Listening: Leadership Trait and Narcissism Cure

Is there a narcissist in your life?

If you live in the West, especialy in America, the odds favor a yes answer. One hopes that the person is not your boss. I further hope the person is not you! (But if it is, you’re not aware of it.)

There are a few in my life. I asked a therapist (my daughter) about what the DSM says. She said there is no known cure. Either live with it or avoid them.

Jenny Dyer writing on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog came up with some interesting thoughts. Not valid cures at this point, but interesting thoughts.

I have written several times about listening and how it’s a great leadership trait to develop. It may go deeper than that.

Dyer writes, “In the recent HBO hit series, “In Treatment,” Gabriel Byrnes discusses his role as a psychotherapist.”

He notes, “Listening, I think, is one of the most profound compliments that you can pay to another person. To truly listen and to feel that you’re heard is deeply fulfilling in a deep human way.” This awareness of listening is an act of empathy.

Hearing the story of another human, and deeply listening to that story, is an act of compassion, altruism, and love. It involves losing yourself and experiencing a “vicarious introspection” into the life of another human being.

To truly hear a story is an act of empathy. 

Neurological studies show that altruism is actually a biological response, hard-wired into the brain.

In fact, acts of generosity, empathy, or altruism light up a primitive part of the brain that is usually associated with pleasurable actions like eating good food or sex.

They might actually cure narcissism.

So if you’re starting to fear you’re a little too self-absorbed, stop to listen, think about others instead, and give generously with what you have.

Ironically, in combating narcissism through empathy, the individual who has long suffered from narcissism actually secures the greatest win—a pleasurable biological response—when focused on others.

Reflecting on that idea, it came to me that he may be on to something. I think I have witnessed that in a couple of lives. Maybe more. Something broke through their consciousness. They started to actually think about other people. Give money, time, gifts.

In none of the cases was it a total cure. But it was an improvement.

So if you are feeling a bit too self-absorbed. Or maybe someone you know is. Try breaking through the fog and just try listening to someone with no thought about what you might say. If a thought comes to mind about your experience to share with the other, say to yourself, “It’s really not that important. Let’s listen to the other person.”

You can learn a lot just by listening to someone else.

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3 Responses to “Listening: Leadership Trait and Narcissism Cure”

  1. Rivka Says:

    I think this is a beautiful sentiment for average people – BUT the narcissist who truly has a cluster B personality disorder is giving off the impression of listening because they are about to go in for the kill. They always gather intell before they strike. True emotional listening is beyond their skillset and they find it boring.

    • Gary Mintchell Says:

      Thanks, Rivka. I thought the article was maybe overoptimistic. Some people just cannot be cured (I know one–therapy, the whole 9 yards). But if you can break through the shell even just a little, there can be improvement.

      By the way, I am not a therapist and can barely spell DSM, but I’ve been an acute observer of people for a very long time. Plus I think I have a fair amount of empathy that allows me to actually hear what others are trying to say.

      I’m forever hopeful that people can and will change. Even knowing some are beyond hope.

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