Addiction to Praise Hampers Conversation Success

Dynamic communication skills are one of the keys to personal and professional success that I discuss in several of my books: Straight Talk for Success, Your Success GPS and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  If you want to become a dynamic communicator you need to master three basic, but very important communication skills: Conversation, Writing and Presenting.

I was paging through the August issue of The Oprah Magazine (yes guys, there’s good stuff for us in there too), and came across an article by Martha Beck called “The Praise Drug.”  The article began with a story about Sarah…

“Sarah was an addict…a few hours after she’d glowingly received an award, she was curled up in bed, anxious, needy, already jonesing for a fix.  Sarah was abusing something more powerful, insidious and accessible than any street drug: the adoration and esteem of others that some psychologists call narcissistic supply.  Simply put, she was addicted to praise.  Her entire life revolved around eliciting positive attention from others.”

People like Sarah are never good conversationalists, because they turn every conversation into an opportunity to talk about themselves.  And, talking only about yourself – no matter how interesting you think you are – doesn’t make you a sparkling conversationalist, it brands you as a bore.

Several years ago, I saw a cartoon in the newspaper.  Two women were in a conversation at a party.  Woman number one says, “But enough about me, let’s talk about you.  What do you think of my dress?”

I’m sure you know people like this.  Recently Cathy and I were with another couple.  The woman was a talker.  By the end of our time together, we knew everything about her, her children, her grandchildren and her friends and their children and grandchildren.  She knew very little about us – for two reasons.  First, she never asked.  Second, she was so busy speaking about herself that she never gave us any time to speak about ourselves. 

From the little (or depending on how you think about it, the lot) I know this woman, I’m sure she thinks she is a dynamite conversationalist – always keeping things going, never a dull moment, willing to share the details of her life.  Unfortunately she is wrong.  A good conversationalist demonstrates more interest in others than himself or herself.

I saw a quote on line the other day.  I’m sorry I can’t remember it exactly, but it went something like…

A self centered person enters a room and says, “Here I am.”  A gracious person enters a room and says, “Ah, there you are.”

Good conversationalists are gracious, not self centered.  They enter each conversation letting the other person know that he or she is important and that they want to learn about him or her.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are dynamic communicators.  Dynamic communicators are excellent conversationalists.  The essence of good conversation is a willingness to listen to, and learn from, others.  People who are addicted to praise, those whose “narcissistic supply” is in short supply, are seldom good conversationalists.  In seeking the approval of others, they speak only of themselves and their lives.  They seldom take the time to engage other people in conversation and listen to what they have to say.  If you want to become a good conversation, get interested in other people.  Learn about them and their lives.  They’ll reciprocate and give you the chance to talk about you and your life.
I also have been addicted to drugs, it was hard. I were at A PA center for drug rehab, it was probably the hardest thing in my life but I’m happy that its behind me now. For everyone out there who are addicted just quit as early as possible, if you cant quit then go find a treatment.

That’s my take on the addiction to praise and how it hampers effective conversation.  What’s yours?  Please take a few minutes to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. Catherine says:

    I love this post, so true – and so important! This is my favorite quote here
    “A self centered person enters a room and says, “Here I am.” A gracious person enters a room and says, “Ah, there you are.””

  2. Ah, there you are Catherine:
    Thanks for the comment.

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