Narcissist or Empath? The Choice Is Ours

At legal sanity, Arnie Herz writes about “emotional intelligence and narcissism in the law.” We’ve all probably seen the headlines in the last several days about the rise of narcissism in college students. And now Arnie, in discussing this post at the Brazen Careerist on Emotional Intelligence, points out that narcissism is but one demonstrable symptom of low “EQ.”

I encourage anyone interested in making the most out of their work lives to read both Arnie and Penelope Trunk’s posts, linked above, and think about this: Is EQ determined for us? Can we make an actual decision to lessen the narcissism and increase empathy? I say we can, and I base that on one deeply-rooted belief: my belief in our power to change our thoughts and feelings. Many people think that’s impossible – to change one’s feelings – but I’ve done it, and seen it done. And though it unquestionably requires a great deal of effort and concentrated, consistent attention, it can be done.

What brought this renewed emphasis for me was a neat bit of synchronicity. I’d been reading a lot of blogs lately about law practice management and marketing, and even more email posts on the subject from a couple of listservs to which I subscribe. And I noticed what seemed to me to be a marked increase in what I can only call self-aggrandizement in the tone of those posts. A lot of authors seemed very “in love” with themselves! Lots of “I” sentences. Lots of sarcasm and derision when it came to other people’s points of view and opinions. What do I mean?

  • “I’ve been preaching for years that ….”
  • “No, no, no, and no. Sorry but that just doesn’t cut it….”
  • My personal favorite: “If you want to be successful, you must …” (essentially followed by “do what I say”).

Is this the way you want to win friends (much less clients) and influence people? Is there, perhaps, a different way? (Note: I didn’t say “better”!) Let’s put it like this: I don’t think I’d be too keen on hiring someone as a consultant or a coach or a lawyer if that person’s methods of winning me over consisted of building their own pedestal and mocking me, simultaneously.

If I’m wrong, show me that I’m wrong, and how, but do it without denigrating me or my opinion. You can illustrate the power of your thoughts, your methods, your ideas, without attacking. You can even build someone up while you show the superiority of “your way.” Think about how powerful that could be! Wouldn’t you feel pretty good about someone who thought so highly of you?

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2 comments so far

  1. Penelope Trunk on

    Hi, Sheryl. Great post. Your signs of a self-important blogger are actually good guidelines for how to give good advice. Made me want to go over all my posts to see if I have been adhereing to these guidelines 🙂

    Also, I wanted to say something about learning empathy. We have learned a lot about empathy in the past decade that we have been treating Asperger’s Syndrome. At it’s core, it is a disorder about empathy. And we have found that empathy is very very hard to teach. Most of it is intuitive.

    I wrote about this issue here:


  2. sherriesisk on

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Penelope! You’re right, though I hadn’t thought of it in that way, but what do we as lawyers do but give advice? Same with counselors, coaches and consultants.

    I really enjoyed your post on autism and social awkwardness. That’s a valuable insight.

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