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?      


Andrew said...

I'm probably guilty as charged about comments but perhaps more on other people's blogs than yours. In real life, I am usually the one asking the questions. I tend not to offer words of comfort on blogs to people in times trouble. I find it hard to just say, sorry to hear about that, or you must feel very sad. If I can come up with something more original, fine. For me it is getting an original angle to say something.

But I do find all comments interesting. Everyone has something to say and I am happy to hear of some connection they personally feel with what I have written.

There, it was all about me!

Dina said...


In real life, when you ask questions, do you think the other person likes it? Do you ever feel you're intruding? Does it bother you when they ask you questions in return; or do you like it?

Do you have anyone in your life who talks a lot, answers your questions, but never asks you any?

That's cool that you find all comments interesting. Sometimes it can be nice to just get a comment...period.

As for words of comfort. I get that you have trouble expressing them. A LOT of people do.

I sometimes worry I overdo it. But I feel bad if I don't.

How do you feel about receiving them? When you write a blog post, and you mention something negative that has happened; do you find sympathetic comments comforting? Or do they make you feel uncomfortable?

Do you prefer your problem being mentioned in comments...with sympathetic words. Or do you prefer the problem be ignored and the commenter talk about something else.

For example, let's say a relative died and you talk about attending your funeral. In your post you mention stopping at a restaurant.

Someone comments with "Hey. I've been to that restaurant before. They have great pancake!" Would you prefer a comment like that to one that mentioned your loss?

If you DO like getting supportive/sympathetic comments; do you feel you get enough on your blog? How about in real life?

What sort of supportive comments bring you the most comfort? What types make you feel worse or annoy you?

R.H. said...

Well there you go yet another posting with no mention of RH.

Good heavens!- if you can't say something nice say something insulting!

Attention is always appreciated.

I've been reading about your 2009
Australia trip. Your style is good (clear, uncomplicated) post length doesn't matter, a reader gets carried along. Well done! I was interested in the part about Kiama. It's where Charmian Clift grew up. She and George Johnston had a long affair. You'd find out a lot about Australia by reading his book: My Brother Jack. George was a real Aussie: clear, uncomplicated. You'd never find him among the boneheads on Q+A.

Dina said...


I apologize. It was wrong of me to write yet another post without mention of you.

I have fixed that; and I hope now we are on good terms.

I am touched by yet another compliment from you...even if this one didn't involve my breasts.

I'm glad to know my trip report hasn't yet bored you to tears.

I'm not sure where you're getting clear and uncomplicated. I've been reading my own blog posts lately; and sometimes I don't know what the hell I'm saying.

Maybe you understand me more than I understand myself. I am being an awful illustration of what I whined about in my post. So much me.

Let's get back to what you said.

Do you have a special love for George Johnston and Chairmian Clift?

I heard about the brother Jack book. I haven't read it yet.

Maybe someday.

What are your other favorite Aussie books?

You ignored my TV show question the other day. I hope you'll answer this one.

Or I hope you'll answer some question...someday.

I think you're the opposite of the people I talked about in this post.

You seem very...mysterious.

Who are you?

You could be anyone.

Maybe you're Tony Jones himself...trying to test the waters. Playing Devil's Advocate.

Or maybe you're one of those cute girls from Q+A. Maybe you're complimenting yourself, and want to see if I agree with you.

You could be a ghost.

An alien?

Kevin Rudd?

Gerry Hand?

Are you Jack's brother?

Are you a real Aussie? Is there a blood test to check for that?

FruitCake said...

I agree with you, blogs are monologues. It's liberating to talk without being interrupted. Without having to beg a moderator to make someone else let you finish.

I agree with Andrew. He does like to try and contribute something fresh. I like Andrew's blog. Andrew's posts are interesting and/or quirky.
Andrew is a listener. Or if sometimes my comments are long winded he is brave or tolerant. He's never narcissistic in blogland.

I don't always agree with RH, but verbal sparring can be fun. RH is a devil's advocate, it might be his calling in life.
I censored his comment about your breasts because I felt it would be more appropriate if he contacted you directly. I'm far too prudish to involve myself in the sexual fantasies of others.
I'm not qualified to comment on the size of your breasts.

