Narcissistic People & the Lost Art of Conversation

This is so apropo given the upcoming holiday conversations 😉
by Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

Most people are narcissistic.

I’m not using that word in the clinical diagnosistic way, nor 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 what I mean when I say I find most people to be narcissistic.

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.


With the holidays upon us, where parties and family gatherings are on the calendar, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to watch yourself and others at work. Is the conversation of the type I described? Are family and friends just waiting for their own turn to be the center of attention? Does one person tend to dominate? How about you? Do you ask questions? Do you take an interest in other people?

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One response

  1. Reblogged this on madinorton and commented:
    Reading this article was very interesting to me. It makes since that people have become so much more narcissistic in recent years and I think modern technology and media could be to blame. With so many social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. people are able to upload pictures, thoughts, virtually anything they want and others are able to “like” or “retweet” or whatever that site allows. Any kind of “like” of a picture of yourself would no doubt be a confidence booster. Always uploading pictures looking for more likes and always trying to get people interested in you would eventually take a psychological toll on your, in my opinion. Always trying to impress other people, trying to get more “likes” than the next photo, almost trying to put yourself on a pedestal above others by being the prettiest or having the most likes on a picture. In past times media did not have near the effect as it does today because we couldn’t put ourselves in everyone elses business at the tips of your fingers so I feel like you would be less likely to care what others think of you.

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