The Art of Conversation: How to Avoid Conversational Narcissism

by Brett & Kate McKay on May 1, 2011 · 120 comments

in A Man's Life, Dating, Fatherhood, Friendship, Marriage, On Etiquette, Relationships & Family

Last month I met up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in forever to have lunch. Having both read and written about how to be an effective and charismatic conversationalist, I followed the old dictum of listening more than talking and asking the other person engaging questions about themselves. This is supposed to charm your conversation partner. I guess it worked because my friend talked about himself for an hour straight and didn’t ask me a single question.

When we’ve talked about the ins and outs of making good conversation before, someone inevitably asks, “But what if both people keep trading questions back and forth?” Well, that’s a pretty good problem to have, but I’ve yet to see it happen. Instead, most folks seem to struggle with asking any questions at all and have a very difficult time relinquishing the floor.

In a time where a lot of the old social supports people relied upon have disappeared, people have become starved for attention. They bring this hunger to their conversations, which they see as competitions in which the winner is able to keep the attention on themselves as much as possible. And this is turning the skill of conversation-making into a lost art.

Conversational Narcissism

In The Pursuit of Attention, sociologist Charles Derber shares the fascinating results of a study done on face-to-face interactions, in which researchers watched 1,500 conversations unfold and recorded how people traded and vied for attention. Dr. Derber discovered that despite good intentions, and often without being aware of it, most people struggle with what he has termed “conversational narcissism.”

Conversational narcissists always seek to turn the attention of others to themselves. Your first reaction to this statement is likely, “Oh, I don’t do that, but I know someone who does!” But not so fast. Conversational narcissism typically does not manifest itself in obviously boorish plays for attention; most people give at least some deference to social norms and etiquette. Instead, it takes much more subtle forms, and we’re all guilty of it from time to time. Everyone has felt that itch where we couldn’t wait for someone to stop talking so we could jump in; we pretended to be listening intently, but we were really focusing on what we were about to say once we found an opening.

So today we’re going to discuss the ways in which conversational narcissism creeps into our interactions with others. While it may seem a bit strange that conversations can be analyzed this deeply, Dr. Derber’s research is filled with some really brilliant insights that will help you see how a conversation unfolds and how you can easily fall into the conversational narcissism trap. I know it did for me.

The Unsurpassed Pleasure of a Good Old Fashioned Conversation

Before we get into the forms that conversational narcissism takes, let’s take a minute to discuss why you should even care about the health of your conversations in the first place.

You probably know how mastering the art of conversation is an invaluable tool in building your charisma and networking with others, whether it comes to business or pleasure. But it’s also a vital part of fulfilling a deep human need we have as social animals.

Have you ever had a night out with friends, maybe you met up at a new restaurant, had a few beers, and ended up talking and laughing the night away? As you walked to your car, I bet your brain felt positively aglow with a warm sensation of deep satisfaction and pleasure. That’s the effect a great conversation can have on you. Absorbing conversations truly add happiness and richness to our lives.

But the enjoyment of a good conversation is becoming more of a rarity these days. In our time of cell phones, text messaging, and emails, we’re having less face-to-face interactions, and thus when we do meet up with people in the flesh, our social skills can be a bit rusty. So we can all use some brushing up on the art of conversation and how to make great conversations a more frequent occurrence in our lives.

Conversations: Competition vs. Cooperation

“The quality of any interaction depends on the tendencies of those involved to seek and share attention. Competition develops when people seek to focus attention mainly on themselves; cooperation occurs when the participants are willing and able to give it.” -Dr. Charles Derber

A good conversation is an interesting thing; it can’t be a solely individual endeavor—it has to be a group effort. Each individual has to sacrifice a little for the benefit of the group as a whole and ultimately, to increase the pleasure each individual receives. It’s like a song where the rhythm is paramount, and each person in the group must contribute to keeping that rhythm going. One person who keeps on playing a sour note can throw the whole thing off.

That’s why it’s so important that conversations are cooperative instead of competitive. But many people (and Dr. Derber argues, Americans especially, because of our culture of individual initiative, self-interest, and self-reliance) make conversations into competitions. They want to see if they can get the edge on the other people in the group by turning the attention to themselves as much as possible. This is accomplished through the subtle tactics of conversational narcissism.

How Conversational Narcissism Manifests Itself

So let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. How does conversational narcissism rear its head and derail what could have been a great face-to-face interaction?

During a conversation, each person makes initiatives. These initiatives can either be attention-giving or attention-getting. Conversational narcissists concentrate more on the latter because they are focused on gratifying their own needs. Attention-getting initiatives can take two forms: active and passive.

Active Conversational Narcissism

The response a person gives to what someone says can take two forms: the shift-response and the support-response. The support-response keeps attention on the speaker and on the topic he or she has introduced. The shift-response attempts to set the stage for the other person to change the topic and shift the attention to themselves. Let’s look at an example of the difference between the two:


James: I’m thinking about buying a new car.
Rob: Oh yeah? What models have you looked at?


James: I’m thinking about buying a new car.
Rob: Oh yeah? I’m thinking about buying a new car too.
James: Really?
Rob: Yup, I just test drove a Mustang yesterday and it was awesome.

In the first example, Rob kept the attention on James with his support-response. In the second example, Rob attempts to turn the conversation to himself with a shift-response.

The shift-response if often very subtle. People put in a nice transition to disguise it by prefacing their response with something like, “That’s interesting,” “Really? “I can see that,” right before they make a comment about themselves. “Oh yeah?” And then they’ll tie their response into the topic at hand, “I’m thinking about buying a new car too.”

Now it’s important to point out that a shift-response just opens up the opportunity for a person to grab the attention, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to. It’s a matter of intent. You might simply be looking to highlight what the other person has said and share a bit of your own experience before bringing the conversation back to the other person. That’s a healthy and natural part of the give and take of conversation. Let’s turn back to Rob and James:

James: I’m thinking about buying a new car.
Rob: Oh yeah? I’m thinking about buying a new car too.
James: Really? Maybe we could go look around together.
Rob: Sure. So what models are you looking at?
James: That’s the thing—I’m not sure where to start.
Rob: Well, what are the most important things to you—fuel economy, storage room, horsepower?

