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Realtors in the field – dealing with narcissistic clients and agents

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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.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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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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Opinion Editorials

How the Bullet Journal method has been hijacked and twisted

(EDITORIAL) I’m a big fan of the Bullet Journal method, but sticker-loving tweens have hijacked the movement. Worry not, I’m still using black and white bullet points with work tasks (not “pet cat,” or “smile more”).

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It’s taken me some time to come around to the Bullet Journal method, because it took me some time to fully understand it (I have a tendency to overthink simplicity). Now that I understand the use, I find it very beneficial for my life and my appreciation for pen-to-paper.

In short, it’s a quick and simple system for organization tasks and staying focused with everything you have going on. All you need to employ this method is a journal with graph or dotted paper, and a pen. Easy.

However, there seems to be this odd truth that: we find ways to simplify complicated things, and we find ways to complicate simple things. The latter is exactly what’s happened with the Bullet Journal method, thanks to creative people who show the rest of us up.

To understand what I’m talking about, open up Instagram (or Pinterest, or even Google) and just search “bullet journal.” You’ll soon find post after post of frilly, sticker-filled, calligraphy-laden journal pages.

The simple method of writing down bullets of tasks has been hijacked to become a competitive art form.

Don’t get me wrong, I like looking at this stuff because I dig the creativity. But, do I have time to do that myself? No! For honesty’s sake, I’ve tried just for fun and it takes too much damn time.

With this is mind, this new-found method of Bullet Journaling as an art is something that: a) defeats the purpose of accomplishing tasks quickly as you’re setting yourself back with the nifty art, and b) entrepreneurs, freelancers, executives, or anyone busy would not have time for.

Most of these people posting artistic Bullet Journal pages on Instagram are younger and have more time on their hands (and if you want to spend your time doing that, do you, man).

But, it goes against the simplistic method of Bullet Journaling. The intent of the method.

And, beneath the washi tape, stickers, and different colored pens, usually lies a list of: put away laundry, feed cat, post on Insta. So, this is being done more for the sake of art than for employing the method.

Again, I’m all for art and for people following their passions and creativities, but it stands to reason that this should be something separate from the concept of Bullet Journaling, as it has become a caricature of the original method.

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Opinion Editorials

The perfect comeback to that earnest MLM guy you meet at every coffee shop

(EDITORIAL) We’ve all been cornered by someone that wants to offer us financial freedom for joining their pyramid scheme, but we typically freeze or just reject them. There’s another way…

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The following editorial was penned by Chris Johnson who offers the perfect comeback to that stranger who approaches you in Starbucks or that person you haven’t talked to since high school that wants to discuss your financial freedom:

Last week, I was at Starbucks, doing some marketing work. This was apparent to all who could view my laptop by the big 72 type “Marketing” headline that I was working on in my browser.

A man sharing a table, with no apparent laptop of his own, was taking interest in what I was doing. He was mid-40s and he was ambiently stalking and sizing everyone around him up. He was swallowing and always “about to talk.”

Finally, after I looked up to collect my thoughts, he broke my reverie.

“Are you in marketing?”

See, our man (Justin was his name) had just stated a business, an e-commerce business. He was vague on his details.

I knew where this was going. We all know.

Anyone that’s ever worked from a Starbucks has met Justin.

Justin mentioned a couple of his relatives, also with businesses. And, without asking what type of clients I serve, told me that they’d be a great fit for me. He’d love to introduce me, if we could just exchange contact info.

I knew exactly what he was doing. As God as my witness, I knew the only place where this interaction would possibly go. I wasn’t, not for a minute, fooled by the promise of referrals that would never happen.

Of course, I give it to him, not because I think there’s any hope that this will work out. But because I want to know. We exchange texts, and I save his contact info.

He excuses himself and gets into his 2002 rusty Kia, and drives off.

The next day, I get a call with the ID: MLM GUY STARBUCKS 2019.

“Chris, we met at Starbucks,” he says, “This is Justin. And I was wondering if you were open to financial opportunities for your family.”

Well, knock me over with a feather. This was such a surprise.

Without a plan in my head, I said “Justin, are you in the Amway organization? Because if so, I have been waiting for your call.”

Justin confirmed that yes, he was in Amway. And he was really glad!

“Justin, I’ve got some great news for YOU, would you like to hear about it?”

“Sure,” he goes.

“OK, well, you have to be open – and committed – to improving your relationship with Amway. Is that something you’re open to right now?”

“Yes,” he said, “Definitely.”

“Great. So let me tell you about what I do with the Amway people I meet. See, I’ve made a really profitable career out of helping them, and it’s turned into the focus of my life.” This is, of course, a lie, but we were even because Justin got my phone number on the pretext of referring me business.

