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Comments (41)

  1. Crystal

    Super helpful! Is there any more guidance you can give about digging for common interests?

    After searching for some by mentioning some of mine and asking questions and not finding any it can get awkward.

    Thanks,
    Crystal

    Btw I am participating in your awkward to awesome conversation skills class, week 4.

  2. j.

    My friend always talks about her diabetes, the surgeries she’s had, how it didn’t help anything, (or made things worse) the unwanted weight loss, how her clothing doesn’t fit anymore, family members that have died, how her daughter is ungrateful, how she’s so sick but is going to go babysit her grandchildren even though she’s sick (she empathies this) how her other daughter never listens to ehr and argues with her, and on and on and on if she does say something positive always ends it with “Other people have it far worse then I do.” Then will go on about how she’s a caring person and wishes she could help everyone, that she did in the past as much as posable but can’t now. And many other complaints. I forgot she always seems to have something new that’s going wrong or a new injury (twice now she says she’s fallen down and is referring to her bruises as conclusions. O.o

    How do I let her know I sympathize, and let her know she’s being herd and get her to change the subject once in a while without being rude or hurting her feelings? I’ve tried and failed as and change of subject she’ll always bring back around to her. It’s getting to the point where I’ll avoid her for a few days to get a break!

    I think special care is needed here as she has a chronic illness and has a right to complain. I just want the subject to be something else!

    I get blasted with migraines often along with arthritis but I don’t complain much about it as in my opinion people will only care so much before becoming desensitized to the whole problem/issue. I think the first words out of someone’s mouth should not to be to complain and bemoan about one’s pains all the time. So I’m really at odds with this friend and want to find a gentle way to steer her away from her pains and maybe get her to think about something else for a while.

    Hum.. i’m tring to decide if she has all these problems or if she’s a hipocondrack or maybie a weird form of a naracist? Thanks for any feedback. Maybie I’m over thinking this.

  3. Paul

    A wonderful article.

    But what about when there’s a common interest that becomes all absorbing to the exclusion of everything else?

    For instance, I know many people I know are interested in railroads and trains.

    They only talk about one thing; railroads and trains. Anything else is “off topic”.

    You can know someone for many years but know little about the person. All that’s ever been discussed is the common interest; in this case railroads and trains.

  4. Marie

    Thank you!! Here I have discovered valuable information that answers the concerns I left earlier in a comment section///ie, The Listener’s Trap.

    I will study this, nervously attempt some of the techniques then get back. Thanks. Marie

  5. Angel

    I had put myself in a trap for 6 years, I didn’t realize at the beginning because she seemed sad and needed some friendship So I thought of being her good friend I should listen and give her good advice.
    As times go on, after her divorced and she gained her confidence back, she started to talk more about herself, her new boyfriend, her jobs, her other friends who I barely know, her new condo. She said she likes to share with me. That’s ok to share but when you share, you should listen to others of what they want to share with you too. She just asked me on something that maybe she doesn’t have better than me. I feel like comparing is happening in her mind but she tried to cover it.
    When she gets something good she will tell me so that I say congratulations to her and be happy with her blablabla….
    In the other hand, if I got something good to share, it seems like she doesn’t want to hear, not being supportive of me. Sometimes even say some bad criticism like it was not good in her opinion which she has no knowledge about that thing.
    I recently break off talking with her by telling her exactly how I feel. She doesn’t get it and take it as it was me in a bad mood.
    Now I feel so free and relax during this moment, I am not knowing if I want to be back to talk to her again since she doesn’t know her own problem and it means it wont be fixed

    • JJ

      Good for you! I admire your courage to tell her how you felt. I have been in similar situations but it took me a really long time to bring that up because I was worried if she’ll be mad at me and talk bad things about me to other people. In the end, it was so stressful for me that I eventually told her how I felt with my friend’s help (who also shared similar feelings), but it was definitely hard for me.

