Rainmaking Recommendation #197: Conversational Narcissism

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/nenetus

Are you a conversational narcissist? 

The other day, I came across a post entitled, You May Be a Conversational Narcissist and Not Even Know It (Here’s How to Tell).  It was a fascinating piece that described the term “Conversational Narcissist” which was created by Charles Derber, a sociologist, and describes the trait of constantly turning the conversation back to yourself.  This was the first time I had ever heard that phrase and was both fascinated and chagrinned. 

An example of conversational narcissism would be you are chatting with someone and they say something about their most recent vacation.  Instead of asking them about the vacation – where they went, what they did, did they enjoy themselves – you reply by discussing your recent vacation. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was chagrinned because I only just realized that I am guilty of being a conversational narcissist. Not all of the time, but recently I feel like it has been more often than I knew.  Discovering this fact has been a bit sobering. Until you put conscious thought into appreciating how often you are doing something that you would like to change, you may not even realize that you are doing it. 

I liken it to the fact that until the recent Corona Virus (COVID 19) outbreak and the admonition to not touch your face, nose or eyes, I had no idea how many times my hands go up to my face.  Whether it is just resting my chin in my hand, fixing a contact lens or scratching an itch, apparently the average number of times that a person touches their face is 23 times per hour.  That’s more than 350 times per day! But, now that I am being conscientious about not touching my face, I can stop myself from unconsciously doing so.

It is the same thing with conversational narcissism.  You may not even realize that you are turning the conversations around to focus upon yourself.  But, now that you are aware that this concept exists, you can stop yourself from talking about yourself and start focusing on the person with whom you are having a conversation.

Why is this important?

Rainmaking is about creating relationships.  And conversations help you to do so.  However, when you are constantly making the focus of the conversation about yourself, it is one-sided and, frankly, annoying.  And, more importantly, people do not care about you – they care about themselves.  Yes, the goal is to have a conversation that allows you both to learn about each other, but you have to understand that people are more concerned with themselves and their issues than yours. 

I have always said that you need to make it about “them”.  Ask questions, and then listen.  Then ask more questions. 

Part of the reason that you (and I) could be conversational narcissists is that people are always looking for a way to assimilate information with what they already know.  So if someone mentions that they have been to a location that you have been to, your thoughts will automatically turn to that location and what YOU did while you were there.  From there, it is only a quick interruption of what they were saying to discuss your experiences. Instead, you could mention that you have been there, and then turn the conversation back to them to ask questions about their time in that location.   
Instead of taking the focus off of the person with whom you are speaking, let them do all of the talking.

As Dale Carnegie has written, in his seminal masterpiece How to Win Friends and Influence People:

“…if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener.  To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering.  Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.”   

  • If you are a mid-level associate who would like to become a partner or a partner looking to become a Rainmaker and are interested in individual coaching but would like to take it for a test drive, schedule your FREE Rainmaking Coaching Session
  • If you are a law firm leader and would like to discuss bringing a training program or a Rainmaking Seminar (with Ethics CLEs) in-house please email me. 

Speak Your Mind