LIGHTS ON!” The next thing you know, the whole house is awake.
Luckily, Alexa can keep whisper-quiet when you really need her to. Tap the More tab on the Alexa app, then tap Voice Responses > Whisper Mode. Now, if you whisper a voice command to Alexa, she’ll whisper back.
One quick thing about Alexa’s whisper mode: The first time you whisper to one of your Alexa speakers, Alexa will say in her normal voice, “I think you just whispered to me,” and then give you a full description of the feature before lowering. If you want Alexa to start whispering, you should give it a test run on each of your Alexa devices before you need it for real.
Turn on Adaptive Listening mode
Generally speaking, Alexa is pretty good about not interrupting you while you’re speaking. But if you pause too long while giving Alexa a voice command–perhaps because you’re gathering your thoughts, or maybe you’re trying to remember the name of a smart device–Alexa may cut you off with a curt “Sorry, I don’t understand,” forcing you to grit your teeth and start over again.
Luckily, there’s a setting that will make Alexa wait a beat longer before responding to a voice query, handy for those who’d rather not feel rushed when chatting with Alexa. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to enable this setting for each of your individual Alexa devices.
In the Alexa app, tap Devices > Echo & Alexa, tap an Alexa device, then tap the Settings icon in the top-right corner of the screen. Scroll down to Adaptive Listening, tap it, then toggle on the Adaptive Listening Mode setting.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.