Conversations and communication make up a big part of all relationships.
We all know that.
But do we know how to have an emotionally healthy communication pattern with others? Do we know how to spot unhealthy communication patterns? (Hint: there are lots).
We all communicate in different ways with various individuals, due to the differing dynamics we share.
Overtime, each relationship will develop a pattern of communication.
The problem with patterns is that a lot of them have glaring red or amber flags. And these build up over time, and are mostly allowed to fester with either party refusing to address them.
The longer the relationship, the more deeply-rooted these ‘problematic’ patterns can be as people settle into a comfortable status quo-type situation and are unwilling to do anything to change it.
I hope to make this an ongoing series, where I talk about the various types of challenging relationships and what you can do about them. In this post, I talk about how having someone in your life who has a self-centred pattern of communication can affect you, and how not having the right boundaries could leave you feeling very unimportant, unhappy and even used.
All talk, no ears
I’m sure you’ve been in some conversations/friendships where you are
- Confiding in someone/telling them about your day only to have them interrupt you about their day?
- Seeking some solace in them but only to have them tell you they/their sister/friend/mother has experienced the same thing and go on to talk about those experiences, turning the conversation back to them?
The examples above indicate conversations that are:
- One-sided, one party talking at the other person
- Lack of listening.
- Well, aren’t even conversations! But are more like monologues.
They may leave you feeling a mix of the following: irritated, unheard/not listened to, unimportant, unhappy and perhaps downright angry.
If this carries on too long, resentment will start to build.
Conversations involve 2 people or more discussing a topic and participating/listening in equal amounts.
But conversational narcissists love dominating the conversation for whatever reason.
It is a pattern of talking where the narcissist always manages to find a way to shift the conversation back to them.
Anything that is characterised by one party doing way much more talking than the other, especially at the expanse of the other party’s “airtime” might spell trouble ahead in the relationship.
Why do some people do this?
There are some people who genuinely think that whatever they say is extremely important and needs to be heard. That it’s more important/sounds smarter/better/insert adjective than whatever anyone else has to say.
They prize their thoughts and expressions above others and simply don’t really care to hear what others think.
Attention-seeking/Fear of not being heard
Interestingly, some conversational narcissists or dominant conversationalist types might have grown up in an environment which made them feel unheard or uncared for, and might not have gotten the attention they wanted.
This fear and lack of attention might have manifested in a communication pattern of talking loudly, talking constantly or talking over others.
They might have learnt, along the way, that doing this will make others pay attention to them or listen to them (the end-reward). Each time they do this, they get rewarded and this forms a behaviour pattern that carries into adulthood.
This sort of behaviour might stem from some insecurity and the constant fear their voice might be drowned out.
Impatient, poor listeners
One characteristic trait of these people is that unfortunately, they make rather poor listeners.
Whilst the other person is talking, they are already thinking of what they would like to say next. And some just blurt it out, interrupting the other mid-conversation.
No malice intended though.
They might have grown up in an environment where everyone is just talking over everybody else and where listening is not really impressed upon them or where there is a lack of role models to look up to.
The unfortunate thing is many are unaware they are such poor listeners, and you might have to make it known to them.
Discomfort with emotions
People who feel uncomfortable with emotional expressions may choose to gloss over emotions that arise in conversations. They have no idea how to deal with them.
So when it does come up, they brush it off, laugh it off, pretend they didn’t hear, say something quite flippant or draw it back to familiar topics (themselves).
If you do have a habit of doing this, you probably could ask yourself what is it about someone else’s emotional expressions that make you uncomfortable? Are you also emotionally unexpressive yourself? If so, why?
When you begin to confide in them, you may notice that these individuals tend to completely gloss over the emotional aspects of the conversation and hop right into finding solutions.
The intentions are usually good, but it ends up making the other party feel unheard and frustrated. Sometimes all people are looking for is emotional validation, not solutions.
Validation makes us feel heard and that our emotions are important and valued.
How do you deal with them?
Check your feels
How do u feel after conversing with them? Drained? Happy? Ignored? Your emotions are always an indicator of what is going on.
Not all friendships, relationships or conversations are perfectly balanced. But if feeling ignored or unheard is a mainstay or main pattern in your relationship, pay close attention to it.
Talking to them about it
Some people truly do not know that they are conversational narcissists! They might have gone through life without anyone telling them this.
Talk to them about it. Gently and not in a confrontational way. Focus on the behaviour and how it makes you feel, ie, “Sometimes I feel ignored when we talk and I’m interrupted constantly”. Instead of making it personal, ie, “You are a really bad listener”.