  6. Anonymous

    I have a friend that I talk to well but in his side he rarely talks to me like ever since he met his other friends that he never met in person, he started acting strange like me and him used to be close like me and him have been friends since Elementary school and me and him would always talk to each other everyday on messenger until 9th grade he started acting different like every time I ask him an important question or try to start a conversation, he just looks at it and doesn’t reply back or doesn’t look at it at all but when he asks me an question or starts a conversation with me, I reply back and when after I reply back he doesn’t look at it and just goes offline on messenger and switches over to Instagram which is where he talks to his other friends that he never met in person but when I text him on Instagram, he just goes offline and switches over to Discord and when I do the same there he just puts his icon on DO NOT DISTURB. It’s getting really annoying how he just ignores me but I don’t ignore him and respond back to him with positiveness and what not. I did confront him one time and told him why he was always ignoring me and that it was annoying then he said that I was annoying and frustrating which really makes me confused because he has about 10 friends he never met in person before and I bet they all send him like 50 or a little less messages a day and I am most sure that he responds back to them but when I just send one message, he doesn’t at all which makes me wonder why you would just be more friendly active and care more about people you never met before in person like you never know what that person looks like nor how they really act in person so what do I do in a situation like this for my friend because this has been happening over a week now and its really annoying and is he even really my friend or did he turn fake on me and became a fake friend and plus I think he is also doing this because we got separated from each other every since high school started but I mostly think its ever since he met his “friends” so please reply and tell me if he is even a real friend anymore and tell me what to do in this situation.

  7. Jenny

    There is another danger in the listener trap. When you have too much of that in your life, and then get around people that are good listeners, it’s easy to become the talker. This is because you finally have someone that will let you talk so you want to get it all out. It’s an easy habit to fall into if you’re not careful.

    • Lindy

      Yes that is certainly a danger that I have become aware of too! I have found that this is where the advice of these bloggers comes in very handy. What I remind myself, in addition to the attentional shift and other advice here, is that because they are good listeners, I will have another chance when I see them next if there is more I want to talk about. But it is exciting because you then have a real chance at the ideal of an equal friendship!

  8. Katie

    Hi, I have a friend who, in text messages, can ask me a question, I respond to the question, but she would then very rarely comment on what I told her in my response. Instead, in her response, she would only respond to what I ask her back, and the text conversation turns into a conversation about whatever she tells me (because I ask her follow-up questions). Isn’t it courtesy to comment on what somebody tells you? Like, even if it’s just me telling her that I’m going on a trip or something like that. What could be her reasons for not even commenting on what I tell her? It’s a bit different IRL, so this only really bothers me in text messaging, but that’s our mean of communication (we live in different cities) so it’s starting to annoy me quite a bit.

    • JJ

      I totally agree with you, Katie. I have the same experience with quite a lot of people I know. It makes me regret sending them kind messages from my side when they don’t reply at all. I don’t understand how some people don’t even know basic manners. It feels like I’m offering my politeness for nothing. No reciprocity makes me question my whole ‘kind’ approach to them. It feels really dirty when you’re messages are just ignored.

  9. Sarah

    I just want to kill myself. I am a victim of horrible narcissistic abuse from my own Mother, Grandparents, Inlaws, husband, close girlfriends,and Oder sister and I am an alcoholic because of the pain in my childhood. . I am so tired of people talking about themselves I could put a bullet through my brain. People don’t realize that others are in pain around them. As an empath, I drink to end the pain. Do people not realize they are talking about themselves endlessly and yet ignore the divorced isolated friend who lives alone and wants to. Die? I do not discuss my pain because I don’t want to bother others. My father died of suicide. I understand why he did. Just please please listen to people who are going through a lot in their lives.

    • Anonymous

      You are joking right? You just complained how all these people talk about themselves and their lives. All the while, you sit here and whine about people not feeling sorry for you and giving you attention. Then you cry wolf about suicide? You are the typical mind-warped, narcissist alcoholic. Get your act together and no one gives you attention because they don’t feel sorry for you. Your general demeanor is a clear indicator as to why

  10. Ali

    Insightful article, and many good stuff. I think others aspects also, like self-esteem and communication skills, can play a big deal to make you either sort of a listener or talker person.

  11. O

    This is a really excellent and useful article. For some reason this stuff which seems obvious once reading, I have never been taught or learnt in the 35 years I’ve been on this planet. Thank you for writing this.

  12. Judy

    I live in SE England and have several really true old friends from my youth with whom I get on very well, but they all live miles and miles away (Scotland, Australia, Amsterdam, etc). I also have one very good friend who lives about 5 miles away.

    However, I have regularly got stuck in the listening trap in “new” communities every time I moved house (and county) – 7 times in my adult life.

