Why You Need to Stop Talking About Yourself

A few week’s ago, we asked Do You Talk Too Much? and suggested the Traffic Light Rule for recognizing when you’re about to lose your audience because you’ve been gabbing too long. Which got us thinking not just about length of conversations, but content.

Interestingly, the types of conversations we choose are astonishingly consistent. There is a recurring theme in most of what we say. Studies show that hands down, our favorite topic of communication is, you guessed it, ourselves. As Scientific American asked and answered:

Why, in a world full of ideas to discover, develop and discuss, do people spend the majority of their time talking about themselves? Research suggests a simple explanation: because it feels good.

Talking about oneself activates the same areas of the brain that light up when eating good food, taking drugs and having sex. Simply put, self-disclosure is gratifying. It is a natural high.

Who talks more and why is less clear. Stereotypes suggest women enjoy chatting more than men.  According to science, it’s more nuanced than that. A test conducted to explore social interaction patterns found that women speak only slightly more than men in professional and social settings, and only when the number of people involved in the conversation is less than six. In large groups, men tend to dominate conversation.

Just because you are wired to enjoy talking about yourself does not mean you don’t have a choice.  One way to avoid tumbling down a rabbit hole of self-involved chitchat is to steer clear of your favorite topics.  At the very least, you minimize your risk of becoming the one note character in the classic American Pie movie who could never resist a moment to talk about her favorite topic. Every other sentence began with “last summer at Band Camp…”

Bottom Line: People love to talk about themselves. You can also use it to your advantage.  Next time you find yourself deep in conversation, be sure to listen too. Odds are, if you let the other person talk about themselves, they will think YOU are a genius.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman