Opinion Editorials

Realtors in the field – dealing with narcissistic clients and agents

Narcissism no longer considered a mental disorder

A recent Washington University study reveals new information that debunks traditional theory on narcissism, how narcissists see themselves and how others see narcissists. Recently, narcissism has been completely removed from the medical profession’s classification as a mental disorder.

Because you’re in sales and a closing can rely on your ability to negotiate with different personality types be they clients or agents on the other side of the table, we have outlined below four tendencies to look out for in spotting and communicating with a narcissist.

Traditionally, it has been thought that narcissists are shallow and focus on themselves in a way that makes them totally unaware that they are narcissists, but the new studies reveal that not only are narcissists completely self aware, they are genuinely proud of their narcissistic behavior.

The new bleeding edge study confirms traditionally held beliefs that narcissists believe themselves to be superior in intelligence, humor, likability and so forth, but the element of the study that confirms self awareness of narcissism (the new finding in medical circles) is that narcissists scored highly when questioned about their having negative aspects of narcissism like arrogance, impulsive behavior and exaggeration of abilities.

Additionally, when the study interviewed people that know the narcissists, of course the score for the positive attributes dropped and the narcissist could predict with relative accuracy how others would rate their abilities (even when low).

“Am I a narcissist?”

Given these findings, if you have to ask yourself if you’re a narcissist, you aren’t one. Narcissists are completely self aware and proud to be narcissists, they choose to remain narcissists. A funny test is the following: (1) think about yourself for a moment, then (2) if you get to step two, you’re not a narcissist.

But how does that impact your business in dealing with these types? Because the definition has changed in the last year alone, below are four steps to better understanding and dealing with narcissists. I am not a therapist and don’t claim any expertise in narcissism, the below tips are based on my own experience and are simply suggestions, we look forward to hearing your own in the comments after the tips.

Step one: understand that you’re just a hater

You would think that a narcissist knowing that they are not perceived as highly as they perceive themselves would give them a reality check, but the study suggests the individuals assume people around them are not smart enough to see how amazing they are or assume that people around them are just jealous haters.

Reaction tip: in dealing with a narcissist, you should know that when you don’t understand or acknowledge their brilliance, they will automatically assume you are a hater. So if you’re dealing with a narcissist agent in negotiations, maybe start conversations with “I have really admired how creatively you have handled these contracts, I’m really impressed! Although we’re not on the exact same page with the offer numbers, I think [insert price] would give you a win with your clients and help the deal close.” None of that was about you or your clients, it was about them and reassuring them that they are brilliant.

Step two: allowing bragging

Okay, so now you know you’ll probably just be seen as a hater if you’re not complimentary. You should know that narcissistic arrogance is real and not some hidden insecurity as previously thought. This is HUGE- to me, this is the biggest dividing factor between narcissists and insecure egotistical personalities. The study shows that bragging may be a narcissist’s way of demanding the recognition they deeply believe they deserve as a way to bridge the gap between their self perceptions and how people around them perceive them.

Reaction tip: you’re at coffee with a new client, the buyer’s rep agreement has been signed and now you’re talking about preferences. Your client says that he’s bought eleven homes in his lifetime and he knows what he’s doing and really he just needs you there to process paperwork. Consider, “What a relief! I’m so glad to have someone like you as a part of this process, it is always helpful when a client is so well educated.”

Step three: don’t laugh at Sheen’s machete act

Results of the study (and other studies) reveal that narcissists maintain their self respect by misconstruing the meaning of narcissism from a negative (someone who is overly confident despite merit) and in their mind turn it into a positive (deservedly confident). Duh, winning! Research reveals that narcissists care less about being liked and more about being admired, so narcissism has been construed in their minds as a positive.

Reaction tip: Imagine you’re the listing agent on the phone with buyer’s agent and the agent goes on and on about how cocky he is and how he wakes up in the morning and pisses excellence, the last thing you want to do is poke the bear- don’t chuckle or condescend, let the narcissist believe their hype because you can’t change their mind and it is not your job. Keep a level head even when they insult you in their haze of not caring about being liked and remember that they want respect/admiration instead.

Step four: you’re not going to be BFFs

Researchers show that narcissistic personalities were viewed more positively by new acquaintances (of which they are fully aware), as their relationships tend to deteriorate over time because narcissists constantly search for “better” relationships. Also, creating a first impression is more “rewarding” for narcissists as it is less work than bridging the gap between their image of themselves and the image of them that people around them have. In other words, it’s hard work to keep up the bragging over time, so it’s more fun to brag to new people.

Reaction tip: you are at a closing with your narcissist client and you now know that she’s already impressed you with her amazing ability to buy real estate (ooh, fancy). To keep her in your network, continue garnering referrals and hopefully be her agent on the next transaction, you’ll have to passively remain part of her world. Trying to invite her to the weekly neighborhood barbeque or asking her to go shopping with you and be besties will ensure she’ll move on from you before any referral or future transaction. Keep her in your email or mailer list and at closing tell her, “I’m so impressed with how you kept your cool and were so savvy about such a complex transaction, I can’t wait for your friends to know about your success and I look forward to working with them as well, I can only hope they were as great to work with as you.” Then don’t Facebook poke her every Thursday, just let it rest.

Your takeaway:

With narcissists, it’s better to go with the grain and be complimentary. You won’t reform a narcissist, they love being narcissistic and they crave admiration despite whether or not they are liked. Keep a level head and chuckle in your head but never aloud, even when they are insulting as a means of maintaining their self perception.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Chris Somers

    April 3, 2011 at 7:11 am

    Lani,

    This is a terrific and amazing article. Have come across this more with agents than with clients. I think the market humbled clients more so. But many agents defintely have this persona. I love your takeaway and that is what I try to do although it is very difficult sometimes, especially during the negotiation process : )

    Chris

    • Lani Rosales

      April 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      Chris, a true narcissist is not humbled by any market, only people with narcissistic tendencies can be humbled according to the study. That is one of the shocking parts to me- they’ve chosen to be narcissists and not because of hidden insecurity but their belief in their self perception.

      It’s hard to remember, but narcissists are narcissists, not bad people 🙂

  2. Jacksonville short sale

    April 3, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Well this was very timely!

    • Lani Rosales

      April 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Are you across the table from a narcissist or working with one as a client? I personally think it’s more difficult to deal with in Southern culture because we expect people to be humble. And when they’re not, it can be off-putting, no?

  3. Fred Glick

    April 7, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Am I narcissistic if I have my own name as my email and website?

    • Lani Rosales

      April 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      Fred, silly, that’s marketing, not narcissism 🙂

      PS: you should use your Twitter avatar as your gravatar.com photo… just my opinion.

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