Author Topic: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats  (Read 4851 times)

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christine19

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Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« on: December 01, 2013, 01:53:26 AM »
With the holidays, I've been spending time with people more than usual and I've been noticing a trend: most people are happy to completely dominate a conversation. People will talk on and on about themselves or their opinions, and every polite "oh really?" or "that's interesting," or "mmhmm" just encourages them to keep on. They'll talk about themselves until you walk away. In particularly bad cases, when I interject with my own comment or anecdote, they'll politely wait for me to finish, give a perfunctory "yeah" and then continue with their train of thought as if I had never said anything.

Has anyone else noticed this?

I thought that a normal conversation is about give-and-take, talking about yourself but also asking questions, showing interest, offering the other person room to take the conversation in a different direction. I'm a quiet person, and generally talk about myself very little unless someone directly asks me. So lately I've been coming away from conversations feeling somewhat used and invisible.

Is this partially my fault? Is something in my demeanor inviting people to use me as a conversational doormat? Should I show less interest when people talk about themselves, or should I be more assertive in interjecting my own opinions? When in Rome, do as the narcissists do? Or is it that people just need a listening ear and I should consider that my gift to them?

cicero

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2013, 02:30:14 AM »
With the holidays, I've been spending time with people more than usual and I've been noticing a trend: most people are happy to completely dominate a conversation. People will talk on and on about themselves or their opinions, and every polite "oh really?" or "that's interesting," or "mmhmm" just encourages them to keep on. They'll talk about themselves until you walk away. In particularly bad cases, when I interject with my own comment or anecdote, they'll politely wait for me to finish, give a perfunctory "yeah" and then continue with their train of thought as if I had never said anything.

Has anyone else noticed this?

I thought that a normal conversation is about give-and-take, talking about yourself but also asking questions, showing interest, offering the other person room to take the conversation in a different direction. I'm a quiet person, and generally talk about myself very little unless someone directly asks me. So lately I've been coming away from conversations feeling somewhat used and invisible.

Is this partially my fault? Is something in my demeanor inviting people to use me as a conversational doormat? Should I show less interest when people talk about themselves, or should I be more assertive in interjecting my own opinions? When in Rome, do as the narcissists do? Or is it that people just need a listening ear and I should consider that my gift to them?
i don't know who you're hanging out with ;) but no, i wouldn't say that "most people" are "happy" to completely dominate a conversation. Yes there are some people like that - conversational narcissists, or as i refer to them: Bores - but not everyone and not "most people".

at holidays/big gatherings, sometimes the hosts will do this in order to make sure that conversation runs smoothly - I know i've been guilty of doing this when i was younger; i was so afraid of the 'silences'- but then again i was happy to *relinquish* the conversation reins once things picked up.

If it bothers you then don't be shy about re-directing the conversation. After a few "oh reallys" and getting nowhere, just kind of butt in "oh, that Italian place on Main? isn't it amazing [look around the group for some nods of agreement]. Oh, betty, didn't you go there for your anniversary?"

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Raintree

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2013, 05:47:00 AM »
I'm with the OP; I am often at a loss to how to give my input into a conversation when there is no pause in the conversation. The only way to do it, it seems, is to interrupt, and I've been brought up to think that interrupting is rude. But others do it to me, so I don't get to finish the point of what I was trying to say.

TOLady

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2013, 10:11:09 AM »
I am at a loss as well.

At my local pub, there is a regular who continues to regale the other regulars on a step-by-step saga of his day each and every day, never asking how your day was.

It's so bad that if your the 4th regular to come in, the others have heard it all before 3 times and they'll do the eye-roll when he starts in again. Yet, as much as he talks, he never asks how your day was.

He's not the only who does it either.