But do be aware that this method does not work on everyone. Sometimes addressing aspects of a person’s behaviour makes them more defensive. Or they might simply not want to change. If that were the case:
Draw your boundaries
When I had a friend like this, I just limited contact and communication. The friendship seemed to feed off my responses to their texts. Hanging out in person was also painful.
This communication pattern will continue if you let it. Remember, we all have a choice in who we want to hang out with.
If we are in a situation with people we are forced to interact with (ie: colleagues), some ways of handling them include:
- Keeping the conversation short and focused.
- Telling them gently you are busy and you’ll have to chat another time
- Not asking questions and keeping communication closed.
Have ‘closed’ conversations
Number 3 is especially useful. These people thrive off your questions and ‘open patterns of communication’.
Open communication is where you both freely elaborating on whatever you are saying (‘tell me more’ instead of ‘yes or no?’), or asking questions. The more you ask, the more it gives them the chance to talk and interrupt.
Don’t ask questions, just keep it brief and limited.
If you do have to ask anything, frame your questions in a manner which is close-ended (allows for brief, yes/no responses) instead of a more open manner that allows them to elaborate.
Ask yourself this question – Are you hanging around people who never allow you to get a word in or could you be someone that does that to other people?
Part of living a life aligned to our own values is about being in spaces and around people that allow us to be ourselves. When we are stuck in situations or with people who are not allowing you to get a word in, it means you are not being heard, your needs are also probably not being met. Ask yourself – is this the type of dynamic you want to see in your friendships? And if you don’t, why are you still lingering around them?
The path to your dream life, or the sort of line that is aligned to your Highest Self involves constantly evaluating your friendships, the people you mingle with and the spaces that you move in. Are they allowing you to grow into a better version of yourself or are they taking energy away from you?
Ahhh!! This resonates so much with me. Love your ‘closed’ conversations idea. I feel kind of guilty when I know I’m being less inquisitive than usual to anyone, but I definitely want to get better at being selective about this!
Glad it helped 🙂 I think we all do that from time to time, but getting conscious about our communication patterns certainly helps reduce the frequency
I just googled why do I talk so much and sometimes over people and it brought me here. Thank you for this article. I feel like growing up being the youngest child and youngest cousin and often youngest friend… I never was heard or drowned out and now made a habit of over talking and/or talking over. That also might have developed a narcissistic trait over time. Im obviously more self aware and I’m here trying to do something preemptively before I feel I make someone feel this way. What triggered my own red flag was how I felt after. I felt they had a not so good convo while I felt it was good. But that made it feel off. So now I’m here recognizing it’s me so now what do I do to stop this. Recondition my communication skills. I don’t want to make anyone feel ignored or bad.
Try bringing this up to someone who does this… Sigh…
LOL. I tried repeatedly to no avail. She thought she needed to speak “more” instead. I gave up and…wrote this article instead XD
feeling ignored sucks, but i suppose we have more control over it than i had thought before reading about conversational narcissists! ty <3
Hey love, glad it helped! Yes, there are loads of them around actually. Lots of them feel lonely and unheard, so when they find someone who listens to them, unfortunately they go to the other extreme with the talking. We do have control over the situation yes, best thing to do sometimes would be just to distance yourself from them.
truthfully, what works best for me is to listen to everyone else, ask them all about what they are talking about….because if i say something, anything, they talk over me, it’s just the way it is….will continue doing my thing, listen (but not as much) and be compassionate to old people!!!
Hey Valerie 🙂 That works if you are AYE OK listening to people. I’ve found that it doesn’t work in the long run because it puts you into this role of “Listener”, and once people see you as that, it can be hard to break out off, which then forms that problem you speak of, when you talk, they talk over you. Also alot of time, it’s about being comfortable asserting yourself in a group conversation. That’d take some work if you’ve had the habit of silencing yourself for a long time. I used to be like you and one tip that a mentor shared with me that I found has worked in many similar situations is to build on someone else’s point. When someone says something that piques your interest, take it from there and explain things from your own pov. Slowly (but surely) you will start to have confidence in group conversations and get used to hearing your own voice. All the best 🙂
Sara, you hit the nail SO on the head when you said, “It’s about being comfortable asserting yourself in a group conversation. That’d take some work if you’ve had the habit of silencing yourself for a long time.” Man did THAT resonate something FIERCE in me!!! Like Valerie, I’ve adopted the same mind set that she said she has, and that is succumbing to the fact that I’ll forever play the role of the listener and the endless friendly inquisitor.
