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I have noticed that I am quite a self centered person, and this bothers me. Being social, caring about others and investing in a friendship are things I really value in other people, yet I fail to be like that myself.

When someone asks me how I am, how my weekend was, or how my job is I am fine telling people about it, but I always 'forget' to ask them about their day. I mention forget, because I always realise later that I haven't asked.

How can I improve this? My friendships never last long and they are hardly ever the person to initiate a conversation or meetup.

Is it okay to ask again later in the conversation? How can I 'train' myself to be better at this?

closed as too broad by Catija Jan 5 '18 at 3:19

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    Are you really self-centered or do you simply not think about these sorts of questions? I think there's a big difference and I'm guessing that you calling yourself "self-centered" and asking this question leans more towards the latter. I've personally found that people who are truly self-centered don't think they are (citation needed). – Catija Jul 25 '17 at 20:56
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    @Catija I think that's a good point. Maybe the question should be 'How do I act less self-centered'? – Summer Jul 26 '17 at 9:05
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    +1 for this question. Personally I am in a bad habit of listening to someone tell me a story, and then I tell them a similar story that happened to me instead of asking them for more details. Heck, I'm even sort of doing that in this comment. /sigh I'm interested to see the the answers! – kem Jul 26 '17 at 20:29
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    @JaneDoe1337 I think I have the same problem (forgetting to ask about the other person, especially when I'm going through something) but I don't think it's the same as being self-centered in general, at least I hope not. – SAH Aug 11 '17 at 21:22
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    @JaneDoe1337 maybe it would help to remember that people often ask that question because they want to be asked themselves. – SAH Aug 11 '17 at 21:22
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Start by putting the other person first.

I've actually had a similar problem. Sometimes it happens when I pass someone in a hallway, or walking outside, or doing something else where I'm absorbed in my own thoughts, and I find myself so startled that the person said anything that all I can say is "I'm good" before they walk away. Alternatively, I come up with a coherent response, but my mind is so frazzled by thinking about little details[1] that I finish the thought satisfied that I survived that interaction . . . and forget to reciprocate the thought.

My solution to the problem involves making sure the other person has a chance to talk before talking yourself.

  1. Assuming that the person want's to have a more than just a short, conversation - I turn the question on them. For instance, if someone asks

    Hey, HDE, how has your first week of classes been?

    I'll respond

    My classes have been good so far - how have yours been? I heard that the [biology/performing arts/philosophy] class you're signed up for is supposed to be really good.

    I don't give myself any time to answer the question because I know that there's a risk that I'll just drone on and on and on and on and on. . . However, I normally trust the other person enough that they'll talk for only a finite time.

  2. Once I've given the other person a chance to talk, I'll start answering their original question by making connections to what they said. If they talked about their math class, for instance, I might say

    Oh, your professor sounds awesome. My calculus professor is cool, too - his sense of humor has really made my class interesting so far.

    This answers part of their question (about my classes) while still staying engaged with what they said.

  3. Don't talk for too long! Your primary objective, letting the other person talk, has been satisfied, and now it's your turn to fit in some of your own details. However, be wary of talking for too long; if you do, you're back to square one! I've made that mistake before, and I've regretted it.

Another possibility I've tried from time to time is to be the one to start the conversation. You ask the questions, and so if they want to talk, they'll have plenty of time to do so. I originally didn't include this, because I have trouble with it (I'm a pretty shy person, and not good at taking cues about when someone wants to talk), but if you're outgoing enough to want to talk for a while, it shouldn't be a problem.

That said, your specific situation seems to come up mostly when someone else initiates the conversation, so this isn't as relevant. However, a great way to, overall, become less self-centered (if you think you are - and I don't think you are) is to take an interest in others. Ask the questions - don't wait to be asked.

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Conversations

If someone asks you a question, such as How was your weekend?, and you answer it and remember halfway through your answer that you didn't ask them how their weekend was, simply finish your answer and ask them.

If you get all the way through your answer and forget to ask them, try to bring it up at the end of another topic.

Training Yourself

Try to purposely go out of your way to help others. Start small, like holding the door open for someone behind you or initiating conversation.

Something you can try to remind yourself to ask them is to keep your answers to a bare minimum while not making awkward small talk.

Them: How was your weekend?
You: Good, got to go out to Lake Pacific. How about you?
[...]

You should be able to do this without thinking in no time, therefore becoming less self-centered.

Cheers! :D

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    The strange thing is, after a while you become more interested in these other people, and you begin asking because you really want to know. Yes, you can force yourself to become a friendly person. – RedSonja Jul 26 '17 at 11:02
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    @RedSonja Yup! That's what actually happened to me. :D :P – baranskistad Oct 31 '17 at 18:39
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I remember having this problem when I was in school, and a counselor began by training me to respond "And you?" after being asked, and answering a question like "How are you?" That is a "tag line" that is easy to remember. More to the point, this is part of mimicking or "mirroring" others' behavior, that will help you make friends.

If you do this enough, you will automatically start thinking of "other people" when things come up. Over time, your responses will become more sophisticated and varied. You will get a clue that this is happening when you make more friends.

The fact that this "bothers" you is a good sign. It means that you are aware of your problem and will eventually solve it.

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A great book, that actually does cover this precisely is "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. It's not nearly as weird as the title might make it sound to you. I recall finding the title off putting myself when I was young & didn't know what it was about. It was originally published in 1937 though, so I imagine that influenced the title. As old as it is, it's just as useful today as it was then as it's all about human psychology & learning how to be well liked. The basics of that have never changed.

You do seem to already grasp that you have to show an interest in others, get to know details about them. You need to remember, at least on occasion, to ask how their brother is doing since his car accident or how someone's dad is recovering from his heart attack, or if their dog is feeling better, etc. This book talks about all those things, why they matter so much to people & how to start integrating that behavior into your way of operating. I think that is the most important part, is it gives you some skills & things to practice to start having it come more naturally to you to remember to be thoughtful during your interactions with others.

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