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How to Speak to a Narcissistic Entrepreneur


You find yourself at a cocktail party, cornered by someone who describes himself as a physician entrepreneur. What do you do?


Imagine you are at a cocktail party. Inevitably, at least in the US, one of the first questions will be, “So, what do you do?”

NB: Do not ask this as the first question when in Europe or Asia.

The answer: “I'm a physician entrepreneur.”

Now what?

Consider it an exercise in cultural competence with a dose of psychology thrown in too.

You might want to start off with the assumption that you are talking to a narcissist and all that comes with it, both the light and the dark sides.

Research indicates that:

• Student entrepreneurs score higher on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory than other vocational groups.

• Narcissism is positively correlated with general self-efficacy.

• Narcissism is positively correlated with locus of control.

• Narcissism is positively correlated with risk propensity.

• Narcissism plays a significant role in explaining entrepreneurial intentions.

And narcissism is not the only entrepreneurial psychopathology they exhibit.

Throw in the doctor part and things start to get sticky.

Here are some tips on how to spot and speak to a narcissistic entrepreneur:

1. Forget about changing the stripes on a tiger. Narcissist entrepreneurs think they got as far as they did because of who they are and you are not about to convince them otherwise. They have been told most of their lives how exceptional they are.

2. Plan to spend no more than five minutes talking to them, because they will only talk about themselves and the more you encourage them, the worse the conversation will get.

3. Beware of the narcissist in sheep's clothing. They know it's all about them and so they try to compensate and only ask questions about you without sharing anything about themselves. You can tell they are faking interest because they are looking over your right shoulder during the conversation.

4. They are the only ones in the room who are overdressed.

5. They answer very short questions with very long answers, particularly if they are men and deliver a manologue.

6. They incessantly post on LinkedIn Pulse and other social media. Beware of anyone with more than 500 posts.

7. They have mostly superficial relationships.

8. They like the limelight and make good leaders.

9. They value validation.

10. They like to use lingo, jargon, and bizspeak.

The next time you run into a narcissist entrepreneur, just smile and say, “Wow, did you do that all by yourself?” Then take a sip of your Chardonnay, listen for the next five minutes and then politely excuse yourself.

I'll bet you think this post is about you:

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
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