Thursday, September 27, 2012

Conversational Narcissism and Blogging

Thanks to this blog post, I found a name for my number one pet peeve today. It's called conversational narcissism.

Basically, conversational narcissism deals with people who hog the conversation. And they like to talk about themselves a lot.

Do you think I'm talking about you?

I might be.

But don't fret too much.

You're not alone.  

The majority of people I know have the problem.

I too sometimes have the problem.

We all have the problems sometimes.  But some people have a more severe case than others.   

I see it often in face to face conversations.

With most people I know, they talk on and on about themselves.  I ask them questions. They answer.  They never or rarely ask me questions about myself.

If I do dive in and talk about myself, they get a glazed look on their face. It seems they're incredibly bored. Why? My guess is it's because the conversation is taking a break from being strictly about themselves.

The person will be quiet and try to LOOK like they're listening.  My guess is they're not. They're likely going through an inner struggle.  They're struggling to keep quiet for a few moments. They want to give at least the illusion that they're paying attention.  

On the blog post, mentioned above, Brett and Kate McCay share information they've learned from a book written by Charles Derber.

Brett and Kate share types of responses people provide when listening. Some lead to good conversations and some lead to narcissistic conversations.

The good one is Support-Response.

Here's an example.

Person One-I'm so mad at my mom.

Person Two-Why?  What's wrong?

The bad (narcissistic one) is called Shift-Response.  This is where the talker directs the conversation back to themselves.

Here's an example.

Person One-I'm so mad at my mom.

Person Two-Really?  I got in the biggest fight with my sister this weekend.  I'm so pissed off at her.

Now some people are more subtle than that.

They'll give a support-response and then go directly to a shift response.  The thing is, while the other person is talking, they're not listening.   They're rehearsing their own story in their mind.  They're waiting for there turn in the spotlight.

I've definitely been guilty of this before.

The other fun vocabulary terms used in the blog post are Background Acknowledgments, Supportive Assertions, and Supportive Questions.

Background acknowledgment is saying things like, Yeah,  sure, uh, huhIt's the little sounds we can make that lets our conversation partner know we're listening—that we're not currently visiting the moon via an out of body experience.  

Supportive assertions are saying things that are...well, supportive.  Oh, that sucks.  I'm sorry. I hate when that happens. You don't deserve that shit, sister.  

Supportive questions involves asking questions to show you're very interested. You're so interested you want to know even more stuff. That's great that you won the nose-picking contest. When did you first get interested in that?

If people want to have conversations that revolve around themselves, it's best that they avoid background acknowledgments, supportive assertions, and supportive questions.

It's not just face to face conversations that bring about conversational narcissism. 

It can happen in emails.

I see it a lot.  

I have correspondences with people in which pretty much all the emails are 99.9999% about them.   On rare occasions, I bring up my own life and it's ignored. Or at best it's used as a springboard for the person to talk about their life.  

I do have correspondences with people in which the conversation is mostly about them. But these folks do make some efforts to ask about my life and show interest in my life. I deeply appreciate that.  It's very refreshing!

I like that they're trying.  

Then I also have email conversations in which the conversation is very balanced. Those are even more wonderful.

Now....onto blogging.

People display their conversation narcissism in blog comments.

I'm rarely guilty of hogging face to face conversations. I'm rarely guilty of hogging email conversations. But I'm pretty sure I've been me-me-me-me-me! on other people's blogs.  

In my opinion, the correct way to respond to someone's blog post is to provide supportive assertions and supportive questions. This is especially the case if someone is talking about a personal issue.

I'm sorry you're feeling depressed.   

That's great that you're going to Ireland.  Do you have family or friends there? What are you most excited to see?

I'm sorry about the diagnosis.  How are you feeling now?  

Then after that's done, I don't think it hurts to add your own story to the comment.

It's especially good if you feel your story might provide some comfort.

Oh, no.   How embarrassing!!!!!   If it makes you feel any better, I once farted on a date too.   So humiliating!   

One thing I sometimes ask myself when wanting to talk about myself in someone's comments is whether I'm doing it because I want/need to talk about it, or because I feel sharing my experience will make the blogger feel less alone.

That's not to say I don't sometimes fail and then blab on about myself for the sole sake of pleasing myself. 

Now the other thing I'm wondering....

What about blog entries themselves?

I talk on and on about my life on my blogs.  Is THAT conversational narcissism?

I'm going to give myself a break and say no.

The reason is it's NOT a conversation. It's a monologue.

What would be narcissistic is to be the type of person who writes and writes but never or rarely reciprocates by reading the blogs of those who leave comments.  

Or if a commenter does mention something about themselves (hopefully not too excessively) and the blogger ignores it.

Because the thing is, while the blog itself is a monologue, the comment section CAN be a conversation.  

I do think writing overly long blog entries is somewhat narcissistic. I'm guilty as charged. I've been trying to be better about that. This blog entry is an exception...obviously.  

So....what do you think?

Are you guilty of conversational narcissism?  Frequently?  Occasionally? Rarely? 

Are you more guilty of it in certain situations. For example, you're a listener in email but a talker when it comes to face to face conversations?

Do you find with certain people you're the listener while with others you center the conversation around yourself? Or do you feel you're almost always the listener or always the conversation centerpiece?  

If you're shy, do you feel more comfortable when your conversation partner talks about themselves, or do you appreciate them sometimes directing the conversation in your direction?

If you're the type of person who never/rarely asks questions, why is this the case?

Are you worried about prying?  Have you ever made someone offended by your question?

Or do you worry that you'll ask a question and then you'll be bored by the answer?

Do you ever feel that your life dominates the conversation because you're more interesting than other people...and if their life was more interesting, you'd do more listening?

Do you agree or disagree with this blog post?  If you disagree, what do YOU think makes a good conversationalist?