While this exchange is clearly played for laughs, in almost any social setting, this type of one-sided, me-focused conversation is all too common and frustrating.
It’s easy to stumble into making this error. We as human beings love talking about ourselves by default. A recent study revealed that disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding.
Essentially, the study revealed that disclosing ones personal beliefs generated immense activity in the neural regions implicated in reward processing. The same part of your brain that lights up for food, sex, and other pleasures.
On the other hand, those who were analyzed listening to others disclose their beliefs showed far less activity in the neural regions implicated in reward processing.
When you’re reading this and thinking, “That’s not me. I enjoy making other people feel heard!” I have some bad news for you. Although you have good intentions – conversational narcissism may inadvertently rear its ugly head. Conversational narcissism isn’t necessarily founded on intentional self-interest. In fact, that’s not very frequent at all.
We will give unsolicited advice, try to bring up our own comparable experience, or make other comments that unintentionally take the focus off of the individual we are listening to when we attempt to demonstrate that we are paying attention. Have you ever had a conversation about a distressing experience in which the person you’re telling it to cuts you off to say, “I know exactly how you feel,” or “YES! ME TOO!”
Consider how you feel when someone responds to you like this. Is the listener making you feel heard and validated? Or is he or she making you seem uninterested or selfish? For most people, the answer is clear. So, how do we avoid being a person who responds in such a way?
Shift Responses versus Support Responses
According to sociologist Charles Derber, there are two types of reactions in conversations: a shift response and a support response. The first shifts the attention back to oneself, while the second supports the other person’s statement.
Celeste Headlee provides examples in her article for TED, titled, Why we should all stop saying “I know exactly how you feel”,
The Shift Response
Mary: I’m so busy right now.
Tim: Me, too. I’m totally overwhelmed.
The Support Response
Mary: I’m so busy right now.
Tim: Why? What do you have to get done?
“Shift responses are a hallmark of conversational narcissism — they help you turn the focus constantly back to yourself. But a support response encourages the other person to continue their story. It lets them know you’re listening and interested in hearing more.” – Celeste Headlee
Larry King summarized it perfectly when he said, “‘I’ has no place in an interview.”
POISON #2 | Lack of Proper Preparation
Far too many podcasters treat their interview as a robotic game of Twenty Questions.
They default to using the same cookie cutter questions with every guest, or do just enough prep work to produce a handful of specific questions the they work through one-by-one until they run out of talking points and are forced to end the episode.
What a sad way to enter a conversation!
Jordan Peterson once said in a lecture that, “If you’re going to speak effectively, you have to know way more than you’re talking about.”