Is Monopolizing the Conversation the Way to ‘Win’ at Social Encounters?
If you have suffered from low self-esteem or social anxiety, the suggestion that you become the ‘least important person in the room’ might at first sound like terrible advice – wouldn’t this be a backward step? Surely, for your social skills to be seen as improved, you need the develop the confidence and expertise to be able grab the centre of attention in any gathering and talk constantly about me, me, me?
What if success in a social gathering is not determined by how well you sell yourself or how much of the conversation you manage to monopolize? What if it is our obsession with self-promotion and controlling these encounters that is at the root of social awkwardness and contributes to low self-esteem?
What Does It Mean to Be the Least Important Person in the Room?
• Your attention is on what other people are saying rather than the conversation in your head about how well you are performing in the encounter
• You haven’t come with an agenda (e.g. ‘I’m going to blow these people away with how great I am’)
• You understand there is more to listening than just keeping reasonably silent until it is your turn to speak
• Your main concern isn’t ‘can I talk about me now?’
• You don’t judge the success of the conversation by how it lived up to your expectations
• You genuinely feel interested in the ideas, beliefs, experiences, and observations of other people
• You avoid stealing the spotlight from the person who is talking – e.g. the other person is talking about her trip to Thailand, but you take over the conversation by reminiscing on your trip to Thailand (of course, sharing common experiences is a nice thing but not when the motive is to steal the spotlight)
Here are five benefits to becoming the least important person in the room:
1. Focusing More On Other People Will Improve Your Relationships
Have you ever seen an expert salespeople or politician work a room? These guys depend on being likable, but you don’t see them doing this by talking incessantly about themselves. Instead, expert communicators focus on making the person they are talking to feel special and important. Now, we could say that politicians and salespeople are using a type of manipulation here, but it does clearly demonstrate how focusing more on others in conversations can be incredibly effective.
If you focus more on other people in your social encounters, it will undoubtedly improve your relationships. It’s just logical, why would other people be interested in you if you show no interest in them?
2. Constantly Self-Promoting is Tiring – For You as Well as Other People
Any attempt to control and manipulate a social encounter is going to require a lot of thinking and strategizing. You will need to be constantly looking for way to steer the conversation in the way you want it to go – this is mentally draining, and it is going to be annoying for other people once they realize what you are up to. It can also mean walking away from encounters as if had you just fought a battle.
3. It is Usually Expectations that Make Social Encounters Seem Unsatisfactory
“Why didn’t you tell me right away you have a boyfriend? I’ve just wasted 15 minutes talking to you.”
We often judge social encounters negatively because they didn’t go as we planned them rather than because something particularly terrible happened. If you were expecting your friend to rave about your new hairdo, but instead she kept talking about her ex, you may walk away from the conversation feeling like it was a complete failure – but was it really?
If we enter a conversation without an agenda, we are far more likely to find it satisfying.
4. You Learn Far More from Listening than Speaking
It could easily be something you hear in a casual conversation that sends your life in a new exciting direction. It is unlikely that you are going to learn much by talking all the time, but you can learn a lot from just listening.
5. No Longer Needing to be the Most Important Person is a Sure Sign of Progress Towards Inner Peace
The need to be constantly self-promoting and domineering a conversation is often a sign of inner discomfort and self-loathing. It means we are trying to use other people to make ourselves feel better, but this strategy is unlikely to work long-term. Once we start to feel more comfortable in our own skin, the need to self-promote begins to diminish – it is a sign of progress.