I slowly stopped interjecting myself into conversations around 10 years ago – I kept finding that nearly every time I’d try to speak about something, I’d either get cut off, or people would become seemingly bored with whatever my input was. (They’d simply be just waiting for me to shut up so they could go on talking…) It all just became too much of a fight to be heard in group conversations.
I think on a subconscious level – I began to realize that when the topics of conversations were centered around those participating in the conversations, that I wouldn’t have to fight so hard to to be allowed in.
Now that I’m in my forties, I’m trying to shift myself out of that mindset, but you were so right when you mentioned the amount of effort it takes when you’ve silenced yourself for a long time.
I really like the suggestion that you gave about expounding on certain points of views that someone in the conversation has offered. In my opinion, that is next level genius and I’m excited to start giving that a try!
Im very exhausted and all i seem to do is the wrong thing its like i ask too much of others for them to either not interrupt me or to actually include me in anything but themselves all the time. I dont have many friends on top of that hardly any that even bother to reply or hang out unless it is their suggestion on their schedule. People less and less fail to even ask how you are or what youve been up too. Im 27 and im just exhausted by the limited socialising everyone doesnt even do anymore. Its all about everyone else and everyone else has to have some sort of power over others and insert their dramas onto others. What a sad sorry state society is in. I really enjoyed this article and it is the type of article that really gives something worth thinking about instead of mindless reading and scrolling that everyone is doing nowadays. Sometimes i wonder if theres any point to well having much of a scoial life at all. These days you have to scroll through dozens of similar photos with similar expressions of the same people you saw them in photos a week ago and then another week they post exactly similar photos of themselves, saying exactly what theyre doing who theyre with and where they are. I believe the reason why people are such poor conversationalists and listening skills diminish is because society is indoctrinated into being full of themselves and day by day people are only going to be more concieted and self centred the more they shove social media everywhere the less genuine face to face or one to one we are gong to get sounds depressing but isnt it obvious yet? The worlds mad. Absolutely maddening how people need their phones in case the person theyre talking too is too boring for them so they use their digital glass screens as a brief momentary stimuli because having to draw attention away from themselves takes too much effort when they can just mindlessly scroll while they pretend to listen or barely even nod to show they are. Dare to tell them otherwise they deny doing any of it.
Man, did you hit the nail on the HEAD, Jennifer!!!!! I was practically fist pounding on my desk, agreeing with every single word you said. It has an incredibly exhausting impact that these convo narc’s tend to have on those who are capable of being conversationally fluid. I’m a bit older that you (42) and I’ve reached the point of finding these people to be so abhorrently arrogant and obnoxiously self centered that it’s flat out intolerable for me to even be around them. I especially liked what you said at the end of your post, “dare to tell them otherwise they deny doing any of it.”
The lack of self awareness (not to mention self reproach) is running inexcusably rampant in today’s society… Social media has definitely done a bang up job helping to create this new social norm we have – the amount of egocentric self-importance people have in their attitudes today is just off the charts concerning.
I have no clue what it’s going to take in order to get things anywhere near close to what they once were – but it sure is refreshing to see posts like yours, knowing that I’m not the only one who sees this madness for what it is.
What can help is, if you can, pursuing you’re own hobbies. This way you’ll make new connections with people with common interests. So, join a group, book club, cooking club, language club, dance club, crochet club whatever you’re into or would like to be into. Otherwise, however much you love people, you can’t change them, only yourself,and if you carry on expecting them to change, it is like flogging a dead horse. But by meeting new people with a common hobby you have the chance to begin again in relationships yourself, to modify your own behaviour slightly, and also the chance to make different connections with people who will make you feel more fulfilled.
Oh girlll!! Spot on! I read a lot of articles, but this one is a spot on! It perfectly describes the person I need to do business with. I came up with these tips during practice and mistakes hehe. But it came down to the same thing you have written. Brilliant! <3
Very interesting to read. My partner of 6 years is such a lovely person other than hes constant loud talking interrupts me get louder while doing it and a extremely poor listener gets me down being not heard and sometimes really angry. He also when im telliing something and just want him to listen goes off telling me what he would do ect its so frustrating. Trying to watch a film is almost impossible because he talks all the way through with pointless comments i normally give up because i loose whats been said. Ive told him about all this but doesnt seem to change makes me question our relationship as it drives me potty.
I’m sick of people who just babble one-sidedly. After reading this article, I realized that it is not my fault and I will try to avoid these people at all costs, because I no longer want to waste energy on them. I treat everyone decently, patiently listen to what others want to talk about, ask follow-up questions, perceive and concentrate on the speech. But 90 % of people I know don’t do anything like that, they just babble selfishly, self-absorbed. I will not miss them.