Stealing Someone’s Thunder

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Image ID : 44118396 Copyright : bowie15 123rf.com

 

Have you ever had a conversation with someone which almost feels more like a competition than an equal interchange?  Perhaps you’re excited about starting a new yoga class and you mention it to someone, only to have that person redirect the conversation by talking about her own experiences with yoga, to the point where you have been completely edged out of any chance to speak.

It turns out that many of us engage in what’s been termed by Charles Derber as conversational narcissism (check out his book, The Pursuit of Attention which is available on Amazon).  What’s the difference between a normal conversation and one in which you have been railroaded by a conversational narcissist?

Here are two examples, one from a normal exchange, and one from an experience with a conversational narcissist:

NORMAL CONVERSATION:

Sally:  I just got an offer to travel to Spain and I am so excited!
Chip: That’s so cool! I’ve always wanted to go there.  We have ancestors out there.  What part of Spain are you visiting?
Sally: Barcelona.
Chip: That’s amazing.  Hopefully you’ll have some time to explore.

 

CONVERSATION WITH A CONVERSATIONAL NARCISSIST:

Sally: I just got an offer to travel to Spain and I am so excited!
Chip: Cool.  I have ancestors out there.   In fact, there’s a town named after us.
Sally: Wow, that’s neat.
Chip: Yeah it is.  I really need to visit there.  My cousin says she can hook us up with the best accommodations out there.
Sally: Wow, awesome.  So do you know any good places to visit out there?
Chip: Well, when I go there, I expect the red carpet to be rolled out, you know what I mean?  We deserve that, you know?

In the second example, Chip took over the conversation, diverting the attention to himself.  He even ignored Sally’s question about whether he knew of any good places to visit in Spain.  In an instant, the conversation became all about Chip, and not Sally.

It is common for conversational narcissists to rather quickly jump in with their own personal stories rather than allow the other person to finish a thought.  The person’s story or complaint becomes swallowed up by the conversational narcissist’s story, which is the new focus of the conversation.  It’s also not unusual for a certain amount of bragging, boasting or name-dropping to occur with someone who has developed a strong tendency towards conversational narcissism.  Often, the conversational narcissist isn’t even aware that he has taken complete control over the dialog.

In this distracted age of social media and those irresistible handheld computers we call our phones, it seems that the art of conversation is deteriorating.   We’ve become impatient, entitled, and egocentric.  And many of us now exhibit behaviors which define conversational narcissism.  The art of truly listening needs to be relearned.

 

 

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