So here Rob interjected about himself, but then he turned the conversation back to Rob. Conversational narcissists, on the other hand, keep interjecting themselves until the attention has shifted to them. Like this:

James: I’m thinking about buying a new car.
Rob: Oh yeah? I’m thinking about buying a new car too.
James: Really? Maybe we could go look around together.
Rob: Sure. I just test drove the Mustang yesterday and it was awesome.
James: That’s cool. I don’t think I want a sports car though.
Rob: Well, I want something with at least 300 horsepower and definitely leather seating. Did I ever tell you about the time my buddy let me take his Maserati out for a spin? Now that is an automobile.
James: Which one of your friends has a Maserati?

Most conversational narcissists–careful not to appear rude– will mix their support and shift responses together, using just a few more shift-responses, until the topic finally shifts entirely to them.  Conversational narcissists succeed when they elicit a support response from their partner. “Which one of your friends has a Maserati?”

To summarize, it’s fine to share things about yourself, as long as you loop the conversation back to the person who initiated the topic. The best rule to follow is simply not to jump in too early with something about yourself; the earlier you interject, the more likely you are to be making a play to get the attention on yourself. Instead, let the person tell most of their story or problem first, and then share your own experience.

Passive Conversational Narcissism

Conversational narcissism can take an even subtler form. Instead of interjecting about themselves and trying to initiate a new topic, conversational narcissists can simply withhold their support-responses until the other person’s topic withers away and they can take the floor.

To understand how this works, let’s first look at the three forms support-responses can take—each one represents an ascending level of engagement and interest with the topic and speaker:

  • Background acknowledgments: Minimal acknowledgments that you’re listening such as, “Yeah,” “Uh-huh,” “Hmm,” Sure.”
  • Supportive assertions: Acknowledgments that show active listening. “That’s great.” “You should go for it.” “That’s not right.”
  • Supportive questions: Questions show that you’re not only listening, but are interested in hearing more. “Why did you feel that way?” “What was his response when you said that? “What are you going to do now?”

A conversational narcissist can kill someone’s story dead in its tracks by withholding these support-responses, especially by not asking any questions. Etiquette dictates that we don’t ramble on and share every detail of a story right off the bat. We say a bit, and then wait for further questions, so we know that the person we’re speaking with is interested in what we have to say. In the absence of such questions, the speaker will begin to doubt that what they’re saying is interesting. So they’ll stop speaking and turn the attention to the other person. A victory for the conversational narcissist.

Conversationalist narcissists will also show their disinterest in the speaker by delaying their background acknowledgments–those all important “Yeah’s” and “Hmmm’s.” Good conversationalists place their background acknowledgments in just the rights spots, in the small natural pauses in the conversation. The narcissist tries to adhere to social expectations by giving the speaker some cursory acknowledgments, but they’re not really listening, and so they throw them in there just a few seconds off. The speaker easily picks up on this skewed-timing and will stop talking and shift their attention to the narcissist.

Finally, one more form of conversational narcissism to avoid is the “Well, enough about me, I want to hear more about you!” tactic. People will often pull out this kind of line right at the end of an event, so they can make a show of etiquette and interest in the other person, while not actually having to give that person attention that lasts more than a few minutes.

Becoming a Master of the Art of Conversation

Avoiding these pitfalls of conversational narcissism will have you well on your way to becoming a competent and charismatic conversationalist. Once someone introduces a topic, your job is to draw out the narrative from them by giving them encouragement in the form of background acknowledgments and supportive assertions, and moving their narrative along by asking supportive questions. Once their topic has run its course, you can introduce your own topic. But as we mentioned earlier, it takes two to tango. It’s now your partner’s turn to ask you questions. If they don’t, you’ll sadly find yourself, as I did at the lunch with my friend, listening to a never-ending monologue. Just smile and enjoy the chips.

Source: The Pursuit of Attention by Charles Derber

{ 120 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Beardy Pantaloons May 1, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Excellent. Definitely buying that book. I think I’m guilty of this sometimes, and I didn’t even realize it. A disconcerting realization indeed. I shall have to work on that immediately.

2 Benjamin D May 1, 2011 at 10:17 pm

An excellent article! All too often I find myself amongst people competing in cases of conversational narcissistic one-upsmanship. Eventually the conversation is driven too far off course and I drop out. Whatever happened to the good ole days of college being a place to exchange ideas?

3 Lee May 1, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Interesting article. I constantly catch myself being a conversational narcissist. It really is hard to be a good conversationalist. I guess the phrase fake it til you make it comes to mind.

4 R. Downs May 1, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Thank you so much for posting this! I can’t begin to list all the times I’ve been in the same shoes, attempting to have a satisfying conversation with a friend, relative, or colleague, listening to them monologue about themselves, their latest miseries, and what they think they might have for breakfast the next day.

What saddens me is that articles like these are even necessary. What happened to parents who raise their children to conduct themselves like polite human beings, not the conversational equivalent of pigs at a slop trough?

5 Dan May 1, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Agree with R Downs. I know why this article was posted as it is good to reinforce such behavior. But come on, I’m sad that this may be groundbreaking for some! Next up: why you should not wear a hooded sweatshirt to a job interview (this has happened)

6 Vince May 1, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Fantastic article.

Conversation can be challenging for many. People don’t know what to say and a needlessly high expectation of rapport can create too much anxiety. We have to accept and embrace the imperfection of social relationships. All conversation is a series of hypotheses about what to say next. Practice and low expectations are a necessity. People aren’t a television show that you can turn off when you get bored.

Analyzing conversation is great. No one should stiffly follow rules, but society is in the social problem its in because people take social skills for granted and thus no one is teaching them or working on them. Formality makes life and our relationships more pleasant and manageable and need not necessarily imply phoniness or “going through the motions.”

The main problem is the one illuminated here in an excerpt about listening to others from the book “The Normal Christian Worker” written by Watchman Nee:

“We must not woolgather. Many believers know nothing of mental discipline. Day and night their thoughts flow on uninterruptedly. They never concentrate, but just let their imaginations roam hither and thither till their minds accumulate such a mass of matter that they can take in nothing more. When people talk to them they cannot follow what is being said, but can only follow the train of their own thoughts and talk of the things that are preoccupying them. It is essential that we learn to quieten our minds so that we can hear and take in what is being said to us.”

Part of the virtue of following the method of getting the other person to talk as much as possible is in attempting to not judge them after they follow your cues.

