The Conversational Narcissist

 

The Conversational Narcissist“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus

You pick up the phone.  It’s Jill.  Again.

“Hi sweetie, just thought I’d give you a call!  How are you?”

“Good thanks Jill.  And you?”

“Oh, terrific!  I wanted to tell you about my blah blah blah blah blah …”

We’ve all had those people in our lives who seem to yap on about themselves ad nauseam.  Once given the opportunity to talk about themselves, they’ll snap it up in an instant showing little regard or interest in what you have to say.  Ever.  And if they do, you know it’s a fake mask of politeness.

These people are the conversational narcissists in your life who hog every conversation you have, leaving your head spinning.  Basically, talking to a conversational narcissist is like putting your head in a blender.

So, do you have a conversational narcissist in your life?  There’s only one way to find out …

How To Spot The Conversational Narcissist

Not all narcissists are obnoxious or dislikeable people – in fact, many of them can be charming and appealing … the only problem is that you hate talking to them.  Why?  Perhaps because you can pick up on the following character traits:

1.  They have an exaggerated sense of self importance.

2.  They’re usually absorbed in fantasies of power, success, beauty and/or brilliance.

3.  They have unreasonable expectations of other people, i.e. that everyone else should unquestioningly comply with them.

4.  They overrate the importance of their achievements.

5.  They crave constant validation, admiration and respect from the world.

Keeping these symptoms in mind, it’s no wonder that the conversational narcissist loves drilling you with every detail of their lives ad infinitum.  They truly believe that they’re that special, interesting and important.  It’s part of their personality disorder.




Which Kind Of Conversational Narcissist Do You Know?

Luckily they’re not like Pokémon.  You only have two species of the conversational narcissist to worry about, so don’t worry.  These are the:

Active Conversational Narcissist’s & Passive Conversational Narcissist’s.

So let’s explore the first.

Active Conversational Narcissism

This breed of narcissist always ends up shifting the attention onto themselves in conversations.  They do this by giving a few “supportive responses” so as not to appear rude, but end up using more “shifting responses”.

Please note that it’s normal and healthy to share stuff about yourself, as long as you direct the conversation back to the other person.  At least, this is what the common law of conversational etiquette says.

Example 1 – Supportive

Person A – “I’m going to buy a puppy today.”

Person B – “Really?  What breed are you wanting to get?”

Example 2 – Unsupportive

Person A – “I’m going to buy a puppy today.”

Person B – “Really?  I was thinking about buying a puppy for my daughter as well!”

Person A – “Oh, yeah?”

Person B – “Uh-huh, I thought that a golden retriever would be … blah blah blah”.

Passive Conversational NarcissismThe Conversational Narcissist

This subtle form of conversational narcissism occurs when you share something, and the conversational narcissist withholds their supporting responses until the conversation fizzle’s out.

Supporting responses are for instance: acknowledgements that indicate you’re listening, e.g “uh-huh”, “OK”, “Hmm”.  They’re also statements that demonstrate active listening such as “that’s awesome!”, “why did you do that?”, “what are you planning to do now?”

Passive conversational narcissists withhold these statements, showing disinterest so that the conversation ends up dying – and is directed back to them.  Score!

Example:

Person A – “I’m going to the casino tonight!”

Person B – ” (Pause) … oh, right … (pause)”

Person A – “I’m really excited because I won $200 last week!”

Person B – ” (Silence) …”

Person A – “Have you been there recently?”

Person B – “Oh yeah, I went a few weeks ago with my friends, it’s really interesting because we … blah blah blah”.

How To Interact With A Conversational Narcissist

Talking to a conversational narcissist can be draining and tedious – especially if you see there’s nothing in it for you.  How about changing the way you look at things?  Don’t worry, I don’t like the thought of changing something in myself either, especially when it’s the narcissist who should change!

The fact is: you can’t change anyone, so give up trying now.  The only thing you can change is your outlook and perception.  For instance, you could see talking to a conversational narcissist as a form of interpersonal training.  You could also see it as a way to forge many great qualities such as patience, self-control (forbearance) and focus that all come with listening to a self-absorbed, insensitive and egotistical person.

According to the research I’ve done, the best way to interact smoothly with a narcissist is as following:

1.  Don’t demand much.  Don’t expect much.

2.  Accept that you have to listen.  A lot.

3.  Don’t worry about boosting the narcissists ego with your acknowledgements (it’s not possible anyway).

4.  For swift conversation, resist the temptation of challenging the narcissist’s thoughts and desires.

5.  Smile and keep quiet a lot.

I don’t necessarily agree with this way of approaching narcissists all the time – but if you’re not in the mood to stir the pot, these five rules will help you ease the tension that comes with talking to them.

