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5 Signs of Conversational Narcissism and How To Avoid

5 Signs of Conversational Narcissism and How To Avoid

Have you ever been in a conversation where, no matter what you say, the other person always manages to steer the discussion back to themselves? You start with a story about your recent vacation, and before you know it, you’re listening to an exhaustive account of their past five holiday adventures. If this sounds familiar, you’ve encountered conversational narcissism.

What is Conversational Narcissism?

Conversational narcissism is a term coined by sociologist Charles Derber to describe the tendency of individuals to shift the focus of the conversation to themselves. It’s not necessarily malicious or even conscious, but it can be incredibly frustrating and alienating for those on the receiving end.

Signs of Conversational Narcissism

Here is how to spot conversational narcissism:

1. Shift-Response

A shift-response is a common sign of conversational narcissism where the individual redirects the focus of the conversation back to themselves, often without acknowledging what the other person has said.


  • You: “I had a great weekend hiking in the mountains.”
  • Them: “Oh, I love hiking! Last year, I went on this amazing trek in the Rockies and saw the most incredible views!”

In this example, the person quickly shifts the focus from your hiking experience to their own, without engaging with your story.

2. Interruption

Interrupting someone mid-sentence to insert their own thoughts or stories is a hallmark of conversational narcissism. This behavior shows a lack of interest in what others have to say and a strong desire to be heard.


  • You: “I’ve been working on this new project at work—”
  • Them: “Oh, speaking of projects, I just started a new one that’s going to revolutionize the way we do business!”

Here, the person cuts you off to talk about their project, showing little regard for your narrative.

3. Story-Topping

A conversational narcissist often feels compelled to one-up others’ stories with their own, more impressive experiences or achievements.


  • You: “I just ran my first 10K race this weekend!”
  • Them: “That’s great! I remember when I ran my first marathon. It was such an intense experience!”

Instead of celebrating your achievement, the person diverts the attention to their larger accomplishment.

4. Conversational Hijacking

This involves taking control of the conversation and steering it toward topics they want to discuss, often unrelated to the initial subject.


  • You: “Have you seen the latest episode of that new TV series?”
  • Them: “No, but I just finished reading this fantastic book that you must hear about!”

The person disregards your interest in discussing the TV series and shifts the conversation to their reading experience.

5. Lack of Follow-Up Questions

A conversational narcissist rarely asks follow-up questions or shows genuine interest in others’ stories. Their questions, if any, are often superficial and serve as a segue into their own stories.


  • You: “I went to Italy last summer.”
  • Them: “Italy is nice. I went there a few years ago and visited Rome, Florence, and Venice.”

They acknowledge your statement but quickly move on to talk about their trip without asking about your experiences in Italy.

6. Body Language and Non-Verbal Cues

Non-verbal signs of conversational narcissism include displaying impatience, such as frequently checking their watch or phone, looking away, or showing visible disinterest when others are speaking.

Example: During a group discussion, a conversational narcissist might:

  • Frequently look around the room or at their phone.
  • Nod absentmindedly without making eye contact.
  • Lean forward only when it’s their turn to speak, indicating disinterest in others’ contributions.

7. Monopolizing Group Conversations

In group settings, a conversational narcissist often dominates the discussion, leaving little room for others to participate.

Example: In a team meeting, they might:

  • Talk at length about their ideas without inviting input.
  • Overpower others’ attempts to speak by raising their voice or talking over them.
  • Dismiss others’ contributions quickly to return to their own points.

While someone who frequently dominates conversations may display narcissistic tendencies, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD. There are several other underlying reasons why someone might exhibit conversational narcissism, and understanding these can help us respond more empathetically and constructively.

Reasons For Conversational Narcissism

Insecurity and Self-Esteem Issues

People who are insecure or have low self-esteem might dominate conversations as a way to seek validation and reassurance. By sharing their accomplishments or experiences, they attempt to prove their worth to others.

Lack of Social Awareness

Some individuals might not be aware that they are dominating the conversation. They may have poor social skills or might not understand the norms of give-and-take in a dialogue. This lack of awareness can be due to various factors, including upbringing or cultural differences.

Excitement and Enthusiasm

Sometimes, people dominate conversations out of sheer enthusiasm. They get excited about a topic and become engrossed in sharing their thoughts and experiences, not realizing they are overshadowing others.

Desire for Connection

In an attempt to connect and relate to others, some people might share personal stories frequently. They believe that by talking about themselves, they are opening up and fostering a bond, not realizing that this can have the opposite effect if overdone.

Anxiety and Nervousness

Conversational dominance can also stem from anxiety. People who are nervous in social situations might keep talking to avoid awkward silences or to prevent the conversation from veering into uncomfortable territory.

Of course, one cannot completely rule out that conversational narcissism could be a sign of NPD. Either way, understanding how to address and manage such tendencies can benefit all parties involved.

How To Manage?

Here is a complete guide on how to address and manage someone with conversational narcissism:

Lead by Example

One of the most effective ways to manage conversational narcissism is by modeling good conversational habits yourself. When you actively listen, you show genuine interest in what others are saying.

This involves maintaining eye contact, nodding, and providing verbal acknowledgments like “I see” or “That’s interesting.” Demonstrating balanced sharing is also key; share your thoughts and experiences, but also make deliberate space for others to contribute.

When you respond to others, use supportive responses that validate their contributions rather than shifting the focus back to yourself.

For example, if someone shares a story, you might say, “That sounds amazing, tell me more about that!” This approach subtly encourages the narcissist to adopt similar behaviors.

Gentle Redirection

When you notice someone consistently shifting the conversation back to themselves, gently steer the discussion back to a more balanced focus.

For instance, if the person starts talking about their vacation right after you mention yours, you might say, “That sounds fascinating! Let’s get back to what Jane was saying about her project.”

This approach acknowledges their input but redirects attention to include others’ contributions.

If someone dominates a discussion, you can balance attention by saying, “I’d love to hear more about that, but first, can we hear about John’s experience?” These gentle nudges help maintain a balanced conversation without directly confronting the narcissist.

Setting Boundaries

If someone consistently monopolizes conversations, setting polite but firm boundaries is necessary. You might need to interrupt tactfully, saying, “I’d love to hear more about that later, but can we finish discussing this topic first?” This approach helps keep the conversation on track and gives others a chance to contribute.

Providing Constructive Feedback

When dealing with someone close to you, offering constructive feedback can help them become more aware of their conversational habits.

It’s best to have this discussion in private to avoid embarrassment. Use “I” statements to frame your feedback in terms of how their behavior affects you.

For example, you might say, “I’ve noticed that our conversations often shift back to your experiences, and sometimes I feel like I don’t get to share my thoughts.”

Providing specific examples can illustrate your point clearly, such as, “For instance, when I mentioned my new project, you quickly shifted to talk about your work instead.” This feedback should be given with empathy and the intent to improve communication, not to criticize.

Educational Resources

Sometimes, people need more structured guidance to change their behavior. Recommend resources such as books, articles, or workshops on effective communication and active listening.

You can also encourage them to seek the support and guidance of a therapist. Therapy can give them the space to explore their need to dominate conversations, and help them build compassion, empathy, and communication skills.


Conversational narcissism refers to the tendency of hogging the conversation and seldom pay attention or interest in what others are talking about. It often stems from a deep-seated need for validation, approval, and low self-esteem.

It negatively impacts personal and professional relationships, often creating an unappealing impression on others. It also prevents them from having meaningful connections.

Recognizing the signs of conversational narcissism can help to address and manage this habit.

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