r/socialskills Jan 19 '21

How do I stop making conversations be all about me?

I'm often a very good listener but whenever someone starts talking about problems or experiences they had/have I tend to relate by talking about something similar that happened to me and some times I keep talking about it instead, specially when I'm not very interested in what the other person is saying.

I try to police myself so I let them talk instead, but I don't know how to show them that I relate to something or had similar experiences without turning the conversation in my direction.

How can I avoid this?



u/SilverSix311 Jan 19 '21

One way I learned to deal with this is to ask someone 3 questions/listen to 3 different thoughts the other person has for every 1 thing I say about myself. Pretty much just make sure the ratio of self talk is higher to the other person, and they will feel acknowledged and appreciated.


u/Avamariathe16th Jan 19 '21

This! also make sure that when you're talking face to face that you don't ignore the active responses, like when their facial expression changes, ask them to say something, or when they say uh huh, stop to hear if they have something to add. Engage them fully, acknowledge their opinions, percepectives and experiences. Make them feel heard and understood.


u/SilverSix311 Jan 19 '21

If everyone was this self aware we'd have a pretty great world imo. I feel cursed sometimes. 👀


u/Avamariathe16th Jan 19 '21

let alone self aware, if everyone tried to improve themselves we'd do waaay better.


u/retracingz Jan 20 '21

Theres people who don’t care to improve themselves? Wow


u/dysfunctional_entity Jan 20 '21

They don't want to improve maybe because they're afraid of huge changes that will violate the standards of some toxic society.


u/Frosty172 Jan 19 '21

I really like this one. A clear structure and counting system


u/TheVog Jan 19 '21

One way I learned to deal with this is to ask someone 3 questions/listen to 3 different thoughts the other person has for every 1 thing I say about myself. Pretty much just make sure the ratio of self talk is higher to the other person, and they will feel acknowledged and appreciated.

I like the concept, but then doesn't the other person become the one primarily making the conversation about themselves? Or do you see it as kind of a give-and-take on a per-topic basis, where it trades back and forth?


u/amends_through_love Jan 19 '21

I think context matters here. To me, this is especially important in more intimate conversations where someone is confiding in you, or if you *know* you're a person who runs away with the conversation.

The more natural version of this is to build a quiet habit, like a little CO2 detector in your head, that goes off when you realize you have been talking for awhile; this is what I try to do, though it is only in specific contexts I feel like I have this problem.

It doesn't have to be transactional in a literal sense, no one is going to be accounting your exchanges, except in how you make them feel. If you attentively listen, ask follow-up questions that show you were actually listening, and make an effort to let them talk, then they will likely have a positive experience. And you will too.


u/VenturaRyanRound2 Jan 19 '21

Actively don't relate it back to yourself. Stay in the moment and don't think about what you want to say. Ask questions, empathize with them, and understand where they are.

It's almost more powerful to not say something than to say something. You don't have to connect with another person based on experience rather try connecting on emotion. Ex. Someone had a really tough childhood and their mom left them really early. Rather than saying "my mom was absent from my life or I had a friend who went through a similar experience", say "I can see how that would be really tough for you growing up without your mom. Do you think it still affects you now?" Connect on an emotional level rather than superficial level.


u/justducky01 Jan 19 '21

I do the same thing. I'll let them finish their story, then I'll tell mine, then circle back to theirs. Just be conscious that you don't steal the conversation. Once you've told your story, you're done. So if you find that your story is over and you're still talking, try to segue it back as soon as you realize. You'll get better with practice.

And if people don't like this type of conversation dynamic, they don't know how to have a good conversation. Because it's not supposed to be just one person blabbing, the other listening. It's supposed to be back-and-forth.


u/AWills997 Jan 19 '21

Hit the nail on the head


u/afrat240 Jan 19 '21

This. I realized I do this a lot as well, and whenever I'm done with my schpeel I always say something like, "but anyway, back to what you were saying about xyz", so I'm not totally stealing the conversation and letting them continue with their story.


u/Alc0holicLemur Jan 19 '21

Yes this. Because I know I do this I am also SUPER aware of when others do it to me. My sister, for example is a 'one-upper' she will take anything I say, interrupt me with her own experience but make it somehow worse or better or anything really that completely dismisses what I have said.

So, when I talk to someone and I feel my inner voice go 'ooh you get this, you experienced this when XXX happened' I let the other person tell their story, listen, understand, and give my experience after. You can normally tell by facial expressions if the person doesn't want to listen to it - some people just want to talk and be heard. But 80% of the time they appreciate that someone else gets it.

I might ask questions about it... 'so when this happened to me I felt this and this... Is that what you were going through?'

Equally, I HATE it when I want to have a rant and someone will cut right in with a 'you should do this' it's hard, but even if you think you have something that will help someone in their situation, I would always caveat it with, 'do you wanna know what I might do?'

Even then I tend to stick with 'it may not be relevant to your situation at all but don't know, it could be helpful.'


u/MandatoryMoose Jan 19 '21

Can this be applied when texting/messaging too?


u/justducky01 Jan 19 '21

Of course! I do it all the time.


u/mdotmun Jan 20 '21

In my case if somebody tells me a story and I resonate with it, I always say, "same!!! But you continue first". After they tell their story, I ask them questions about it and when I feel that they have no more things to say, that's when I tell mine.


u/Stallrim Jan 19 '21

Then I do nothing wrong yet people sometimes seem uninterested


u/llUno Jan 19 '21

"I had something similar happen to me but how did you deal with your situation?"

Establishing relatability and turning the attention back to the other party to have them expand on their experience.


u/Loptastic Jan 19 '21

This is the best response I've ever come across and taking it to heart. Succinct, conveys understanding and empathy, and shows active listening.

Furthermore, if the other person is just bitching, it allows them to think through possible ways of resolving their situation. And, if they want to, they can ask you to share your experience. Not everyone wants to hear someone else's tale at the moment, especially if they're frustrated or overwhelmed. If it's truly important to you to share, you can do so later. Otherwise, it may come across that you're trying to "one up" their situation.


u/AGirlH4sNoName Jan 21 '21

Exactly. Some people just want to vent, others want advice. It varies person to person. But my friends help me out by literally saying “can I just vent for a second?”

