Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Lost Art of Conversation

Have you noticed? Most people, at least many of those I come in contact with, are narcissistic.

We see it everywhere. People almost totally focused upon themselves, their activities, their interests, their need for attention (read this as the definition of the entire social media realm).


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You meet up with someone and ask how they’re doing or what they’ve been doing. Fifteen minutes later they’re still prattling on, with never a thought of asking you one thing about yourself.

Even worse, you share some personal story with a friend or acquaintance, and without even acknowledging what you said, they launch into their own story, seeming to want to “top” your story with a better one of their own.

Some otherwise very nice people are guilty of this. I wonder if they're even aware of how selfish their actions are perceived by others. 

Has it always been this way? I think not. I can remember the day when a real conversation was possible. The give and take of sharing ideas and opinions. 

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the way folks interrupt you when your’re talking! This is the one thing that most irritates me.

Talking over someone else has reached epic proportions, especially on television, which is the main reason I can no longer bear to watch anything other than a straight news broadcast.

I used to enjoy turning on tv in the morning while having breakfast, to catch up on the latest news. I no longer do that because of the cutesy tv personalities sitting around the news desk, five people talking at once, to the point that viewers don’t hear a word any of them said. Yikes, why do they do that?

So now I get my morning news from radio, thank you very much.

People who do this, are they conceited? vain? emotional need for attention? think they are clever/cute? Yes, probably all, plus narcissistic -- both the tv personalities and also the people we come in daily contact with. Just sayin'.

Can we do anything about this trend? Probably not. I used to be surprised and disappointed that a person didn’t want to get to know me or know anything about me. Now I just expect less.

Some psychologists attribute this current excessive narcissistic behavior to being raised in a family so lacking in parental attention that they play out in adulthood an unquenchable need for others to listen to them and make them feel significant.

Wow, all I can say is there must have been a great many bad parents out there who didn’t listen to their kids. But still, I cannot totally accept this explanation, because for at least the past 25 years parents (most) have done nothing but spoil, pamper and dote on children/grandchildren, to the point of ridiculousness. And we still see this narcissistic behavior in that group as well.


Anyone will tell you the secret to the Art of Conversation is Being a Good Listener. But wait, I'm already doing that! And what I get is constantly listening to someone talk about themselves ad nauseam.

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Tell me your experiences with this subject. And if you haven’t experienced it I’d sure like travel in your circle!  

28 comments:

  1. What a coincidence!
    Just yesterday I bought a new book about the very subject, narcissist behavior!!!
    Because - I suddenly realized that I have had enough of it myself, lately especially. And I wish to do something about it!
    Yes, I am a good listener, but I too wish to be listened to. I wish to have interactive relationships. I give, you get / you give, I get.
    An effective way to avoid the n- people, is to not meet them. Drop them off your address book. Avoid socializing with people, who have no real interest on you. Because you can´t change anyone´s behavior. The only behavior you can change, is that of your own, and even that is extremely difficult.

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    1. Then I suppose narcissistic behavior is a hot topic these days! I like your plan, Mette. I think that some act in this manner without always realizing it. So perhaps if we drop them they might ask why. But would we be bold enough to tell them? I hope so!

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  2. What an appropriate post for the way things are. Just a few days ago I was talking to a lady that has a preteen. .. she was telling all the things her child wanted because
    all his friends had them and how hard it is to say no. She observed that
    young folks can't carry on a conversation anymore ....she works in education and sees it
    everyday. But it amazes me most adults are the same. Like Mette ' s comment, more and more I am avoiding some folks!

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    1. It's pretty sad when children grow up without being taught how to carry on a conversation, but since their parents don't, I suppose you cannot expect the children to learn. I think people are more alone in today's world than they ever have been. They feel like they are in touch with the world but only have their devices to keep them company.

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  3. I agree about the difficulties of conversation, but it is the silent partner in the conversation who confuses me the most. Since moving from Seattle to Tulsa, this is no longer that much of an issue ` but after decades of it, I am more accepting of the oversharing.

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    1. Welcome back, Beryl. The silent partner! Well, those are definitely a difficulty as well. It's hard to say which is worse, the person who never says anything or the one who never stops.

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  4. Ah, this one hit the spot with me too, Sanda. This week I met up with a friend who talked about her own activities, nothing particularly dramatic or unusual, for 2 hours almost without drawing breath! By then I had to leave, so that was certainly a one-sided conversation!

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    1. Seems to be a universal problem. Why must people be so self-centered? Do you, like me, remember when it wasn't this way?

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  5. I agree about the TV business - and even here radio is more about the DJs' chatter and their idea of 'news' is basically celebrity gossip. Clearly I (used to) listen to the wrong radio stations. I like silence now. I tend to associate all my grumpiness about this subject as being part of the aging process, but perhaps that's unfair.

    Might I suggest you upgrade your friends? If they are really that self-centred who needs them? Perhaps look for someone who isn't enamoured of all the latest technology? I agree that this is not helping us practice communication. I'm not as good at listening as I once was. I will say that when I catch myself talking too much it is often because I've not been out with friends lately and feel I need to 'catch up'. As soon as I realise I'm going this, though, I try to shut up and ask a question about them. Maybe people need to socialise more so they don't feel deprived of company? Beryl's comment about 'oversharing', not a British habit, not yet...