On the other hand, if you’re wanting to end a conversation with them quickly, I’ve found the following techniques work wonders:

  • Talk about something really boring, and keep repeating what you’ve just said in different ways.  You’ll look a bit manic, but oh well.
  • Stop giving supportive statements and use reverse psychology instead, i.e. become either an active or passive conversational narcissist yourself.
  • Set a time limit.  After half an hour or an hour leave the conversation, no matter what.

I’d love to hear any stories you have about conversational narcissism.  So feel free to share below!

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  1. j. says

    Great article! I came upon this while trying to understand a few very close friends that I’ve had for over 15+ years. While trying to cope with several unexpected life changes, (my father was killed, 10 year relationship ended, job loss, mother being treated for cancer, all within a 3 month period) I tried to reach out to those friends and I was completely shattered by the blatant disinterest in anything about me or what was going on in my life.

    Phone calls after phone calls. These events were never acknowledged. And if I ever had a chance to make a slight mention of anything it was responded with the passive conversational narcissism or a complete re-direct about them and what experiences or memories they had about something similar in their past.

    This filled me with so much self-doubt and self-hate. With my personal lost, was I just over-reacting? Am I selfish? It really tore me apart.

    Well, that’s where my search started. How could I have so many very close friends that have absolutely no interest in ANYTHING about me at all? Surely, it must be me if it’s more than just one friend, right?!

    I have one friend who I talk to (or should say, listen to) about 5 nights a week, for hours. She has never answered one of my phone calls in 4 months. But if I miss her call, she will call 4-8 more times over and over until I answer. And even if I call her back right after a missed call, she will not answer but call back immediately.

    Yesterday she sent me a text, “Happy birthday. I hate everyone at work. I should just walkout”

    My birthday is today.

    For now on, I am only going to feed my narcissists on my own time. And if they can’t handle me being not being available to them 24-7 any more, they can go stare into a mirror in those empty hours.

    • says

      Thank you for sharing your experiences J.

      I’m surprised that you’ve put up with such people for over 15 years!
      No consideration, no compassion, no interest in your well-being – especially in such a difficult and stressful time in your life – what a pity that you have decided to put up with such people. I also understand how difficult it must be to leave these friends behind after such a long period of time, and after all the time and energy that you have used on them.
      One of the greatest joys I get from writing these articles is to read comments such as this, and I’m delighted to hear that you have finally awakened to the reality of your situation. Conversational narcissists unfortunately lack the ability to empathize with other people, which is why it would be much more beneficial and healthy for you to develop a different friend circle. All the best, L

  2. TwitChic says

    Wow, now I know what my friend is, she is exactly a Conversational Narcissist. She has a grade five education, raised in logging camps, and allegedly the person everyone turns to for advice. She is not stupid but she is ignorant. Now I know how to deal with her. Thanks.

  3. rezzrovv says

    Is there ever a cure? What if you are married to a passive conversational narcissist? I find in some circumstance, they will actually bombard with questions but it is almost a penance showing how outwardly focused they can be. Their inquisition doesn’t seem real. I’ve about given up.

    • says

      Rezzrovv, that is definitely one of the most frustrating and silently destructive things to deal with in any sort of relationship: a blatant lack of interest shown in you, your concerns, or your interests by the other person, who simply asks you questions out of polite duty. I have come across many of these people (and I would say most people have a tiny streak of narcissism in them), but mostly I would say this is an unconscious display of lack of interest in you, coupled with self-interest.

  4. Ed says

    I’ve been single for most of my life. I’ve been on lots of dates. Lots. Most of them have been first dates, and that’s where it ended. Although I’ve been out with lots of different types of women, for the most part, they all have one thing in common – they’re all conversational narcissists. They all talk about themselves the entire time I’m with them. Some don’t even ask a single question throughout the entire date.

    I tend to not think of myself as a conversational narcissist. As I often get mowed over by most people I talk with outside of a professional setting, I believe I’m such the polar opposite to the point that it’s unhealthy. And I think this fuels the fire. When I get sucked in to a ‘conversation’ with someone and I am my usual stoic self, I think this adds to the other person’s belief that I actually am interested in what he or she has to say. And as my eyes glaze over, he or she will go on and on about their mundane lives ad nauseam. And, as much as I hate to admit it, the prettier the girl I’m interfacing with, the more I tolerate it. But, no matter how much I like looking at her and fantasizing what it would be like to do this or that to her, the mindless babbling gets old. I might snap out of my daze and mention something about something other than herself. At which point she will stop her babbling and say something to the effect of “uh huh”, and then resume her rambling. I shit you not, this is how almost everyone is.

