We all know at least a person or two with oversized egos. As you might know, it can be very hard to make people with heavy egos understand or appreciate an alternate point of view for the simple fact that their ego stands in the way between your message and its acceptance. This can very often be a problem when that person is your boss, colleaugue, family or friend. Often the ego is very confrontational, a poor listener and unreceptive to other people’s ideas. Its pride will never make it tolerate defeat and it tends to see threat and confrontation even in friendly and familiar debates or discussion.
This is the nature of the ego. I know a thing about this having once been the owner of a sizeable ego myself and which I have now kept on downgrading until it finally reaches way below problematic levels.
The thing about egos is that they almost have a life of their own. Funny, weird but its a truthful explanation. This is one insight I owe to Eckhart Tolle after having read ‘A New Earth‘. People think of the ego as a trait or state in someone’s personality. I think of an ego as a living entity living inside a person who is often unconscious of its autonomous existence. It’s kind of a little alien parasite living in one’s head.
Let me draw the profile of a typical ego to give you a better idea of what I mean:
1. It is driven by its self-preservation and by the want to be better and superior to others. Hence it will attack anything it sees as a possible threat to its continuation (such as personal change, transformation, openess to ideas, spiritual seeking, etc) And it will react if it sees anyone having something it lacks.
2. It feeds upon attention and attachment. Hence it always seeks attention and is a master in attention seeking behaviour. This can show up in a million forms from flashy possession to drama-laden behaviour. It also attaches itself to ideas and systems of thought and totally abhors change and alternative viewpoints.
3. It can be spotted in: Self-centred behaviour, attention-seeking behaviour, the need to be right, showy behaviour, the need to be praised, gossiping, etc.
4. Although big egos are commonly associated with men, women are as much vulnerable to egoic symptoms although manifested in different forms.
But how can we best communicate with big egos without having our suggestions or opinions knocked out or blocked out by its whimsical behaviour?
I suggest the following strategy when dealing with such egos, assuming you care for them or at least have to relate with somehow:
1. Put down its guard: Try not to trigger its defense/attack mode.If the ego spots you as being a particular threat by being, for example, knowledgeable in an argument or possessing a particular object or lifestyle it doesn’t have, it will react by trying to shift the balance in its favour. Keep a low profile and never react to its provocations. Reaction is its game – don’t fall for it. Stay cool and do not show any reactions.
2. Soften it: Always keep a step or two below it otherwise it will be childishly and irrationally stirred up if it sees you at par with it or better than it. The best way is to speak less or argue less. Let the other person’s ego believe that it knows more than you and that it is leading the game. Ask questions and consult him/her. This will relax it and it will stop seeking to overpower you in defence.
3. Distract its attention: redirect its attention to an ego-neutral subject – one that is value free and undebatable. one in which people don’t tend to take divergent views. A common point of agreement or a topic that catches the person’s authentic enthusiasm rather than the need for attention or to be better is a perfect example. This distracting tactic is pretty much like throwing a ball or a stick away from a dog with the intent that he will run away to fetch it.
4. Push forward your message: At this stage you have put down its guard, softened its fierce attitude and distracted its attention. Its time to bring home the message. This is the right time to say to someone anything that usually gets firewalled by its ego. You would have bypasssed it and the more receptive and authentic part of the person’s personality is open to listening what you have to say without the interference of the ego.
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