    I am already doing all the things you suggest to keep a conversational balance! I trained to teach Maths, and also as a Citizens Advice volunteer, so active listening comes naturally to me. I have moved around a lot (see above) and lived abroad, so finding shared interests isn’t difficult either. I often ask new acquaintances for informal coffee in my own home, but rarely receive reciprocal invitations. AND I do, from time to time, force myself to interrupt and say something (relevant about the current topic) about my own experience. But … I am perhaps hyper-sensitive about stopping my discourse when my companion seems to have switched off.

    Result: I have a large number of acquaintances (and family in-laws!) who all seem quite glad to see me (and enjoy my hospitality) … but still always talk about themselves!!!

    Should I persist longer when talking about myself? Or should I just be content with my very few tried and trusted REAL friends? Writing this makes me conclude that ONE good friend is all that any 75 year old should expect – especially if one has several hundred shallow acquaintances?

    • Viktor Sander

      Hi Judy, thanks for sharing so openly with all of us. I think your experience will help a lot of people see how common this problem is.

      Another thing we didn’t mention in the article, that I like trying, is to open up about something to the other person that you want their support or advice on. A good friend will listen well and try to give you the emotional support or advice that you need. Even if a friend talks too much, if they still help me out when I request it or open up, I feel the friendship can still be worth saving. Have you tried that?

  13. Guillaume

    Hi, you say “You could bring it up with them in a constructive way. I’ve actually done this myself with a few friends and I’ve been surprised by how willing most of them have been to change when they realize their error.”

    I’d really like to know how because I have a friend (male, I’m a male too, french, 26yo) who is exactly like that.

    Everytime I or someone else talk about an experience, he can’t help but bring the subject back to him. Just as an : example if someone talks about his/her trip on an island like Caribbean or whatever, he will not ask questions or be interested, he will just say that he had a different experience at the same place (or even in a different place).
    That’s annoying.

  14. Emma

    I understand it to be a bit more than a ‘listener trap’. I am naturally a bit of a ‘people pleaser’ and have a knack of attracting certain personalities who have manipulative and selfish tendencies. What I found very interesting here is that Darrel writes:

    “I am afraid that if I start talking about myself, these friends would find me whiny and stop being friends with me.”

    This tells me that either Darrel has self esteem issues and has difficulty asserting his feelings as worthy or/and that their could be a power imbalance in the relationship. For one individual to talk about themselves as much as they wish and that Darrel has picked up possibly on an ‘unspoken rule’ or the likes, that for him to talk about himself makes him ‘Whiny’- and it is not tolerable to his ‘friend’. In this situation I would step back and look at my relationships to identify if their is a pattern to the kind of people I gravitate to and gravitate to me and if I am subconsciously allowing myself to get sucked into and stuck in trying to ‘help’ people who do not really want help but want all of your attention at their call.

    I have already been doing as is described here and made an effort to lay down my boundaries from the beginning in relationships that their is no mistake about what I will tolerate in the name of friendship. It takes effort for individuals who have a relaxed or ‘passive’ style to not give off the impression that they will do and be all that anyone wants them to. Instead of Darrel worrying if someone will think him whiny if he talks about himself, Id strongly suggest that he ask himself if he wants to be in a relationship with someone who talks about themselves all the time and thinks he is the whiner when on occasion he turns the conversation to himself. When he gives less of his time to people who offer him little in return he opens up a space to connect with others whom he can have a more balanced and rewarding relationship with.

  15. Ellen

    I recently started dating someone like this. I am typically the listener in my friendships/relationships – initially listening 70% of the time and talking 30% of the time with the ratio moving towards 50-50 if the friendship/relationship grows.

    But with this guy, it’s more like 95% me listening and 5% me talking. He’s a terrific man and is not narcissistic in any way but for this one issue. And it has gotten to the point where anytime i mention something exciting that happened to me, e.g. getting into grad school, his reply is something along the lines of “great! i’m hungry.”

    I have tried the above- focusing on topics that we both have in common, but nothing. I have also mirroring his behavior to get him to stop, and I have outright called him out (politely) on not being curious about something b/c he didn’t bother asking me any questions about it, but nothing.

    i’m starting to think that the only reason we are still dating is because he likes that i listen. (or at least did initially). I’ve run out of ideas on what to do, though, as he is nice but this is starting to aggravate me.

