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Unknowingly Silencing Others – Are You A Conversational Narcissist?

Written by: Tatiane Garcia, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Tatiane Garcia

Have you ever noticed a friend who, despite giving you sporadic moments of attention, primarily uses your presence as an opportunity to unload their thoughts and feelings without truly listening to yours? Indeed, we've all experienced the one-sided nature of such "friendships."

Photo of two ladies drinking coffee.

Growing up in a family of women, I was always fascinated by our unique social skills. However, none of us possessed the necessary skills to truly listen to one another. Taking into account factors such as our culture, environment, age, beliefs, and ambitions, I often listened to my sister's narrative with a certain bias. I sometimes disagreed with their wrong or incorrect views, comparing my struggles to theirs without realizing that the conversation was about them, not me.

When we find ourselves in the opposite position, needing a secure space to express ourselves, we quickly realize our mistake in speaking. Often, we feel stifled, misunderstood, embarrassed or even smaller, and the conversation ends up revolving around the other person. The sensation of being ignored induces an immediate feeling of sadness and discouragement.

I am nearly certain that the narcissist's conversational intent was not to make you feel this way. They may have shown some empathy in listening to you, but they were unable to fully understand what you truly needed to convey.

“Conversational narcissists are dismissive of the significance of others in our interactions.”

The term "conversational narcissist" was coined by sociologist Charles Derber, who describes the tendency of individuals to consistently dominate conversations and steer them back to themselves, often failing to truly listen to others.

A "narcissist of conversation" refers to someone who, during a conversation, tends to focus predominantly on themselves, their thoughts, and their feelings. This person may show limited interest in others' perspectives, often steering discussions back to their own experiences or opinions. This behavior can be characterized by a lack of genuine listening skills and an inclination to dominate the conversation, making it challenging for others to express themselves or feel heard. It's a metaphorical term derived from the traits associated with narcissistic behavior, where self-centeredness and a lack of empathy are prominent.

Listening is a sophisticated and invaluable interpersonal skill. It's not easy to cultivate this skill consistently throughout one's life. This soft skill is linked to a cluster of abilities that we primarily develop in our formative years. Empathy, patience, and collaboration are three skills that children evolve while engaging with others but may, unfortunately, grow up with these abilities somewhat distorted.

The ability to dismiss the significance of others is a complex interpersonal dynamic that often leads to a breakdown in meaningful connections. When someone consistently prioritizes their own thoughts, emotions, and experiences over those of others, it creates an imbalance in the give-and-take essential for healthy communication.

In the realm of friendships, for instance, the person wielding this ability may provide fleeting moments of attention but, regrettably, utilizes these opportunities to redirect the focus back to themselves. This pattern can leave friends feeling undervalued, stifled, and ultimately discouraged from sharing their own thoughts and experiences.

In familial relationships, dismissing the significance of others can contribute to a sense of isolation and alienation. When family members are unable to express themselves freely, it hampers the growth of mutual understanding and empathy that is essential for sustaining healthy bonds.

In professional environments, where effective communication is paramount, a pervasive disregard for the significance of others can hinder collaboration, innovation, and the overall success of a team. It seems like there's always someone who's determined to outdo you – working harder, knowing more, and constantly seeking to prove their superiority. This relentless need to broadcast their achievements, even if their only advantage is their ability to brag, can be quite discouraging. Leaders who dominate conversations can erode trust and limit creativity.

Addressing this behavior requires both self-awareness and a commitment to nurturing genuine connections. It involves actively listening to others, acknowledging their perspectives, and recognizing that every individual brings a unique and valuable contribution to the conversation.

I believe that not everyone is built to listen. Let alone with empathy, and it is okay to be that way. However, empathy goes beyond listening. Kind words will do you when you are not available to listen.

A vast array of professionals stand ready to lend a listening ear and offer support. Some extend beyond mere listening, providing guidance to navigate your thoughts and emotions. These professionals create a safe space, ensuring confidentiality and empowerment for you.

I am fortunate to have a close circle of friends who I can turn to for different types of support, from financial advice and relationship guidance to work-related issues. Each friend has a unique ability to listen empathetically and provide guidance without judgment. While I cherish these friendships, I also maintain regular therapy sessions and occasionally engage with a coach and mentor for additional support.

Here are three signs that you might have some conversational narcissist tendencies

  1. You always have a "better" story. Whatever someone else shares, you always have a more impressive or exciting story to top it.

  2. You try to relate their story to your life. You wait for the perfect opportunity to interject with a story of your own, effectively hijacking the conversation.

  3. You think other people are boring. The truth is, you don't give them a chance to shine. If you consistently leave conversations feeling underwhelmed by others, it might be because you didn't allow them to fully express themselves.

My main message here is that acknowledging the significance of others in our interactions weaves threads of empathy, inclusivity, and harmony. We should all generously extend to others the attention and consideration we desire for ourselves. This is mutual respect, we not only create a more beautiful social tapestry but also nurture the bonds that give life its profound richness and meaning.

Throughout my life's journey, I ventured into coaching after embarking on a learning curve with a coaching professional, seeking guidance to enhance my communication skills, which I believed were already clear and coherent. Personal Coaching can help you to create ways of communication safeguarding you from the pitfalls of conversational narcissism.

The next time your partner, friend, or neighbor seeks your ear, lend them your undivided attention. Often, the most profound healing comes from simply being heard. Sometimes, words are the balm that soothes the soul, without the need for your input. Your opinion may be valuable, but first, let them express themselves fully. If you truly want to support someone, simply listen!

I hope you found this article engaging and informative.

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Tatiane Garcia Brainz Magazine

Tatiane Garcia, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Tatiane is a Certified Personal, Leadership, and Executive Coach with a wealth of experience spanning two continents. With over two decades of invaluable career insights in business management, she has seamlessly transitioned into a trusted Coach and Mentor. She is a visionary in personal development and the cultivation of meaningful relationships. Tatiane is unwaveringly committed to assisting individuals in broadening their perspectives, leading them to lives characterized by strength and limitless possibilities. Her journey of continuous personal growth has inspired others to embrace their unique experiences, cultivating essential soft skills and self-leadership.



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