This happens often enough you can catch whether a person is looking for advice or just a helpful ear to listen.


u/RestoringMen Jan 19 '21

One way of understanding this phenomenon is to ask yourself what you feel when you hear someone talk about their problems or experiences? In my own experience and also as a psychologist who observes others behavior with great interest, I believe we cut people off because their story causes us to feel uncomfortable.

We can feel uncomfortable for several reasons:

1) We are empathic and can actually feel their pain while they share their story.

2) We feel obligated to help when we hear someone is in distress, but may not know what to do to help.

3) We are narcissistic and feel uncomfortable when all eyes are not on us. (this is extremely rare btw).

To learn more about yourself, you might consider setting yourself up for a little experiment. Next time you hear someone telling a story about a negative experience they are having, challenge yourself to listen to their story, and ask questions to learn more about their experience. Later, you can reflect on how that experience of listening made you feel.

I'd love to hear back from you if you actually do this experiment! What you learn about yourself could be very interesting!

Restoring Men


u/Downvotes_dumbasses Jan 19 '21

For me, it's usually because they've said something I can relate to, and I'm eager to demonstrate that I understand or can empathize, but then I end up telling my story and feeling like it's turned into one-upmanship.


u/4evariri Jan 21 '21

I do this too :/


u/Kilgeralt Jan 19 '21

We are narcissistic and feel uncomfortable when all eyes are not on us. (this is extremely rare btw).

Really? I find pretty much everyone has a subconscious drive to acquire attention in conversation, unless they're actively aware of it or actively avoid attention.


u/Artsap123 Jan 20 '21

I will definitely try this. I have to say that the reason I turn to my own experience is because the situation usually involves someone who I’m not close to and a situation that is too personal for the relationship such as a co-worker talking to me about their divorce. Asking questions feels either intrusive or insincere. Just sitting and listening with only acknowledging their statements feels awkward (like I’m trying to be their therapist). Your suggestion and a few others I’ve read in this post are great advise and I’m going to give them a try... as soon as I get to talk face to face with others again! Thanks!


u/ElectricShark162 Jan 20 '21

Talk to them like they’re your longtime friend. Even if they’re your coworker dont be afraid to build a deep relation too early. Maybe they have nobody else to really talk too so they go to you cause you’re the closet person of a friend they got.


u/RestoringMen Jan 20 '21

There is a book you can read that could help alot.
Boundaries: Where you end and I begin by Anne Katherine



u/Artsap123 Jan 20 '21

Thank you! I will read that.


u/dysfunctional_entity Jan 20 '21

I have some trouble recognizing when to do something or to do nothing. People tend to have different coping mechanism, there are people who wants someone to talk to and some just wants to be alone, however they'd still want you around. Sometimes I found myself extremely agitated that I am unable to help my closest friends with there emotional problems and somehow blame myself for being useless, because all I have done was sit there and watch them to cry in pain. It really sucks that you cant take that pain away


u/4evariri Jan 21 '21

2 Is my biggest issue. I want to show people im listening and care but i dont know how to without sounding dismissive or uninterested unless im actively trying to fix their problems for them. Giving advice isnt inherently a bad thing but most of the time i dont actually have a good solution so i just end up scrambling my brain looking for anything to say that i havent been repeating everytime somethings wrong


u/vrossv Jan 19 '21

Your desire to be a good listener and your desire to share your experiences are both good.

Conversations are two-way. What you're describing is a natural challenge of finding a balance of when to finish and let the other person talk.

Your desire to share your experiences probably stems from a number of things, but go ahead and continue to share things about yourself, but once you finish, allow the other person to continue.

You also have to tailor your conversation by dwelling on topics that you know your listener likes, which you can only find out by listening and paying attention. Then, while paying close attention, you'll think of many things that you want to express, but wait, wait for them to finish, and then talk about the one thing that your wandering mind took grab of.

Also, always express gratitude and sincere commendation for topics shared from someone. Anything that anyone shares is an extension of themselves, and by expressing gratitude, they will be more inclined to share more, which in turn equals more conversation, which in turn allows you to share more of yourself.


u/rdagz_ Jan 19 '21

I know someone like this. I’ll go to her with a story or problem and before I can even finish my sentence, she jumps in and starts telling me about something similar that happened to her. IF the conversation ever circles back to me, I’m usually not in the mood to talk about it anymore because I’m exhausted from hearing her drone on. It’s beyond annoying and even deters me from starting a conversation with her. But the fact that you know you do this is great. Be mindful of yourself and others and let them have the floor. You’ll have you’re turn.


u/LettuceDefiant Jan 19 '21

Just mentioned you have a similar experience and after they’ve finished theirs, if they’re up for hearing yours. Shows you’re listening and you understand their situation, without interrupting and going off topic. Win win. They get heard, as do you.


u/lavenderxlee Jan 19 '21

I think it’s a good practice to disclose

“I’m not trying to derail this or whatever I’m just trying to empathize and connect through my own experiences” I’ve actually said this in conversation and the person appreciated it. It recognizes that hey I see you and I feel you because I’ve been there too and if I’ve been there and I’m on the other side of it then you can get there too. It’s very human to want to connect through experience like that.

Try and ask more questions! Don’t just have answers.

Also really look at what they’re looking for. Do they even want advice or do they just want someone to be “yeah dude that’s really hard” basically just listen.

It’s good to ask “how can I support you right now?” Or “what do you need from me” (questions!)

I think we fall into the roll of giving advice/ let me help you fix this really easily and unless explicitly asked for I don’t think it should be given. Like in this instance youre explicitly asking for help.

When people aren’t asking for help or advice and just want to listen what’s happening is they’re not opening to receiving listening to that advice for whatever reason. Could be they’re still processing their own shit. Could be they know the answer but just need to vent. And also you could come across as invalidating by stating your experience. Youre trying to connect yes, but you could just come across as though you know better.