My Brother Jack was interesting on TV. The book was either too deep for me, or just plain boring. I've never read anything else of Johnston's, or anything by Charmian Clift. RH might or might not think this is a better test of un-Australianism than a blood test.

FruitCake said...

PS. Does it bother you that my comment did not ask one question about you?

he he.

R.H. said...

Dear Fruitcake.

My Brother Jack too deep for you? What do you usually read, Donald Duck?
The telemovie was shit, the book is good, showing a time when Australia still had courage, decent values, unbreakable mateship. Maybe it's too Aussie for you?
Breasts is a word I would never use. And especially not to a female. But I imagine it's common among petticoat men, Van Dyke beards and manicured nails.
I'm a Christ advocate. You won't like that.

HappyOrganist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HappyOrganist said...

Whoa, that's a lot of questions; I don't know where to start. =)

I really like the "visiting the moon via an out of body experience."

Dina said...

Fruitcake: Yep. It's refreshing to blab on and on in blogland without being interrupted.

Verbal sparing is fun. The only problem is when it goes too far and people don't know if they're hated or not.

You and I don't have that problem though. We're beautiful together.

Well, except when you write a whole comment and don't ask me one single question.

You could have at least asked me about my toenail polish color. Blue, by the way.

Don't tell me you don't care. You SHOULD care.

Yes, you are not qualified to comment on the size of my breasts. But you ARE now qualified to comment on my toenails.

I think I'm a prude too. It's good we have something in common; because your list of favorite movies makes me have some reservations about our friendship.

RH: I probably wouldn't like the Jack book either; so I'm willing to try it.

I'd probably end up preferring Donald Duck. Or Daisy Duck.

Why don't you like the word breasts?

I guess I could have guessed you were a Christ advocate.

HappyOrganist: You have until 5:00 this evening to answer the questions; or you will get detention.

No excuses!

FruitCake said...

I could comment on how I feel about your revelation that you wear blue toenail polish, but then it would all be about me. But believe me, I DO care. If you are happy, I shall be happy.

My list of favourite movies is THAT bad? Have you reacted to the list with disgust and disappointment, or merely with indifference?

I can delete the list if this is a necessary condition of continued friendship. Honest. It does matter to me.

Dina said...


It wouldn't matter if you deleted the list. It's already ingrained in my brain.

Or really not.

I have such a bad memory.

I likely won't remember your favorite movies by tomorrow.

In fact don't be surprised if within a few weeks, I ask you the question again.

I'll overlook our different taste in film if you can overlook my bad memory skills.

Andrew said...

I try not to be intrusive with questions. I don't like to talk about my work, so I rarely ask about other's work unless they volunteer.

Yes, I know plenty who talk a lot. I can put the phone down when I am talking to my mother and go back and pick it up in a minute and she will still be talking.

I suppose for negative things I do like comforting comments but if someone had eaten at the place I mentioned eating at, there is nothing wrong with mentioning that, perhaps after kind words.

But really, I don't care so much. Most of the people who comment on my blog have been around a long time and are almost all are very nice. I don't like people being rude to each other in comments at all though, and not too rude to me. I won't wear that.

Dina said...


Yeah, questions about certain topics can be awkward. Or people might misjudge your intent.

I think it's probably rare for an elderly mother NOT to talk a lot.

Do you feel your mother started to talk more as she got older? Or was she like that when you were a child as well?

What about your sister? Does she talk a lot? More or less than the bone doctor?

Yeah. Rudeness isn't good. The problem is what's rude to one person is not rude to another.

It's kind of in the eyes of the beholder. And people have different tolerance levels.

Well, for some things.

Then other things are very obvious.

R.H. said...

