How to Manage Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Veterinary Business Advisors, Inc.

www.veterinarybusinessadvisors.com

*Principles of this blog are based off the National Business Institute’s course on “Dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the Legal Practice: Clients, Counsel, and Others”.

Whether a client or a coworker, unhealthy narcissism can derail an otherwise straightforward experience together.

In 2020, there were 7 million American adults who have NPD or narcistic style. People who have this tend to see others as objects for their personal gratification, or as potential threats.  Their world view tends to be win or lose. When those diagnosed with NPD, behavior traits include:

      • Lack of empathy
      • Grandiose sense of self-importance
      • Excessively concerned about their image
      • Dirven to seek attention and admiration
      • Largely superficial relationships
      • Feel entitled to manipulate or exploit others
      • Rarely admit they are wrong
      • Become enraged when they feel disrespected or humiliated
      • Play the victim or martyr

How do you know or feel in the presence of narcissists? You can feel often belittled, under scrutiny or even judged, as if nothing you are doing is good enough, among many other feelings. Unfortunately, narcissists hide behind a façade of fear.

Working with Narcissists & Communicating with Clients with NPD –

The Narcissist’s Code – have you ever had a client or colleague that you sense may exhibit these traits? It’s helpful to know what may be motivating them, especially if it’s not obvious. One of the key points is that image is everything for them.  Next is getting attention – it’s often when they feel listened to or admired – they feel expansive and fueled. If they are not at the center of attention, they can feel depressed, and often aggressive. Honesty is optional for them! Narcissist’s can be great liars as they seek image enhancement, being incredibly convincing in the moment. Next, they tend to believe others are either against them or out to get them.  Narcissists tend to be driven by emotions and impulses. Winning is everything for them. Knowing these traits can allow you to be aware, and even create strategies to respond.

What could this look like with a potential client? Clients could think they know more or better than you as the veterinarian or technician, and will even demean or manipulate other members of your staff.  They expect to be admired and rules are an exception to them.

Key Tip: A practical tip to respond include sharing that their treatment doesn’t feel respectful, which can ultimately interfere with helping them achieve their goals.

DON’T DO
Argue with them Authentically praise their strong points
Try to get them to accept responsibility Educate them on possible consequences, then let them choose
Take what they say personally Recognize that they are like this with everybody
Argue for a win-win approach Focus the narcissist on his/her interests rather than what the opposing party receives
Respond to dramatics or ultimatums Return to the narcissist’s goals and interests
Take the bait when criticized Reassure them that you are on their side, and refocus on the case
Overlook any failures to follow your policies Document, document, document. Make exceptions to your policies sparingly, if at all.

It can often be incredibly mentally and emotionally draining when dealing with someone who exhibits NPD.  It’s important however, to hold onto your voice and set boundaries.  It is not your responsibility to fix them. Dr. Dan Neuharth shares the “11 Things NOT to Do with Narcissists”:

  1. Don’t take them at face value
  2. Don’t over-share personal information
  3. Don’t feel a need to justify your thoughts, feelings or actions
  4. Don’t minimize their dysfunctional behavior
  5. Don’t expect them to take responsibility
  6. Don’t assume they share your values and worldview
  7. Don’t try to beat them at their own game
  8. Don’t take their actions personally
  9. Don’t expect empathy or fairness
  10. Don’t expect them to change
  11. Don’t underestimate the power of narcissism

Many of this can be easier said than done, but try to remember: in most cases, it’s not your responsibility to satisfy their cravings for admiration and praise. We can have compassion for the suffering of narcissists, but it does not mean excusing them for their narcissistic actions. Rather, focusing on the patient or case at hand, focusing on facts and trying a tip or two from the above table.