Conversational Narcissism and How to Avoid It

George J. Ziogas

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The art of conversation is something that’s hard to master. People are being told that it should come naturally, but in truth, a good conversation requires more than just talking. The modern era relies on socializing, be it face to face or through social media, and that’s why some thought should be put into becoming a charismatic and pleasant conversationalist.

But of course, that sort of thing doesn’t come easy to everyone, and more often than not, people get so caught up in what they have to say, that they forget to listen. The term that’s used to describe the habit of repeatedly turning the conversation back to yourself and appearing uninterested when the focus of the chat isn’t on you is conversational narcissism.

And although it sounds bad, it’s something that everyone has been guilty of at one point or another, even if it’s done unconsciously. So here is what you need to know about it.

What Is a Conversational Narcissist ?

A conversational narcissist is someone who offers no sign of active listening to what you have to say, but who tries to shift the attention back to them whenever the opportunity presents itself.

It’s no secret that everyone enjoys talking about themselves, some more than others. And that’s perfectly normal because discussions should include both sharing and receiving attention. But a skilled conversationalist acknowledges your words and your experience, asks questions, and participates through remarks, not only expects you to do those things. A conversational narcissist is quicker to dismiss what someone is saying and looks for ways in which they can make themselves the topic of discussion because to them that’s far more interesting.

Most of the time, a conversational narcissist isn’t even aware of what they’re doing, and are used to seeking attention out of habit. They simply wait for their turn to speak, and jump at the first opening they get to share, believing it to be perfectly normal.

Signs That You Might Be Dealing with One

If you believe that you’re an empathic listener and know your way around social exchanges, then instead you might have dealt with people who took over conversations instead of equally participating in one. In case that you’re wondering if someone in your life is a conversational narcissist, there are signs that give them away.

They Interrupt a Lot

The people that don’t let you finish your stories or even your sentences in a chat most likely have conversational narcissism tendencies. They’re so eager to get to the point where they share their thoughts that they’ll interrupt you and not even perceive this act as something disrespectful.

They Respond a Lot with “Me Too”

It’s natural to want to know that you’re not the only person who experiences certain things. Relating to others can be comforting, even helpful in some cases. But when all someone does is find ways to relate to a story that you’re trying to tell or a feeling you might be having, then that exudes selfishness more than helpfulness. If someone in your life is making you feel like you’re not being heard, then perhaps it’s time to confront them about it.

They Barely Give Any Acknowledgment to Your Words

Monosyllabic responses such as “yeah” or “sure” or any other variations of that are what conversational narcissists give in return to what you’ve said to them. Instead of asking questions that would get you to talk more about yourself, they do the bare minimum in keeping the conversation alive.

How to Avoid Conversational Narcissism

Whether you’re on the receiving side of this particularity or have been guilty of doing it from time to time, it can be said for sure that you wouldn’t like it to hold sway in your day-to-day interactions. The key to dealing with conversational narcissism is not to fight for the attention with the other person.

Instead, the best advice would be to establish and enforce boundaries whenever you feel like a person is overstepping them. Point out to them that you don’t feel listened to and that you’d like for them to seem interested in what you have to say, and if they can’t agree to that, then that you’d like to leave the conversation. Not only does this show maturity, but it also lets the other person know that you consider yourself to be someone worth having a conversation with.

In the case that you’ve been told by others or you believe yourself to be a conversational narcissist, then there are certain tactics you can apply in order to get better at listening. The main rule is to support, and not shift the attention to yourself. Listening is just as important as speaking, so take in what someone is trying to communicate with you and understand it better by asking questions that could get them to elaborate. Instead of responding with “me too” when your friend or partner or coworker tells you that they’re tired, try asking them why they feel that way. They’ll be grateful that you’re trying to take an interest in them.

Conversational narcissism happens when people get so caught up in themselves that they forget about the world around them, which is something that everyone has let happen sometimes. But conversations shouldn’t be treated as competitions of who can reveal more about themselves.

They’re a two-way street, and they require cooperation and support in order for both parties to feel listened to. Avoiding conversational narcissism is the best way to ensure that the dialogue you’re having with someone over coffee doesn’t turn into a monologue, which no one would enjoy in the end.

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