It’s About You — Not Me

My head is still spinning from something I learned this week. This is huge, so of course I have to share it with you. Besides, I know this is a behavior we all have in varying degrees.

For years I have been doing something that I thought gave me mastery at building rapport with people. Now I am aware that my technique may have been doing just the opposite.

This started when I read an email article from about the author’s mistake when dealing with a grieving friend. The mistake was thinking the right thing to do was sharing what she deemed a similar experience – finding common ground so to speak. But, what her friend needed in her moment of grief was listening and understanding, not the author turning the attention on to herself and her story.

Where my mind went with this was that moment when I’m being introduced to someone and learning something about them. I always told myself I had to show them a way that I was like them so they would relate to me – find common ground. Now, I am looking deeper. By now you know me – always digging deeper asking “what is the real truth here.”

Am I really seeking to make them feel comfortable with me, or am I trying to make an impression? I may consciously tell myself I empathizing with them, making them feel comfortable. But, doesn’t actually this take the attention away from the other person and turn it onto me?

The #1 thing I learned in the Dale Carnegie Sales Course is that everyone is wearing a sign around their neck that says, “Make Me Feel Important.” Remembering this turned the lights on. How did I think I could make someone feel important when I respond to their comments by telling them something I thought would impress them about me?

This is something we also tend to do frequently in our informal conversations with family and friends. We’re told a story about their current drama occurred, and we seem compelled to come up with a story that’s at least as impressive if not more so. It’s like an automatic response we do without thinking. Do we think they will be impressed? We’ve really just belittled their tragedy – made them feel small.

Sociologist Charles Derber calls this “conversational narcissism.” We take over the conversation and; do most of the talking. Wanting to see and feel the outcomes of this type of communication, I did a “replay” of instances when I did the take-over and times it is done to me. Here’s what I discovered:

When meeting someone new, people don’t act impressed with me because I come from the same state, have a similar background, or whatever common ground I am trying to establish. In fact at that point the conversation becomes flat. When it is done to me, I notice it makes me feel like I am less and they are more important.

And, when someone is sharing their current drama with me and I respond with one of my own, I can feel they are deflated. Me too when I share something with a friend and they answer with a story of their own. It doesn’t feel good.

I like the two responses in conversations that Derber describes: a Shift Response and a Support Response. Shift switches the attention back to you, and Support makes the other person feel supported. Here are examples:

Shift Response
Mary: My job is exhausting me
John: Mine too. It’s more than I can handle

Support Response
Mary: My job is exhausting me
John: Why? How would you like it to change?

Shift Response
Mary: I’ve got to get new shoes
John: Me too. My feet are killing me

Support Response
Mary: I’ve got to get new shoes
John: Oh yeah? What are you thinking you want?

What a great wake up this is to having better connections with everyone. For me it’s about being aware of my instinct to want to talk about myself. My choice is to make a conscious effort to listen more and talk less. Yeah, it’s a challenge – but, a good one!


  1. Shara Terry on January 14, 2018 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you Mardi for sharing. I thing support response is a better way to be for sure. I’ll take this challenge with you!

    • Mardi Kirkland on January 14, 2018 at 10:57 pm

      There are habits to break here, so I have not doubt that I will need reminders!

  2. Johnnie B on January 15, 2018 at 4:26 am

    This was a really good outline of responding to make the other person feel important. I liked it. Good luck with mailchimp.

  3. Mary Ann on January 15, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Interesting concept which will require a good deal of introspection and analysis of one’s behavior in this regard. I shall try to be more mindful and observant!

    • Alexis on January 15, 2018 at 5:17 pm

      Very interesting!! Hard habit to break!! 🙂

Leave a Comment