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Does the following interaction sound familiar to you?
You know them by the size of the voices, the size of their accomplishments and the size of their egos.
You know them by how small you feel when in their presence. What you have to say is not nearly as important as what they have to say. What you have done cannot measure up to what they have done. What you want and need rarely come into the conversations.
I'm talking, of course, about the egotists in your life.
In the next several weeks I'm going to help you understand CrazyMakers, and how they make us feel so crazy.
The first in five of our parade of CrazyMakers is the Egotist. The Egotist lives life large. It's all about them, what they've done, what they're doing and what they plan to do. The Egotist is grandiose, arrogant and completely full of themselves.
Because the Egotist fills up every room they enter, there is little room left for you. What you think and feel, what you've done, doing or going to do, is of little real interest to them. They are much more inclined to talk about themselves.
So, are you getting anxious yet? Is this bringing someone special to mind? If so, you're not alone. There are many Egotists in the world, and most of us have one or more in our family. You may be, in fact, married to one.
Listen to this email from a woman married to an Egotist.
Dear Dr. David. After reading your book, Dealing with the CrazyMakers in Your Life, I realized I'm married to an Egotist. He is so immature and full of himself. He's always bragging about what he's done, and never takes time to ask about my day. At first I was attracted to him because of his self-confidence. But, after a while, I realized that he never takes responsibility for his mistakes, always blames others for his problems and worst of all, seems to not be interested in my life.
After reading your book I discovered that I was slowly losing my voice with him. Because he is so proud of his accomplishments and loves to talk about himself, I started growing more and more into myself. I've become quiet and depressed. I know I need to assert myself more, but find it difficult to do since he is so powerful. Do you have any suggestions for how to balance our relationship? I feel like I have become small and frozen and want to come alive again. How can I tell him that I want to matter more to him? I want him to want to converse with me. I want him to care about my day, and have him help me with my problems. Is there any hope that he can change? Please help. ~ Shrinking
You are describing a classic case of Egotism. Fortunately, you can learn more about this form of CrazyMaking and take effective steps to combat the problem. Consider these action steps.
First, you must come out of the deep freeze. Specifically, that means you must understand how your husband commands center stage and how you allow it to happen. So, you're already beginning to come alive by noticing your discomfort. You must continue this growth process by noticing how and when your husband does things that make you feel small and insignificant.
Second, take control of your life. While you cannot control what he does, you can control what you do. Instead of shrinking, you can get large again by voicing your opinion, by disagreeing with him when appropriate. You can develop an action plan for change.
Third, share with him, repeatedly, your need for mutuality. Specifically, that means you ask him to listen to you share about your day. Point out to him when he interrupts you, and kindly ask him to stop. Force yourself to talk even when it's easier to shrink back, allowing him to talk. Help him understand the concept of "give and take," without assuming he knows it.
Fourth, voice your opinion. Dare to disagree with him. Emphasize that you appreciate his opinion, but that you are different from him. Validate his point of view, but also ask him to validate your right to see things differently. Make it clear that your point of view is just as valid as his, and ask him not to try to talk you out of it.
Fifth, share the things that are exciting to you. When tempted to shrink and grow quiet, in response to his grandiosity, talk about the things that are important to you. Be bold enough to share your pride in your own accomplishments. Ask him to please share in your excitement.
Finally, make a point of dancing differently with him—and talking about the changed dance. Let him know that things are going to change in how you talk. Catch him listening to you, and thank him for his attention. Let him know what you need, repeatedly, and that your conversational dance must change. Let him know that you appreciate his efforts.
Do you have an Egotist in your life? A spouse, boss, employee? Start noticing how you naturally shrink in their presence. Notice the resentment you feel when everything revolves around them. However, don't stop there. Use your resentment to change the dance. Insist on being true to yourself and asking for what you need.
I'd love to hear other suggestions for how you've coped with the Egotist in your life. Next week we will talk about dealing with the Aggressor in your life.
April 20, 2010
Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, 90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, and Saying It So He'll Listen. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.
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