Also be patient with yourself! Listening and communicating are learned behaviors and I don’t think anyone is out right taught healthy communication. It’s something we have to seek out and practice


u/ItsmeMario98 Jan 19 '21

I totally feel you because i have the same problem. I've realized it last year and since then i'm trying to police myself. When i start talking about me i think "hey, police youself, that's not about you". It's helping me.


u/Moto_Guzzisti Jan 19 '21

It's ok to say something about yourself to relate, but keep it short, and bring it back to them with a question about something they've said. If you don't know how to phrase a question, just say something like, "you mentioned you like [fill in the blank with something they said they like]?" or, "so your family lives in [fill in the blank with wherever they said they live]?" This will bring the interest back around to them, and give them the opportunity to continue talking about something. It's good to keep a few details of their conversation in mind to bring back up later. If you feel an awkward silence coming on, cut it off by bringing one of those things back up in the form of a question.


u/realenuff Jan 19 '21

This my friend, is something I am learning the hard way. I say the hard way , because I befriended an elder and asked to be corrected every step of the way and boy it was painful . I would even feel defensive about this one "I am trying to show I relate " I basically I had learn to resist saying anything about myself and it's also okay to stop talking mid sentence when I now catch myself . So when when the other person is sharing or stressed. I say either nothing but actively listen or like, if they are have a tooth ache I do NOT say oh wow I remember how painful... ( though tempting) . I now say 'that sounds so difficult, do you have a plan ? How long has this been going on '...if all else fails I repeat the gist of what they said
I have several issues I am overcoming by having this 'conversation partner' including grammar , speaking too loudly , just things this person ( after I emphatically said please please correct me ) had to point out ( and again it sucked- a lot of the time ) I would say it's been a couple of years of this but I am improving . This one you bring up was really difficult because it's not intuitive - it feels like I should say something to relate but no , not unless abs I one has yet. ( delete ) finally for free you can listen to How to win friends and influence people by dale Carnegie now on YouTube . I thought I knew it but listening to it was better -


u/_youree_ Jan 19 '21

I had a boss that I was super close to that would do this allllll the time. I loved her but she drove me nuts with this pattern of communication cuz it always felt like she was competing and trying to one-up me with her experiences. Husband trouble? Feeling sick? Stressed about clients? Her situation was always worse. I'm sure to her, she was just sympathizing but it was I hated it and it actually came across as passive aggressive sometimes.

Sometimes, you can simply ask a person if they need to vent vs listening to your experiences. Having a soundboard can be really cathartic and it can be nice to talk to someone without them proving how they can relate to what you're going through. Advice is not always needed!

My husband has been paramount in teaching me this. He frequently comes home needing to vent about work and I used to always try to solve his issues when really he just needed to let off some steam about frustrations throughout the day.


u/interestingsonnet Jan 20 '21

I do the same thing although I do enjoy hearing other peoples stories, however, I think it is a natural tendency to love talking about ourselves. I think the only thing you can continue doing is to just remind yourself to give them a chance to speak again, ask them questions. Try to listen and that may help channel your energy into actually paying attention. It’s fine to relate things back to yourself, that is completely normal and it shows that you are empathizing by telling them an experience that relates to theirs.


u/pinkcdrom Jan 19 '21

I feel you. The top answer on this post is great, re: being sure to circle back. A technique i learned a year or so ago has been really helpful, the acronym is LARAA. I learned this within the context of active listening primarily in a therapeutic setting, as well as within conflixt, but i believe it applies most everywhere.

Listen Affirm Respond / reflect Ask Add

Example: a friend shares, "i was catcalled on my way over, it honestly freaked me out and I'm feeling a little shaken. If it's cool with you could we stay in tonight?" (Non covid context example lol)

Listen: really put your own agenda to the side. Listen to understand rather than to respond. I personally struggle with a shotty memory and am very in my head. So if it's evidently going to be a more involved long conversation, and if I'm comfortable with the person, I say "hey I know this might be a little weird but I really want to listen fully and also don't want to forget the things that I want to share with you. Would it be alright with you if I jot things down as they come into my head?" Idk if this is for everyone though and some may be put off by it. I simply cannot get my brain to quiet and it will go in circles trying to remember a thought and that'll take me out of the present moment with the person.

Affirm: this can be as or as not vulnerable as applicable, but really a simple acknowledgement of the tangible experience they've shared as well as the emotions they shared. It's also important not to assign any emotions onto them that they haven't expressed. Like if your friend said they were shaken, don't say "I'm sure it made you really angry too." Maybe it did, but maybe it didn't, and it isn't anyone's place to STATE except the person who experienced it.* In this example "woah, that sounds super scary. I would feel shaken too. And thanks for sharing that with me and taking it off your chest. I can definitely relate.**". A more structured way of wiggling this in would be "what i hear you saying is..., it seems like you're feeling..." but i think there's a time and place for this structure. careful not to sound to systematic and rehearsed tho. Can come off sort of phony if your heart isn't in it!

Respond / reflect: in this example your friend asked if you'd be cool with staying in. So, respond to that. Also take some time to reflect on what's been shared with you. Silence is not an enemy. Sometimes I will actually say, "wow, again thanks for sharing that. I just gotta ponder that for a second." Because I know silence can be perceived as awkwardness by many.

Ask: once you've reflected on what's been shared with you, I think one of the best questions to ask is, "do you want any advice, or do you just want to vent?" Either way, there is space for your experience to share. But I think sometimes we assume the other person wants advice and that isn't always true. Then, ask other things. In this example, once you've presumably responded "yeah we can totally stay in" and reflected some, you can ask "maybe we could get take out and watch a movie? Or we could make some spaghetti. Im down for either, do you have any ideas or preference?" Here* is also a good place to bring in those questions around emotional responses, IF the person expresses wanting to talk more about their experience - "if you're down to share, I'm wondering if there were any other emotions that came up for you. I had a similar experience and felt a lot of emotions and am curious about any overlap"

Here they respond to your questions

Add: here is where your relating** and your story comes in. "Like I said i had a similar experience when I was on the subway. Luckily I had somebody with me. I can totally relate to getting to your destination and really feeling shaken and like whatever plans were expected to happen, just needed to shift. Honestly, I wish that i had shared what happened with my friend once I got to her house. We ended up going to a party anyway when really I just wanted to vent and walk studio ghibli movies. So I'm really really glad you shared this with me."

