The Career Refresh with Jill Griffin

Disrupting the Cycle of Conversational Narcissism in the Workplace

November 07, 2023 Jill Griffin Season 1 Episode 143
The Career Refresh with Jill Griffin
Disrupting the Cycle of Conversational Narcissism in the Workplace
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Conversational narcissists consistently steer conversations back to themselves and their own experiences, often without showing genuine interest in what others say. They exhibit a pattern of self-centered behavior in conversation. In this episode, we discuss: 

  • Understanding Conversational Narcissism
  • Practical Strategies for Dealing
  • Four Steps to Reclaim Control while Maintaining your Cool

Mentioned on the show:
The Career Refresh, Survivors guide to the office narcissist
How to Destroy Everything, available on all podcast platforms

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Jill Griffin is committed to making workplaces more successful for everyone through leadership training and development, team dynamics workshops, and employee well-being programs. Her executive coaching, workshop facilitation, and innovative thinking have driven multi-million-dollar revenues for top agencies, startups, and renowned brands. Collaborating with individuals, teams, and organizations, Jill fosters high-performance and inclusive cultures while facilitating organizational growth.

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Speaker 1:

Hey friends, this is Jill, host of the Career Refresh podcast. This week we're talking about narcissists and I've done an episode on narcissism before and how to survive the office narcissist and while I was really happy, it had so many downloads like thousands upon thousands of downloads I'm also kind of sad for all of us that so many people are figuring out how to survive the narcissist in their office. And I also want to point out there's a podcast right now that's poppin' called how to Destroy Everything and it's about a guy who shares his experience with having a father who's an extreme narcissist. It's available on all platforms, so definitely check that out if that interests you. But for today we're not talking about families, we're talking about offices and the workplace and the narcissistic personality disorder. It's one of several disorders. It is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own important and this shows up in a deep need for excessive attention and admiration and, as a result, they often have trouble relationships. They lack empathy for others and I want to talk about how it kind of shows up. Right, you're talking and you think they're listening, but they're not listening. They're waiting for the pause, they're waiting for you to breathe so they can jump in or interject and shine the light back on themselves.

Speaker 1:

They are the master of me-centered conversations. You know this person. I mean, I've been on the phone at times with friends in my past in which I'm talking about something, or they ask me a question about something that's really important in my life and the next thing we know they've flipped the switch back to themselves and we're talking now about their boyfriend's kids and I'm like what just happened here? Right, they're always finding a way to center themselves in the conversation and narcissists, while they do have this inflated sense of their own important and importance, I think that there's a part of them that needs, if they're not always in the center of a conversation, that there's some sort of panic that goes on, so they always have to put themselves in the conversation. There's an expression that they're the biggest piece of poo or the biggest piece of shit that the world revolves around, and I feel like that's a lot about the narcissist. But today we're talking about the nuance of the conversational narcissist, right? So, again, you think they're listening. They're not. They're waiting for the pause.

Speaker 1:

They are the master of me-centered conversations. They're making everything about themselves, their achievements, their experiences, their concerns, that you might even interrupt you and quickly change the topic to like because they like they can't listen to this anymore, right, and they redirect it back to themselves. They are going to want to up you if you're talking or responding. They've suddenly lost interest and they are scrolling their phones. They are emotionally distant and they are unavailable at times. They lack active listening. So they're going to show up with limited interest about what others are saying and they may not ask follow-up questions or provide an empathetic response.

Speaker 1:

I mentioned the one-opping, but it's also like there's this idea that they have to outdo you. Like you share a funny travel story and the next thing you know, they're trying to tell you a better one. And it's not because we're taking a moment to all share travel stories, folks, right, it's about one-opping. And then again this like they have a really hard time sharing the spotlight. They find it challenging to let others even share the attention. They are emotionally disconnected. So they may come off as really emotionally distant or self-absorbed because they're prioritizing their own thoughts and feelings over others. They definitely lack empathy. They may not support or offer any comfort. They're probably going to monopolize the conversation and dominate it and there may even be like frequent name dropping, right, this is the self-importance thing that they tend to drop names of famous or important or impressive people, so that again, the spotlight, you got it back on themselves. So I wanted to talk about this because I've seen it come up a lot lately and I'll talk about this in depth in a later episode. But my brother died unexpectedly from an undetected medical illness about two months ago and he was 54 years old and I'm sharing it because even His debt like the amount of people that made his death about them, versus supporting my parents or my family or his kids, are, like. It was just so fascinating and I'm gonna unpack that in a later episode about grief and work, because I think it's an important thing that we need to talk about.

