Conversational Narcissism

This post was inspired by Kellie.  Thank you for your insightful comments!

The one side, the only side I should say, of the N is the N.  No more no less.  And through a lot of the N’s blah, blah screams…what about me?  Well, what about us?  They can hog the conversation, never ask you a single question and to make it an even more delightful interaction they may find it necessary to verbally attack after listening to them for 57 minutes straight.  And you know 57 minutes have gone by!

When I started looking deeper into this subject I found that my Ns even hog the conversation in e-mails.  As if one way communication couldn’t get even worse, nope, the N found a way.

I struggled to explain to myself or even write about it because how do you describe the manner or technique that they have mastered  to suck time.  And most of the time it is so subtle you are left noticing it happened only after the 57 minutes are up.

I went on a hunt…voracious for more information because hogging a conversation isn’t just an N thing…it is an art that many have mastered.  I welcome any insights you may have on the art of the one-sided conversation.  

In my hunt I came across an article that beautifully describes this art form: Conversational Narcissism (click here for the full article).  I highlight parts of the article below.

I followed the old dictum of listening more than talking and asking the other person engaging questions about themselves. This is supposed to charm your conversation partner. I guess it worked because my friend talked about himself for an hour straight and didn’t ask me a single question.

From friendly advice to being a better leader tips…we are told it is better to listen but even this good deed goes punished with a conversational narcissist.  So, then what exactly is the art of a good conversation:

A good conversation is an interesting thing; it can’t be a solely individual endeavor—it has to be a group effort. Each individual has to sacrifice a little for the benefit of the group as a whole and ultimately, to increase the pleasure each individual receives.

An interesting definition, by sacrificing the amount of attention one wants or needs the actual end result is more pleasurable than if one hogged the conversation.  Maybe it is something you understand through life experiences…but somehow the conversational narcissist has forgotten that point.  More is more.

The article further goes into competition efforts some friends may say during a conversation or even shift conversations back to them often.  This shift response example they use reminds me of Ns in competition…the manner can be so unnoticeable at first:

Shift-Response

James: I’m thinking about buying a new car.
Rob: Oh yeah? I’m thinking about buying a new car too.
James: Really?
Rob: Yup, I just test drove a Mustang yesterday and it was awesome.

When you try and speak in an Ns presence you encounter the shift response.  I begin talking about myself and bam!  I realize we are back to her/his problem.  The worse for me has been when I am going through something rough…maybe not awful but just a rough period (like job hunting) and somehow it gets a brush off and the N feels the need to discuss how their job is awesome and are looking for the next opportunity.  And I begin to feel guilty!  Guilty! because I have somehow neglected their feelings and their needs to express their thoughts.

Why?  Giving up on the quest to understand…I go to my next question: what’s the out?  The escape for an unhealthy conversation?  Get the convo back to u?

Well, excluding the No Contact solution, I have tried some things that have no guarantees in working but have giving me a temporary relief with the conversational narcissist.  Any thoughts on an out are welcome!

– when you get a chance to talk, talk about something boring (this usually can end the conversation)

-I have done the shift response with an N many times, it was like playing tennis…then it was like why are we talking?

-was silent, no nods or uh, uh or supporting comments during their monologue

– set the clock (tell yourself to leave after 1 hour); you have to be somewhere else

What’s your take on the conversational narcissist?


Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Conversational Narcissism

  1. Hey T Reddy,

    Thanks for the mention 🙂 I’m about to head back to Australia for a holiday to visit friends and family, I haven’t been back in almost 3 years!

    I’m not sure yet if I will be seeing my NM, she is passive aggressive and it’s normally me who chases after her for acceptance only to be rejected. I decided I didn’t want her actions to ruin my trip as I have other friends and family who I hope to have some lovely moments with, so this time I’m not chasing and I hope she comes some of the way. I’ve emailed her saying it would be great to catch up and that if she has the time to meet for her to give me a call.

    Her email response was interesting:

    “I realise I have failed in many ways and the pain is so great. But I’ve become very good at pushing it right down and being busy with everything else.”

    I like that she’s talking about her pain, not the pain she has caused me…

    “I am sorry I have been a failure as a parent and I can’t seem to do anything now to fix it. I always thought I was trying so hard. It hurts that you do not need my advice or anything else but it’s all my own fault – I have let you all down and now everybody copes in their own ways.”

    Again she has a was of apologising and attacking me at the same time, which always puts me on guard.

    If we meet I’ll be sure to note down any comments or conversations that don’t seem quite right, which will hopefully stop me from getting drawn down into her spiral.

    Thank you again for the strength you have given me, I’m really going to need it for this coming month, and I hope all is well in your life with your N’s.

