Are you aware of the myth of Narcissus? Well, Narcissus was the son of river God, Cephisus and the fountain-nymph Liriope. He was celebrated for his beauty so much so that he had numerous admirers. Although a Greek myth, a famous poet Ovid in his book Metamorphoses brought his own interpretation to life. Narcissus’ parents once asked about their child’s future. The prophet, Teiresias told them that the boy would grow to live only if “he didn’t get to know himself”. However, when Narcissus was 16 he was wandering in the woods when a Nymph Echo fell in love with him. She began following him. When Narcissus said, “who’s there”, Echo responded with, “who’s there’. When she showed herself to Narcissus, he rejects her and so Echo was left heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in the glen until nothing but her echo survived.
Nemesis, the God of Revenge, however, heard Echo’s cries and decided to punish Narcissus. So, once when Narcissus was wandering in the woods and decided to drink water from a spring. While drinking the water he notices his reflection and falls in love with himself! He wastes his life, gazing at his reflection and eventually disappears and in his place rests a flower by his name.
Do you get the drift?
A narcissist is a person who is full of grandiose and charisma. The one thing that pulls them down is being self-absorbed. Naturally, such people are difficult to manage and mentor. If you’re managing one then here’s how you can get past all the hurdles.
Identify their vulnerability: Narcissists are usually averse to criticism. Once at the receiving end they are likely to overreact and get defensive too. This behaviour stems from them overestimating their potential and skills. To tackle them you should try to empathise. Although they show the world they don’t care and that they are thick-skinned, but the opposite is true. Try to scratch the surface and identify their weakness. You can do so by asking them a simple question: who do they want to be. This will get you to the bottom of their sense of being. You can then use this knowledge as a premise to make them more self-aware and encourage them to get in touch with themselves; the real person underneath the veil.
Make use of reverse psychology: Since narcissists can get defensive you’ve got to make use of reverse psychology to get them to lower their guard. Since they tend to think of themselves above the rest, the most common reaction they will receive is disrespect or rebuke. Ask them ‘why do people often don’t listen to them or think of them as rude’. Say, “Help me understand your situation better’. Your pursuit will make them open up to you and explain their case. The conversation should then allow you to know them better. Eventually, you will be able to channelize their nervous energies for good.
Emphasise on team work: Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Make every member of your team follow this logic lest the team breakdown. Allow everyone to voice their opinions and work together to take decisions. Encourage debates and discussion so that the narcissist in the team doesn’t think he/she is the know-it-all. While they may try to manipulate others make sure the majority has a better hold of the situation and a 360 degree understanding of the problem. This way the narcissist will learn to listen, accept new points of view even if they get impatient and angry in the first instance.
Also, create a culture of peer feedback as it will make the narcissist become critical of their behaviour. If their self-absorbed nature is challenged by peers, they are likely to change for better. After all, at the end of the day, everyone likes to fit in the organisation.
Don’t mirror their behaviour: A narcissist loves to be lauded by all. They feel they are entitled to special treatment and often disregard other people. They are haughty and will definitely try to overtake you in a discussion only to prove you are wrong. In a way, they know their behaviour and attitude is intimidating to others. You, as a manager, however, mustn’t mirror their behaviour and resent them. Speak to them in a way they are not accustomed to. Don’t raise your voice or retaliate, especially when there is a conflict of opinion. Talk respectfully and accept what they have to say. This will allow them to see you as someone who is on their side and so increase the possibility of having a constructive dialogue.
Following above strategies do not guarantee a 100% change in a narcissist’s behaviour. Just follow the one-day-at-a-time approach. Finally, if it’s getting too much then you can also let them go too rather than having a score of people quit because of Narcissus.