Talking about yourself is fine, but it shouldn’t be excessive and you should probably wait for someone else to draw you out first. There are few things more annoying than a painfully shy person whom you are breaking your back being social with and getting nowhere. Occasionally, you can throw yourself out there without prodding so that you may have the conversation you’d like to but this behavior should be saved for established acquaintances. Your wife’s pregnancy may not come up if you wait for someone else to bring it up.

Most social rules apply especially with new acquaintances and should be relaxed, but never altogether thrown out, as you get closer to someone.

I think I’m currently guilty.

7 Brett McKay May 1, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Whenever there’s an article on a topic some consider “basic,” there are always comments like those from R. Downs and Dan expressing disbelief that people don’t know such things already. And I have to say that such comments really bother me. They presume that manliness and good behavior is something you’re simply born with, or somehow absorb from the ether, or learn from great parents. And it strikes me as rather patronizing to those who haven’t learned it and are seeking to better themselves–”Duh! I can’t believe people weren’t raised as awesomely as me and aren’t as sophisticated as I am!” Many men weren’t raised by parents that taught them the basics. They’re not pigs, they simply didn’t have a mentor to teach them certain things. And even when you do have good parents, they teach you different things. You might have parents who taught you all about how to use tools and fix things but nothing about art and etiquette. Or vice versa. My parents were awesome, but I can’t remember them ever sitting me down and talking to me about how to have a good conversation.

On this topic specifically, I’ve personally read a ton about conversation, but I think the way Dr. Derber puts things really adds fresh insights and lets you identify where you may be trying to shift attention to yourself.

Anyway, I think we should really support each other as men who are trying to better themselves!

8 Darren May 1, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Awesome post! I definitely can see how I’m guilty of doing a shift response all the time.

Oh, and right on, Brett with your comment. I remember those kinds of comments made to a post about using tools. That people couldn’t believe all men didn’t know how to do it. I was raised my great parents but was in the inner city, and they never taught me the basics of using tools. And those kinds of comments kind of made me feel defective as a man. I’m just trying to do my best to make up for lost time, you know?

9 Mary May 2, 2011 at 12:46 am

Excellent article. It is always helpful to go over the basics. I think this will be more useful than what I usually do – which is write on my hand or my notepad “don’t talk about yourself!” .Now I know HOW not to talk about myself! (At least not until I am asked.)
As a first generation American, I find this especially helpful. Keep the good information coming!

10 Michael May 2, 2011 at 12:56 am

Another one knocked out of the park, Brett. Conversation, like most human interaction, should be based on giving, not taking. Conversational narcissists “take” the spotlight. Allowing your partner in conversation to have that spotlight improves your stature in their eyes, every time.

I’ve been a conversational narcissist – I think we all have at some point – but fortunately I’ve been able to recognize and fix it. The first step is to recognize it, and this definitely ought to help.

11 Tony May 2, 2011 at 1:40 am

It can be hard to talk with someone who only gives one word responses to your questions. When I encounter someone like that I usually talk about myself a bit in order to give them something to comment on. I find that people feel more comfortable around you and thus open themselves up a bit after you go on for a while.

12 Dominique May 2, 2011 at 2:47 am

What a brilliant blog. I know of plenty of women who would benefit from reading this too. I’m all for promoting good manners.
…and yes, I’m guilty of hogging conversations too. Will try not to in future.

13 Steve Harrington May 2, 2011 at 3:07 am

Surprisingly fascinating post. At the start I thought just what you predicted we would think, “I don’t do that.” But when I got to the part about shift-responses I realized that I do that all the time. A little light bulb went off. Someone will say, “I had a bad day.” And I’ll answer with “Well, wait until you hear about my crappy day.” I need to remember to focus on the other person first. Thanks for this.

14 Dion May 2, 2011 at 8:15 am

I have had the great misfortune of working with several people like this. It does make tea breaks quite tiresome. That being said, I did find myself guilty of trying to milk every conversation to get the attention back onto me. I have a long way to go before I an the gracious gentleman I wish to be.

15 Troy May 2, 2011 at 10:00 am

Excellent article… I know I am often guilty of this…. damn,
there I go again.

16 Martin May 2, 2011 at 10:37 am

Very cool article. I enjoyed reading it. I’ve seen this in myself many times–the chomping at the bit to jump in with my thoughts to the point where I’m no longer listening. The problem I’ve found (particularly in groups) is that by the time it really does become my turn to talk, my point is forgotten or the conversation moved on. I’m not sure if that’s my own narcissism that’s been injured or simply that I’m with others who dominate conversations.

17 Andrew May 2, 2011 at 10:43 am

I’ve been reading this blog since the fall of 2009 and though I’ve drastically refined my manners and brought my lifestyle closer to being a gentleman from reading it, there’s a question I’d like to raise: if you better yourself and others don’t change with you, won’t you eventually be the odd person out? For example, some of my friends like to text and have their smartphones out on the table when we’re in the company of each other, yet I always have my phone in my pocket giving them my undivided attention. Today, fiddling with your phone while you’re with people is a social norm and to do otherwise, even though it’s the polite thing to do, makes you a non-conformist. How do all of you deal with that? My solution is to just find more like-minded people to hangout with, but that’s long-term fix that takes a lot effort to change. Can this be remedied in the short-term?

Lastly, Brett, how did you deal with the conversational-narcissist when you were trapped in your friend’s ego? Did you have an escape strategy that wasn’t rude but still managed to be subtle?

18 Baradoch May 2, 2011 at 10:45 am

This is awesome information. I love good conversations. This is a good way to evaluate a date — and she might be using the same evaluation method.

19 bMac May 2, 2011 at 10:51 am

It used to be the polite thing to do on a Monday morning to ask people at work how their weekend went. I’ve have had to give that up in order to avoid the one-hour-long recitations of the last two days… the blow-by-blow, word-for-word, “and then I…” blather that makes me ready to chew my proverbial arm off in order to escape!!

20 todo76 May 2, 2011 at 10:54 am

Heaven knows this is a problem for me. Good article and well timed. This is an era of easy distractions and electronic walls for us to lob thoughts over without knowing the person on the other side. Thank you for bringing this up and supporting anyone who does too!

21 Vince May 2, 2011 at 11:01 am

@Andrew- Bad manners have become the norm for many, but I still think people respect and appreciate good manners even if they themselves are too lazy to live up to them. With new people, you should endure their foibles, but you should be able to call out your close friends on their flaws.

