Are you a “war-stories” saboteur?

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone where you have shared some information, only to find in a nano-second that the conversation has somehow become all about them?

These conversation-switchers are often prefaced by statements such as

  • “That happened to me too…”
  • “I found that too when I…”
  • “Oh that’s not as bad as when I…”

It can sometimes feel that anything you say becomes interpreted as either an opportunity for them to talk about themselves, or create a type of competition between who had the best/worst experience. It can sometimes feel as though you’ve become invisible in the shadow of their ego, insecurity or self-importance.

Argh! Frustrating isn’t it?!

It can be easy to jump to the conclusion that this is all about their need to be centre-stage in every conversation, but it could be done for another reason.

Liz Wiseman talks about Accidental Diminishing behaviours. These are behaviours that, with the best of intent, minimise others. Their intention may be pure. The war-stories saboteur may, through their over-association with your sharing, be trying to make a connection; albeit in a minimising manner.

So what can we do when we are confronted with this behaviour, or sense that we may in fact be one?

Some strategies that I have found useful are:

For myself:
Being self-aware: paying attention to the ripple effect of my behaviour; both on myself and others. Watching for cues of when rapport has been broken; either through their body language, level of participation, or what they are saying. 

With others:

  • Preface the conversation with “Can you help me get clear on my thinking by listening/being a sounding-board?”
  • Redirecting the conversation when they share their stories “I am finding that in this situation…”
  • Let them know what you found useful through their listening “eg: Thank you, I really appreciate it when you hold space for me to do the thinking”.

Have a wonderful week ahead.

Ngā mihi


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