If there’s a narcissist in your law office, and if you find said narcissist a tad tiresome at times, you’ve come to the right place.
The end to your frustration could be to become a “gray rock.”
It is no secret that the legal profession tends to attract individuals with Type A personalities, healthy egos and generous self-regard, often to the extent of believing the world revolves around them.
Legal recruiter Harrison Barnes has even coined a phrase for it: Narcissistic Entitlement Syndrome, which he says can run rampant among new lawyers, and often manifests as a false sense of entitlement.
“One of the greatest problems facing young associates inside law firms is what I call Narcissistic Entitlement Syndrome (“NES”),” he writes on his website BCG Search. “Attorneys who suffer from NES often very quickly find themselves out of jobs, whether they quit, are fired, or simply move among employers. This narcissistic personality, in my opinion, is an extremely serious subject and something I believe probably at least 10 percent of the associates in large and prestigious law firms suffer from NES.”
But while the syndrome might be more pronounced in young lawyers, it crosses all ages and career spans, as anyone who has ever worked in a law office can attest.
“Narcissism in general means having an inflated view of oneself, kind of a lack of closer, emotionally warm relationships with other people, and also needing to be validated, or at least wanting to be admired or be loved,” says one psychologist in this CNN piece.
Take heart, though. Social scientists have come up with an effective way of dealing with a narcissistic personality: becoming a gray rock.
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Tips for Dealing with a Narcissist
If you’ve ever dealt with a narcissist, you know it does no good to yell or tell them to stop being a jerk.
You likely won’t be able to change their behavior, and you should not have to change yours. Nor do you want to sympathize (either feigned or real) or get caught up in their drama.
The answer might be gray rocking. This strategy involves responding in neutral, unemotional ways so that you do not play into the narcissistic need to feel important or special.
“Imagine you are stuck in a conversation at a party, dropping off your child with your ex, or on the phone with a difficult parent,” according to a Harvard psychologist quoted in the CNN article. “They may look to get your praise, sympathy or outrage with charged comments. Instead of defending, explaining or asking for elaboration, you keep your responses as concise and bland as possible, [the expert said]. ‘OK,’ ‘You’re entitled to your opinion,’ and ‘Sure,’ are all responses that address the person without inviting more or allowing yourself to be pulled in further.”