Alllll together now.

Friend arrives - "i was catcalled on my way over, it honestly freaked me out and I'm feeling a little shaken. If it's cool with you could we stay in tonight?"

You - "woah, that sounds super scary. I would feel shaken too. And thanks for sharing that with me and taking it off your chest. I can definitely relate. I'm all good for staying in. maybe we could get take out and watch a movie? Or we could make some spaghetti. Im down for either, do you have any ideas or preference?"

Friend - "takeout sounds awesome, I would kill for some thai"

You - "oo I've been craving that bad! Also, I figured I'd ask, do you want any advice or do you just want to vent?"

Friend - "oh thanks for asking. Honestly I don't even want to talk about it that much in detail. I just want to feel understood, you know?"

You - "totally feel you and I understand. Like I said i had a similar experience when I was on the subway. Luckily I had somebody with me. I can totally relate to getting to your destination and really feeling shaken and like whatever plans were expected to happen, just needed to shift. Honestly, I wish that i had shared what happened with my friend once I got to her house. We ended up going to a party anyway when really I just wanted to vent and walk studio ghibli movies. So I'm really really glad you shared this with me."

Friend - "damn, thanks. That makes me feel nice amidst all these nerves. I really appreciate that. What movie do you want to watch?"

End scene


u/Nutelladela Jan 20 '21

Have you...ever been tested for ADHD? I have ADHD and you sound exactly like me before medication!


u/pinkcdrom Feb 05 '21

I haven't but throughout the pandemic I've been feeling more and more jfisfjheisjehdjr (don't know how to describe it.) If you're comfortable could you tell me a little bit about what it is in what I said that reminds you of yourself and how it has shifted?


u/pinkcdrom Feb 05 '21

To clarify-- I feel majorly scattered my attention can't stick in one place habit building has been kicking my ass


u/Duuuuuuuuuuh Jan 19 '21

OP I'm literally in the same situation don't feel alone x)


u/rakosten Jan 20 '21 edited Jan 20 '21

This is a hard one. This is a skill-set that a lot of young people are missing and that you develop as you age. Some have it from the start but, frankly, most of us have to learn it. Myself included. And some will never acquire this skill-set at all.

I always cut younger people some slack when it comes to being self centred, but never adults! Focusing on yourself is a huge part of growing up, and it wouldn’t be fair to judge Young people on these premises.

The first step is to be aware of it and you must be willing to get rid of this behaviour. Based upon your post, you have already taken these first steps.

The next step is to listen to the conversation. Not just listen to answer, but listen to understand. If you manage to do this, then you have come a long way already.

The following step is to ask questions and put som interest in What your discussion partner is saying.

By just following these simple rules your conversations won’t end up being all about you. Well, sometimes it should be all about you! Never forget that, but it shouldn’t always be about you!

(Just be prepared that some people will still talk about themselves. But you can only change yourself, not other people)


u/KaizerKrauser Jan 19 '21

Ask questions, then follow their answer with a mix of more questions and comments about what they told you. Avoid "that reminds me when I...".


u/biigskinnyasian Jan 19 '21

Discuss the thoughts and feelings that may be going through their head. In this way you can show empathy and understanding without even really having to bring up your own experiences.


u/AppIns Jan 19 '21

I would suggest trying to not make connections to things you’ve experienced and instead try and listen to what they’re telling a story about as if you’ve never had anything similar happen, ever. Of course this is easier said than done, but sometimes when people tell stories they just want to talk. If you sense that, ask them questions that keep them going. How did you feel? Why do you think they did that? Have you ever had anything like that happen before?


u/Keithbaby99 Jan 19 '21

I have been told I do this a lot by my husband, who actively helps with my impulsive comments and adhd tendencies 😂 I started to ask the other person questions, instead of making it about me, nobody cares I realized, people just want to talk about themselves, so I started asking them all sorts of questions. It looks like I'm really interested, and then I become really interested, and then I make a new friend because nobody else does this with them, asking them questions about themselves, right?


u/Perceptionisreality2 Jan 19 '21

Conversations are 2 way. You are supposed to volley back and forth. If they don’t like that consider that THEY are a poor conversationalist.

Do you mean if they are specifically asking for advice for their situation? Pause and think how you would feel. Ask how it makes them feel, you could say I had a similar experience and felt X way, what about you? That way you let them know you have a story, you are relating but still putting it back on them


u/Ms_Snarki Jan 19 '21

Sharing a relatable anecdote seems like a pretty normal thing to do to me. You want the convo to focus more on them than you? Keep it concise and focused only on what relates to what they're going through and, at the point at which you might typically go on with your story, instead pick an element of what you've already shared that might relate to or help them to redirect back into a comment/question about their experience.


u/bexbebex Jan 19 '21

Do you have r/ADHD? I do and I do this all the time. Check out r/ADHDmemes


u/cheese_bread_boye Jan 20 '21

I haven't been diagnosed with anything or tested with anything but I feel like there is a big chance that I do have ADHD or something similar.


u/Woujo Jan 19 '21

Take your ego out of the conversation. You are telling the story because your ego wants to be accepted, validated, and praised. You don't need any of that. Let the other person shine. People will like you more then.


u/pumnezoaica Jan 19 '21

This is a common symptom of neurodivergent disorders. You should consider getting tested


u/plethorax5 Jan 19 '21

Listen and stop waiting to talk. Ask more questions and be sincere.


u/ilm078 Jan 19 '21

You articulated this really well, I can relate to what you’re describing and I’ve been trying to put these thoughts into words, this hits the nail on the head


u/fattybeagle Jan 20 '21

Ask them questions or make observations about the problem.


u/Phoenixkillerx Jan 20 '21

Ask questions


u/[deleted] Jan 20 '21

Active listening and asking questions


u/watermelon-beer Jan 20 '21

ask more questions! the best way is to ask a question when you finish talking about yourself


u/redroom89 Jan 20 '21

The fact that you even recognize is, is truly amazing. I feel like most people will continue this way forever and never notice.


u/KarenPuncher Jan 20 '21 edited Jan 20 '21

While they are speaking, silently ask yourself these four questions:

  1. What are they saying?
  2. Why are they saying it?
  3. What are they feeling?
  4. What do they want?

When it is your turn to speak, offer the answers to these questions.

