It’s not always about you

September 19, 2015

not-about-youIt’s not always about you.  In fact, when conversation with friends is involved, it rarely is.

Enough About Me, my recent post on the epidemic if self-centered behavior really struck a chord with readers.  It turns out that I’m not alone in noticing that so many have lost their ability to look outside themselves.

I’m pretty sure that most people don’t realize how self-focused they might be in conversations with their friends.  They believe they’re having a dialogue. A dialogue, though, requires give and take.  Responses that are all about you are one-sided: yours.

If  your response to something a friend shares with you is something like “I know what you mean–the other day at my job…” and then describe your own situation?

That’s a self-absorbed response. You’re not engaged in what your friend is saying, you are engaged in what you are going to say next. About yourself.

Chances are, your friend is tempted to say, “Hey, it’s not about you!”

Your friend has the floor. Let her have it. Your time will come soon enough.

A more caring and inclusive response (and one that promotes a true dialogue) is to ask a question about the situation your friend is describing. Really get into what they mean.

So think about it.

Are you promoting a true dialogue when you talk to others? Or are you seeking a platform to talk about yourself?

Here’s a little trick. When you sit down to talk with a friend, focus on asking questions about what they just said, not making statements. Statements are often about ourselves, but questions? They can be about your friend and the information s/he is sharing.

People often think I’m writing about them when I blog, because the piece may post near a date when I could have noticed something they did. That always makes me smile. The fact is that most of my pieces are written weeks or even months before they are scheduled, so no, it’s not about you.

But in this case? If you think it’s about you?

It is.

Own it.

Change it.

13 comments on “It’s not always about you
  1. When having a conversation I focus on what the other person is saying. It’s not about topping them or relaying something similar that happened to us. It’s about being a good friend, trying to walk in their shoes and really listening.

    We think people are so focused on us sometimes and they’re not. That’s simply human nature. But I believe the world would be a better place if we all thought about one another a lot more, and opened our ears and hearts for each other and little bit more. Okay, a lot more.

  2. ryder ziebarth says:

    I totally understand what you mean by being a better listener. I am a certified exec. coach from Columbia’s Teachers College, and it is a wonderful skill to own when a friend is in real trouble and needs to figure her own way out. BUT…in an everyday exchange, if I listen TOO much, ask TOO many questions, I feel back on the coaching couch. There isn’t a person in the world that won’t take advantage of being in the verbal vomit seat. There must be a balance, and it must come from the more savvy conversationalist. Sometimes I give them the stage, then I say: ” I have a few stories that you might want to hear about the same subject that I have experienced, and they might shed some light for you.” Sometimes I say,” Can I share?” There is just as fine a line as listening too much as there is in interrupting to much. It takes practice and awareness of ourselves.

  3. Olga says:

    Lol, great read. I know it’s not all about me but I have to say this really hits home . I’very recently noticed that my conversations have become more about my stories than about my friends. Will definitely be applying these tips! Thanks for the wake-up call 🙂

  4. Sometimes, relating a personal story similar to your friends story is a way to show empathy. We all want to know we’re not out there alone. But, if someone wants to rant I will give them the floor because I need to do that myself, sometimes. I think that’s why I blog.

  5. Theresa Wiza says:

    My mind has difficulty staying focused, so I’m often guilty of thinking about a hundred other things that relate to what the person is talking about while listening to them. People tell me I’m a great listener, but staying focused and engaged is a challenge for me. Still, your suggestion to ask questions is a great way to stay engaged and I use it to stay focused. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. I think you’re addressing something very important here! Thank you for reminding us.

  7. janice Wald says:

    I think there are people who just don’t have filters. Thanks for reminding us how important it is to make people feel heard.

  8. You hit the target with this one, Carol. I’m afraid I’m guilty of this focus-shifting too. (Uh oh, did I just do it?) To a more vigilant future!

  9. Quin says:

    I have an acquaintance that makes every conversation about her. Doesn’t matter if I’ve flown a rocket to the moon! So frustrating. That’s the reason why I now limit my interaction with her.

  10. Jane says:

    Wonderful post, very valid points. Something we are all guilty of from time to time. Thank you for the reminder to be a good listener and friend.

  11. Thought provoking as always!

  12. Lee Gaitan says:

    I completely agree that it is very important to respond in a way that makes the other person really feel “heard.” Sometimes, though, that does involve relating a similar feeling or circumstance you have faced, as a way of showing them that you really do get what they are saying and empathize with them–not trying to top them or make it about yourself. There have been times when I’ve shared something painful or embarrassing and the most comforting words the other personal has offered me were, “I’ve been there too, you’re not alone.” We need each other and we need the give and take of conversation in its many forms to truly communicate.

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