THINK Education

Self-absorbed, much?

Everyone probably knows at least a handful of people who like to talk only about themselves. So, whether the discussion revolves around food, politics, medicine, education, movies, or plain old gossip, the conversation somehow meanders back to the same person, who waxes eloquent about his tastes in food or her views on politics, or his/her collegiate experience. If you engage in social niceties and ask the person how he/she is doing, he/she will talk endlessly about his/her achievements, ailments, anxieties and aspirations.

When you try to put in a word, your effort is usually rebuffed. And, more often than not, the person also forgets to ask how you are.


Of course, these same people can be really fun, affectionate, loyal and even empathetic, but you do wish they would be less self-wrapped. But, the irony of this is that while we can recognise self-centeredness in other people, we rarely catch ourselves being self-absorbed (possibly because we are so caught up in ourselves at precisely those moments).

As it is easy for anyone to focus increasingly on themselves, especially in times of stress, counsellor Trudi Griffin offers the following tips to help us check ourselves.

When you engage in conversations with others, notice who is talking the most. Are you holding court for the most part? Did you ask any questions that were not connected to your needs or goals? And, did you glean any new information about the other person? Even as you evaluate your talking patterns, check if you are listening to others as well. Are you truly processing what they are saying, or are you instead thinking of what to say next? Self-absorbed people typically remember their own comments, in a conversation, but fail to recall the contribution of others.

Even though self-absorbed people are capable of showing empathy when their attention is explicitly drawn to the pain of someone else, they don’t always automatically process how others think or feel. Often, people who are into themselves, fail to notice that they have upset or hurt another person. So, instead of only focusing on yourself, make it a habit to gauge the feelings of others.

During interactions, observe people’s body language, in addition to listening to what they are saying. Don’t just respond to a person’s words, but also try to connect with their emotions. Do they appear content, upset or bored? If you are talking more than others, don’t assume that they don’t have interesting viewpoints to share. Ask questions and show a genuine interest in others’ responses.

If you have a tendency to interrupt conversations, stop yourself. Wait for other people to stop talking before jumping in. The irony is that if you are self-aware, you are less likely to be self-absorbed. Being self-aware allows you to respond to social cues without being reactive.

So, paying attention and being mindful of your words, actions and state of mind, can make you amiable and amenable in social situations.

Doing small favours can also help you break out of yourself. Make it a point to engage in at least one act of kindness everyday. It could be as simple as offering a seat on a metro to an elderly man or playing a card game with a younger cousin.

As you focus more on others,, your self-absorption will concomitantly reduce. A quote that I found online, attributed to an unknown source, sums up why it pays to turn our mind’s spotlight away from ourselves: “If you live your life as if everything is about you, you will be left with just that. Just you.”

The author is director, PRAYATNA.

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Printable version | May 14, 2022 12:42:46 am |