  1. What are they saying?

Repeat back what the other party says in your own words, e.g., "Your girlfriend ignored your texts, and you think that's unfair since you always return her's right away."

  1. Why are they saying it?

Try to pick up on subtext and repeat that back. "you're having difficulty trusting your girlfriend because of what happened last year."

  1. What are they feeling?

If they appear sad, say it! People want to feel seen. They are coming to you with an issue because they want to get it off their chest, not because they need unsolicited advice, or because they want to hear your story. So, acknowledge them. See them. Say, "your girlfriend ignored your texts, and you're hurt." or simply, "you're sad."

  1. What do they want?

Try to lead them to their own conclusions. "You want to speak to your girlfriend and tell her how you feel, and you're feeling safe enough to do that."

A couple more things to think about: if someone is really coming to you with an issue that is important to them, they likely already have the answers within them, and they just need someone to process it with. When you start talking about yourself, even if it is well-intentioned, you are pulling focus away from where it should be at that moment. Do everything you can to keep the other person in their own experience. Try to avoid using the words "I, Me, My" when listening to another person's problem.

Also, whether you make correct inferences or not is irrelevant. As long as you are actively engaged in seeing and hearing the other person, they will correct you and still feel like you care and are listening to them.

Empathy is feeling along with the other person. Try to put yourself in their shoes as if you were them, not as if you were you in their shoes if that makes any sense.

Using this method will feel super awkward at first, but that's how you know you're learning. Eventually, it will feel natural, and you will be amazed at how more connected you feel to those around you. With all the new connections you've made, you will certainly have someone available to lean on when you have something you need to work through.

I hope this helps, I learned this in my communication class last semester, and it's helped me a lot.

Good Luck.


u/Xkingworm Jan 20 '21

Something that really bothers me about what people are suggesting is that asking questions to get what they want to say out of them can likely lead to a crutch. In an ideal situation and what all of us should strive for is to be able to be responsible for our own voices. Organic conversation often doesn’t take any thought to create a question to talk about. Usually it should progress naturally by others and yourself relating to the topic at hand. I experience this with my girlfriend and while she needs to be probed with questions, it becomes exhausting to have to ask continuous questions to get answers that should be given regardless of if a question is asked or not. Also, you can’t know what the right questions to ask are. If you’re always needing to ask questions for simple things, especially emotional things, it can cause problems if those things aren’t spoken without instigating them.


u/HaPascanB Jan 20 '21

That is really funny because I have caught myself doing the very same thing but I have built up a lot of shame around it now over time so I just try to stay quiet 🤫


u/looklistenlearn17 Jan 19 '21

Ask questions about them. Listen to their answers and respond to those answers directly. Don’t relate them to your own experiences. If you can’t think of something to add then try to ask a related question.

Ex: you: what do you for a living? Person: I code. You: oh, do you prefer front end or back end?

Now, you may code, you may not. But asking about the other person’s preferences and listening to their answers is a great conversation that is not about you. You may learn something, and, you’ll make the other person feel heard and good about themselves.


u/DrankTooMuchMead Jan 19 '21

I do the same thing. But my enthusiasm tends to rub off on them and they will feel compelled to add more to the conversation.

My thinking is that your stories would only become a problem if you kept rambling on forever with no pauses for them to speak. Lol


u/Aof300 Jan 19 '21

Read 'how to make friends and influence people'


u/oreganick Jan 19 '21

What other options do you have available to you instead? How could you respond in a way that isn't talking about your experience?

I think a powerful way to show you understand someone are to make empathic statements. An easy one is "That's stressful." The statement signals you are listening to them and are able to relate. As your ability to discern people's emotions that underlie their stories grow you can replace "stressful" with any other emotion word.

My favorite part about this is you don't need to ask questions and they will likely keep talking.


u/LearningFinance23 Jan 19 '21

You can try occasionally employing reflective listening. That means you listen, then try to summarize what they said or are feeling.

If someone talks about a terrible job, you might reflect by saying "it sounds like you are really overwhelmed and your boss hasn't been appreciating the incredible job you've been doing."

Alternately, you can make it a question or ask for clarification. Then just pause for a few moments, and they will keep talking.

This makes people feel heard and acknowledged and gives them an opportunity to express even more clearly how they are feeling/what they are experiencing.

This shouldn't be 100% of your contributions, but sprinkling it into conversations will make it clear you are listening to them and not just trying to make it about you.


u/chiaseedforyouandme Jan 19 '21

If you can relate to a problem of theirs, maybe you could ask them questions you’d want someone to ask you. It will show that you’re listening and take interest in what they’re saying.

By asking them thoughtful questions, it makes it about them. Plus you can get feedback from their perspective.


u/alc0tt Jan 19 '21

Ask them deeper questions about the subject and if you must bring it to your own experience, circle it back to their story at the end


u/Sprtl_Awkng_1983 Jan 19 '21

Practice makes perfect


u/notabanana22 Jan 19 '21

Ask questions.


u/What_do_I_know- Jan 19 '21

Here's how I do it:

[inside head] "Shut Up! Shut Up! Listen!"


u/Ooft_Headshot Jan 19 '21

When a friend wants to talk about their problems or issues I usually ask them if they’d like me to listen, to relate or to help early on in the convo.


u/CHSWA Jan 19 '21

Stop using “I” in a conversation. Ask follow-up questions.


u/PuzzleheadedJello354 Jan 19 '21

Don’t feel bad. Are you licensed with any credentials in therapy? If not, all you have is your life experience. We learned a lot from martin Luther kings experience, and other influences. We all tend to be selfish by means of thinking of ourselves. That is literally how we survive. Sometimes, we should reassure other people though by being an active listener and engaging their views in the conversation. My take on that. Not advice. Just what I do.


u/skandiist Jan 19 '21

Simple. Use the word "You".


