Do you know someone who always talks about themselves? They never let others speak and hog the spotlight in every conversation? These types of people are known as a conversational narcissist and can be hard to deal with.
What is a conversational narcissist?
Conversational narcissism refers to the trait of making every conversation about yourself. A decent conversation involves balance with both people adding their views and opinions and expressing themselves equally. However, when you are talking to a conversational narcissist, the entire focus of the conversation will revolve around them. They are so habituated with this behavior that they are often unaware of it or may simply don’t care. Author and therapist Wendy Behary, LCSW explains “Conversational narcissists don’t necessarily meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). They’re usually somewhere on the spectrum, though.”
In his book The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Ego in Everyday Life, American sociologist and author Charles Derber explains that these individuals have a strong tendency to dominate conversations as they want to focus on themselves. Not only are they unable to stop talking, they also need too much attention and want to tell others how amazing they are. On the other hand, they might also talk about their problems and may nag for the entire length of the conversation. Dr. Derber writes that conversational narcissism is “the key manifestation of attention-getting psychology in America,” and that it occurs mostly in “informal conversations among friends, family, and co-workers.”
A conversational narcissist may steal the spotlight during a conversation in the following ways:
- They will talk before others to take charge of the conversation, no matter what the topic or subject is
- They will constantly keep talking about themselves and make sure you don’t get any chance to squeeze in a word
- They will repeatedly interrupt other speakers and change the subject to themselves
- They will never react, validate or support your opinions so that you stop speaking, unless you talk about them
They think they are the center of the world
In the beginning, conversational narcissists often appear very sociable and friendly individuals with charming personalities and good conversation skills. They are open to sharing about themselves and are easy to know. Their willingness to discuss their personal life may make you think that they will be willing to listen to you as well. However, as you get to know them better, you realize they ONLY talk about themselves all the time. They are almost insensitive to your needs. No matter what the topic is, they will always control the conversation and make it about themselves. They never seem to shut up.
This can leave you feeling drained as it was more of a competition for attention than a real conversation among two people. “Many people make conversations into competitions,” write authors Brett & Kate McKay of Art of Manliness. They add that such people “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.” Due to their narcissistic personalities, these egocentric individuals believe that everything revolves around them. They are not bothered about annoying or boring other people as long as they can talk about themselves. And if you dare to change the subject or tell them directly about their behavior, they will put the blame on you for being an egocentric narcissist.
But all of us talk about ourselves
Although narcissism can be one of the major reasons for talking about your own self all the time, there may be some other simpler reasons as well. As we are social beings, connecting personally with others by sharing the forms of our experience an integral part of the human experience. According to Scientific American, most of us tend to talk about ourselves for almost 60% of conversations on average. This can rise up to 80% when we communicate on social media. But why? Why do we love talking about ourselves, if we are not narcissistic? Because talking about self makes us feel better. “Simply put, self-disclosure is gratifying. It gives us a neurological buzz,” writes Samantha Boardman M.D., founder of Positive Prescription.