22 Bryan May 2, 2011 at 11:06 am

Now we need an article about ways to politely extract one’s self from a one-sided conversation. I used to work with a guy who was a little “off”. He would seek me out and talk at me ad nauseum. I never could figure out how to end his monologue politely, so I let my annoyance build up inside me until one day when I blew up at him. That was clearly not the right thing to do (though he did leave me alone after that). Some people have a way of excusing themselves that doesn’t leave the other person feeling jilted. I wish I had that.

23 Harry May 2, 2011 at 11:10 am

I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past, but this is the first time I have seen the do’s and don’ts laid out so specifically. Some people do learn these things naturally, but I can never understand social rules until someone actually spells them out in detail like that. Thanks Brett!

24 Andrew May 2, 2011 at 11:18 am

Thanks Vince. After thinking about it, calling out ill-manners ties in with giving criticism, another essential skill discussed on this site. Don’t you just love how manliness binds itself together!

As for an escape strategy while “listening” to a conversational-narcissist, that question should’ve been opened up to everybody and not just Brett and Kate – we’re all writing comments here because we’ve either experienced this or made someone go through it.

25 ThomKelley May 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

Take a look at all these comments again…. How funny is it that the second sentence of almost every comment starts with “I”?

26 Joe May 2, 2011 at 11:36 am

Great article. This is something that I somehow developed over the past couple years and it drives me nuts. I don’t want to be a conversational narcissist, it just happens. But hey, step 1 is recognizing there’s a problem.

27 Joe May 2, 2011 at 11:38 am


Well, you have a point there. Most of the time, though, people comment to share their own beliefs and stories, so the “I’s” are bound to show up.

28 Roy May 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Great article Brett.

I am totally guilty of being a conversational narcissist and always saw myself as some kind of self-absorbed individual. Reading this article has really opened my eyes to the subtleties of conversation which can be modified to make it a more natural and enjoyable process for everyone involved. I’m definitely going to get Dr. Derber’s book for a bit more of an insight into this but this article has given me plenty of food for thought when it comes to changing my approach.

Perhaps this may even make the dreaded ‘networking’ more bearable/interesting?

29 B. Knight May 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I really appreciate these articles. Thanks so much!

30 Walter the Amazing Landlord May 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Yep, definitely guilty of background acknowledgments. I wasn’t fully aware of the message it’s sending. But, then again, some people talk too much, and it’s the best I can muster at times. I’ve also tried that experiment where you just keep asking follow up question after follow up question, and it’s incredible that an hour can go by before your companion even asks a single question.

But how do you handle a poor conversationalist? I’ve got a friend who doesn’t like talking about himself much and is very tight-lipped when asked questions about himself or any given subject. I subsequently end up talking about myself to fill in the silence, and then I walk away feeling like a narcissistic jerk. Should I just try harder to get him to talk? Or let the silence be?

31 Thomas Westgard May 2, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I definitely do this, and was learning about it from another source. This article is concise and specific. Excellent.

The comments here are fascinating as well. If you’re really in touch with what this behavior is, you couldn’t possibly be surprised that this advice is needed. It’s everywhere. You can’t spend ten minutes in a bar without somebody doing this to you.

But the best part is the commenters who subtly change the subject to their standards for what a man is supposed to know about polite conversation. This article is a tutorial about some fundamental sensitivities in conversation. To shift the topic of conversation to “people suck because I’m better at conversation…” Like I said, the behavior is all around us if you just know where to look.

32 Keenan May 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm

This article is a great read. I have been in many conversations where the listener has a short response or even no response. Many times i leave the conversation thinking the person was rude. The article has the key points that will sharpen anyone’s conversation skills. Lets bring the gentlemen back into the game.

33 Anthony Ashley May 2, 2011 at 4:36 pm

This is a very important topic. It seems that as time goes on the rarity of great conversation increases. I admit to having a problem with the shift-response habit. Going to visit my family is really good for me in combating this. My mother is a shift-response conversationalist to the extreme and is very comfortable letting others do all the listening. Every time I visit, I realize that I have this tendency as well and I see how awful I could become if I don’t work on it.

Conversational narcissism is very difficult to overcome (actual narcissism is impossible to change according to most psychologists) but it is well worth the effort. Once you make headway in your endeavor to be a good conversationalist you will have the joy of relaxing your desire to control and dominate and begin to really experience the other person for the first time.

34 Charles May 2, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Best AoM article I’ve read in a while. Anyone who gained something from this article should read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie if they haven’t already. I remember AoM recommending that book in the 100 best book series and must say that book has deeply impacted my life.

35 rexalfred871 May 2, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Best post I have seen on Art of Manliness in a while! Keep it up!

36 Peter May 2, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Great artcle Brett. It would be great if more women visited this site and saw it, they are just as much so if not more guilty than most guys I know of conversational narcissism.

37 Jason May 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm

haha cool!

38 Nick K. May 2, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Great Article! Purchasing the book for sure!

39 Kevin May 2, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Read Montaigne’s The Art of Conversation, written, what?, nearly 400 years ago?
This also reminds me of Gore Vidal’s observation that Conversation is dead and has been replaced by competing monologues.

40 Sandy May 2, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Awesome article. Thanks for sharing. I see this heaps but never had a mental concept for it before. Don’t spose you’d consider writing a follow-up for how to deal with someone doing this to you?

41 Dan May 3, 2011 at 12:19 am

Dang, taken to the woodshed.
At times I’ve got some of the old man’s “those young whippersnappers” attitude showing through. Apologies that it came off of jerkfaced as it did. But one of the most infuriating and heartbreaking things I see is when a family is at a restaurant, dad or mom is typing on their phone, and kids are either running around or fidgeting silently. Parents finally get some quality time with the kids and here they are facefirst in their blackberries. Kids are perceptive. They can see what’s more important.

42 JeffC May 3, 2011 at 1:12 am

The commenters wanting to know how do deal with a low-responder state that they typically wind up talking more to “fill in” the conversation, then walk away feeling guilty for doing so.

The greater skill, I believe, is to learn to be comfortable with a bit of dead air that is simply going to be there when interacting with introverts. Sure, I prime the pump a bit with a “bad conversationalist,” but if the well seems dry, it might just be that the water is deeper. Some folks are shy be nature, and to demand them to be gregarious is setting yourself up for disappointment.

