Manners matter—most people know that. And typically, people try to put their best foot forward with proper etiquette and good behavior. However, sometimes you may put your foot in your mouth without even realizing it. According to experts, this is the one rude behavior you’re probably engaging in often without realizing how rude it is: Telling a personal story of your own right after someone shared theirs.
“We often think that we are listening [to someone’s story] but we’re actually just considering how to jump in to tell our own story, offer advice, or even make a judgment—in other words, we are not listening to understand, but rather to reply,” Caren East, certified positive psychology life coach, wrote in Psychology Today.
Unfortunately, while you might try to use a related, follow-up story as a way to establish a link between yourself and the other person, many people err on the side of monopolizing the conversation and making it about themselves. In fact, there’s actually a sociological term that describes someone who has the ability to consistently turn a conversation back to themselves: conversational narcissist, coined by sociologist Charles Derber in his book The Pursuit of Attention.
Interrupting someone’s personal story may also invalidate their emotions, as they could feel that you don’t care about how they feel regarding the situation they’re sharing. Doug Noll, a professional mediator with decades of experience in managing and resolving conflicts, says ignoring someone’s emotions is just one way to invalidate them.
“Emotional invalidation is everywhere. Once you become aware of it, you will see it between parents and even very small children, between friends, at the dinner table, at parties, and at work,” Noll says. “If you watch closely, you will see the person being invalidated flinch, withdraw, or become defensive. Worse, most individuals don’t know that they are causing harm or being rude.”
But how do you become more aware of your rude behavior if you don’t know that it’s rude? Unfortunately, that can be hard. Trevor Foulk, who researches organizational behavior at the University of Maryland, told The Washington Post that “rudeness is interesting in that it’s often ambiguous and open to interpretation.”
“If someone punches you, for example, we would all agree that it’s abusive,” he explained. “But if someone comes up to you and says in a neutral voice ‘nice shoes,’ is that an insult? Is it sarcasm or something else?”
The thing is, certain patterns play into what and when people see a behavior as rude. In a series of experiments, Foulk and other researchers found that people were more sensitive to perceived rudeness if they had previously been exposed to rudeness themselves. The more someone has witnessed rudeness, “the more likely you are to interpret ‘nice shoes’ as deliberately rude,” Foulk said.
So, if you’ve never been slighted by someone interrupting a personal anecdote you’re telling, you may not realize that many people view this as a rude behavior. And for more rude behavior you might be guilty of, This Is the Rudest Thing You Can Ask Someone, Etiquette Experts Say.