Have the tendency to talk about yourself all the time? Or do you know one particular person who always seems to redirect the conversation about themselves? There's a term for that; a conversational narcissist.
The term is coined by sociologist Charles Derbes who describes the trait as someone who has the tendency to take control of conversations in an effort to turn the focus of exchange back to themselves.
A healthy conversation should feel like it's done in a two-ways manner with each person taking turns speaking and listening. Yet, conversational narcissists enjoy hearing themselves talk. No matter what the topic resides on, they will always circle back to their story. These people don't understand the nature of how a healthy conversation is cooperative instead of competitive.
A simple example is when someone says that they're having a bad stomach. Rather than replying with, "Are you okay? Do you want medicine for that?" a conversational narcissist would react to that sentence by saying something like, "That sucks. I remember I had a bad period cramps the other day, you know? I needed to see a doctor."
You'll most likely encounter this kind of person before. It's also likely that you've done this as well without you realizing. Well, one advice; don't do it, it's annoying. I mean, it's fine to share things about your experience.
Yet, it is so much preferable if you could listen to what the person is saying by getting to know the full context of the conversation instead of jumping in too early with your own story. This could be done by asking follow-up questions, a simple "Have you eaten anything?" could do, too.
A classic sign of narcissism is that you don't take any interest in the person you are talking to. You might think you are interested in them because you know the perfect advice, but the cold truth is that you're just like to talk about yourself. Maybe you're doing this because you think the other person at the end will feel better about what they're going through because they are not alone. But it surely won't hurt if it's being told a little while later.
According to Celeste Headlee, author of the book We Need to Talk, sometimes people don't know what to say and the most familiar topic - the most comfortable topic for all of us - is ourselves and our own experiences. But how do you know you're being too much of a conversational narcissist?
3 Signs of conversational narcissist
Here are some signs of conversational narcissism to look out for.
1. One-sided conversations
It seems like you always have a "better" story. Whatever it is, you did something better than the interlocutors. Conversational narcissists can't move away from their own agenda long enough to engage someone else in conversation. They could be self-centered and self-absorbed. It's about me, me, me, and me.
2. You interrupt others frequently
One thing about conversational narcissists is that they're more interested in being interesting. Hence, they will correct, judge, minimize, and invalidate what you're saying. At first listen, it could come off as they're being helpful or sharing a resource, but it's almost hard to notice that the conversation was no longer about you, it's about them.
They won't hesitate to steer every conversation to serve their own agenda to bask in the spotlight. Because every time the conversational narcissist jumps in with their own stories, they have stolen your chance to express your feelings.
Sometimes what's worse is that they would pretend they're completely immersed in the conversation, when instead they're just catching keywords every now and then that could be useful as a transition to redirect the conversation back to them. In other words, they are paying attention to what the other person is saying so they'll know the perfect time to jump in and tell another of their grandiose story.
3. You're a know-it-all
Conversational narcissist is constantly seeking approval and favor from their audience. They'll most likely won't stop talking, which will come off like they're giving a lecture rather than participating in a conversation. This is due to the fact that conversational narcissists always feel like they are the expert or wanting to appear smart, special, knowledgeable, and intuitive.
This is different from a chatty and extroverted person, who is likely aware and even acknowledges that they're talking a lot. Conversational narcissists are completely oblivious that they've taken over the conversation and made it all about them.
When you notice that someone owns this trait, set boundaries to your exposure to them. It's challenging to have deep and meaningful conversations with conversational narcissistic people. It is also difficult to try and 'change' them. Either way, you can try to confront them by asking them to listen. Say, "I appreciate that you can understand what I'm going through, but I'm feeling the need to share a little more to get it out of my system."
Remember, a balanced conversation involves both sides not just to convey but also listen.