Instead, slow down the pace, leave them some room to think and make a safe comment if they choose, then politely follow up, but respect their boundaries. You’ll gain their respect, instead of seeming like just another “steam roller” that they have to deal with every day. If you talk too much at them, they just throw up thicker barriers for their own self-preservation.

You’ll get to know them, and appreciate them, just as well, if you can learn to minimize your own discomfort about a little silence.

I speak as a former introvert.

43 Sam M May 3, 2011 at 5:46 am

Great post Brett. I am confident we are all guilty of this at one point or another (I am guilty of it often and need to improve) – we are after all, social animals. I think a natural human trait is to want to help or teach one another by explaining things or telling a story to illustrate a point. This is a positive social skill when practiced judiciously. In a conversational setting though, many of us take this trait too far by basically giving a speech instead of having a back and forth dialogue. The challenge is not to monopolize a conversation to the point where the person on the listening end has shut down with their eyes glazed over thinking, “when will this windbag shut up”? Thanks for posting some strategies for all of us to improve our conversational listening skills.

44 Tyler S May 3, 2011 at 7:15 am

If a person starts giving one-word-responses, let them! It will only make you look better to all those within listening distance. Just make sure you keep a mental note of how much you are gearing the conversation towards yourself. Every so often just think about your responses and who the attention was towards as a result. Should you have it geared towards you, start putting the conversation on them.

45 Robert Black May 3, 2011 at 9:00 am

Thank you Brett. How are YOU doing? :)

46 Kevin Hall May 3, 2011 at 10:07 am

Great post, I just started perusing this website a few weeks ago and everything on here is so refreshing! It is now on my daily list of websites to visit. Thanks for taking the time to put out helpful, honest and “manly” articles.

47 mydogoreo May 3, 2011 at 10:27 am

You just can’t win! There have been a few times when I have tried being more reflective in my attempts to be a good conversationalist only to be told that I was asking too many questions! Some hate being asked questions, some won’t let you ask questions or make comments on their monologue, so I just end up being totally mute or talking about what I want to talk about. It’s safer, and if the other person does not like the subject they can (and have) simply and abruptly changed the subject. I do that also, now, hoping the other person will take the hint.

You are right, Brett – it’s all competition but I suspect that it is the result of isolation. If I get fatigued from hearing a friend’s problems, I now tell them to see a priest/rabbi/minister because my bent ear is obviously not helping them.

48 Phil May 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I fall into this category simply because my co-workers are very shy, introverted types who clam up whenever I ask questions of them.

49 Noah May 3, 2011 at 2:58 pm

This is a tough one. I am certainly becoming more and more of an conversational narcissist as I get older and I think that’s due to more specific and focused interests and defined points of view. Once you’ve reached a level where people consider you an expert in your given field, especially if its one that is slightly off beat, you may find that conversation swings back to you simply because you ARE interesting. This is dangerous and it feeds the ego to the point where you start monopolizing conversations beyond people’s interest, but its is a fuzzy line at best. Once that freight train’s a-rollin’….
Furthermore, I would argue that many of the men who read blogs such as this one are considered by most people around them, eccentrics. Caring about things such as conversation skills, masculine grooming, and dress etiquette seems antiquated to the majority of cap-donning, sweatpant-wearing masses and therefore, although we (the readers of this blog) may know how to maintain polite conversation, the majority of folks will not. And, once you’ve entered a conversation with someone who clearly doesn’t care about the quality of his/her conversation, as an intelligent passionate person, its almost impossible to keep the focus off of yourself without a certain level of frustration. I suppose it’s the true Gentleman who although may think these things, never lets it show. And that’s where I need the most work.

50 Eric Granata May 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I find myself committing conversational narcissism from time to time and get so frustrated with myself because I don’t want to be “that guy.” That and forgetting to introduce my wife to others are a couple of things I struggle with.

51 Joe A. Anzaldua May 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Thus the phrase, “If you want to talk about you I have about 5 minutes; if you want to talk about me, I have ALL day!”

52 Claude May 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Why does it seem like every pointy head doctor type always has to get in a shot at how much worse Americans are than their oh so enlightened European bretheren. I have to assume Dr. Gerben has never actually had interaction with Europeans. As someone who was born and raised in Switzerland but has spent the last 17 years in the US I actually see the opposite; Americans tend to defer more frequently in conversation with polite questions than do people in other parts of the world. Don’t get me wrong Americans will still talk of themselves a good bit but if you carry on a casual conversation with most Europeans it simply becomes a contest of oneupmanship.

53 JeffC May 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm

I suppose it’s the true Gentleman who although may think these things, never lets it show. And that’s where I need the most work.

Well said, Noah. The main point of Brett’s article boils down to the problem of controlling our own egos.

A crass unsophisticate who dominates a conversation shouldn’t provide justification for me to lower my standards. If I do, I lose the opportunity to provide a model for his improvement. Whether he pays heed or not is inconsequential. Quite a challenge; one that I sometimes fail.

54 TubbyMike May 3, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I was going to leave a long-winded comment, but Eric Granata’s first paragraph said it for me. It’s a struggle. I must have a recessive “empathy gene”.

55 Jonathan May 3, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Thanks JeffC, for the shout-out to the introverts. As a current introvert, I appreciate your taking the time to be comfortable with silence.

@Phil, I wouldn’t say the introverts you work with all “clam up,” though that may be the case with some of them. Introverts just typically take longer than the 5 nanoseconds society currently allocates to pauses between speakers. Become comfortable with some silence; you’ll be surprised by who opens up.

56 Sergio May 4, 2011 at 1:31 am

excellente publicacion, seria super bueno que siempre tubieramos esta categoria de topicos en internet y en cualquier medio de difucion.
Gracias por compartir

57 Vince May 4, 2011 at 1:34 am

Great article! A few typos, but it was a great read nonetheless. Interesting how this topic relates to sophistry and the tendency of some people to try to be controlling over others. One small quibble:

“That’s why it’s so important that conversations are cooperative instead of competitive. But many people (and Dr. Derber argues, Americans especially, because of our culture of individual initiative, self-interest, and self-reliance) make conversations into competitions. They want to see if they can get the edge on the other people in the group by turning the attention to themselves as much as possible. This is accomplished through the subtle tactics of conversational narcissism.”

Brett and Kate, I am sure you have tons of “individual initiative, self-interest, and self-reliance”, and I bet you are great conversationalists.