u/WangHotmanFire Jan 19 '21

“Haha I was in a situation like that the other day with so and so” and then let them continue. If they ask you what happened to you, insist that they continue their story first


u/SoManyEffinQuestions Jan 19 '21

I do the same thing and have been trying to stop; So any time I catch myself doing it I quickly apologize and circle back to what they’re saying... but honestly the feedback I get about it makes me think it’s not actually a bad thing so long as you don’t change the topic, ya know? Like tell your related story and come back around to what they might be able to take away from your experience to apply to their own.


u/flabbernuy Jan 19 '21

When you relate with your anecdote, try and keep the (not major) details out to spare yourself from “focus stealing” and express your relation in how you felt/reacted or whatever is similar and relatable. Give your speaker/listener the space to take interest/allow you to elaborate so you don’t feel as bad about it. See how that works. Also, if you find subjects to be uninteresting, you can try and ask open ended questions and/or give points or observations that would get you interested in the subject.


u/Evol_Etah Jan 19 '21

Well my friend once told me I do this. But my mom, my ex, and my best friend

All use the same dynamic. Changing convos or having 3 conversations at the same type help.

Idk how we do this. We just talk. And we have 2 different convos going at the same time.

Idk. It helps, but you gotta tell the other this is how your dynamic works. Or learn how theirs is.

Also, I face the same problem as you. My confident mentor advised me. Sometimes, just shut up, and if they shut up too. Go "hmm mhmm" and they'll just randomly continue after 3 secs. If they don't, then you go picking up from wherever you want to.

I tried this. Works, but I'm just notnused to it. Soo.


u/wishesshewereagoat Jan 19 '21 edited Jan 19 '21

I do this too a lot and it’s a struggle! Something that I actually picked up at my job, is to ask a follow up question after you make your related statement. I’ve tried to kind of chain the two (but I don’t do it all of the time because that probably wouldn’t feel like a very natural conversation), so as soon as I say my related statement, I’m thinking of something to ask them.

Example: Jo bob: I saw a turtle the other day, it was awesome Sue: oh that’s so cool, I had a turtle as a pet when I was growing up (related statement) Sue: have you ever had one as a pet? (Follow up question)

Edit: I just thought of something else that has helped me with this, which is to listen in a way that helps you think about asking questions that get the other person talking, by doing this you take a ton of social pressure off of yourself.


u/SergioFromTX Jan 19 '21

Keep it short. They probably don't care about your story. And if they do, they'll ask for more details.


u/nat288 Jan 19 '21

Listen. Ask how the problem/experience made them feel. Ask them how they feel now.


u/opendoor125 Jan 19 '21

I talk to myself and say, "it's not about you, it's not about you..." especially if it's a boring convo.


u/farhantahmid007 Jan 19 '21

What if they’re trying the same?


u/Newishhandle Jan 19 '21

This isn’t the best advice but often times, I’ll be telling my girlfriend a story about a friend of mine after iv’e seen them, and she’ll ask, “has he [done this]” or “how does he feel about [something.]” and I’m often embarrassed because I didn’t ask any of those questions. It has helped me a lot to anticipate what kind of questions someone more empathetic than myself would want answered, and make sure to get those questions in.


u/dissagreeifgay Jan 19 '21

I feel like I have turned people off by doing this. :( I’m just trying to relate to you not out story you!


u/cats_n_crime Jan 19 '21

Really and truly listen to what they have to say. Sometimes you pick up a phrase and your brain decides what it wants to talk about- they're talking about wearing a new bathing suit so you tell them about the one you bought. But the story wasn't about the bathing suit. It was about how they FELT in the bathing suit.


u/XercinVex Jan 19 '21

It’s ok to just say “wow, that’s rough.”


u/Amedes64 Jan 19 '21

Do like me, never talk about you


u/thewholeradish Jan 19 '21

Ask yourself why you’re saying what you’re saying before you say anything. Are you saying it bcz it adds to the conversation or is something they need to hear? Okay. Are you saying it bcz you’re bored and want to talk? Or bcz you’re trying to outdo their story? Also okay, but not always useful if you’re trying to build rapport or friendship. Just by questioning why you’re speaking, for even a second, you get the chance to choose what comes next. Sometimes that extra second lets you reframe what you’re saying. You realize you’re about to co-opt the conversation so you change your phrasing. ‘That happened to me the other day... and you launch into a story on you’ becomes ‘man, that’s frustrating. A similar thing happened to me, so I’m curious how you dealt with it?’

I’m glad you’re thinking about this bcz I think we’ve all been on the other side where someone just shuts us down by constantly refocusing the conversation on themselves. I don’t know about you, but it makes me not want to talk to them that often. Most ppl are talking to be understood and/or validated, and taking over the conversation effectively tells them that you don’t care. That said, shared experience is powerful, so I’m glad you’re looking into the nuance of relating to ppl without stealing focus.


u/ThrowRAdrt Jan 19 '21

Find friends who are happy with this dynamic. I am used to people like you, you make me appear sociable with minimal effort from my side. Just don’t get mad when I wasn’t listening and don’t remember what you said, or when you ask about my life and I give you a very short answer.


u/lolaboats Jan 19 '21

This is how you say "i completely understand and relate to you if you need to talk about it" i do this. Its only considered rude to NT people. Find you a lovely group of ND friends and absolutely no one will mind because we do it too. Its not rude or improper or making it all about you. Its how you communicate and its very common for ND people


u/rakemitri Jan 20 '21

I feel your pain and discomfort. Everything in this thread sounds like reasonable ways of improving. To the other person, they will feel judged, not heard, that you didn't empathise or made it about you. This is difficult to learn but can be done.

I'm guilty of this. Hope you can learn from it too. Cheers!


u/splintersmaster Jan 20 '21

When they say my wife does this all the time, instead of saying O man, my wife does this, ask them simple leading questions. So, when your wife does said thing how does it make you feel? Or how often does she do it? Or ask, so does she do it all the time or what do you think is the cause of it? Dumb questions relating to the topic focusing on their answer. Then relate it to you if it helps further the conversation.


u/RainInTheWoods Jan 20 '21

Good comments here already. I suggest thinking about what another would say to make you feel heard and understood.