Many bloggers are like politicians. They slip up and: "Oh no," they say, "I didn't mean that, I meant this..."
Fruitcake I'm terribly amused; I did contact her directly, the bosom comment was directly below her mention of RH, and my comment was nothing to do with fantasies for goodness sake and lots to do with having a joke.
'My Brother Jack' is an easy and interesting book, you learn a lot about Australia; it's the first book I'd read that describes areas of Melbourne I was familiar with. It's autobiographical, poignant in places, and mostly true.

Empress Dina I grew up in the slums and we didn't piss about when it came to describing things. Breasts is pooncey word.
Just like a good ol' Texas boy I'd normally say t*ts, you're a 38.

Dina said...


The slums of Melbourne?

I'm glad you enjoyed the Jack book. Of course just because one person is going to look something; it doesn't mean everyone will love it.

The world is full of different opinions.

Sadly, many people often confuse opinion with fact.

It's hard to know when people are joking or serious. Sometimes one person jokes; the other person jokes back. Then the first person thinks the second person's response is serious and offensive, and they were just joking too.

Communication can be extremely challenging. It's full of misunderstandings.

R.H. said...

Yes the slums, the dirt: Prahran, a suburb of Melbourne, now gentrified, where tattooed cadavers go to and fro, no heart, no religion, no soul.
They parade, you should see them, metal pierced and grinning, carnival of corpses, every weekend. Who are these people, generation yoghurt. I'm sorry, I can't stand them.

Johnston is the first Australian I read who wrote like an Aussie. Somerset Maugham is the first showing me you can be rude about people.

Michael Gorey said...

Dina, why do you wear toenail polish and why is it blue? Do you normally wear shoes or sandals? If you wear shoes, your splendid toes will naturally be invisible, thereby rendering toenail polish rather pointless, blue or otherwise, I'm assuming your toes are splendid, just like your writing.

Dina said...

RH, I'm looking at Prahran on Google Maps now.

Maybe if I look carefully on Streetview, I'll see these tattooed cadavers you speak of.

Now I'm looking at Wikipedia and see it's a gay village.

Is that why you're negative?

It does make me wonder why someone who is anti-gay would spend so much time on blogs written by gay and/or lesbian people. OR people who are supportive of the gay/lesbian lifestyle.

Are you trying to be antagonistic?

Are you trying to learn more about the other side of the argument?

Are you trying open your mind about things?

If you're trying to be more antagonistic...why?

Does it make you feel good?

Do you feel you can change the world more to your liking if you act insulting?

I'm very curious. What are you going for here?

Somerset Maugham....

It's interesting that you have an inspiration for your rudeness.

Speaking of....

I've changed my mind. I'm not Copperwitch.

I will delete comments from you that seem to be deliberately offensive.

Therefore, if you get the urge to say something offensive to another commenter; I ask that you please write it separately from the other part of your comment. That way I can still post the other parts of your comment (the part that is not attacking another commenter).

If this is not to your liking; you are more than welcome to leave. It will give you more time to spend at the Copperwitch blog.

However, if you can act relatively decently, I'd like for you to stay.

You do have an ability to be clever. You're interesting. And I'd like to think underneath the roughness and nastiness, you have a good heart.

It's up to you to prove me right or wrong.

Dina said...


Such lovely questions. Thank you!

I got my toenails painted as a mother-daughter pedicure bonding experience.

It's not something I've often done; but it was fun...if not a bit painful.

As for shoes....I wear sandals as much as possible.

What about you? Are you a thong man? Runners? sandals? Other?

And other question: Do you wear shoes inside the house; or do you take them off?

Thank you for the compliment on my toes and writing!

You might change your mind about my toes, if you ever see them.

R.H. said...

I missed this from you. Here's a reply.
I'm not anti-gay, I'm actually indifferent about it. Unfortunaltely gays won't settle for indifference. I couldn't care.

When I started reading good authors in my twenties Somerset Maugham was one of them and I was very surprised to find him making a direct criticism about one of his characters during the story. I didn't know you could do that. I don't say it gives me or anyone else permission to be rude to living breathing people, I'm talking about fiction.