Speaker 1:

But finding this conversational narcissist in your workplace I Mean your job search is not about them. They may be. You may say something like oh you know, hey, if you know anyone, I'm looking for a new opportunity Instantly, all man, when I was searching, it's back to them. Or if you're talking about your promotion, you know, hey, I just got elevated, I got a promotion. I'm really excited. Oh, let me tell you when that happened about me when I recently went for it, like they don't even necessarily comment or compliment back to you. They're instantly redirecting the conversation to them if you share success, you know, hey, we just want a piece of business. Or I landed an account. You know there's some like, yeah, well, everyone's landing accounts right now. It's not that big of a deal, right, they're gonna minimize your experience and put it down. I Tend to also call them opera singers, right, it's like the me, me, me, me, me, me, me, ayayayayayayayayay, because that's everything that they're saying.

Speaker 1:

And you know, this idea of conversational narcissism, or CN, was first introduced by Sociologist Charles Gerber and he described it as the tendency to constantly be redirecting a conversation's focus Towards oneself. And as I was preparing for this episode, I was doing a ton of reading and trying to see, like you know, some of the nuances and I found a quote from Fran Liebowitz that she said that the opposite of talking is Not listening, the opposite of talking is waiting. I'm gonna say that again the opposite of talking is not listening, the opposite of talking is waiting. And it's a clever observation she made right about the dynamic of conversation and communication, because healthy conversations are collaborative, not competitive, and and healthy conversations are not preachy or speachy. Right, there's the nice volley right, like a tennis match. It's a nice volley back and forth, not a constant jolt redirect. A constant jolt redirect.

Speaker 1:

And or where I also see it come up if you start to talk and someone steps on your words and then you find yourself saying, yeah, that's not where I was going, yeah, that's not what I meant, because they've already taken it and made it about their stuff and their things. So truly listening involves actively paying attention to the speaker, understanding their perspective, emphasizing right, sorry, I think I just said emphasizing, I meant empathizing with others. Their feelings are ideas, and the opposite of conversation just isn't remaining silent. It's actively and empathically listening to the best of your ability and engaging with the other person, rather than waiting for your chance to pounce. So what can you do?

Speaker 1:

Well, friends, I'm gonna say one practice acceptance. Right, stop going to the hardware store for milk. You are not going to change them. Everyone is on their own path. This is who they are. And the next thing I tell you is release the need to teach. Release the teach, friends. They can't hear you because they're not listening. They are waiting to respond. So release the need to show them how they are impacting you or their relationships or the organization. Their lack of self-awareness runs deep and Guess what? You're not the doctor, the teacher, the mother. I know it may be affecting you, but unless you're getting paid to help them, then You're not signing up for the invisible labor. You're not signing up for the labor of trying to teach them, because it's not gonna change and the Effort versus impact isn't gonna be worth it for you. You're gonna put a ton of effort in for very little impact.

Speaker 1:

Third thing I want you to do is boundary up. Boundaries are not what you tell someone else to do, boundaries or what you do for yourself. So you're gonna choose, when you're engaging with these individuals, what you're gonna discuss, what is vaulted. When the time is up, when you've had enough, you're going to keep your Conversation within whatever boundaries or swim lanes feel right for you, so that you're not constantly in. They just did it again and then you could, if you decided, to flip the switch, which is, you could say to them Are you open to hearing any feedback about this conversation? And they may not understand, they may say yes, but if you continue to do the tango and you're normative. Just know that you're probably gonna lose your shit at some point because it's going to be extremely exhausting and that's the way they show up.

Speaker 1:

So Finding ways that you can note that the conversational narcissism is straining a rep relationships, it is hindering communication, but that the conversations that you want to be having involve a balance of sharing and active listening. It's about a genuine interest in what others have to say. You're dealing with a conversational narcissist. I'm gonna tell you again, it's an afgo right, another fucking grow father of Trinity. It is going to be challenging, but Asserting your needs, getting clear on your boundaries and where you can gently redirect the conversation is Going to help a lot. And then I would also say check out my episode. I'll drop in the show notes of how to survive the office narcissist, because the two of these together, I think, will really, really help. All right, friends, as always, if you have questions, email me at hello, at Jill Griffin coaching comm, and have a great week and I'll see you next time. I

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