Unchecked narcissism creates poor office communication

//July 24, 2009

Unchecked narcissism creates poor office communication

//July 24, 2009

The Bottom LineQuestion: What does narcissism have to do with communication, leadership or any important aspect of business success?

Adubato: Just about everything. Narcissists make terrible communicators. Consider this typical communication scenario: Mike is a big-time narcissist who has worked with Karen for many years. Mike never asks Karen about what is going on in her life. He never compliments her or seems concerned when Karen is down or out of it. It has gone so far that if Karen is talking about how great her weekend was, Mike feels the need to compete and say how much better his weekend was and goes on to add specific details about how everything he did was so much more interesting than anything she could have done.

Question: How can this type of narcissism negatively impact relationships?

Adubato: The problem is, narcissists like Mike miss so many cues around them. His need to be at the center of attention won’t allow him to listen to Karen or anyone else. There is no interest in others. As a result, they miss the opportunity to better understand what customers or prospects really want or need.

Question: If being so narcissistic is so destructive, then why do we encounter such people so often in our personal and professional lives?

Adubato: What is striking is that these individuals do not see themselves as being narcissistic. As a result, they are so oblivious to how they are seen by others that they lack the ability or understanding of the need to adapt their communication style in different situations and scenarios, or connect with others in a more meaningful way.

Question: What are other negative communication traits commonly exhibited by narcissists?

Adubato: Narcissistic people tend to be terrible listeners. As a result, they interrupt all the time, and often finish your sentences or ignore what you are saying all together. They can be so insecure that they are unable to appreciate someone else’s success or happiness without seeing it as some sort of indication that they have failed. What they do in response for fear that they are being bypassed or ignored is inappropriately talk about themselves and their world with blinders on, as if that world is the only world that should matter to everyone around them. In addition, often they have an inability to empathize with others, which again makes it that much more challenging to build new relationships and maintain current ones.

Question: Aren’t we all a little narcissistic?

Adubato: There is a fine line between narcissism and confidence. I am not talking about people with healthy egos and a positive attitude about themselves. We all want attention and recognition for our efforts — there is nothing wrong with that. I am referring to the people who only see the world with themselves at its center.

The Bottom Line: If you have a strong ego or are at times a bit self-centered, that’s OK. Nobody’s perfect. But full-blown, unchecked narcissism is a prescription for unhealthy and unproductive communication.

Steve Adubato wrote “Speak from the Heart” and “Make the Connection.” He is also an anchor for Channel 13/WNET (PBS) and a motivational speaker. He can be reached at (973) 744-5260 or at www.stand-deliver.com.