Conversational narcissism is a term that has been floating around for a while now, and I think you need to know about it. Why? Because you might know (or be) a conversational narcissist.
Have you ever been around someone who just can’t stop talking about themselves? That’s a conversational narcissist.
Don’t get me wrong: just because you have some conversational narcissism doesn’t mean that you’re an actual narcissist.
If you’re surrounded by people who are a little too self-absorbed in conversations, or if you’re the one who has a tendency to be narcissistic in conversations, this post is for you.
We will be covering:
What is conversational narcissism?
What causes conversational narcissism?
How do I stop talking about myself?
What to do if you’re talking to a conversational narcissist?
What is Conversational Narcissism?
Conversational narcissism happens when someone just can’t stop talking about themselves. A conversational narcissist always find a way to bring a conversation back to them.
It’s like they could be having the same conversation with a brick wall.
Some common signs you’re dealing with a conversational narcissist are:
They make really weird shifts back to what they want to talk about. If the conversation naturally flows to a new topic that isn’t about them or their problems, the conversational narcissist will make a really bad segue back to the topic they want to talk about. A lot of the times, it’s not a natural flow in the conversation.
They might ask you questions, but it doesn’t seem like they care. Remember: a conversational narcissist doesn’t have to be an actual narcissist. That means that they can become aware when they’ve talked too much about themselves, so they’ll ask you questions. Don’t be fooled though, they’re thinking about what they want to say next.
They love to ramble. Someone with conversational narcissism can talk for long periods of time about the topic they want to talk about. It doesn’t matter if you’re not adding to the conversation or using the Grey Rock technique on them, they’re still going to ramble.
You’ve probably encountered someone who loves to talk about themselves. You might even be worried that you are a conversational narcissist!
It’s normal to have a bit of conversational narcissism sometimes.
When you need to get something off your chest or are really excited about something, it’s normal to start talking a lot about you, you, you.
Conversational narcissism only becomes a problem if you do it all the time.
For whatever reason, you can’t stop talking about yourself and don’t really care about what other people have to say. If that’s the case, we need to change that fast.
That’s not a way to make friends, and I want you to have friends!
What Causes Conversational Narcissism?
You’ll be surprised to know that there are many causes to conversational narcissism. We will be covering them in this section, but again, people who talk about themselves a lot are not necessarily narcissists.
Conversational Narcissism is a Coping Mechanism
When people are nervous, it can be difficult to make small talk. Anxiety makes people a little too self-aware of the wrong things, so they forget to just stop talking.
Lots of people ramble as a coping mechanismwhen they’re feeling socially anxious. Plus, they talk about a topic they know well: themselves.
It’s a vicious cycle. When they realize that they’re rambling on about themselves too much, conversational narcissist get even more anxious and either:
Abruptly get quiet
Talk about themselves even more
Thankfully, this coping mechanism can be unlearned! However, be aware that this is a huge cause of a lot of conversational narcissists you interact with.
They Grew Up With Narcissistic Parents
These poor people grew up with actual narcissistic parents, so conversational narcissism is all they know.
There could be two reasons for them to be doing this:
They’re modeling the way that their narcissistic parent talked;
They really need the attention that they lacked, so they talk about themselves.
Our parents can really influence our development into adulthood. If you had a parent that always talked about themselves, you might just use their same speech patterns.
On the other hand, you might have had a narcissistic parent that was so self-centered that you didn’t get enough attention as a child. You can make up for this by becoming a conversational narcissist.
Conversational Narcissists Are Not Feeling Supported
When you don’t feel supported, you feel like you’re screaming into the void.
That’s what your neighbourhood conversational narcissist could be doing. Throwing things until they stick.
Is the conversational narcissist feeling lonely or isolated?
Does the conversational narcissist feel inferior or belittled?
Is there anything wrong?
You might be surprised by the answers you get. Sometimes, it’s a lack of social support that turn a lot of people into conversational narcissists.
Imagine drowing, and trying to drag anything down to pull yourself back up. That’s conversational narcissism caused by a lack of support.
How Do I Stop Talking About Myself?
If you’ve identified yourself as the conversational narcissist, good job! You’re already way ahead of people who aren’t as self-aware as you are. There are plenty of ways you can slowly stop talking about yourself:
Stop and Redirect
This strategy involves you noticing how you feel when you talk.
Is your mouth feeling dry? Are you out of breath?
If you’re showing the signs of having talked too much, it’s time to stop and redirect.
It might be a little bit embarrassing to have talked so much in a conversation, but you always have the time to make up for it! When using the stop and redirect technique, here is what you need to do:
Stop talking. Finish your sentence, and then make it known to the person you’re talking to that you’re a little bit embarrassed to be talking so much.
Redirect the conversation to them. Vocalize that you realize that you’ve been talking so much, and ask them a question about themselves.
A sentence you can easily use to redirect the conversation back to the person you’re talking to could look like:
“Oh my goodness, I’ve been talking way too much. What do you think about (topic we’re discussing)?”
Or, if you can’t make the transition as smooth as that, you can always use this sentence:
“Oh shoot, I’ve been talking way too much. I wanted to ask you about (something going on in their lives)”
The embarrassment you’ll feel for the stop and redirect technique will be much shorter than the embarrassment you’ll feel after you realize that you just kept talking about yourself.
If You Need to Ramble, Just Ask!
This trick should just be used with close friends and family. When you need to get something off your chest, sometimes you need to ask someone if they can support you.
