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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

DNA ancestry tests are cool, but are they worth giving up your rights?

(EDITORIAL) DNA tests are all the rage currently but are they worth potentially having your genetic makeup sold and distributed?

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By now you’ve heard – the Golden State Killer’s 40+ year reign of terror is potentially over as the FBI agents used an ancestry website DNA sample to arrest their suspect, James DeAngelo, Jr.

Over the last few years, DNA testing has gone mainstream for novelty reasons. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have offered easy access to the insights of your genetics, including potential health risks and family heritage, and even reconnect family members, through simple genetic tests.

However, as a famously ageless actor once suggested in a dinosaur movie, don’t focus too much on if you can do this, without asking if you should do this.

When you look closely, you can find several reasons to wonder if sending your DNA to these companies is a wise choice.

These reasons mostly come down to privacy protection, and while most companies do have privacy policies in place, you will find some surprising loopholes in the fine print. For one, most of the big players don’t give you the option to not have your data sold.

These companies, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, can always sell your data so long as your data is “anonymized,” thanks to the HIPAA Act of 1996. Anonymization involves separating key identifying features about a person from their medical or biological data.

These companies know that loophole well; Ancestry.com, for example, won’t even give customers an opt-out of having their DNA data sold.

Aside from how disconcerting it is that these companies will exploit this loophole for their gain at your expense, it’s also worth noting that standards for anonymizing data don’t work all that well.

In one incident, reportedly, “one MIT scientists was able to ID the people behind five supposedly anonymous genetic samples randomly selected from a public research database. It took him less than a day.”

There’s also the issue of the places where that data goes when it goes out. That report the MIT story comes from noted that 23andMe has sold data to at least 14 outside pharmaceutical firms.

Additionally, Ancestry.com has a formal data-sharing agreement with a biotech firm. That’s not good for you as the consumer, because you may not know how that firm will handle the data.

Some companies give data away to the public databases for free, but as we saw from the earlier example, those can be easy targets if you wanted to reverse engineer the data back to the person.

It would appear the only safe course of action is to have this data destroyed once your results are in. However, according to US federal regulation for laboratory compliance stipulates that US labs hold raw information for a minimum of 10 years before destruction.

Now, consider all that privacy concern in the context of what happens when your DNA data is compromised. For one, this kind of privacy breach is irreversible.

It’s not as simple as resetting all your passwords or freezing your credit.

If hackers don’t get it, the government certainly can; there’s even an instance of authorities successfully obtaining a warrant for DNA evidence from Ancestry.com in a murder trial.

Even if you’re not the criminal type who would worry about such a thing, the precedent is concerning.

Finally, if these companies are already selling data to entities in the biomedical field, how long until medical and life insurance providers get their hands on it?

I’ll be the first to admit that the slippery slope fallacy is strong here, but there are a few troubling patterns of behavior and incorrect assumptions already in play regarding the handling of your DNA evidence.

The best course of action is to take extra precaution.

Read the fine print carefully, especially what’s in between the lines. As less scrupulous companies look to cash in on the trend, be aware of entities who skimp on privacy details; DNA Explained chronicles a lot of questionable experiences with other testing companies.

Above all, really think about what you’re comfortable with before you send in those cheek swabs or tubes of spit. While the commercials make this look fun, it is a serious choice and should be treated like one.

This story was first published, October 2017.

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Opinion Editorials

Do women that downplay their gender get ahead faster?

(OPINION) A new study about gender in the workplace is being perceived differently than we are viewing it – let’s discuss.

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flexible workforce

The Harvard Business Review reports that women benefit professionally when they downplay their gender, as opposed to trying to focus on their “differences” as professional strength.

The article includes a lot of interesting concepts underneath its click-bait-y title. According to the study by Professors Ashley Martin and Katherine Phillips, women felt increasingly confident when they pivoted from focusing on highlighting potential differences in their perceived abilities based on their gender and instead gave their attention to cultivating qualities that are traditionally coded as male*.

Does this really mean that women need to “downplay” their gender? Does it really mean women who attempt this get ahead in this world faster?

I don’t think so.

The article seems to imply that “celebrating diversity” in workers is akin to giving femme-identified employees a hot pink briefcase – it actually calls attention to stereotyped behaviors. I would argue that this is not the case (and, for the record, rock a hot pink briefcase if you want to, that sounds pretty badass).

I believe that we should instead highlight the fact that this study shows the benefits that come when everyone expands preconceived notions of gender.

Dr. Martin and her interviewer touch on this when they discuss the difference between gender “awareness” and “blindness.” As Dr. Martin explains, “Gender blindness doesn’t mean that women should act more like men; it diminishes the idea that certain qualities are associated with men and women.”

It is the paradox of studies like this one that, in order to interrogate how noxious gendered beliefs are, researchers must create categories to place otherwise gender-neutral qualities and actions in, thus emphasizing the sort of stereotypes being investigated. Regardless, there is a silver lining here as said by Dr. Martin herself:

“[People] are not naturally better suited to different roles, and [people] aren’t better or worse at certain things.”

Regardless of a worker’s gender identity, they are capable of excelling at whatever their skills and talent help them to.

*Though the HBR article and study perpetuate a binary gender structure, for the purposes of our discussion in this article, I expand its “diversity” to include femme-identified individuals, nonbinary and trans workers, and anybody else that does not benefit from traditional notions of power that place cisgendered men at the top of the social totem pole.

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Opinion Editorials

Dispelling the myth that women don’t get raises because they don’t ask

(EDITORIAL) It has been accepted as fact that women don’t get raises because they don’t ask as often as men, but new studies indicate that’s not true at all.

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Many of the seemingly universal “truths” of business often come down to assumptions made about workers based on their gender.

Among the most oft-repeated of these “truths” is that women and other femme-identifying people are bad at self-advocating, particularly in matters involving compensation.

These include: Women don’t negotiate their salaries. Women don’t get promotions or leadership positions because they don’t “lean in.” Women don’t ask for raises.

This last truth is finally being discussed as the myth it is.

Over at The Cut, Otegha Uwagba discusses her own experience successfully and not-so-successfully negotiating a raise, but more interestingly how increasingly research has shown that there is no “gap” in between the genders when it comes to asking. Rather, the disparity really arises when it comes to which ask is heard.

As Uwagba explains, “While men and women ask for pay raises at broadly similar rates, women are more likely to be refused or suffer blowback for daring to broach the topic.”

This blowback comes from the inability of some people in leadership positions to think critically about the ways in which business still actively dismisses women’s leadership qualities while simultaneously praising less-competent men who demonstrate these very characteristics.

The HBR article acts as good reminder that the cumulative effect of all of these misguided “facts” about women and business often perpetuate the toxic culture that creates and circulates them.

The implication of all of these myths creates a sense that women are the ones responsible for the unequal treatment they often receive. When the message that women receive is that the reason they don’t get a raise is that they didn’t ask—even when they DO—that tells them that their lived experience isn’t as valid as the pervasive “truth.”

This is, simply put, gaslighting.

Even more, telling women that women face challenges because they didn’t do something or know something, rather than the addressing the very real fact that professional women face sexism at almost every step of their career does not help them.

It only helps those already in positions of power blame women for their own archaic beliefs and actions.

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