Are You a Selfish Conversationalist?

One type of person that I struggle to show tolerance and patience towards is a selfish conversationalist. By selfish conversationalist, I mean someone who doesn’t understand about give-and-take in a conversation and only talks about themselves. Somebody who doesn’t pick up on body language or social cues from other people, or, worse, ignores them. Someone who has little to no self-awareness about how they’re coming off to others.

For the receiver, this can feel like an attack, like someone is talking at you instead of with you. For introverts like myself, the encounter can be enough to sap all your remaining energy for the day. It can be extremely hard to keep up the facade of interest when you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings but are feeling trapped at the same time. Although I love connecting deeply with another person, interacting with a selfish conversationalist makes me absolutely miserable. I feel used and abused. I feel entirely uninterested in further discussion with the individual and can only concentrate on how I can escape the situation.

For those selfish conversationalists who recognize themselves in this post and who would like to change, I have some helpful tips on how to engage in a healthy conversation with another person and truly connect with them. When you are speaking with another person, make sure to ask them about themselves instead of only talking about yourselves. Honor their body language. Are they looking or turning away from you, showing disinterest, mumbling replies? Perhaps they are not ready to receive what you are saying. Is what you’re speaking about something that interests the other person, or is it simply cathartic for you to be speaking about it? Using other people as unwilling therapists is inappropriate and selfish. Watch the speed of your speech. Rapid speech is hard to follow and uncomfortable to listen to. Make sure you leave out unnecessary details. Make sure to match their energy and mood. If they are feeling down, don’t talk energetically or tell a humorous story. If they are clearly busy or preoccupied, it’s probably not the time to start telling them a story at all. Realize that over-sharing and talking excessively can act as a defense mechanism. People who do this are often suffering with anxiety and might benefit from seeking therapy. Uncontrollable pressured speech can be a sign of another mental disorder, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Also realize that people are most interested in those who show interest in them, first. So ask others questions (without making them feel like they’re being grilled), and they’ll be more interested in what you have to say.

Are there any selfish conversationalists or reformed ones who see themselves in this post? Is there anybody reading this who has been on the receiving end and know what it feels like?

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