    And then there are the people who I let into my life. As I’ve been rather unhealthy myself for a long time, I’ve not been very good about cautiously getting to know someone before I start spending time, money and emotions with/on them. As guys are not the talkers that girls are, they are less likely to be conversational narcissists. But they’re out there. It’s always about him: the girl he’s dating, his spiritual experiences, his job, etc. On and on. Buying his dinner? It doesn’t matter. The topic of conversation is going to be him, come hell or high water. And it never changes, it’s always the same every time you’re in his presence. And the stories are always the same.

    The best part: women I’ve dated. There has been only one woman I’ve ever dated who actually shut her mouth occasionally to listen to what I had to say. The only thing different about them was their hair color. They all talked about the same thing – nothing. But I needed to have these experiences. I needed to learn the hard way. And recently I did with the most unhealthy girl I ever encountered. We would be talking (well, she would be talking) and I would mention something and she wouldn’t even acknowledge that I said anything. She would resume blathering about her topic of choice. It was like my voice vanished into thin air before it reached her eardrums. I’ve been out with rude women. I’ve been out with disrespectful women. But I’ve never been out with a girl who behaved as she did. And then there was the time that she was verbally debating with herself about what type of new car she wanted to buy…while we were having sex. I must be the world’s worst lover. I’m actually getting physically ill as I write this memoir.

    What is it about talking about yourself that is so entertaining? You live with yourself 24 hours per day. Do you really have that much to talk about when it comes to yourself? Are you that interesting? Are you the most interesting man in the world on the beer commercials? You’re not.

    Now I’m in yet another situation where I’m tempted to continue seeing a girl who flashed all of the conversational narcissist signs while we were on a date last night. Cute girl. Good girl. But 95% of yesterday’s date – a date that lasted six hours – was spent talking about her mundane life. And because she’s nice to look at, I’m considering going out with her again. I’m fooling myself in to thinking that I should give her another chance and whatnot. And because I’m one stupid son of a bitch, I’ll probably go through with it.

    And then there are those few people with listening skills who actually employ them. I only have a few people in my life who fall in to this category. They are so precious and selfless! Why can’t people realize that it is so much more fulfilling to listen to what others have to say versus going on about what you experience day in and day out?

    • says

      Ed – wow – I think your story reflects a lot of other people’s stories, including my own (without the serial dating), so thanks for sharing. :)

      As I read your comment, I couldn’t help but feel sick myself. I would say 75% of most people I’ve ever spoken to, speak about themselves. About 98% talk about absolute vapid nonsense that I hardly think is worth talking about, but hey, we’re all on different levels. You’ll find that many attractive women are very 2-D. They have their looks, their boobs and their butts, so what’s the use of pursuing anything of meaning – when life can be lived so easily? Want a job? Easy! Wear a low cut top and begin flirting and giggling. Men love giggling. It makes them feel like funny hot-shots. Want fancy clothing? Easy! Seduce a clueless rich guy and drain him of money. Of course, I’m not saying that they plan any of this, but instinctively they know deep down that they can get away with anything. They can act like 3 year old children with the personality of brick walls and still get anything they want.

      My advice: stay away from attractive looking women. If what you want is a person of depth and substance, try dating a more average looking woman. Why? Because they’ve had to rely on their intelligence to get what they want in life. If what you want is a one night stand, try reading up on Pick-Up Artist techniques. Not only do you NOT have to put up with the blather of these women, but many of their techniques are quick and simple, and achieve your objective without all the mental pain.

      I’ve wondered that as well: what is so special, unique or insightful about yourself which is worth talking about all day every day? The truth is that many people live asleep. They live in dreams filled with plans, fantasies of money, power and popularity. Their daily lives are consumed with these dreams, and they fill up the empty holes inside of them. Personally I try to keep away from stagnant people like this – they bombard your days with empty chatter.

      Try dating women online as well – also, joining local meetup groups that have the same interests as you will help instil your faith in humanity.

    • LizaBee says

      This is a little late reply but, I have recently discovered this diagnosis and have found it in a new friend. Call them out. A graceful female will be able to reflect on herself. You seem insightful into your own faults (falling for a narcissist again and again), why would you date someone who cannot reflect on how she represents herself in a relationship, and listen to information that would benefit a relationship with you? Say, “I really want to share this with you because I think you’d get to know me better.” Show her things like pictures you’ve taken, or a song you like, talk about places you’ve visited, your favorite restaurant. Just because she talks about herself when she’s around you, doesn’t mean she’s not thinking about the small moments you talked back…at home, alone. Talk about worldly things, ask her how she feels about something you’re interested in. How does she feel about the latest episode of breaking bad? Take her out on a date where conversation is minimal- e.g., a batting cage or pool with a kareoke night. Make new experiences. I learned there is no duller conversation than the ones where the other person talks about things they’ve done with other people and how cool it was, when you weren’t there, and rubs your face in it. Change the subject again and again, and if the conversation doesn’t flow around interests you brought up, then it won’t work. Get out.