I think the art of conversation has been lost. I was taught to ask questions and that a conversation was not one-sided. 

m2kbug

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2013, 10:54:35 AM »
I wouldn't say "most people" are like that.  Here are some thoughts, which may are may not apply to you or anyone in general:
  • You're the first person they've come across who really seems to listen lately, and they've just sort of unloaded.  Especially now with the holidays, this person is busy "doing" for everyone else, and sort of feels lost in the shuffle.
  • There's something about you that makes people feel like they can share more than they normally would, even if you don't know them all that well.
  • You're so quiet, people tend to ramble just a little since you don't seem to have much to say.
  • They just need a fresh set of ears to unload their entire life story
When you're say you're quiet and don't really talk about yourself, I don't know if you're *so* quiet people may tend go on and on in order to carry the conversation, particularly if there aren't others around to help buffer the conversation.  Since you feel like you notice it more this time of year, it could be you're just the perfect person for some venting, good and bad, while they unload their stress and share their story.

I think we can all be guilty of dominating a conversation once in awhile, it's just most of us realize what we're doing at some point.  I don't know what the situations are or how you might steer the conversation away from the me, me, me people.  If you're in a group, I think trying to get other people into the mix of conversation would be useful.  If it's a closer friend, a little bit of joshing or simply pointing out they're not letting you talk about your day would probably be fine.

I have noticed that some people have a tendency to dominate conversations.  I've noticed people who don't have a lot of people in their life they can talk to, may unload on strangers.  I have met people who just seem to overshare, their life is an open book.  I haven't really run into it to a degree that you describe. 

CaffeineKatie

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2013, 11:05:47 AM »
I absolutely think there are people who are Conversational Narcissists (LOVE that term).  In fact, my DH is works at a university, and some professors are afflicted with this disorder!  Some are driven by  a combination of no social skills and the habit of lecturing in class--they are used to having a captive audience for 50 minutes at a stretch and are impossible to interrupt/sidetrack/beandip.  And I have also met a few who really do think their every thought and deed is enthralling, and refuse to relinquish the spotlight.  The university has a big welcome back meal every fall, and we've come to realize that the planner has a list of polite people (we are on it) who can be counted on to sit near the CNs and not make a fuss for the hour or so of meal and speeches.  We just laugh about it and go out for a drink with other "politees" after.  But honestly, from years of experience (and some of my in-laws are lawyers--another group of CNs), I would say there is only one way to deal with them--develop a "tiny bladder", wave your hand and say "Sorry-got to go" and head off in the direction of the restroom and don't come back.  They don't want a conversation, they want an audience.

As for the Doormats, I have to wonder if they are always the target of CNs.  I know a few people who turn me into a temporary CN because they contribute nothing to the conversation.  Questions are met with one word answers--how was your trip? fine, how is work? boring, how is your dog/garden/family? ok.  But if you are willing to contribute and get interrupted/talked over/cut off, they clearly don't want to have a conversation and my solution is to cut things short and leave.  I have a few former friends I will only see as part of larger group, because I did polish up my spine and decide unless it is a big event (emergency/disaster/problem) where someone just needs to vent, I'm not willing to be a CD.

metallicafan

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2013, 11:07:49 AM »
I'm with the OP; I am often at a loss to how to give my input into a conversation when there is no pause in the conversation. The only way to do it, it seems, is to interrupt, and I've been brought up to think that interrupting is rude. But others do it to me, so I don't get to finish the point of what I was trying to say.



Me too.  :-[

JenJay

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2013, 11:13:21 AM »
We had a person like that in our family. We dealt with it by having a sacrificial lamb, so to speak. Whenever there was a new member of the family (boy/girlfriend, in-law, etc.) they'd be sat next to this relative while the rest of us gave each other knowing looks of "Haha, (s)he'll be stuck there all day!". Eventually they'd be rescued by someone calling them away for some made up reason. I know that sounds mean but it really wasn't. The relative never had a clue and it was like a right of passage for the new person, who'd very much enjoy being in on the joke when the next new person came along.  ;D

When there wasn't anyone new we'd kind of do a rotation. Someone would sit and chat until someone else came along, then the first person would quietly wander away and the 2nd person would be stuck until a 3rd came along. If you find yourself stuck with such a person and nobody to help you get out you can wait for a pause and excuse yourself to get a drink or whatever. You don't have to sit and continue trying, in vain, to keep a two-sided conversation going.

christine19

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2013, 11:17:28 AM »
Thanks everyone for your kind responses, especially m2kbug.

