Stop talking about yourself

I'm so embarrassed.

My best friend just became a grandmother. I am beyond excited for her! Yet somehow in our text conversations while her daughter was in labor, I kept talking about myself.

I just scrolled through the messages from that day. I did it 8 times. 8. After I asked how long her daughter had been pushing, I told her how long I pushed. When trying to be empathetic about what it was like to wait at the hospital, I told her my parents waited at home to hear the news of our children's arrivals. When she told me the baby's name, I exclaimed with delight that we have a nephew of the same name. You get the idea.

Yet I didn't get the idea. I didn't even realize I was doing it until the very last comment. And then I apologized. And then last night I did it again. 

If there is anyone who cares about my experiences, it's my best friend. But not while she's going through her own once-in-a-lifetime experience. Good grief.

I probably sound like a terrible person. But those of you who know me can vouch for the fact that I'm not. This is a common phenomenon. Chances are, you need to stop talking about yourself as well.

Sociologist Charles Derber describes this tendency to insert oneself into a conversation as "conversational narcissism." As described in a terrific article, "it's the desire to take over a conversation, to do most of the talking and to turn the focus of the exchange to yourself. It's often subtle and unconscious."

The article, written by Celeste Headlee, describes two types of responses: shift responses (which shift attention back to yourself) and support responses (which support the other person's comment). "A support response encourages the other person to continue their story." I could have asked my friend what she was doing while waiting. And how she was feeling while waiting. And how her husband was handling everything. And whether she liked the baby's name. And how it felt to hold her very first grandchild for the very first time.

The article I mentioned is an excerpt from Headlee's book We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter. I'm going to read that book. But first I'm going to call my friend. And I'm going to shut up and listen.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

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