    Kell

    Like

    • Hi Kellie,

      I am sorry about your NM’s response. It is frustrating to get a reply that doesn’t come from a place of love but a place of blame / attack. I hope all goes well if you see her.

      I wish you a great holiday and safe travels. Your comments have given me strength and it is great to have a support system when dealing with our Ns.

      Enjoy your holiday and looking forward to catching up after!

      X
      T Reddy

      Like

  2. I read that article. Oh god, does that ever describe an ex-friend of mine. She did EVERY one of those N moves in conversation. It was unbelievable – which is why I let it slide for so long, I literally could not believe she could be so rude and self-centred. Ironically, her main topic conversation was always her search for a man/dating dramas, etc. She once spent over an hour at brunch trying to work out what psychological problems her F-buddy must have that was making him not want to be her boyfriend (because of course any man who doesn’t want her must have mental problems – sheesh!).

    I’d say easily 60% of the people I work with are like this too. I’ve had to just cut some of them off, I got so fed up. I think the author of the article made a very astute point: that social support networks have vastly deteriorated and many people are starved for attention. I think by being willing to listen a little, as a decent conversationalist, I got railroaded by people who can never get enough. This has happened so often that I’ve had to change, be a worse listener, be a little hard-hearted, because I can’t get sucked into that black hole again.

    It’s a pretty sad state of affairs. The Ns are ruining polite society.

    Like

    • Hi therapyisacon,

      I am sorry the comment wasn’t approved sooner…it showed up in my spam box.

      It is an insightful article. The need for attention comes across in conversational narcissists. If one is a good listener, it is like a moth to a flame…the conversational Ns gather fast! I think by not always listening we are actually standing up for an innate right we have with friends…when you listen then the other should listen as well. I hadn’t realized that in the past…and I don’t have to feel bad if I don’t listen all the time…just listen when needed (50/50). Listening all the time isn’t healthy either…even if listening is a good thing.

      Thanks for your insight! I’m going to check out your blog!

      x
      T Reddy

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey I just wanted to send you a quick message as I saw a therapist today to help prepare for my trip home and she recommended this book to read:

    http://i-proclaimbookstore.com/itsmyturn1.html

    I’m up to chapter 3 and it’s really good! It’s written by a woman with an NM, she talks about her struggles from childhood to adulthood with her mother and the realisation that she was an N. Some of the stories she tells are heartbreaking, and some bring back buried memories. It also goes onto how to manage the situation and build self esteem, I’m quite excited about that section!

    Kell

    Like

  4. Talking with my mother is a nightmare. I might as well be a squawking parrot or a mushroom to try to have a two way discussion. When I speak, she glazes over, but as soon as I say that she seems tired and I’ll leave her be, she gets all energized and refocuses to her — and if I clarified or elaborates on anything she forgets it or steals it as her own original thought. Emails are almost worse because she’ll selectively read and jump on attack of me over something she totally took out of context. Usually those rants devolve into “people always this or that” as if the world is out to unfairly judge her.

    Awful.

    Like

    • Ns, in some ways, suck at conversation (from our end) and are brilliant at it…how they can they take things out of context and twist things (effortless)…that is such an evil skill but it does require a level of cleverness. Very scary.

      Like

  5. I so relate to the words of threapyisacon above: ” that social support networks have vastly deteriorated and many people are starved for attention. I think by being willing to listen a little, as a decent conversationalist, I got railroaded by people who can never get enough. This has happened so often that I’ve had to change, be a worse listener, be a little hard-hearted, because I can’t get sucked into that black hole again.

    It’s a pretty sad state of affairs. The Ns are ruining polite society.”

    This is my experience too: I’ve always been willing to listen to others and little by little I realised that they were quite happy to speak about themselves for ever and not once say “how about you?” and in the end you start feeling like you’re some sort of ghost that nobody can see. The clinching point for me was one time when my sister rang and my phone battery died while she was talking: by the time I found my other cordless phone – a good few minutes later- and called her back; the phone line hadn’t cut off, she was still talking and hadn’t even noticed that I wasn’t there.
    I suppose the balance lays in not giving up all together, but to assess your interlocutor and if you sense you’re going to be invisible to him/her just make a polite excuse and leave.

    Kara xxoo

    Like

    • I can understand the railroading feeling – we listen and then it gets taken to an extreme, taken for granted.

      Your comment ‘in the end you start feeling like you’re some sort of ghost that nobody can see’. It actually sent me a lightbulb. I guess a lot of times with some friends who ‘hog’ the conversation I would say to myself ‘at least they are not taking from me by insulting me or attacking me’ In reality, they are still taking our self-worth by not recognising that we are there as a person, as a friend and we should be able to share as well. xxT

      Like

      • “In reality, they are still taking our self-worth by not recognising that we are there as a person, as a friend and we should be able to share as well.” That’s exactly it. xx

        Like

Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s