- Confront the speaker, either by using sarcasm (“the conversation is going that way again”) or overtly calling the speaker out
- Shift the topic to themselves or to another topic completely
- Maintain the floor (“look them dead in the eye and talk with a direct and meaningful tone”)
- Bring another person into the conversation
- Reduced response (by looking away)
- Demonstrate disinterest
- Leavetaking (“make bad excuses to leave”)
- Prepare mentally so as not to get upset
- Listen or pretend to listen till they run out of steam
- Ignore them by not answering questions or laughing at jokes
- Simply avoid the person
Further studies in the Vangelista et al. investigation went on to examine whether conversational narcissism is ever appropriate (it can be) and further, how it evolves over the course of the relationship between participants. For your purposes, though, the findings provide fairly direct guidance that you can use to examine your own conversational behavior.
Conversational narcissism isn’t limited, of course, to face-to-face interactions. What University of Derby’s Zaheer Hussain and colleagues (2017) call “problematic smartphone use” becomes a fertile ground for the conversational narcissist to take on a dominating role in conversations and online activity. You can, therefore, look at how you use your own cellphone as an additional clue to detecting your inadvertent narcissism. As Hussain et al. note, there is ample evidence to suggest that people high in narcissism show signs of addictive smartphone use.
In an Internet-based study carried out on 871 smartphone users (average age of 25 years), most of whom used their smartphones for Facebook and other social networkingsites, higher narcissism scores were positive predictors of the type of smartphone use that the authors considered problematic. Heavy smartphone users were also lower in the personality traits of conscientiousness and emotional stability.
To find out whether you’re a problematic smartphone user, see how much you would agree with these statements: “I am preoccupied with my smartphone,” “I use my smartphone to escape or relieve a negative mood,” “I have jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational career opportunity because of my smartphone use.” The British authors also noted that narcissism alone might not entirely predict smartphone use, but anxiety also plays a role.
Putting together the results of the two studies, we can now understand how your inadvertent narcissism might show up in your cell phone use as well as your ordinary day-to-day conversations. Narcissism can lead you to constantly call or text others, put up self-centered Facebook posts, and initiate long phone conversations in which you do most of the talking. Using the results of the Vangelista et al. study, you can also ask how others seem to respond to you. Are they not liking or commenting on your posts? Do they seem to wish to hang up as soon as possible? Do you pause long enough in your conversations to hear their responses? If you do, are those responses indicative of active or passive coping strategies with your narcissistic domination of the conversation?
Fortunately, with the behavioral approach advocated by the communication studies research team, you don’t need to take a personality test and score yourself to find out if you’ve taken on the qualities of an inadvertent conversational narcissist. Just listen to yourself, see how others respond to you, and then take stock of how people are responding to your heavy and self-oriented Facebook use. Enlist a friend or family member’s support to see if you’re improving in these behaviors. As you turn down your inadvertent narcissism, your fulfillment from mutually rewarding relationships will only gain strength.