Let’s talk about the fine line between charisma and narcissism

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This week’s podcast is covering a really interesting topic, and one that’s coming up more and more.

In this episode of Be the change, I’m joined by Charlotte Hopkins to talk about the sometimes fine line between charisma and narcissism within the online coaching industry – on both the coach and client side.

Let’s face it, in the online business world, a certain level of charm and charisma is advantageous. The trouble starts when these traits are used not for the benefit of that client, but to boost the coach’s ego. In this conversation we cover how to spot narcissists and how to protect yourself if you find yourself dealing with one.

Be the change is a mini-series here on The Simply Smart Business Show where I get down to it with leaders in the online business world to talk about the problems facing our industry today and (most importantly) how we can create the changes we want to see.

Listen to this episode here.

Takeaways from this show:

  • Many of us may have some level of narcissism, and the nature of coaching – in that it welcomes people into the coach’s world so they can share their experience, knowledge and wisdom – is naturally going to attract people with more narcissistic traits. 
  • People are getting burnt by a lack of integrity, quality and governance within the industry and some are willing to lie and cheat about their earnings or their lifestyle to attract clients. 
  • There can be a power imbalance in the coach/client relationship, with coaches putting themselves on a pedestal and as the “expert”. 

Spotting narcissism:

  • When you’re made to feel like the centre of the universe and then suddenly get dropped
  • If the coach reacts with cynicism to what you tell them, doesn’t validate your feelings, or fails to listen.
  • Blame, especially if the coach or client always claims the problems are about somebody else (never about them) and frequently turn themselves into the victim. 
  • If you find yourself wanting to record your conversations, perhaps you suspect gas lighting [manipulating someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity].
  • If they start to take decisions for you and you lose your own decision-making process (this is when codependency builds).
  • If a coach is happy to take your money and promise the world but cancel sessions, turn up late, cut things short or turn the conversation around to them too often, that’s not ok. 
  • Ask the right questions to identify whether to work with a coach, such as, “Can you tell me about a time when it didn’t work with somebody else? When you weren’t able to help somebody else?”. An alarm bell should ring if the answer is an unequivocal ‘no’.
  • Ask how they are going to track results against what you have agreed the outcome is? And how will they keep you accountable to that?

Dealing with narcissistic clients:

  • One of the challenges of automating your on-boarding process is that you may miss out on the personal communication that can give you that feeling that something isn’t aligned.
  • Put a formal complaints procedure in place to take the emotion out of the process and stop the endless debates that narcissists love.
  • Always ask potential clients, “Have you worked with a coach before and how has that been for you?” And if they say, “Yeah, I’ve worked with loads and they were all awful.” it’s a red flag.
  • As a coach, when you know who you work with, what your limitations are and what you’re able to support, then you can have an honest conversations with potential clients and judge if you’re the right fit.

Survival tips:

  • Trust your gut instinct. You are the expert of your life – if something doesn’t feel right to you, then it probably isn’t.
  • Acknowledge when you feel uncomfortable. When you’re really honest about your feelings, you can start to see the bigger picture. 
  • Know your boundaries. Then you’re less likely to fall for the charm offensive the narcissist will go on when you pull away.
  • If you have any niggly feelings before you start working with somebody, choose someone else.
  • Trying to leave a narcissistic relationship can be tricky. This is when bitching and slander can come in. Stay professional and don’t be tempted to name and shame.

Listen to this episode here.

More on Charlotte here: 

Charlotte has worked within the substance misuse sector for nearly 20 years delivering training, consultancy and coaching support across a range of areas including co-occurring substance misuse and mental health, domestic abuse and addiction in the workplace.

Experienced and qualified as a specialist workforce development lead, Charlotte really understands the personal and professional challenges that are faced by our workforce on a daily basis and the impact that this can have on our own health and wellbeing.  

She is passionate about creating excellence across services by focusing specifically on building the capacity and resilience of the workforce. 
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For those conscious souls ready to step up and serve. Suitable for established or new coaches.