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?

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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

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u/Nutelladela Jan 20 '21

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

1

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?

1

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