We human beings are self-focused. Simply put, we enjoy talking about ourselves too much.
Our neighbor recently visited some friends in beautiful Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. We know these folks as well. I asked him about their visit. His first comment: “Well, you know Martha. She asked me how I’m doing. I said fine. She says, ‘Great! Enough about you. Let’s talk about me.'” Martha almost ruined their time together by constant talk about herself. Sad.
I’m really sensitive about this when I hear this taking place in conversations with people. Some people can turn any conversation into an opportunity for self promotion. You mention a topic or give a story about an event and they take over with their own exceptional opinion or remarkable story. They inject themselves into the conversation and like Napoleon, vanquish humility with their mighty presence.
So, I was troubled when I did this very thing on three occasions last weekend.
First, a friend was telling me how he benefitted from reading the Psalms for a lengthy period of time. Instead of asking more about his experience, I had to tell him about how I read the Psalms daily. Thank you, spiritual wonder boy! Aren’t you the portrait of Davidic psalmody and the angel of enlightenment.
Put a cork in it, alter boy. He doesn’t care about your tenacity to scale the summits of spiritual brilliance.
Next, another friend was explaining his difficulty getting to a church service on time due to a scheduling conflict. Again, I began telling the story of how this happened to me for the same service last year because Rhonda and I had attended a concert that made it almost impossible to focus on the upcoming significant church service I was about to be late to. Yet, walking in the strength of the Lord and according to the will of God, I pressed on through glorious minutes of agony and anxiety to conquer the demons of despair, dragging myself to the service with all the inner fortitude I could muster and getting there on time. Thanks be to God for me, His wonderful gift.
Thirdly, someone complimented me on something I had done – more accurately, the way I’d done it. Instead of receiving his words graciously, I had to prolong the compliment with my own self-deprecating comments which made him tell me more good things I hungered to hear. What made this one so challenging was that I kept playing his words over-and-over in my mind, insatiably feeding my ego until I was literally beaming with pride at my humility. Good grief!
Only talk about yourself when asked. Be humble enough to restrain the urge to insert yourself into a conversation uninvited.
Love people enough to listen to them more than talk to them. This is a good way to show love and honor to another, giving preference to one another (Romans 12.10).
Learn and remember to ask questions about them or their experiences. Remember the adage: seek to understand before being understood. Follow up their stories with questions not stuff about yourself.