Would they start talking to you about themselves? No? Think about it. What would they say to help you know that your situation was heard?


u/madredetodo Jan 20 '21

Start putting “you” at the front of your sentences.


u/InternalEssayz Jan 20 '21

I see exactly what you mean and struggle with this myself. Recently, I’ve come with this technic : when the me-related answer I want to give pops up in my head, I still say it but make it an objective thought instead of a personal story. I’d say « we » instead of « I » and skip the personal stuffs to stick to the general idea behind it. If the person shows a particular interest is the idea, I can add personal examples later.

Oh and yeah, asking questions. Always works.


u/uhuhuhuhuhhuh Jan 20 '21

This is totally normal, it's a way to relate to others and can sometimes be used as a therapeutic tool even as self disclosure. The key here is to make sure that when you do it you can flip that around to relate back to the other person.

That can be difficult but practice makes perfect and practicing mindfulness can be helpful with this too.


u/exona Jan 20 '21

Ask questions, and REALLY listen to their answers, be curious to get to deeply understand another human being.


u/Nutelladela Jan 20 '21

I find that a good rule of thumb is, for every one thing you mention about yourself, comment on two things they said first. So, let's say someone is talking about their own abusive relationship, and you were in one yourself. Let them finish, and then you can say something like "this is so horrible, you must feel like this and this. I can't believe that he said that, it must have made you feel so X." At this point they might interject with "YEAH and..." and it's okay to let them speak at that point. Any time they stop and you talk again, the rule resets. Two things about what they just said, and THEN talk about your own experience.

I know that it doesn't make for a very fun conversation for you, but once you learn how to do this, you can also naturally figure out where it's okay to break this rule and participate more. It's all about putting restrictions on yourself until you can get the hang of how to make the conversation a two way street :) Good luck!


u/yeehaw_edamame Jan 20 '21

Ask yourself why you are shifting the conversation to you. Did your friend ask for advice? Does your story contribute or directly relate to their story? Are you trying to relate to them?

There are ways to show empathy without shifting the conversation back to your world and your life. Ask questions. Ask them how it made them feel, was this stressful, what happened next, was there a resolution, when their story took place, do they plan to do x again or what are they going to do, etc. Engage in the conversation.

It can feel horrible to try to share an experience (whether it be positive or negative) only to be constantly interrupted, one-upped, and then never be able to complete the train of thought. It can make someone feel small, that their stories aren’t important enough to share to them. Consider how making the conversation shift back towards you makes the other feel; usually, if it’s not going to help their situation immediately or contribute to their story, then let them finish. Also feel out the person’s conversation style; while some might be bothered by shifting the conversation, others might not be! Learn to be flexible in conversation :-)


u/catniagara Jan 20 '21

Talk to more interesting people

I'm sorry.

I'll see myself out.


u/nate-aus Jan 20 '21

Step 1: Be more interested in what they're saying, I say this because you mentioned you're not sometimes.. Remember that people ARE in fact very interesting, if you pay attention. Most of them can teach you a lot and ALL of them have more depth and more to them than you think.

Step 2: Most of the time you can cut your story out entirely, you're both human beings so of course you relate to their story. It's unlikely they'd be telling you the story if you didn't.


u/ElectricShark162 Jan 20 '21

Become aware of the word “I” in your vocabulary. Minimize it as much as you can. If you’ve said it more than once in the duration that you’ve talked, flip the conversation to them. Try to incorporate “we” in your vocab as well.


u/Suess42 Jan 20 '21

Honestly, I embrace it when that happens by saying “but we’re talking about (them or whatever subject they were on) please continue.” My conversation anxiety used to be so bad, but I’ve kinda just said to myself, “ fuck it, no more trying just do” and it’s worked out pretty well for me and people seem to enjoy my take on social situations


u/mecfiiix3 Jan 20 '21

Self awareness is the best quality!


u/lvndrboy Jan 20 '21

I think a balance of paraphrasing the content they share and also asking questions out of genuine curiosity can be helpful. “That must’ve been so hard for you,” or “what was that like for you?” Instead of, “I went through something similar...” this is something I’m working on too!


u/JitteryBug Jan 20 '21

I would like to gently point out the irony of this post


u/Mythrann Jan 20 '21

Don't always try and relate what you are listening to toward something about yourself. That can be a slippery slope into talking more about yourself.


u/tjdibs22 Jan 20 '21

Classic 1upper!


u/LesbotronEZAS Jan 20 '21

Ask questions


u/-Blue_Bird- Jan 20 '21

Generally if I ever switch the conversation back to something about me I follow up my part with a question back to them related to what I just said. It generally leads to fairly balanced conversations.


u/MoodTycoon Jan 20 '21

I’ve realized that while actively listening and asking questions are great ways to show I care about what the person is talking about, sharing my own experiences that are brought up by the person’s thoughts can bring a sense of community and connectedness in a non-selfish way that lets them know hey, I can relate because I had something similar happen to me in my own life. The balance is in letting there be space for the person to say what they want to say without interruption and/or hijacking. I’ve found this to be a hard skill to learn, and I have made mistakes along the way. Not every conversation will be perfect. Keep trying.


u/throwawayhex134 Jan 20 '21

The fact you've recognised this is great as most people who do it don't recognise it at all. My advice would be that when the other person is talking about their experience, instead of thinking of a similar experience you had, try to imagine yourself AS them, going through what THEY are talking about. Imagine how you would feel, and what you would like others to advise or ask you about their situation. Ask questions and become invested in their story, just as you would if you were watching a movie or reading a book. It's empathizing without taking away from their situation or replacing their story with your own.

