Avoiding Conversational Narcissism — Supporting Instead Of Shifting Focus to Yourself

The social culture of America is dominated by attention-getting psychology. Structured and institutionalized insecurity is promoted tacitly through a lack of equal rights, a volatile economy, and the culture of self-promotion on social media. This has led to increasing self-absorbed behavior in social settings.

People are no longer engaging in balanced dialogues. There is an increasing desire to turn the focus of the conversation to yourself, especially among young Americans. Sociologist Charles Derber coined this behavior as conversational narcissism. Find out below if you are guilty of this rather common behavior.

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Stop Saying “I Know Exactly How You Feel”

Conversational narcissists use a variety of tactics to turn the conversation back to themselves, most often without even noticing they are. This conscious and/or unconscious manipulation is rooted in the culture of self-importance that is very prevalent in our society today.

Saying you understand how someone is feeling can make them feel worse than they already feel. It can also make it feel like their problems aren’t important enough.

Signs of a Conversational Narcissist

It’s completely natural to talk about yourself sometimes. However, there’s a fine line in which a person goes from being identified as an avid talker to a conversational narcissist. The classic characteristics of conversational narcissists include:

Not asking any questions — when you ask questions, you invite the other person to elaborate on their ideas and feelings. Conversational narcissists are in a hurry to shift the conversation back to themselves and avoid asking questions that might encourage the other person to keep talking.

Using a lot of filler phrases — Conversational narcissists usually pretend they are listening to others and tend to respond with a lot of filler phrases such as, “hmm,” “interesting,” or “yeah, yeah.” They don’t show any actual curiosity and tend to only be engaged in conversations when it’s about them.

Emphasizing their own pain — When someone is dealing with tragedy or has gone through a difficult situation, it is important to listen to what they are saying and to provide support. Conversational narcissists tend to steer the conversation by trying to one-up the person and emphasize on their own tragedies. They can pretend to relate by saying they understand how the other person is feeling followed by discussing their own feelings.    

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Support Response Rather Than Shift Response

Charles Derber described two kinds of conversational responses during a conversation. One is the shift response which is usually used by conversational narcissists. It subtly shifts the focus of the conversation back to them.

The second is the support response. The focus is kept on the other person by making a supportive comment and then asking for their input.

We’re all guilty of the shift response from time to time because it often happens unconsciously without us even noticing we’re doing it. However, this is a classic sign of internalized self-importance and narcissism. So, the next time someone is talking about his/her pain and grief, don’t respond by saying “same!” or “I know how you feel because it happened to me…” But rather support them by actually listening to what they are saying and ask questions instead of shifting the conversation to yourself.

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Actually listening to someone who is dealing with grief and loss is the best way you can support them. The next best way is to offer practical help. They may not always share how they feel or what they need, such as being too tired or sad to take care of their daily tasks. With KikuPal’s online support platform, you can services such as house cleaning, lawn care, meals, rides and much more. These services can really help especially in the following weeks and months when outside support does wane.

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