Search by keyword, such as: divert, calls, chats …

Are you a conversational narcissist?

The ability to converse makes the world go round. It’s how we share our emotions, express our needs and gain social support. But have you ever wondered if the members of your customer care team are really competent conversationalists? Do they convey empathy, or could a conversational narcissist be among them? 

A conversational narcissist is someone who consistently turns the conversation back to themselves. The term was first coined by sociologist Charles Derbe, to highlight people who hog conversation and dominate. In customer-facing roles, particularly for businesses that already pride themselves on empathetic customer care or who are striving to improve it, conversational narcissists can do serious damage. 

Here’s why:

  • They aren’t great listeners. They interrupt a lot as they have their own agenda and are too busy thinking about what they will say next, rather than how they will respond to what they’re hearing.
  • They are likely to dominate customer conversation by relaying their ‘similar’ experiences instead of letting the customer express themselves on their own terms and in their own way.
  • They often assume they understand in order to move the conversation on quickly.
  • They’re most likely to be experts of the non-apology – phrases such as ‘I’m sorry if you were offended’, ‘that’s your version of it’ and ‘I’m sorry they did that’ may be used, which show a cavalier attitude, lack of understanding and an unwillingness to take responsibility or resolve an issue.

If you spot customer care professionals with these traits, it’s time to move them out of customer-facing roles, and especially those handling telephone calls. 

Empathy is the language of emotion, so everyone working in customer care positions must be able to actively listen and use emotion to connect with customers. It’s not just about problem-solving either, empathy can also help to unearth areas for innovation and new revenue. Letting a happy customer talk about how a certain part of the house buying process has made them feel or listening to someone recount the challenges of choosing a care home for a relative all reveal opportunities – assuming your customer-facing team is really listening. 

If you have conversational narcissists in your team you’ll be blind to these opportunities – but the detrimental effects could be much further reaching. They’ll make it harder for issues to be resolved, erode customer good will, potentially increase the likelihood of bad reviews and lost business, and impact your brand reputation. 

It is the age of empathy and listening. Your customer care behaviours really must reflect that. 

To find out more about conversational narcissists, including how to spot them and the linguistic dos and don’ts of empathy, take our quiz ‘How empathetic are you?’ and download our new report ‘Putting empathy at the heart of customer care’ here.

We give you amazing people and technology:


Your own Moneypenny PA to answer calls exactly as if based in your office.

Discover >
Live Chat

Amazing people, briefed by you to manage chats whenever you can't.

Discover >
Pocket Phone System

All the functions and support of an office phone system, minus the hardware.

Discover >