58 AmateurRadio May 4, 2011 at 8:17 am

Conversational narcissism. Interesting. More interesting is the instruction on how to have a good conversation. Nevertheless, two points: 1. If one finds that he is consistently frustrated that “the other guy” (not the same person over and over, but endless strings of folks) is narcissistic in the conversation, it’s time to take a closer look at himself. Very possibly, he’s the one who is so needy (needy being an essential element of clinical narcissism) that if he doesn’t have the floor 24/7, he points the finger of witholding at the other guy; 2. If the difficulty one is having is a lack of conversational skill, the instructions here are especially wonderful. If one is really having a bout with narcissism, however, a la the clinical diagnosis, there are deeper issues (insecurity, primarily) that need to be addressed. However, as Lee points up, “fake it ’til you make it” may actually work at least somewhat, even in the event of genuine narcissism: if one makes the effort to have the good conversation, the sharing conversation (this does not rule out respectable assertiveness), one may discover the joys of real communing, which may help reduce the actual causes of narcissism. It’s a good place to start.

Narcissism seems to be big in the world these days. I’m not sure why, and I’m not convinced that individualism is at the root of it. In fact, I’d be more inclined to say that individualism scorned (let’s call it statism, elitism or authoritarianism) fosters the kind of insecurity that breeds narcissism. But it does take both a narcissism-breeding environment AND an individual who falls into the trap and doesn’t find his way out to make a narcissist. Perhaps learning to commune with others will assist the thus-trapped individual find the motivation to make the “conversational” interest in other into a genuine interest, a true wish to understand his world.

59 Karen Runtz May 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Further factors might be at play for some who unintentionally hog the conversation. Here are two I didn’t see mentioned:
a)Nervousness. Anxiety can make some people talk a lot. It happens with me.
b)An intrinsic personality type driven by “feeling”, such as an INFP (Introverted Feeling with Extraverted Intuition) on the Briggs-Myer scale. Yes, that’s me, too. The first two sentences about this personality type read “As an INFP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit into your personal value system. Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.” Responding emotionally, with stories, is my automatic reaction. This can come across as narcissism. It’s not what I want to happen: I am very happy to have the other person running with the ball and genuinely want to know about and support them; it is just that when the ball is my court, these are the natural tendencies I have to combat along with others that were mentioned in the article and individual comments. I appreciated the illustration of the shift-response. It is something I can take and apply.

60 Jules Jones May 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm

I have a couple of problems with the article.

For one thing, I have noticed more “attractive” people get to hold the floor in conversations.

I don’t think I am ugly, but I have noticed, both males and females who are attractive get hold the attention of their audience.

Secondly, what if you are more intelligent than the people you encounter on a daily basis.

As a gifted child and a past teacher of gifted/talented students in middle school, I notice it is hard to “dumb down” the conversation.

I often find myself hearing things that I already know or am bored with people talking about topics that do not interest me.

I have seen this happen in the school environment with “cool” kids and the “nerds”.


61 John H. May 4, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Interesting article, I do alot of the subtler conversational narcissism at times like saying “uh-huh” “yeah”.

What do you do if you are dating a conversational narcissist? My girlfriend will call me on the phone all the time, and literally talk about herself for 15 minutes straight. I mean I can put the phone on speaker and say “yeah” every 5minutes and it could go on for an hour. I’ve tried to very bluntly shift the conversation away from her, but she’ll go right back to talking about herself literally 30 seconds later. Im not smooth enough to tell her that sometimes I just don’t feel like talking about her without offending her. I’ve talked to her about it before but some habits just die hard.

62 Krishna May 5, 2011 at 7:58 pm

I was so inspired by your article, that I made a comic on the subject:

63 Charles the Brewer May 5, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Very timely post and excellent responses! As a reformed CN, I cringe every time this pattern plays out. My deepest relational desire since age four was to be admired for my knowledge and I never missed a chance to share it. The beginning of my end was being told, “If you’re talking, you ain’t listening. If you ain’t listening, what are you learning?”

64 Steve Truesdale May 5, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Thanks for the great article, taking a closer look at what happens so quickly in conversation. Reminded me of Brian Reagan’s “Me Monster” stand up comic routine – which is about much the same thing.

65 Jonathan H May 6, 2011 at 12:20 am

Re: “what if you are more intelligent than the people you encounter on a daily basis.” in comment #60.

This should be taken as an opportunity for teaching and inspiration, not boredom and condescension. You should use your superior intellect to come up with questions about the subject that help the other person to discover new information and perspectives. Most boring topics can be made at least marginally interesting by looking at them from the perspective of another field of study.

66 Zachary May 6, 2011 at 9:15 am

This Calvin and Hobbes comic seems very applicable.

67 James Z. May 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Re: #60 Jules Jones

First off – no one is ever “just sayin”. . . usually it’s used to make a comment seem less pungent.

Your first issue is a valid point that for the most I agree with. Where I differ is that I believe a more general rule would be that status – actual and perceived – dictates the conversation. Also, since I find people who are talkative and charismatic attractive I reinforce my invalid assumption that attractive people are talkative and charismatic. (I wonder if i’m buying into their narcissism?) This is a drawing a false causal relationship. The halo effect provides some interesting content on attraction.

Your second point, by most measures of intelligence I am “smarter than the average bear.” I think that trying to “‘dumb down’ the conversation” seems to under appreciate that persons capacity and shows lack of subject mastery on my part. It would also be my fault for bringing to the table a subject that cannot be talked about by both parties – this seems to be an elitist version of narcissistic conversation.

Similarly, your comment that you “often find yourself hearing things that you already know or are bored with people talking about topics that do not interest you” hints that your approach may not be the most conducive to egalitarian conversation. Perhaps sometimes conversations should be for others benefit and if someone insists on talking about something you have no interest in – take it is as a chance to learn more about the person who is sharing with you. Verily, we are the summation of our interest and experiences.

68 Elliot May 9, 2011 at 1:12 am

I cannot tell you how helpful this article and the articles similar to it have been. This is definitely something that has been frustrating me about myself and I had no clue that there were answers for these types off situations. I really appreciate all of your articles you have done on conversation. It is really great that there is a resource for someone my age (college) who spends a lot of time talking to people. Now, only if I could pass this article on to my friend who needs it sooooo desperately.

69 jameson May 9, 2011 at 10:56 pm

yay conversation!