I think maybe I've just had an unfortunate streak. I live with a relative who is very loud and opinionated, and acts like every conversation is a competition he has to win. On Thanksgiving I was talking to a lonely old lady who clearly just needed someone to listen. Yesterday I was talking to a relative who is just plain socially oblivious, and when you get him started on his favorite topic he'll never stop. And so on.

I had started to wonder if there was something wrong with me that people showed no interest in me or my life, only in talking at me. But maybe it's just been a run of bad luck.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2013, 11:20:14 AM by christine19 »

CaffeineKatie

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2013, 11:20:59 AM »
I told my DH about this letter and he cracked a rib laughing.  His input (from dealing with CNs at work) is to give up trying to redirect the conversation--if you DO manage to get a word in, they aren't listening to anything you are saying because they are just waiting for your lips to stop moving so they can start talking again at the same point.  Run awaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!  ;D

And we have done JenJay's suggestion with CN family members, too--we call it TagTeaming (like pro wrestling) LOL

CaffeineKatie

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2013, 11:32:05 AM »
Aw Christine, you have had a run of this!  But it sounds like it's just bad luck and you definitely deserve a gold star for giving these people the gift of an audience over the holidays.

Bijou

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2013, 01:39:01 PM »
Thankfully, I haven't noticed this, myself.  If someone is a 'talker' they just keep doing what they do all year, and if they aren't, they keep up that more tolerable behavior. 
Maybe what you are noticing is that you hare in contact with many more folks at this time of year, haven't seen them for a long time and they are trying to catch you up on their stuff. 
I hate being a captive audience for anyone.  I think I would try to keep contact with the monopolizers down to a roar if it bothered me (which it would), because after all, I want to enjoy my holidays, too.
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The Wild One, Forever

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2013, 02:13:56 PM »
  Not your fault.  Some people are compulsive talkers and it's one of life's major irritations!  And, I don't think there is any hope or cure.  It's majorly rude and I have decided I don't need anymore of that in my life.

  I (gradually, without fanfare or rancor) stopped talking to a friend over this.  She and I lived 1000 miles apart at the time, and when I'd call to catch up, it was a two hour monologue, and when she'd ask me something about my life, I could not even get a sentence out before she'd interrupt and be off again.  My adored godmother always also had these tendencies, but when she lost her husband, it got a lot worse, to the point I don't see her as often as I used to because I can't handle the verbal diarrhea.  A third person I know like this is my cousin's uncle, (whom I grew up knowing and also refer to as my uncle), but he's kind of a jerk in other aspects, so I don't see very much of him at all.  Which is kind of sad, because he is all alone now and could use companionship and invitations to holiday gatherings. 

As far as spending time with compulsive talkers around the holidays, if you have to be in the same place, maybe go into another room or find someone else to talk with if it becomes intolerable.
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Isisnin

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2013, 02:20:07 PM »
I've got a few neighbors like that - makes we wonder if its in the water!

Sometimes I go with the flow.  Other times, when they interrupt, I'll let them have a bit of time to go on.  Then, as soon as they breathe (if they stop to breathe!), I'll say "anyways, as I was saying...".  The person almost always gets a surprised then thoughtful look.

It's actually kinda retrained a couple people.  Sometimes they go back to their old, dominating ways, but then they just need me to "remind" them by my saying: "as I was saying.." and they'll correct themselves again.

However, there is one neighbor that it never works on.  Fortunately, after a bit, I'll "interrupt" and say "I know your busy.  I'll let you go."  He loves that, saying: "Yes, yes!  I have to go!" and he runs off with barely a good-bye!

Julsie

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Re: Conversational Narcissists and Conversational Doormats
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2013, 02:26:50 PM »
If it's any consolation, these people probably come away from your encounter thinking that you are a brilliant conversationalist!