Have you ever talked to someone who, every time you shared something, turned the conversation around to make it all about them?
You may have encountered a “conversational narcissist.”
This term, coined by sociologist Charles Derber, describes a person who often dominates a conversation, caring little for the viewpoints of others.
Engaging in conversation may reflect inflated self-esteem or even deep-rooted insecurities, and being on the other end can be exhausting.
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As a Harvard-trained behavioral scientist, this is exactly how I recognize and react to an overly narcissistic person:
1. They don’t ask you questions.
You ask someone a question and they happily dive into a conversation about whatever is happening in their life. When they finish, instead of responding, they move on to a new topic.
How to respond: Gently steer the conversation toward a more balanced dialogue. Use a technique called “conversational threading” to pick up keywords or topics they mentioned and incorporate them into your response.
For example, “This sounds like an action-packed weekend. I had a similar weekend…” This creates a natural segue for you to re-enter the conversation.
2. They are unaware of their excessive talking.
You’re talking to someone who is so passionate about what he’s saying that he doesn’t even stop to gauge your reaction. You end up feeling like a convenient audience member for his latest monologue.
How to respond: Use tactful lines, like, “I have some thoughts on this too,” or, “I’d love to share some of my experiences.” This is an assertive but polite way of moving the conversation toward a more mutual exchange.
If that doesn’t work, have an exit strategy. It could be a pre-arranged phone call or a meeting you have to go to to easily condense the conversation.
3. They always do it in their own interest.
As soon as the conversation moves away from them, they find a way to redirect it. For example, you share your excitement about an upcoming vacation in Spain, but without fail, they mention a trip to Italy three years ago.
How to respond: You can use the “I need advice” technique, which involves asking direct questions and prompting the other person to stay on topic.
For example, “It sounds like you had a great time in Italy. Do you have any travel tips for me to keep in mind as I prepare for Spain?”
Or, use the “accept and argue” approach: “That sounds great! What I was trying to share about my position is…”
4. They constantly talk down to you.
A friend or co-worker uses patronizing or condescending language – this may be unintentional, but sometimes it can be hard to guess – and it feels as if they want you to see that they are the most powerful person in a room. Is a more knowledgeable person.
How to respond: Set clear boundaries and resist the urge to react defensively. You can say, “I’m happy to continue this conversation as long as we keep it respectful.”
If you’re in group settings, you can do this Allow someone else to enter the conversation with something like, “Jess also has experience in this area, right? What are your thoughts on this?”
5. They repeatedly overtake you.
Whenever you share an accomplishment, they match it with their own bigger and better wins. You can share, “I finally got that promotion I’ve been working so hard for!” And they answer, “When I got promoted, it came with a corner office and a company car.”
How to respond: It can be tiring to deal with every single incident. But calling out the narcissistic person is often the most effective approach.
You can say, “I’ve noticed that our conversations turn into competition whenever we talk. I would really feel better if we could share without trying to outdo each other.” Remember, you are never obligated to continue a conversation that seems incomplete.
shade zahrai is an award-winning behavioral strategist and Harvard-trained leadership coach. She is recognized as one of LinkedIn’s Top 50 Most Influential People Influenso Global Inc., a leadership development and research firm that works with the Fortune 500 worldwide, including McDonald’s, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and JPMorgan. follow him Linkedin, Instagram, youtube And TIC Toc,
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