70 jameson May 9, 2011 at 10:57 pm

also, james z., quit being a narcissist.

71 Vincent May 12, 2011 at 9:15 am

My biggest problem lays in a lack of adequate topics and that I never find any questions which I can ask the talker to maintain the conversation.

72 Nate May 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I definitely have the problem of being a conversational narcissist. I read a lot and have strong opinions on controversial topics so when I get going it’s hard to stop largely because I feel I have an opportunity to finally say something that I’ve been storing for a while. I usually don’t recognize that I have controlled a conversation for an inordinate amount of time until I’ve already appeared rude. This character flaw is definitely something that I am going to work at improving. Thanks for this articulate post, Brett.

73 Meredith May 22, 2011 at 10:00 am

It really makes a difference to figure out the personality of your conversation partner. If the person is shy or is new to your school/church/workplace, they may appreciate you taking over the conversation for a bit (NOT the whole time!) instead of just asking questions, no matter how keen and empathetic. I’m an introvert, and when I feel like the burden of coming up with topics is all on me, I become uncomfortable. There’s something soothing about listening to another person talk for a while, as long as they’re actively trying to be interesting and aren’t just droning about Pokemon or something. :-)

Reading good novels might help you become a better conversationalist. Everyone you meet is a character in a story; they are all coming from somewhere and going somewhere. I need to get better at that calm curiosity about people.

If you look at Jesus and Socrates, you will notice that they asked a lot of questions. Asking questions can be a method of teaching as well as learning.

74 Lee May 27, 2011 at 8:56 pm

It’s amazing how these self-described ‘intelligent’ commenters miss the point completely. The article was not titled, “How to find conversation worthy of my lofty intelligence.” The people that are most warmly remembered from a social situation are those that can draw a meaningful conversation out of anyone, including the guy who is cleaning the toilet with his arse hanging out of his pants. Give peeps a chance!!

75 George Spider October 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm

It’s easy for most people to get caught up talking aout themselves, but it’s good practice to listen more, talk less. Narcissists are annoying, but you can be entertained and learn by listening to their dribble.

76 Jan November 22, 2012 at 11:49 pm

thank you for the article. I was not taught these things as child at all. Grew up in home with Mother who is “chatty” to the T. It was a challege to leave any store with her, as child I was embarrassed. I thought i was better…. i learned everything she taught me!!! Trying to unlearn the conversational narrcissim is challenging.
Thank you for the article I have a lot to learn, I think it will be a huge change in my life

77 Allen November 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm

This article brings up some great points. One thing it left me curious about, however, was how to weave self disclosure in without “shift responding”. Many resources on conversational skills recommend looking for free information in what your conversation partners say, as well as giving free information of your own when responding to them. Without this disclosure the interactions become much like an interview, with one person never learning about the other. Anyone have any thoughts on how to weave these two ideas together? In some instances I see people’s shift responses as a narcissistic or starved attempt to turn things on them. In others, however, I wonder if people aren’t just trying to show how they can relate to what was said. Perhaps the solution is to disclose frequently, but after doing so always bring it back with a question? Using the example above:

James: I’m thinking about buying a new car.
Rob: Small world! I’ve been browsing around too. It’s been overwhelming with all the options out there. What models have you been looking at?

This response has some disclosure from Rob, which gives James some info for later conversation as well as potentially something to relate to. Yet it still turns things back to James in the end. Is this an example of a support response using good disclosure? Or is this still kind of a shift response? I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts.

78 john December 10, 2012 at 8:28 am

my mom does this and so does my sister, never wrong, but glassboro carole was kinda wrongeed at birth.

79 Ben December 14, 2012 at 12:49 am

Great article and explanation of the underlying symptoms and mechanisms of conversational narcissism. I kinda have a different view about how one can avoid being a narcissistic conversationalist though. Rather than trying to watch ourselves and avoid all the little pitfalls, I wonder if I more holistic solution might not be to just cultivate a genuine interest in the other person? I mean, imagine that the person you’re conversing with is the one you’ve been waiting your whole life to meet and talk with, would your responses not naturally tend to be supportive and encouraging?

80 James December 27, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Nice site. Stumbled on it just recently!

Me and a friend were discussing a mutual friend who is, at times, a serial shift responder!

What has already been mentioned here – and actually acknowledged by said friend – is that anxiety is a major factor.

People with narcissistic tendencies typically see others as merely extensions of themselves, hence the habit of not really listening or paying attention to what others say. This is tied into a severe lack of empathy. You can tell a self-absorbed person that they are being so and the response is sometimes that they’ll laugh it off for the most part and keep right on with the same old behaviour. The classic narcissist – acknowledge but ignore :)

What’s interesting is that I also have friends whereby their shift or support stances tend to swing back and forth between separate conversations: one conversation focuses more on themselves and the next there’s a more supportive conversation focussed more on you. This seems natural or reasonably healthy from what I can see and I don’t mind friends who do this.

81 Rob January 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm

An excellent article indeed. I enjoyed it. Thank you for it. As I read it, I noticed the following paragraph:

“Background acknowledgments: Minimal acknowledgments that you’re listening such as, “Yeah,” “Uh-huh,” “Hmm,” Sure.””

Allan Pease, in this video I highly recommend: Points out, that funnily, this is the way men listen and the way the feel most comfortably being listened to. As he says: most men, most of the time. Personally I can confirm this for myself.

The article does go into detail later on pointing out that: “those all important “Yeah’s” and “Hmmm’s.” Good conversationalists place their background acknowledgments in just the rights spots”, which sets the relevance of these “Yeah’s” and “Hmmm’s” right. Nevertheless I wanted to point this out, so that some readers of this article don’t misinterpret them in the future as weak interest in their story.

82 samir rahaman March 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm

You know most of the people who comented used Conversational Narcissism.

83 Tsung March 10, 2013 at 6:47 am

Thanks Brett and Kate for posting this! How would you say banter between friends (and new acquaintances) fits into the approach that Derber has outlined?

When is banter and tasteful humour most appropriate?

I have not read the book, and maybe Derber covers these questions, but thoughts here, or a post about banter would be amazing.

84 Lance May 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Oh man I’m going to have get my guts up and forward this to a couple people. Awesome article!

85 Eric Bates May 1, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Funny to see how many of these comments go something like “interesting article. I think…” or “Great article. This is how it relates to ME.”