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    1. Oh, ugh, celebrity gossip! I hate it! Refuse to listen. If I was taught anything in journalism school, it was that the reporter should never be the story, and darn if everytime you turn on a tv morning show, there's all these segments about the program's hosts: how they exercise, what they eat, their new baby, on and on. Really bad, IMO. Sometimes the more I'm around my dogs and cats, the less I need to be around people.

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  6. I agree about the TV "personalities" but think they're probably instructed to act that way to generate emotion and controversy. I find it annoying and so, like you, don't watch.

    I haven't had that issue in real life (tho maybe my friends think I'm talking too much, I'll have to watch that). Usually when somebody has a long rant it's because of personal crisis or loneliness, but it seems to me the other person gets a chance to vent in their turn.

    Selfies don't bother me at all. It makes it possible to take your own photo without imposing on strangers to do it for you. I may be in the minority, but I think selfies are an advancement -especially in vacation pics.

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    1. I think you're right; the TV people do it on purpose to appeal to the younger crowd, who are used to all the ya-ya of everyone talking at once and nobody listening. The way you refer to selfies seems OK to me; but I'm more opposed to all the grinning mug shots people take of EVERYTHING they do and EVERYWHERE they go -- because they think they are so cute (sorry for the rant!)

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  7. Miss Manners had a response to conversation "toppers" that went something along the lines of leaning in and saying "Oh really, how very, very fascinating!" in essence, comments too effusive to the point they should catch on how they are coming across. Not sure I would have her skills, but some could do it effectively.

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    1. Oh dear, I'm afraid the person I said those words to would take them seriously, but I certainly have the guts to say such a thing....and will next time opportunity presents itself. Thanks for sharing that tip!

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  8. Having spent most of my life being a listener found when I hit a crisis these people disappeared.Now I refuse to let these "selfie" folk into my life it is too short to be their victims.

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    1. Way to go, Judith! I like your attitude!

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  9. I love my techno gadgets. Blogging being part of the social scene.
    I do not use them when in company
    Many places here now, ask you to turn off your phones.
    I find that i have more interaction with my grandchildren using my i pad with them.. it has boosted our together time.
    I do not have friends that I cannot converse with. I try to keep it pretty rounded.. Listening is a good cue.. then come in the coversation with your views.
    I would be most upset, if people were talking over me..not very sociable.
    Selfies !!!!- I think it has nothing to do with being narcissistic ... This is my own opinion. We only take them when together as a family for fun.. its a fad.. something else will take its place.
    Dear Sanda.. If you are seeing friends that use their phones and do not communicate with you.. then I would say, they are not friends. True friends always have time to listen.
    happy weekend.
    val xxx

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    1. You bring up an interesting point: Blogging being part of the social media scene and bloggers sharing what's important to them! However, I hope my blog posts generate conversation, and provide an opportunity for others to share their thoughts, opinions. and different points of view. I think our gadgets are great, too. Your take on selfies, like Divers and Sundry, seems fine to me, a way to record family moments without imposing on others. But you don't do it to show off like some folks do. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Val.

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  10. Hello Sanda

    What you say is so true. We recently were speaking of this and my husband call them transmitters. Or as my brother fondly says "so and so is like a radio, they only transmit they do not receive".
    It is becoming more and more prevalent and one wonder why? Lonliness?
    Watching too much TV and them emulating the announcers? Too much texting/e-mail and not conversing results in the death of emotional intelligence and being unaware of how their conversation is being received? Emotional Intelligent not being used. I do hope and pray for a return to polite dialogue.
    Have a wonderful weekend.
    Helen xx

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    1. Radios! A very apt description. Any and all of your reason for the current self-absorption make sense. A great book about the art of conversation/polite behavior: The Rules of Civility, which I read some time back and highly recommend. Unfortunately, the ones who need it will never read it. Do you find that Europeans to be somewhat more polite/civil than Americans? Just wondering!

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  11. Beautifully put Sanda, my husband and I are always saying exactly the same to one another. I must admit that in the end I just switch off and perhaps smile now and again in response.

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    1. Smile is probably a very good response. You cannot ask some people for the time of day without getting instructions on how to build a watch (what famous person said that? I once knew but have now forgotten!)

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  12. I blame our current culture promoting, enabling and tolerating instant gratification and a sense of absolute entitlement. That part about absent parents not paying enough attention... sounds a bit untrue. Since all they did was pay attention. Though permissive parenting is another thing entirely.

    Great post Sanda!

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    1. Current culture; I couldn't agree more.Instant gratification and a sense of entitlement are indeed dangerous routes to let children travel. Some children grow up never knowing what it is not to "fail" or have their parents "fix everything" for them.

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  13. Interesting post. Like you, I get most of my news from the radio, NPR radio at that. I really don't have a problem with face to face conversations with my family or friends. I wonder though how conversations will sound/look in the future with young people growing up using technology to communicate and the communication is mostly short bursts.

    Darla

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    1. The 10-second sound-bite! I wonder too, Darla. I know that tuning out and turning off won't solve the problem; but I don't quite know what will. The only thing I know is to never compromise our own polite behavior just because others don't know/refuse to follow the rules.

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  14. We sat down to have a drink in the market place in Nice one day last week. There was a shop across the square where some unusually dressed women were browsing. Their clothes were very bright and all their skin was covered with scarves Bill decided they might be Japanese. Anyhow, one of them had a long sort of antenna looking stick attached to her smart phone/camera and every few minutes she would extend the stick, lean back a bit, and smile for a selfie. It was one of the odder things I've ever witnessed. The other lady similarly dressed took no notice of her until they left the shop together and wandered down the street. It's a strange world we live in!

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