I found Andrew via Copperwitch, and Fruitcake via Andrew. I'm interested in Melbourne history, old buildings and their preservation, etc, and so is Andrew, we've lots in common. As a homosexual Andrew doesn't like Christianity and goes out of his way to write Christian as christian. I consider that petty but could ignore it, however he breaks into a rage at times and sent me an abusive email for no good reason and I sent him one back. I've noticed that breaking into a sudden rage is common among homosexuals. Fruitcake is an old Aussie interested in its cultural past and I was interested in her for that reason but she also is very suspicious of poor RH, being as he is a non homo.
I comment with neither of them anymore.

R.H. said...

I'm as sincere as I can manage. If you want to be sincere you must be prepared to lose friends. I'm prepared to lose all of them. That's why I have only one or two of long standing.

Dina said...


I agree that being sincere can cause you to lose friends. Sometimes being rude and sincere can do that. But sometimes you can be polite about it...and it still doesn't help.

Oh well.

Fruitcake likes me and I'm not homosexual. And there are other people who comment on her blog. I think most of them are heterosexual.

So if she doesn't like you; I would guess it's for other reasons.

I'm glad to know you're not anti-gay. I think sometimes you just get angry and use harsh terminology. I try to be tolerant of long as it's not directed at a specific person.

I sometimes get confused about capitalizing certain words; like religions and animals...and various syndromes.

R.H. said...

Well maybe I shouldn't have asked her if she was a lesbian.

Try getting angry. You'll do your best writing. I get furious.

R.H. said...

Furious, but you conceal it, use the energy, like this: Hello my little sweetie pie gorgeous darlings! Yes, you know it's me, RH, loving you like a tornado, a pimp with a poorbox down his pants...

And so on.

Well, it doesn't mean anything, but people like it.

Dina said...


I do get angry sometimes.

You have me wondering what mood makes me write the best.

Sometimes I FEEL I'm writing best when I'm in a silly mood.

But later I go back and read it; and it's crap.

R.H. said...


1. Be in a hurry.

(I said that somewhere on another blog, I don't know if I was being serious but I do reckon it could help.)

Really, it's interesting what you say about moods. I suspect we need to be consistent. But then sometimes exuberance grabs me and I go silly and sometimes the result isn't bad at all. You definitely need energy, People will know if it's not there.
Once I get going some clever ideas land and I wonder where the hell they came from, it sure wasn't from thinking. Sometimes I'm able to say what's been in my head for a long time, telling you about the kids being put on the train to Bairnsdale for instance. I wasn't actually thinking about it and it just popped out, absolute truth. I'm very happy with it. Some of the plainest most effective little passages appear when I'm not fully awake -before complete consciousness turns up. I'm out of bed, on my feet, still drowsy, fighting like mad to keep hold of this marvellous little expression as change attacks from everywhere. This is a personal experience. The most wonderful way of expressing things comes when you're not muddling over them at all. As for style, I've got a method, however serious I get I'm always trying for a laugh. If you want people to listen that's what you have to do.

Dina said...


Being in a hurry? That's an interesting theory.

I can't say whether or not that would work for me.

I agree with energy and trying for a laugh.

Although what if you fail to get the laugh. What's worse...trying to be funny and failing; or just being serious.

Why don't you have a blog?

Or do you just prefer commenting?

Do you do any other writing besides commenting?

And I'm not saying commenting isn't a valid type of writing.

I'm just curious.

R.H. said...

If you want people to take notice you have to make it funny, that's what I meant. I'll start reading something and say: "Oh what rubbish!" and toss it away. I won't do that if it's entertaining.
I seldom see anything that makes me laugh, in childhood with the entire cinema laughing I'd be sitting there stony faced, other people hate that. I do know that if my own stuff doesn't make me laugh it's no good.
If I had a blog I'd do no private writing and I do a lot, some of it is too private to post up at train stations and places, if you know what I mean.

R.H. said...

What I'm talking about here is attacks on people. I aim to ridicule them. Sarcasm won't do, sarcasm is weak.

Dina said...


You like to ridicule people?

I think that's sad.

I'm not impressed.

R.H. said...

Well it's been going on for centuries, I think Chaucer started it.

Good luck.