86 Starr May 1, 2013 at 7:34 pm

This is a very thought provoking article. While I’m not the ultimate authority on conversation, I do see how the leading questions could really open up the other person. How much are we missing about other people? Might be a game changer. I find that when I’m given the chance to talk to others about something, I end up conversationally vomiting. Everything tends to come out whether they want it to or not. Good article.

87 David May 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm

@Eric: Amusing, but not really applicable. Comments on a blog post are not (typically) a conversation.

88 Davis Nguyen June 11, 2013 at 9:44 am

Thanks another great article Brett and Kate. You echoed perfectly the idea that people are most interested in themselves and those who know this can use it to form meaningful relationships.

It is similar to how Carnegie described as “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

89 jimmy June 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Try this with a friend. Sit down have a conversation and have the person to let you know how many times you say I,me or I’m. For best results have more than one friend. Record the conversation.

90 Joelle July 14, 2013 at 4:03 am

How might one spread this info to the masses? A TON OF WOMEN SHOULD READ THIS……

a woman

91 Austin July 17, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Just a fantastic article.

I’m currently hooked on all forms of self-improvement; this site has been invaluable.

92 Cindy August 5, 2013 at 4:50 pm

What a great article. Does anybody know if the book gives strategies for dealing with “serial shift responders” and/or with people who ramble on very densely (as in words densely packed together) and at length without even leaving space for the “mmm hmm” responses?

93 Igor August 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm

One thing I consider worth mentioning is special “narcissm +20″ modifier that many people get while chatting using one’s mother tongue with a non-native speaker of that language.

(I’m Polish) I would rate my English 4/5, I make ocassional mistakes, sometimes I lack proper vocabulary, but overall I’m pretty damn good at it. Yet frequently, especially while chatting with English natives, when I don’t know the proper term for a thing or situation and try to describe what I mean using different words I hear something like:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

and then the interlocutor takes over. And since I was just half-way in my 20-words-instead-of-the-one-I-was-missing workaround I just *know* he/she didn’t realy get it and did not even bother to try, being on a mission to impress me with their inisghts on everything.

So hear me: even if I can’t form a proper conditional, or forget to use “a” or “the” every now and then, this does not necessarily mean that I don’t have anything interesting to say. I can actually be smarter and more experienced than you are.

p.s. and yes, it’s difficult. It happens to me as well when some non-native speaks Polish. So, people, just try to control that, ok?

94 Kirsten September 25, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Great article. I wish more people understood how important a two-way conversation is to a relationship. I’m often in the role of good listener/drawing out the other person and it’s really staring to bother me that few, if any questions are asked of me. Very draining. BTW, I’m a 58 yr old female.

95 Michael October 2, 2013 at 6:41 am

@ Kirsten, others…

Maybe it’s a two way street and some ppl need for conversational narcissism, or at least they need to change their environment and get away from people who are apparently narcissistic….
Eg Someone who generally is supportive, interested in pp etc,l if surrounded by narcissists can be mentally drained by being around them, hearing them constantly project, talk about themselves, say whatever thought comes into their head, that their back hurts or something that happened at work today…
I live with such a person at the moment and they tend to dominate conversation in the environment broadly. If they were not around I think I could express myself more and feel a lot more well at those times…

Intersting article, thanks

96 Sienna October 6, 2013 at 8:22 am

I keep coming back to read this. I think this is the most helpful article on the art of conversation. It seems to be the only one that talks about “shift-response” vs “support-response” and mentions passive conversational narcissism. That conversation is a cooperative effort is what people should understand.

@ Kirsten

I understand how you feel. I have a friend who loves to talk about herself and I am usually relegated to the role of a listener. At first, I was genuinely interested in her stories and I would ask her questions and make supportive comments. But whenever I start to tell her something about myself, she’d never ask questions and act like she’s not that interested at all.

I think most of us are familiar with the conversation hoggers (and I try my best not to be one) but the passive conversational narcissists are just as or even more annoying.

97 Paul Smithberger November 5, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Thanks for the article. I like the explanation of “shift-response.” I was struggling to see what was happening with someone I know and why it always seems that there really is no conversation per se but rather every time I start talking it’s an immediate effort to redirect the conversation back to them.

Thing is this person is an important person in my life, so I don’t know if I can ever change it. I just have to accept that is how they are.

98 Max November 8, 2013 at 3:21 am

Oooh! I love this kind of articles-they put the things that I feel about other people(mainly the feelings of annoyance lol) into words and logical structures, which in turn demonstrate the recurring patterns. Gives one a great feeling of psychological closure, I guess!

I mean, sure-I totally admit my guilt of being a narcissist, but I actually do try to catch and stop myself in the process. And there’s one interesting thing I’ve noticed-even if you think that the people around you are boring or you feel that you’re too timid(which I can definitely say about myself-lol looks like I’ve already used way too much of “I”s, “Me”s and “Mine”s :)) to ask them a lot of questions-try to get over yourself and try it: you may never have experienced it in your life, but you’ll instantly notice that you begin to get much more pleasure out of a conversation, as opposed to the never ending “attention whoring marathon”! :) You’ll discover for yourself that those are two completely different activities altogether!

I’ve also read in an e-book published by Chase Amante-a pickup blogger that I follow, who’s also an interesting read on the topics of being a good conversationalist, style and what not-that there are two different styles of conversation: male and female. In a nutshell, the male style is more applicable to the workplace, a scientific conference or just an all male social gathering, where people(yes, women, especially businesswomen, have to adhere to this rule-”When in Rome”) take turns in delivering information and the style they speak in is dry, concise and “to the point”, whereas the female style mostly centers around RELATING to the feelings and experiences of the speaker and his or her listeners alike. The latter style is dedicated to non-formal occasions, parties, clubs etc. and especially when you see a group of girls-they’ll will definitely be using this conversational style. Quite an interesting perspective on things!

99 Alex November 24, 2013 at 12:46 am

I have one friend who’s the exact opposite of this – he’ll rarely talk about himself before turning the conversation back to me. I think he’s genuinely interested in what I’m doing, but I’d like to hear about what he’s up to as well. Anybody deal with this situation before? Oh, and I’ll add that it pretty much doesn’t matter what questions I ask – I’ve known him for 10 years and tried tons of stuff.

100 Dane November 25, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I’m surprised nobody mentioned the Toby Keith song I Wanna talk about me. That is all.

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