What is Conversational Narcissism? (5 Signs & Tips for Dealing with One)

What is Conversational Narcissism? (5 Signs & Tips for Dealing with One)

man suffering from conversational narcissism

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Nearly everyone has at least one friend, family member, or coworker who never stops talking about themselves and never allows anyone else to take the lead in the conversation. Well, there is a word for this, and it is called “conversational narcissism.”

What is a Conversational Narcissist?

A conversational narcissist is a person who always diverts the topic of the conversation toward themselves. Somehow, these people always manage to make everything about themselves. They monopolize the conversation, completely uninterested in other issues or what others have to say. So, they will either stir the conversation back to them or quit it once it has stopped revolving around them.

A conversational narcissist is often self-absorbed, judgmental, and manipulative. They frequently blame others for their mistakes and fail to accept responsibility for their own words or actions. If a conversational narcissist hurts your feelings, for example, they will tell you that you are overly sensitive or emotional or that you brought it on yourself.

Sociologist Charles Derber coined the term “conversational narcissism” to describe narcissists’ tactics to manipulate and control their victims.

In his book, The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Ego in Everyday Life, Derber argues that a general lack of social support in our society causes people to compete ravenously for attention and use a variety of strategies to pursue attention in conversation.

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Does Someone Have to be a Narcissist to Engage in Conversational Narcissism?

No, it doesn’t.

Conversational narcissism does not automatically make someone a narcissist. Many people have narcissistic tendencies, although not all develop full-blown narcissism. In reality, most conversational narcissists fall somewhere on the spectrum but are not always diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

5 Signs of Conversational Narcissism to Look Out For

In healthy communication, the participants are transparent and clear. They are respectful and empathetic, ask questions, listen actively to one another, and take criticism with no offense. Positive, healthy conversation is reciprocal and allows us to feel heard, seen, and connected.

On the other hand, communication takes on a totally different form when talking with a conversational narcissist.

Here are five red flags that you are engaging with someone prone to conversational narcissism.

1) They Dominate the Conversation

Conversation with a conversational narcissist is typically one-sided, more like a monologue than an interaction. It’s never about you; a person with NPD or narcissistic tendencies will shift the conversation toward them, their needs, and their problems. If you try to make it about you, they will probably guilt-trip you, causing you to feel guilty, cut off, and frustrated.

2) They Always Need to One-Up Everyone

Narcissists have an inflated sense of superiority and entitlement. They are needlessly competitive, always praising themselves as they speak. Narcissists believe they are better than anyone else. Therefore, whatever it is you’ve accomplished, they have done it better. Their house is larger, their children are more successful, and their headache is worse than yours.

3) They Constantly Interrupt

Narcissists are notoriously poor listeners. They talk over people and interrupt others while speaking without apologizing or showing concern. When you are talking to a narcissist, you are not having a discussion; rather, you are being spoken to.

Even though they appear to be totally engaged in conversation, a narcissist usually only pretends to listen. They will jump into the conversation while you are speaking to steer the discussion in their direction and bring the topic back to themselves.

4) They Know All the Answers, All the Time

A narcissist’s know-it-all attitude can be highly annoying and exhausting. Since they constantly seek approval and admiration, conversational narcissists show tremendous arrogance, acting as though they are authorities on whatever topic they want to discuss. They will always be offering unsolicited advice. They will correct and criticize you and use every opportunity to prove you wrong.

This strategy may make you feel incompetent or inadequate, leading you to avoid presenting your own point of view and making it easier for the narcissist to manipulate you.

5) They Never Listen to Anyone Else

Narcissists are never interested in other people. They will tune out unless they are talking or the conversation is about them. They don’t pay attention to what others are saying, frequently becoming noticeably bored, annoyed, or uncomfortable when others are speaking.

How to Deal with a Conversational Narcissist

Conversational narcissism might be challenging to deal with, but here are some tips to help you navigate the conversation:

man struggling to deal with conversational narcissism

Set Boundaries

Make it clear what you are and are not willing to discuss. Then, redirect the conversation back to the issue you want to discuss if the narcissist attempts to shift it towards themselves.

Avoid Fueling a Narcissist’s Ego

Narcissists seek constant attention and affirmation; it is, therefore, important to avoid playing into their ego in any way. Instead, put your attention on the dialogue that is now taking place and the experiences that you both have had.

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Listen Actively

Pay attention to what the narcissist is saying, even though being cut off or spoken over might be annoying. To demonstrate your interest, repeat what they said. However, make sure they reciprocate.

Speak Up

If the narcissist regularly dominates the conversation or interrupts, politely inform them that you want to speak. Use “I” statements to connect with them without making them feel assaulted.

Consider Ending the Discussion

If the narcissist is hard to talk to or the conversation is always one-sided, it’s okay to end the conversation.

Seeking Help Dealing with Narcissism?

Consider consulting coaching support if you find it difficult to communicate effectively with a conversational narcissist. In addition, self-love coaching can be a great way to learn to prioritize your own needs and protect yourself from narcissistic manipulation and abuse.

A professional life coach can help you feel confident, worthy, and whole, giving you the tools to overcome your self-limiting beliefs and learn to love yourself unconditionally. If you need help dealing with narcissism, contact me to set up a free, empowering conversation.

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