Narcissistic Behavior and the Lost Art of Conversation
Posted on November 28, 2010 by Joseph Burgo
[NOTE: Narcissism and narcissistic behavior are a primary focus of this website; all posts on that subject can be found under the heading Shame/Narcissism in the category menu to the right. If you'd rather read a more clinical discussion of narcissistic behavior, you might prefer this post on narcissistic personality disorder, or this one on the relationship between narcissism and self-esteem. If you want to learn more about the basic signs and symptoms of NPD and how to recognize them, click here. More recently, I've also written about aspects of normal or everyday narcissism that apply to most of us.]
Most people are narcissistic.
I’m not using that word in the clinical diagnostic way, or in the everyday sense of vain or conceited. What I mean is that most people are almost exclusively focused upon themselves, their personal interests and their own emotional needs for attention. A certain amount of preoccupation with oneself is normal and healthy; it becomes a problem when you’re not truly interested in other people or ideas and only want to talk about yourself.
Here’s a fairly common experience for me: I’m at a party or social gathering, speaking to someone I’ve just met, or an acquaintance I haven’t seen in a long while. I’m asking questions, inquiring about the person’s background or catching up since we last met. Fifteen, twenty minutes pass … we’re still talking about the other person. I get the feeling that I could be anyone; I’m just a receptacle, a mirror or an audience. I provide needed attention to the other person; he or she has no interest in getting to know the man who’s listening.
As a therapist (by temperament as well as profession), I’m a good listener and adept at drawing people out. As a student of human nature, I’m genuinely curious and, for the most part, fascinated by the variety of people I meet. Sometimes I feel lonely, though. I used to be surprised and disappointed that the person I’d just met didn’t want to get to know me. Now I expect a lot less. Lack of genuine interest in others -- that’s the hallmark of narcissistic behavior and narcissistic people.
Even with friends, conversation tends to mean waiting your turn to launch into your own story, waiting for the gap or the conversational trigger that will make the transition over to you seem more or less natural. With some truly narcissistic people, the transition seems forced -- they’ll use any excuse to change the subject. It can even seem funny if you look at it from the right point of view, although painful when you recognize the reasons for that kind of behavior. For those individuals, their families were so deficient and the expected kind of parental attention so lacking that there’s an unquenchable need to have other people listen and make them feel significant. In this way, narcissistic needs go hand-in-hand with many other psychological problems; getting attention is often felt to be an antidote to the basic shame that’s the residue of emotional damage.
If you care to read more of the article please see the link below.
Here is a link that might be useful: after psychotherapy narcissistic people