“OK, so the deal is this. One of the problems with Amway is that it turns you into someone that has to monetize all of your family and friends. And when that happens, you become less about the relationship, and more about the money. Has that happened to you?”

“Yes. Yes it has.” Justin admits.

“Yes, great, this is what we’re hearing.”

The words tumbled out of my mouth: “See all over America there are Amway distributors, just like you. They are chained to various Starbuckses. This is the old model, there’s simply no freedom.

They have to fight tooth and nail to get appointments and most of ’em don’t go anywhere. For most of the Amway owners, this isn’t working once they pitch all their friends and all their family.

So I’ve created an organization called Amway Freedom. All you have to do is sign up. By signing up, you agree to automatically pay $5.00 per month to me, to be free of Amway.

But the REALLY good news is that you can sign OTHER people up, and keep half of the money for your family and your freedom. And when they sign up, half goes to support the reps, and the other half goes to support your opportunity!

From what I hear, over 1.5 million Americans signed up for Amway at some point. Tell me, Justin, if you got just 1% of that market – 15,000 people to pay you $5.00 a month without you having to do anything, would that change your life?

Would $75,000 per month change your life?”

Justin said “Um, well, this isn’t really what I was think-”

“Look Justin, this isn’t for everyone. I know that. Most people won’t be able to take advantage of this opportunity. They only think of the problems. They can’t imagine how this could work, a business with no merchandise and freedom.

But, Justin, you’re helping people get free of the endless random meetings… the Starbucks bills… the gas expenses. You’re turning your story of struggle into a story of success. Are you ready, Justin?

This is my business,” I said, “And this is what I want for you, Justin. Are you ready to join your challenge and fight for the freedom of 1.5 million people that have tried Amway?”

“Um…” Justin said. “I just don’t.”

“I see. This might not be working for you, Justin, and that’s 100% OK. Take all the time you need. But, if you sign up today, I’ll offer you the EXCLUSIVE market rights to help free people from Younique, Herbalife, Infinitus and over 30 other household brands. That makes a market – just in America – of 20 million Americans! Doesn’t that sound great, Justin? If you captured just 1% of that, that’s 200,000. And that business would earn 1 million every MONTH.

All without products to store, all while helping people.

Will you be paying with a Visa or Mastercard?”

Justin paused for a moment. “This was a waste of my time,” he finally said.

“You don’t really have a business!” he spat.

Well done, Justin, well done indeed.

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Opinion Editorials

Culture can be defined by what employees don’t say

(OPINION) What your employees say defines your business. What your employees don’t say defines your culture.

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Whether the boss realizes or not, employees – the folks who often manufacture, handle, and sell the products themselves – can see sides of the business that management could easily overlook, including potential risks and improvements. So how do you make sure your employees are speaking up? A new study by Harvard researcher Hemant KakkarSubra Tangirala reveals that when it comes to speaking up, your company culture is probably either encouraging or discouraging it.

Tangirala wanted to compare two theories as to why employees choose to stay quiet when they could share their worries or ideas with company management. The “personality perspective” presumes that shy, reticent employees simply don’t have the gumption to speak up; therefore, the way to get more perspective from your employees is to make a point to hire extroverted people.

Meanwhile, the “situational perspective” posits that the company culture may either be encouraging and even expecting employees to speak up or discouraging it by creating an environment wherein employees “fear suffering significant social costs by challenging their bosses.”

In order to test these two theories against one another, Tangirala surveyed nearly 300 employees and 35 supervisors at a Malaysian manufacturing plant. First, the survey measured each employee’s “approach orientation,” that is whether or not, all things being equal, they had a personality more inclined to speaking up or staying mum. Next, employees were asked whether they thought their input was expected, rewarded, or punished. Lastly, supervisors were asked to rank the employees as to how often they spoke up on the shop floor.

The survey showed that both personality and the work environment significantly influenced whether or not an employee would speak up – however, it also showed that environmental factors could “override” employees’ natural inclinations. In other words, if employees felt that they were expected or would be rewarded for speaking up, they would do so, even if they aren’t naturally garrulous. On the other hand, even the most outspoken employees would bite their tongues if they thought they would be punished for giving their opinion.

The study also identified two major areas wherein employees could be either encouraged or discouraged from sharing their perspective. First, employees can be encouraged to suggest improvements or innovations that will increase workplace safety and efficiency. Secondly, employees should be expected to speak up when they witness dangers or behaviors that could “compromise safety or operations.”

Although the study was limited, it seems to point towards the importance of creating a workplace culture wherein your employees are rewarded for speaking up. Doing so could potentially provide you with invaluable insights into how to improve your business – insights that can only come from the shop floor.

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