Tuesday, January 22, 2008

8 Ways to Avoid Conversational Narcissism

Forget yourself and submit to the other person.

That’s the BIG challenge of listening.

To check your ego.
To relinquish you agendas.
To suspend your preoccupation.

Unfortunately, it’s dangerously easy for people to fall into the trap of Conversational Narcissism.

Especially when they’re too busy.

Too busy trying to contribute.
Too busy trying to prove themselves.
Too busy trying impose their own agenda.
Too busy trying to take ownership of someone else’s ideas.

Today we’re going to explore 8 practices to help you avoid Conversation Narcissism so you can continue to grow bigger ears!

1. Watch your intent. First, beware of listening for selfish reasons. In fact, ask yourself this: Why are you listening? Could it be…

Listening to give advice?
Listening to change people?
Listening to hear yourself talk?
Listening to control the conversation?
Listening to appear like a good listener?
Listening to find your opportunity to steal the stage take over?

Or, are you listening to understand, learn and help? The choice is yours.

2. Switch the spotlight. Give THEM the glory. REMEMBER: Listening isn’t about you. And your words need to reinforce that principle. So, try these Phrases That Payses after you’ve finished making a comment:

o "And you…?"
o "Have you had similar experiences?"
o "Is it the same in your industry?"
o "What about yourself?"
o "What’s YOUR philosophy on that?"

3. Silently check yourself. In the back of your mind (while still listening, of course), find a way to keep yourself accountable. Consider using QREATIVITY by asking silent self-assessment questions like:

o Am I granting others space to talk?
o Am I listening or controlling the conversation?
o Am I listening or trying to fix?
o Am I listening or waiting to talk?
o What questions wants to be asked next?
o Will this comment disrupt or contribute?

4. Don’t add too much value. Trust in your ability to add value AFTER (not during) the listening process. Resist the temptation to hijack the conversation by matching or one-upping people’s points, or by trying to solve the problem too quickly.

A great practice to remind you of this principle is to post listening reminders on sticky notes by your desk and phone. Examples might include:

a. Listening, not solving.
b. Don’t add (too much) value!
c. Listen, don’t fix.
d. Listeners don’t bulldoze!
e. Three seconds before responding.
f. Two ears, one mouth!

Check out the complete list of 38 Listening Reminders!

5. Open the space. Part of your role as the listener is to make room (both physically and emotionally) in the conversation. Your best practice for this principle is the strategic use of silence. This lets the other person fill in the empty spaces AND enables him to set the pace of the conversation.

The challenge, of course, is that most Conversational Narcissists don’t like silence. They talk for the sake of talking. As if silence made them look weak and indecisive.

Nope. Silence is strength. And “silence is golden” because it helps the other person articulate their most precious emotions. So, your goal is to become more comfortable with silence. Here's why:

o The more you practice silence alone, the more comfortable you will be during silence with others.
o The more comfortable you are during silence with others, the less likely you are to feel the need to fill the space.
o The less you feel the need to fill the space, the more open the atmosphere becomes.
o The more open the atmosphere becomes, the more likely the other person is to share her authentic feelings, concerns and questions.

6. Be mindful of ownership. Don’t take over people’s problems. That’s not your job. And that’s (probably) not why they came to you. Instead, provide support so they can safely process their own thoughts and eventually formulate their own solutions. In so doing, you show the other person respect and reinforce their ability to manage their own lives. Use Phrases That Payses like:

o "What do you think is the best option?"
o "What does your gut tell you?"
o "What outcome would be optimal in this situation?"
o "What are you going to do about it?"

7. Listening is NOT a performance. Listening is about temporarily suspending your need for self-expression. So, don’t use what people say as triggers for your own jokes. Listening takes, among many things, self-control. One of my favorite rules is: Acknowledge, then shut up! SO REMEMBER: Take in; don’t take over.

8. Recognize and return. Notwithstanding the first seven suggestions on this list, it’s still nearly impossible to avoid ALL traces of conversational narcissism. So, the secret is to recognize when you feel yourself being pulled into narcissistic territory. That way you can correct it, then pass the conversation back to the other person. Consider using these Phrases That Payses:

a. “I’ve been doing most of the talking, so let me stop now and just listen.”
b. “Enough from me, what about you?”
c. “I’m sorry; I’ve been talking too much!”

Ultimately, Conversational Narcissism boils down to this simple idea:

Listening isn’t about you.

It’s about forgetting yourself and submitting to the other person.

So, check your ego. Relinquish you agendas. And suspend your preoccupation.

Start growing bigger ears today!

LET ME ASK YA THIS...
How do you avoid Conversational Narcissism?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS...
Share your best practice for Growing Bigger Ears here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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