Life is short, leisure time limited and, crucially, the f**ks you have left to give are dwindling. So why are we tolerating conversational narcissism?
While you might not know the term, I bet you’re familiar with the concept: that person who can only talk about themselves and somehow - rather cleverly, it has to be said - manages to steer the conversation back to their own life.
Oh yes, they ask a smattering of questions about you along the way, but if anything, that’s the perfect segue back to them.
Side note: Here are the horoscopes and self-care. Post continues below.
You absolutely know one. Maybe you *are* one. Maybe we all are some days. And though I’ve only noticed the phenomenon in the last few years (s**t, was I one?), they’ve surely always been there.
Off the top of my head, I can count at least six people who fall into this category. Which seems like a lot when they are acquaintances I see regularly, even if it’s only at school pick up or on the soccer field.
And before you accuse me of not knowing how to have a conversation, yes, I realise people bring up examples of their own lives to connect, share and empathise with you. I do know this.
I also know that when it becomes a “shift” response (spinning the chat back to them) instead of a “support” response (keeping the focus on the speaker and the topic about which they are talking), you’re likely dealing with a conversational narcissist.
Curious, I started Googling about a year ago. And omg, there were articles that spoke to me (and provided my shift and support terminology).
Like finally realising why you’re feeling so irritable (PMS) or why the whole family is annoying you (loud eating), understanding this was a ‘thing’ that did indeed exist made it way easier to deal with.
Oh yeah, and asking a mutual friend (three hours into a 12 hour lunch) whether she had also observed the behaviour (she had and oh, the relief to realise someone I loved and respected had noticed - and was equally floored by it - was immense).
“The complete lack of awareness is astounding,” she declared recently. “I hate going into the office because it’s full of them!”
The (rather awkward) thing is, one of my longest-standing friends happens to be one.
We haven’t lived in the same city for quite some time, but we talk every few months and have managed a number of catch ups in the past 10 years. She is kind, thoughtful and well-meaning. But I have to say, also lacks an ability to read social cues.
She considers herself enlightened in the art of good conversation and life in general, so is this ironic or simply human nature? To me, it’s puzzling.