Have you noticed how quickly conversations can turn?
One person shares a thought, experience, emotion, or difficulty with another person …
and that other person, rather than asking a question or digging more deeply into the first person's issue,
simply turns the conversation to himself:
"I know just how you feel …"
"I once had that same experience …"
"I knew a person who once …"
"I have been wondering that same thing …"
"I completely disagree with you …"
"Oh my gosh, that reminds me of something that happened to me last week …"
This process actually has a name.
It is called the "shift response."
Charles Derber, the one who initially called out "conversational narcissism,"
provides some critical information on this sneaky little maneuver -
"The subtlety of the shift-response is that it is always based on a connection to the previous subject.
This creates an opening for the respondent to shift the topic to himself … when serving narcissistic ends, shift-reponses are repeated until a clear shift in subject has transpired …
The effectiveness of the shift response as an attention getting device lies partly in the difficulty in distinguishing immediately whether a given response is a sharing one or a narcissistic initiative."(Charles Derber)
Do you see what Derber is saying here?
In conversation, watch out for your own efforts to shift the topic of the conversation to yourself!
It happens all too often, and is most often driven by our own narcissistic need to become the topic of every conversation we are in.
Ouch, I know!
This happens real subtly … but happen it does. And some of us don't even know we are doing it! We think we are just commiserating with someone by sharing our struggles, or are being interesting by telling them our point of view, or we think it is really quite important to everyone that they know our opinion on all topics!
But I need to watch for this in myself!
When listening to another person, I want to try to stay with them and their story, their emotions, their circumstances.
I don't want to always shift the conversation back to myself.
Ask genuine, curious, open-ended questions.
Resist the urge to share my own (even though it might be related) story.
Stop trying to one-up people.
Stop thinking everyone always needs to know my opinion.
Enjoy being mysterious!
No more shift-response!!!
This could change my life …
And it certainly could change the lives of people who need me to listen to them.