    • Viktor Sander

      Thanks for sharing Ellen, it sounds like you have thought a lot about this and have clear and reasonable goals for what you expect from him.

      It seems you have tried everything without seeing any change in his behavior. He’s either oblivious, not socially skilled in listening (COMMON!), or just doesn’t care about you. Since I get the feeling that you are not willing to accept this pattern anymore, I think your best bet is bringing it up with him a final time. This time, make sure he understands how important it is for that this pattern changes in your MUTUAL communication. He very well might be willing to change, although it’s going to take some time and a lot of effort to re-learn how he talks and listens.

      Also, a tip to increase your chances is to talk to him about it as a pattern in your mutual communication. So you don’t direct it at him but instead talk about it like the problem lies in the pattern between the both of you. That way you decrease the chance he feels attacked and becomes defensive.

      You have my best and warmest wishes!

      • R-Dub

        Oh my, I have a GF like this. She hss been away at school for several months now but calls me every day. The entire time on phone is constant talk about everything good and bad that went on that day. If I get a word in about my day she will usually interrupt and talk over me and steer the conversation back to herself.
        At my stage in life I do not have time or inclination to try and fix someone. Too many other prospects out there. She has got to go.

    • Emma

      Ellen, I wonder if it is that he has an avoidant attachment style and that you are secure enough not to take it too personally. Their is a very interesting book on how attachment styles look in adult relationships called.. ‘Attached’.

    • Kathryn

      This is the exact conversation ratio I have been experiencing with my “friend”. 95% about her, 5% for me (if I’m lucky). She has no hesitation in cutting me short or listening to a few short words from me and without responding to what I’ve said, moves the conversation right back to her, sometimes after rolling her eyes because I have spoken. This has been happening for over a year and has made me physically ill, she works next door and monopolises (or rather monopolised) me every lunch hour for an entire hour for over a year. Finally I have had to simply tell her I’m taking an indefinite sabbatical as I need to stop taking everyone else’s problems. I have told her that I’m drained and feeling physically ill. Even this did not sink in, she told me to take a nice bath, listing to soothing music, watch comedy. Anything so I’m back to my old self and ready to listen to her again basically! No acknowledgement that her being so selfish is the cause of this. I am walking away and for good. Sometimes you can’t fix things but have to move away for your own sanity.

      • Viktor Sander

        It’s not easy to walk away and you did it. I think you did the right thing.

      • Annmarie

        I can totally understand. This happened to me with a walking partner. She monopolised the conversation for hours. Every time I attemoted to say something about my life it was treated as unimportant or she swiftly found an answer and returned to her own monalogue. After 4 years of a once a month barrage I could take no more. I wrote an email asking her if we could discuss an issue that was troubling me the next time we walked. She replied she would be happy to do so. The next time we met exactly the same format happened. I tried several times to interject but gave up then finally lost my cool and said I needed to go home. I then wrote her a very long email explaining my angst and how I felt not listened to. Her reply ….. I know you are a very private person!! I could not believe what I was reading and decided there and then our relationship was over. I dont regret it, but feel sad as it is the only relationship I have ever had to end in such an abrupt way. I didnt learn quickly enough and on reflection I was being used for her own gratification.

      • Anonymous

        Absolutely! Sadly, this is my story with a hand full of “friends”. I actually believe most people are aware they are acting in this fashion. But they simply do not care. This is under the umbrella is using people. The best alternative, as I am learning, is to break away. In allowing myself to be part of the listener’s trap and for so long a period….I have become resentful and very guarded with the symptoms of others in the only tangible topic is themselves and not others. This article and comments have been so helpful. Thank you.

  16. OSAMAS

    If people just talk about themselves to you nonstop, and then make an excuse to leave every time you want to talk about yourself; these people never were and never will be your friends!!! Drop them!

    • Emma

      THIS! If only someone told me this when I was a child!!

    • Rita

      Right on, OSAMAS!

    • Judy

      I agree! But sometimes they are family in-laws!

      It would be nice if they acknowledged that common factor … in my case common grandchildren .. but hey, I think one must just learn to accept it.

