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Run! From the Hardest Relationship to Get Out of as an Entrepreneur

As coaches, consultants and experts, we pride ourselves not only on our expertise but our people skills, our communication skills and our abilities to get results for our clients.  It’s what we do and we do it well.  Many of us have past work experiences that add richness to our abilities to have deep relationships with our clients.

These skills make you the go to person for what you offer to your clients but these skills don’t work with the one personality that will take all you have and twist it, stall conversations, compete with you and at all costs win to the point of sabotaging your work.

Who am I talking about?  None other than a colleague, client, team member or even your own coach who has a narcissistic personality.  It’s not something we talk much about in a business setting because we pride ourselves and convince ourselves that we can handle this situation.

And that’s the first point I want to make – you can’t outthink, outmaneuver or outwork a narcissist.  They are wired differently than most of us because it is key for them to always win even with the small stuff.  

If you recognize this personality before you sign a contract, run!  If you don’t and have a contract, the following article will help you to get through it and never have that personality in your business again.

Before I continue, we all have some degree of narcissism.  Healthy narcissism includes the ability to advocate for yourself, the ability to exert an opinion respectively, sometimes putting your needs before others but fully knowing the impact on others, maintaining self confidence and pursuing your ambitions but not at a deliberate costs to others.  

In my 17 years as a psychotherapist and now in my current business, I’ve seen this personality cause damage in intimate relationships and with their children.  The most difficult conversations I always had to have was with clients who wanted to change them or change themselves to please their narcissistic partner or client. The bottom line – narcissists never change.

In business, that also holds true.  Your narcissistic client, team member or coach will never change no matter what you say or do – even with the best of intentions, conversations and skills.

That’s the second point – narcissistic personalities never change.

It’s not a typo.  I’ve repeated myself twice because coaches, consultants and experts fool themselves every time.  They think they can be the exception.  Unfortunately, that never happens here.

It’s easy to get fooled by a narcissist at first in business.  They are usually charming, self confident and have great ideas.  Who doesn’t like that with a client or team member.  They reel you in with the possibilities of the work you can do together.  It can be exciting.

The fact is narcissists do not show their difficult qualities all the time.  People like them.  They can be great social people. But if they decide that working with you is too much for their fragile ego, you will be dealing with their narcissistic qualities from day one.

They will make you feel like you’re losing your mind at first.  You have a meeting and everyone is in agreement as to next steps.  Then the phone call comes or the email that says something different.  You’re thinking to yourself that’s not what we agreed upon.  And like all great coaches, consultants and experts, we respond thinking we can fix it.

But the narcissist’s game is to continue to have you doubt yourself by gaslighting you – always doubting your reality with subtle twists on the truth.  It’s a game to them so they can always win …..winning is everything to them.

My third point is always believe your reality here.  Don’t doubt yourself.  Don’t give in to the gaslighting.  

My clients know that when they are dealing with this personality type, they must document everything.

That is my fourth point – document, document, document.  You will be so glad you did.  It will save your sanity and your reputation.  A secondary goal to winning for a narcissist is to slowly destroy your reputation in business.  Don’t let them. You prevent that by documenting your work with them.

The fifth point I want to make here for coaches, consultants and experts is the narcissist has no empathy for others –  only for themselves. This leads me to strongly advise you to not show your feelings to them – ever with them in a business setting.  They will use your feelings to gaslight you.

This means stick to the facts.  Speak the facts.  Communicate the facts.  Write the facts.  Document the facts.

There are two terms used in the psychology world regarding communicating with narcissists – “gray rocking” and “fire walling”.

Gray rocking is about sticking to the weather when speaking to a narcissist.  In business, you stick to the facts and chit chat about the weather if you need some small talk.

Fire walling is taken from the tech world where they build fire walls to protect your data.  Your data here are your feelings and reputation.  Do not let a narcissist see your feelings or slowly ruin your reputation.  Protect yourself.

You may never come across this personality in your business but the odds are it definitely can happen.  A full blown narcissistic personalty disorder is about 1% of the population.  There would be not doubt in your mind who that person is – run.

But like everything, it’s not black and white out there. It’s all nuanced.  There is about 20-25% of the population that have enough personality traits on the continuum that will cause you to rethink how to deal with that person.  You will be able to be successful with your dealings if you follow the recommendations.  You may not be satisfied but you will be in the best position to complete the work.

If you have more specific questions regarding narcissistic behaviors in business, send me an email at LoriAnne@LoriAnneReeves.com or comment below.

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