Social Communication 101: Self-Centered Conversations
What’s one secret that can help make you someone others want to talk to? Avoiding self-centered conversations! Here’s part 1 of a series of communication tips.
In today’s society, we can sometimes feel pushed to appear to be the best at almost every activity we participate in. Our culture is definitely one of self-centeredness and ego. Social media posts allow us to tell the world of all the marvelous and wonderful things we have accomplished and why people should value even the most random and trivial things in our lives—from what we ate for dinner to what we are watching on TV!
The Facebook/Twitter culture gives us a medium to rant to all our friends about how we feel about topic “fill in the blank” and what we think about decision “fill in the blank.” Facebook and Twitter are not inherently evil, but they can enable a deeply rooted self-centeredness that impacts all our relationships.
Do you regularly engage in self-centered conversations?
What is self-centered conversation?
According to Dictionary.com, being self-centered means to be “concerned solely or chiefly with one’s own interests, welfare, etc.” So a self-centered conversation is one focused on what the self thinks, what the self wants and how the self feels, without much consideration of the thoughts and feelings of the listener.
Do we purposely try to focus only on ourselves? Not typically. It’s just so easy to get caught up in our own thoughts and preferences—and to only talk about ourselves! Sometimes it takes conscious effort to take the time to ask questions, listen and deeply consider the thoughts and opinions of others.
Consider Proverbs 11:14: “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” We cannot receive wise counsel that keeps us safe if we aren’t actively listening to others.
We can show kindness and love by asking for the opinions and feelings of others rather than just stating our own.Perspective taking
An important concept to keep in mind is perspective taking. This is an exercise where we look through another person’s eyes to try to determine what his or her feelings are about our communication. The Bible is an excellent guide in helping us determine what others may be thinking and feeling. More importantly, it lets us know what God thinks.
- Proverbs 13:10: “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” Pride is not an attractive characteristic to most people, and it is equated with a lack of wisdom. This can be obnoxious and leave people feeling annoyed after speaking with us.
- Romans 15:2: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.” Self-centered conversation does not build up another person; rather, it asks for his or her approval and awe of us. People on the other side of this conversation can often feel used to boost our ego.
- Philippians 2:3: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” People stuck in a conversation in which someone is self-centered often feel devalued. They can feel as though the other person doesn’t have any value for them or what they have to say.
What should we do?
No one wants to be associated with the negative perspectives listed above. Christians should endeavor to be described like this:
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. … Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Romans 12:10, 16).
How can we overcome self-centered conversation? Here are three questions that can help us have others-centered conversations.
1. Do I have a Philippians 2:3 attitude—honoring the other person more than myself?
We can show kindness and love by asking for the opinions and feelings of others rather than just stating our own. This does not mean we never contribute our opinions or experiences, but it does mean we do so with restraint and with a thought such as: “I am not the only one in this conversation who wants to share experiences, ideas and thoughts.”
2. How much listening am I actually doing?
Active listening is genuinely trying to understand what a person is saying, and it requires careful and purposeful attention. Mindtools.com says, “You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you. … Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.”
Don’t be deceived. Most people can tell when we are just going through the motions of “background-noise” listening and not actively paying attention to what they have to say!
3. Am I thinking about what is being said or just waiting for my turn to talk?
Points brought up by others in conversation are not just stepping-stones until we can talk again or opportunities for us to develop counterarguments. They need to be valued and listened to, because we would ask the same of someone listening to us! If we continually try to bring up a point we have phrased in our mind without acknowledging the speaker’s points, we are not thinking about what is being said. We are only waiting for our turn to talk.
Refining social behavior is not an easy task, and it can require undoing some quirks that seem to be hard-wired into our personality and temperament. However, we have to remember that our individual characteristics do not excuse us to ignore biblical instructions and common decency.
Let’s strive to show outward love and concern in all aspects of our lives, including our conversations with others.
For further insight on principles of communication, read “Are You Rude?”