Recently, I talked to a couple that has been married since 1951. That's a long time. The woman talked a lot. Our conversation was more like me saying one sentence and her giving a five-minute lecture on my statement. As she talked I noticed the husband checking a few times to see if I was getting bored.
After our conversation, I thought, "That poor guy has been living with this for 56 years."
I know a few other people who can talk about themselves for 45 minutes, no exaggeration, and if I put two sentences together in the conversation they get restless and bored. Then they remember all the other things they must do and have no time to continue talking.
I knew a woman once who, if you complained about anything, no matter what it was, would respond with, "You think that's bad? Listen to what happened to me..." I mean, if you had an accident and were in a coma for months, she would come up with something to one-up you in the misery contest. I realize now that I should have said to her, "I know a dreary woman who responds to any complaint with a story of even greater misery." Would she have gotten the message? Or would she have told me about another woman who was even worse?
How do these people fit into the Objectivist ethics, in which selfishness is a virtue? They are self-obsessed and can talk only about themselves. They have no interest in anyone else. Aren't they selfish?
It's hard to generalize because all the people in the examples above have their own personality and psychological problems. It's not a moral failing to want to talk about your day. Some people do it more than others. Some are self-aware enough to know they love talking about themselves and they make an effort to show an interest in others -- in order to buy time for them to talk more about themselves.
This might sound like a contradiction of Objectivism at first, but I think it is in one's self-interest to understand that the universe does not revolve around you. Objectivism is not narcissism. A sign of maturity is understanding that the facts of your daily life are not as fascinating to anyone else as they are to you. It takes a special talent and charm to make a story about doing laundry and getting the kids to school interesting.
One thing I had to learn as I grew up -- and I'm still learning it at times -- is that nobody cares about me as much as I do. Nobody cares. Why should they? Even people who love you will not care about your stubbed toe as much as you do because they don't feel it.
Real self-interest means understanding reality and evaluating it properly. Those who do this well would, I believe, be more interesting conversationalists. They have a heirarchy of values of which they have given some thought. They know that giving a laundry list of what they did that day is not important and therefore not interesting. They give these things some thought maybe before they speak.
Conversation is an art that involves give and take. It is in one's self-interest to be an interesting conversationalist -- if one values conversation at all. Those who bore people with monologues about their petty lives are not interesting conversationalists; they end up driving people away from them, which is not in their long-term self-interest. (Some gifted people can talk for half an hour and never cease to be fascinating. More power to them.)
Those are my thoughts. Tell me yours in the comments. Let's have a conversation.