Not only is it polite to ask to talk about yourself for a long time, the person will know what to expect when you start rambling. They’ll also be more prepared to support you instead of chiming in to change the subject.
It’s not embarrassing when you ask people you’re close to if you can do this, trust me. You can say:
“Hey, can I just ramble on about something for a bit? I need to get something off my chest.”
You’ve solved your problem and you have a great support system. I call that a win!
Learn Healthy Coping Strategies to Avoid Conversational Narcissism
If you’re the type to use conversational narcissism as a coping mechanism, there are lots of ways to unlearn bad coping mechanisms. The first step is admitting that it’s a problem, and you’ve already done that.
Mindfulness is a great technique that helps with reducing anxiety, especially when you’re feeling socially anxious. You’re learning to live in the moment, which banishes intrusive and anxious thoughts.
Some other great coping mechanisms to adopt in your life are:
Learning different ways to meditate and centre your mind;
Going for a long walk;
Preparing talking points before meeting people;
Taking lots of social breaks at events (even just taking a bathroom break can relax you).
Because I like you so much, here’s another secret I use in social situations when I feel anxious: Pretend to be someone else.
Now, I don’t mean that you need to full-on announce to everyone that you’re now JLo.
Take parts of that person that you admire. Ask yourself: What would this person do in a situation like this? If you can channel your inner celebrity, you’ll be much more confident in social situations, and be able to have the self-awareness to ask people about themselves.
Learn the Art of Asking Questions
Conversational narcissists usually have no idea how to ask people questions, or even what to ask. To make sure that you don’t talk about yourself too much, learn the art of asking questions.
People love talking about themselves, and if you tend to ask them lots of questions, you’re bound to make some new friends!
This is definitely something that takes practice, but here are some prompts that can get you started:
Comment on an accessory they’re wearing or a physical attribute (like their hair). Ask them about it! (“Where did you get that watch? It’s beautiful!). You can start a whole conversation on that topic.
Ask them about something that’s going on in their lives. If you remember them posting about a life event on Facebook, say it! (“I remember seeing that you got a dog! How is he doing?”)
Ask them questions about the event you’re attending, or the place you’re at. (“Do you know who catered the food? These meatballs are the best thing ever!”)
You might laugh at this suggestion, but I recommend that you learn more about etiquette and read articles on that. Diplomats are well-versed on etiquette, and they have to ask people questions!
Know Your Audience
Please do not overshare. It can be rough to know when to stop, especially when you’ve never trained yourself to know, but it can be done.
A good trick to learn when to stop talking is to look at the body language of the person you’re talking to.
If they look uninterested or uncomfortable, it might be time to stop talking and avoid the topic you’re discussing. You can tell that you’re making them uncomfortable if:
They frantically look away (their eyes are wide and they’re looking from side to side)
Their body language is closed off. They’ll be tightlycrossing their arms and just looking like they’d rather be anywhere else.
They’re not giving you cues that they’re listening. They won’t be nodding their head at what you’re saying or saying “Yeah!”. They might just stare blankly or totally be looking away.
It takes practice, but when you start paying attention to people’s physical cues, you’ll get better at conversations. Non-verbal communication makes up 93%of our understanding in communication. That is huge.
What to Do If You’re Talking to a Conversational Narcissist
There’s a specific way to handle talking to someone with conversational narcissism without being rude. It can be done! I’ve encountered people like this, and these strategies work really well.
Make a Joke to Stop Conversational Narcissism
If you’re like me, you often use humour to cope. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially when you have to navigate awkward situations.
If someone is talking about themselves a little too much, use humour to bring them back to yourself.
“I bet you’d like to know what I think about (topic).”
Another way to use humour would be to laugh at how much you made them talk. It’s self-deprecating humour, but you’re not being rude to them. You could say something like:
“Oh my goodness, I made you talk a lot. Here, let me give you a break. Let me tell you what I think about (topic).”
The point is, you can use humour as a way to get your conversational narcissist to snap out of it.
Be as Neutral as Possible
Sometimes, our eager facial expressions can spur a conversational narcissist on and make them talk even more. It tells them that you’re invested in the conversation, and that what they’re doing is okay.
Um, it’s not okay.
In the section where I discussed how to stop being a conversational narcissist, I talked about identifying uninterested and uncomfortable body language. When conversational narcissists see that kind of body language, they’ll know to stop talking.
Now, it’s your turn. When someone talks about themselves too much, look uninterested.
That means that you need to stop nodding your head and saying words of approval. Close off your body language, and be uninterested.
Hopefully, they take the hint. If not, you can move on to the next tip.
Avoid Talking to Them
Sometimes, you won’t be the one to stop the conversational narcissism. It can be really draining to just listen to someone talk about themselves for a long time.
Protect your mental wellbeing. You only have so much energy to spend in a day, and if most of it is being spend on someone talking at you, you’re wasting your energy!
Now, I’m not saying that you have to ignore them and be rude to them, but limit your interactions with the conversational narcissist. Trust me, you’ll be saving so much time and energy!
Conclusion: On Conversational Narcissism
Let me repeat myself for the billionth time: You are not necessarily a narcissist if you’re a conversational narcissist. You can unlearn this behaviour with the tips and tricks in this post.
Once you stop talking about yourself so much, you’ll see that amazing things will start happening. It’ll be way easier for you to make friends and interact in social situations. You might even see a drop in your social anxiety.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to stop being selfish.