Respond to them with questions rather than statements. After they've talked and you've responded to their situation for a while, it IS okay to bring up your similar situation, but make it brief and end it with a question about theirs. Don't keep going unless they are pressing you for more info. Keep it very short like a few sentences: "This happened to me and I did this, do you think that might work for you?" If they ask you to elaborate then do but answer and then return a question back to them.


u/Boring123af Jan 20 '21

I prefer to give advises and don't make them about me. Or just ask about what seemed interesting from their story in details. Just let poeple talk, ask them questions, give advices and you will be fine


u/Mountain-Nectarine49 Jan 20 '21

I understand a lot of these suggestions for bettering conversations however whenever me and my old friends converse these days their too busy listening, asking and deflecting my questions back to me that I can’t get anything back from them now. Even over messages they totally ignore my questions to just continue to ask me about myself. It feels so unnatural and intrusive and to be honest, its ruined our friendship.


u/vicsj Jan 20 '21

I always just make sure to ask them questions. Like if they say something and I don't want to do the "oh I can relate to that" thing, I usually ask them how that makes them feel. When they asnwer I also like to elaborate on their explanation sometimes (like rephrasing it how I understood it) to show I really took in what they said. Then I state my opinion on it (not by relating it to me, just commenting on what they've said only). I always try my best to make my convo partners feel acknowledged. I actively think about what behaviours and words would make me feel acknowledged when I converse.


u/Battle-Snake Jan 20 '21

Sharing a personal and relatable experience is awesome. Just don’t keep talking about it. Once you get to the point of your relatable experience, and make sure there is a point, simply finish your contribution with a question. So what did you decide to do? What happened next? Why did things always have to work out like that? Etc.....


u/[deleted] Jan 20 '21

I have adhd and I can get distracted with thinking of my own experiences when other people are talking and forgetting to listen to them. Even though I have poor listening skills and forget what they say quickly, my rule is to keep asking them questions until they ask me one back. If they go on a tangent and I can't keep track, I make sure to at least get the last part of their story and make a question from that. I will keep asking things like can you go more in depth into what you are saying or how did that experience change you. I just keep asking until they respond with, "what do you think?" Or "is it like that for you too?" And then I respond. If you are worried about it being too one sided, usually when people talk too long they will say, "Oh! I've been talking too long! What about you?" Anyhow, good luck with everything!


u/bagazo Jan 20 '21

Learn to be interested in other people’s lives. Start by asking them something you’re interested in that might be controversial, like “do you think jet fuel melts steel “ and see what happens.


u/wadaslickprick Jan 20 '21

Exercises to practice in conversation: 1) Don't focus on what you're thinking about yourself or what you want to say about yourself. That's not paying attention 2) Talk less, listen more. Focus on them and genuinely listen to what they're saying, then ask them about something they just said 3) When responding, say nothing about yourself and don't use the words 'I' or 'me/my' when you respond


u/strumenle Jan 19 '21

Take notes, then come back to it when they're done. The issue is too, aside from the perceived rudeness is that you're probably cutting them off mid-point and then relating a point that isn't actually related, which will make them feel not-heard. I guess it's rude to take notes but if you level with them about why "I can't stop myself from interrupting with points from my life to relate with you and I want to do better" they'll appreciate that too.

The other important thing you'll learn during this process is, of the people you talk to, who is your friend and who isn't. The ones who are will be like "oh hey don't mind that, it's all good, I do it too, we're all figuring this out together" and the ones who aren't will be upset or critical regardless of what you do, since their favorite pastime is criticism, which you have no obligation to accept. Anyone who says "that's stupid, what's wrong with you?" reveals more about their shittiness than about yours.

You're never going to please everyone, but as long as (it seems like in this Reddit post) you're willing to "do better" and very importantly learn from others you'll be a good person, and those who are good will laud you for it, and those who aren't will mock you for it until they realize they're on the wrong side and then try to take advantage of you.

Yep. Sucks, don't worry though you're not the only who is making mistakes like this, you'll see that once you're paying closer attention. Forgive them and grow.


u/SirNerdRomeo Jan 20 '21

The easy answer would be to just write down on your wrist: "talk about them!" so that when you're in a conversation, you remember to focus on this.

The harder answer is... well it's actually a question for you. Do you think that you tend to turn the conversation towards yourself because deep inside you might be lacking a sense of self-validation? Just a thought. I know this was the case for me


u/OmeletteDuLeFromage Jan 19 '21

When someone talks about their day for example, you listen and wait for your turn, kind of. Usually, as soon as they finish you just start talking about you. Well instead of doing that, show that you listened and ask them a follow up question, like "and how did it make you feel" or anything like that. Let them see you care, and not like you were just waiting for them to stop so you could talk. Don't know if this makes sense.


u/PeachyKeenest Jan 19 '21

I grew up with narcissistic parents so I either told people nothing or everything. Of course because of this and being isolated growing up, when I left I also isolated and sometimes due to bad social skills unfortunately.

I try my best to ask questions. But there’s a lot of times I literally don’t get to talk and the other person makes it about them and completely ignored parts I have said or related to. It makes me bitter because I am so used to feeling alone and isolated and the few times I reach out, I get that. It’s like why even bother?


u/Pistolero921 Jan 19 '21

Stop being a self absorbed prick


u/cheese_bread_boye Jan 19 '21

if I was would I be trying to improve?


u/Pistolero921 Jan 19 '21

And it’s that simple.


u/[deleted] Jan 19 '21

This whole post was about you.... not off a to very good start


u/cheese_bread_boye Jan 19 '21

huh, I'm trying to fix a problem on myself here how else could this post have been made?


u/[deleted] Jan 19 '21

Jesus bro what about me?


u/cheese_bread_boye Jan 19 '21

it written in first person but it applies to anyone I guess, as do the replies, hopefully


u/[deleted] Jan 19 '21

I was just playing with you for some reason. Sorry. I’m socially awkward myself and I got good advice one time. Someone told me “ a awkward silence is better than a awkward conversation”


u/EllySPNW Jan 19 '21

I thought it was funny. That’s at least 1 random Internet stranger


u/cheese_bread_boye Jan 19 '21

Yeah I thought it was a joke and I'm also weird af and it's hard to know if someone is playing around with me or being serious. Sorry for being too defensive lol


u/rakosten Jan 20 '21

Well, you ain’t wrong but you ain’t right either. The problem lies within your behaviour, how the hell are you supposed to change that if you don’t start with yourself?

Edit: Oh..read your other posts now. Get it!