    • Maggie

      I can easily talk with folk who have a natural interchange. of conversation…
      My mate talk & talks & talks & has no ‘listening’ nor interest. I actually believed I had
      no conspversational skillls left. I was wrong. I can naturally speak with a ‘normal’ back & forth
      flow. I truly doubted myself. I think, it is possible to get ‘swallowed’ up by a greedy & non-stop talker, who
      truly does not care to hear any voice but their own.

  17. Anonymous

    I have a friend who constantly talks about herself herjob her family if i or anyone in the group speaks she puts her hand up and says….anyway and carries on. She never asks you anything and if the subject wanders from her to something else she steers it back to her…#rude..egocentric..self centered.

    • David Morin

      That sounds infuriating. It’s sad that she probably doesn’t know how it affects others impression of her.

  18. Anonymous

    I also found myself a little bit in this article..my problem is that i am really interested when other people talk and i ask questions because im genuinly interested but after a while i have noticed that people just emd up talking about themswlves and as some oof them can be really interesting, most of them i have found boring, egocentric amd after the meet up i would feel so exhausted i did not want to meet those people again. Umfortunatel one if those is my childhood friend. Now as I got older and experienced and more confident i do not want to spend my previoud time on empty talks that exhaust me. But, sadly it is quite difficult to find interesting people who like to share their experience but also learn and paY attention to others.

    • Lolana

      I have the exact same problem. I do like to listen. I think that does set up an expectation that no reciprocal attention is OK. Because it doesn’t start to bug me, with a person, until it’s really clear that it’s a pattern. Then, it bugs me.
      The most recent friend I have had this problem with is a good example and it’s been a texting relationship, mostly. I looked back this morning and confirmed my suspicions and then some. Almost every single thing I say, she doesn’t respond or ask questions for further info, but ties it back to some experience she had. I guess I had been aware she wasn’t as engaged in knowing about my stuff, but perhaps it’s been such a regular pattern for me that I didn’t realize the extent to which I was letting this person do this. Since the conversations are saved in the computer, I can see how it all played out. If it weren’t for a couple of other issues I would try to communicate this…but I already sort of tried. I had told her some really important stuff about my life/my heart and she just totally either forgot, or never even heard me. When I raised it again, she had no idea what I was talking about. Not even a clue. ….I’ve had friends like this before. They’re delightful for the occasional outing or chat. But this person doesn’t realize, isn’t going to change. I hit a wall with her because she came unglued at something people were posting on FB, a viral post that annoyed her, and I got numerous, lengthy, repetitive messages from her for a couple of days complaining about it. Well…I was also posting about the issue, because my people were curious. Her rants were really over the top and it’s just really bizarre when someone goes at you like that, pretending it’s about someone else (supposedly various people on her feed were annoying her by posting about this, so she went on rants to ME). Anyway, that kind of sideways attack pretty much tells me …this person doesn’t value my thoughts unless they’re about her (and I’ve been freaking great about that) …..and actually feels entitled to attack me. I’m just out. And if I have to be alone with no friends, that’s actually less stress than having someone in your life who you’re getting to know but who might just stab you in the back or lash out unexpectedly at you. No thanks.

  19. Russ

    In my friendships I find myself to be the “listener”, having trouble putting in a few words in a conversation. At first I just accepted it as the permanent role in my life. But I think I have a lot of knowledge that people can relate to so that we can carry on a more interesting topic than just their problems in life. The problem is I don’t want to overstep and feel like I’m insensitive towards that persons important thoughts. How do I mitigate that to where both of us feel like we’re equally contributing to the conversation while still maintaining the “listener of problems” and my friend walks away thinking I’m a good person to talk to, to get thing off their chest? It’s a conundrum in my life that I’ve dealt with for years.

  20. Eva

    Hi, I read your e-mails and watch your videos.
    I wonder why people are so afraid of awkward silence when being around people? Do you think silence are so wrong? Me personally thinks that people talk too much instead of embracing moments in silence around people.

    • Viktor Sander

      It’s only natural to be afraid of awkwardness, but you are right, embrace the silence and it will never again be a problem.

    • Russ

      I personally enjoy a bit of silence every now and then, especially in topics of personal issues. It allows your brain to catch up and process the topic at hand. I personally find it useful in conversations, so that each person walks away not replaying the problem in their mind, since you got it out of you talking to the other person. Silence can be useful other than filling the gaps with nonsense.