      • Ed says

        It’s not worth it. I think because I’m the stoic type I will always get mowed over. I’m fine being single. Yes, sometimes it’s a bummer when I don’t have anything to do on a Saturday night. And not having regular sex is unfortunate. But whatever…

  5. says

    I think I’ll have to be honest with myself and go ahead and admit I’m a conversational narcissist. Definitely more of an active kind as opposed to the passive kind. The passive kind is blatantly rude. I try not to do it, but sometimes I can’t help it. In my defense, I like to rationalize it as being a part of my inability to “converse normally”. Often I just can’t think of anything to say or figure out other ways to extend the conversation so I resort to narcissistic conversation because I’d like to talk/ keep talking to you either out of interest in the relationship or for feelings of social obligation. But it’s a weakness that I need to work on.

    (Count the “I’s”, “me’s”, or “my’s” in this post! (: )

    • says

      YJohnD, I think there’s a bit of conversational narcissist in all of us in different contexts. I can honestly understand why people prefer talking about themselves, especially in situations when talking to a person is like talking to a cardboard cut-out (…like those one-sided conversations we’ve all had with people who answer in monosyllables). I like asking very open-ended questions like “why did you decide that”, “what did you think of that”. Many times conversations with people can be really dull, and the liveliest way to freshen them up is to ask their opinions on something. People love giving opinions! (Just listen to me now!)

      Thanks very much for sharing :)

  6. exasperated77 says

    Sounds likemy dad. Talks about himself unfailingly and if I get a chance to mention how my life is or relate my experience of something he’s talking about he does this thing where his eyes glaze over and he stares into space,daydreaming, totally disconnected from listening until he gets a chance to talk about himself again. On the other hand I have a really, really extrovert friend who does listen but then proceeds to tell me exactly what I should do with unflinching confidence that his advice is the bestest advice ever, he has an answer for everything even when I’m not looking for an answer!

    • says

      It’s hard living with a conversational narcissist (or a narcissist straight out) isn’t it? I hope this article was of some use to you. I currently live with what I would consider a C.N as well, and I find the best thing is to just repeat what they say (because asking too many questions after a while is just tedious and fuels the conversation). Soon they become bored and hey presto, you’re out.

      Thanks for sharing!

      • Betty Cattiness says

        Most relationships with most people I encounter are unfulfilling because we live in a narcissistic world. People are taught to be narcissistic. A kind, nice person is thought to be “weak”. A person with good manners gets mowed down. A man who behaves as a gentleman is an anachronism. A woman with good manners who doesn’t but in and talk across others is completely ignored. What is Facebook but conversational narcissism? “Look at me and what I am doing throughout the day.”
        I am in the process right now of marking several people off my list of “friends” because they are not really friends. I’m not even sure I know what a friend really is. One so called friend is a woman I have known and worked with for 40 years. I was in her wedding. When I am around her (every 5 or 6 years), I think she is my friend because she seems happy to see me and is attentive, however only talks about her own dramas. When I call her, she is always busy, in the throws of a drama, but says she will call me back. She very, very rarely does. Then I will forget for a moment, want to talk to someone, a warm human voice and will call her again and the same thing happens all over again. It happened last night because I was lonely. I called her, she was watching a movie with her daughter (four minutes to go), said she would return my call and has not. I said, “when, in 6 months?” She didn’t get it. She is so insensitive she can’t imagine I might need to talk to someone myself.. Her dramas that she sets up herself take precedent. She really is not that important to me, but it is fresh in my memory because it just happened. I have deleted her phone number for the third or fourth time.
        Unfortunately she is not the only narcissist I know. As a single person and older, it is difficult to find anyone who has time for a friendship. Most people are completely tied up with their families. A person who is not lucky enough to have this situation is basically out of luck. The world is a tough place.

        • says

          Betty, such a terrifically enlightening comment, thank you. I think this was my favorite part of your response: What is Facebook but conversational narcissism? “Look at me and what I am doing throughout the day.” I’ve deleted my facebook account many times because of this, but now, because it’s one of the only ways that I can talk to my family members I must keep it.

          The good news is that now you have a well-rounded idea of conversational narcissism, and hopefully this will create some change in your life, and help you to choose who you befriend wisely. It’s truly hard to find someone genuinely warm, attentive and caring these days. This is why the internet is invaluable; not only does it help us reach out to a wider variety of people in our cities, but it provides the opportunity for a long-lasting relationship, one of mutual care.