What is a conversational narcissist?
Showing conversational narcissism doesn’t mean you have a personality disorder. (To learn more about that, watch out for these 12 signs you’re dealing with a narcissist.) The term was coined by sociologist Charles Derber and describes the tendency to turn a conversation back to yourself. A balanced dialogue should involve both sides, but conversational narcissists tend to keep the focus on themselves, so you’re getting attention but not giving any away, says licenced marriage and family therapist Kate Campbell, PhD. “It invalidates the other person and what they’re trying to share,” she says. The problem is, talking about ourselves is natural, so it’s hard to notice when you’re overdoing it.
You don’t ask many questions
Asking questions gives the other person a chance to elaborate more – so conversational narcissists won’t ask them, says Celeste Headlee, author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter. “If they do ask questions, they’re questions that lead back to themselves,” she says. “Things like ‘Do you know what I mean?’ ‘Did I tell you about this?’ ‘Did we see this movie?’” To be a better listener, ask follow-up questions to show interest in what the other person is saying.
You use a lot of filler phrases
Even when listening to another person, a conversational narcissist will respond mostly with fillers like “hmm” or “interesting” instead of showing any true curiosity, says Headlee. “It’s passive conversational narcissism, which is withholding attention until the attention goes back to ourselves,” she says. Make sure you’re fully engaged in a conversation, even if you can’t personally relate – your relationship will be stronger for it.