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Connie Dieken Headshot

Narcissistic Nation: Why Egotists Are NOT the Real Deal

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The news is full of people who are full of themselves: Mayoral wannabe and serial sexter Anthony Weiner, San Diego mayor and alleged serial pervert Bob Filner, sports legend and alleged performance enhancer Alex Rodriguez ... and former bus driver-turned-abuser Ariel Castro.

A bus driver? We've come to expect narcissism from high profile politicians and athletes, but a former school bus driver from a run-down home? Castro's egotism has thrown many for a loop.

Not judge Michael Russo, who nailed it when he called Castro an "extreme narcissist" before sentencing him to life plus 1,000 years for kidnapping and padlocking three women in his home and abusing them for more than a decade.

We're living in a narcissistic nation. Many people want to explain self-centered behavior by pointing fingers at a younger generation whom experts say have been coddled by their parents.

I believe the issue is far broader than that. As an executive coach, I see the fallout of what I call "The Egotist's" behavior every day in corporations around the globe. The behaviors are more commonplace than most people realize. I'll bet your life has been upended by someone who displays these behaviors:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Impulsiveness
  • An insensitivity to others
  • A craving for admiration
  • A preoccupation with power
  • A lack of empathy
  • A judgmental, critical attitude
  • A belief that the rules don't apply to them
  • Explosive anger when frustrated

The Egotist is not the real deal. Oh, they try to come off as the whole package, but in truth, they are a tale of two faces. They turn their bad behaviors on and off. They either bluff or bully their way through most crises. They have far too much inner presence and their biggest battle is figuring out how to center themselves.

They want others to see them as all-powerful, but the hidden truth is that they often have low self-esteem. They're easily bruised by criticism and howl at the moon in retaliation when they think they've been wronged. They're so addicted to admiration that they get high on their own hype.

Here are three quick tips to help you manage "The Egotist" in your life:

1. Don't "cope with" their behavior - manage it. Coping and managing are two fundamentally different mindsets. Coping makes you a victim while managing puts you in control. Switch your mindset. Don't allow The Egotist to knock you off-center.

2. Focus on solutions, not problems. When you explain a problem to an Egotist, direct their attention to the solution. Don't let them dissect the problem over and over again. Narcissists love drama and revel in chaos. They're easily agitated when frustrated. Present possible solutions right away so they don't smell blood in the water, throw a hissy fit, and tear everything and everyone apart.

3. Manage their emotional blind spots. Egotists lack empathy. They're so caught up in their own world that it doesn't occur to them to consider your feelings or viewpoint. They have huge blind spots. If you want them to know how you feel, you're going to have to tell them. Just be smart about it; narcissists often pounce on you with criticism or guilt trips when you reveal your feelings.

What I find most remarkable about Ariel Castro's story is that his three captives - Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight - have emerged from their decade of torture stronger than ever. As a brave, emboldened Knight declared in her impact statement in court to Castro, "From this moment on, I will not let you define me or affect who I am." Knight says she wants to dedicate her life to helping abuse victims.

Knight is a living, breathing example of centered inner presence: being anchored in a purpose greater than yourself. Your purpose is your power. It helps you find and maintain your equilibrium. As I witness in the corporate world every day, centered inner presence is not a static goal that you achieve and put on auto-pilot - it's a perpetual relationship with yourself.

Which is a far stronger bond than the off-centered Egotist has with him or herself. The way I see it, as long as they continue their bad behaviors, narcissists are living a life without parole.