Making a Change of Directions

Hi all!,

As you may have noticed I’ve decreased the amount of content I publish here lately.

The reason behind it is that the video and audio content I’m producing in Spanish along with the coaching sessions are keeping me very busy.

For that reason I’ve decided to put a stop publishing content in english until I have time to proper deliver the content that you guys deserve.

If you want content in Spanish though you can find me here:

Thanks for reading and I hope you understand my position.

Cheers!

How to change a habit

Hello everybody!,

today I want to share with you a small portion of a training I made for a company about helping people change habits along with the TLDR; section.

Again it’s in Spanish but I hope you like it anyways.

Summary

Three Key Questions

It’s not a capacity issue but a motivational one

We think we can’t make a new habit, like going to the gym, or stop doing one like over-eating, but the truth is that it’s not a capacity problem. When we say I can’t it’s actually bullshit it’s a motivational issue, that’s where your focus has to be.

How do you manage your own motivation so that you don’t fall for the easy path.

Be aware of the cost of inaction

Make sure you’re constantly aware of what’s really costing you for the long term not calling that person, smoking, etc … it will help you when motivation goes down, which it will inevitably will.

Engineer your environment for your success

Whatever it is you want to change, and knowing your strengths and weaknesses use them in your favor.

You want to eat more healthy, have a fruit bowl on the main table so that it’s easy for you to grab an apple.

Do you want to stop watching too many videos? Set a maximum timer that goes off when you pass your desired time.

Extra Tip

Use social pressure to your advantage

Make bets, commitments, go public with what you want to achieve. By doing so you’ll have extra pressure that will increase the odds that you succeed on changing the behaviour you want.

Final Thought

What habit could you change today so that it doesn’t become a problem later down the road?

Let me know in the comments below. I’ll be glad to answer you.

How to Manage Conflicts in Growing Companies

Today I want to share with you the talk I gave at the Breakfast & Work MeetUp Event organised by InnoIT in video along with a written summary for my TLDR; followers.

Even though it’s in spanish I hope you like it!

Summary

Three Key Questions

What do we want?

What do I really want?

It’s important to realise that is not always easy to know what is it we want out of a situation. The obvious answers are: more money, the best for the other person, and so on. That’s actually bullshit. What you really want goes beyond that, answers like: to be understood, show of power and gain status are more like it.

What does the other part want?

Same goes for the other part as well, look in how they talk, sometimes is even more important that what they actually say. An example of this is when somebody raises his voice is not to make a point but to be listened.

What am I willing to give up on?

One of the most difficult parts of being in a difficult situation is that you want something out of that situation and you’re not getting it. In order for you to get what you want you need to know what are you willing to give up on, which in most cases is that your truth is the only truth.

Where are we positioned?

Which system am I in this situation?

Also very important to know where are you talking from.

  • Am I talking to a family member?
  • Am I talking as a company?
  • Am I talking to a friend?

Who am I in this system?

You can talk to the same person as a friend or as a manager and it’s important to know where are you talking from.

Who is the other part?

The same is important for the other part, a common problem here is when you talk as a manager to a friend.

How is this going to affect the system?

When we resolve this situation, how is the rest of the system going to be affected.

Example: As a manager I will fire a team member because the rest of the team will be better off without him.

Negotiate

Negotiation is the skill that will potentially make a conflict something worthwhile, so learn how to negotiate.

Filter Question

Answer this question: How do I feel this situation is going to resolve?

Wether the answer is good or bad, you’re right.

So if you think it’s not going to go well, don’t step into the situation, keep learning more about the conflict instead.

How to Bring the Best Out of Your Team

Abbie was called into Lucas’ office. She hated going into that office, it was small and stinky, and to make matters worse, the heating was broken so people got chilled to the bone after a meeting.

“I want you to be in charge of Team Inneris,” Lucas suggested.

Project Inneris was notorious for being a mess. In the past, two different managers had tried to fix the team and neither of them succeeded.

“Everybody says the team is a mess, why do you think that is?” asked Abbie.

“Their goal is to drive traffic to our products but instead traffic is going down, so you tell me,” answered Lucas.

Abbie accepted the challenge and immediately moved to the Team Inneris office space, a remote corner on the third floor. When she introduced herself to the team, they weren’t thrilled to have her, quite the contrary. “Great, another visionary,” said Roger, one of the team members. “I’m not a visionary but I can see one thing: if the direction doesn’t change, we are gonna get fired in a few months,” she answered back.

During the first meeting, Abbie asked the team some questions to get to know them better. She wanted to know what they thought they should be doing, what they thought about the project and where they saw it going.

“The Marketing Department wants us to add more banners, but Sales says we shouldn’t add more but increase the price instead. Then, the Finance Department says our servers are too expensive, and the designers want us to redo the whole website. We just can’t do it all!”

Abbie asked them to forget about everything else and focus only on increasing the traffic. “If somebody wants anything not related to bringing in traffic, send them to me, please,” she stated.

Time passed by and some traffic was coming back like magic.

Abbie would ask her team questions about how they would increase traffic, and what they would need to make it happen. Most of the team was involved in the job, except for Roger. Abbie asked him to walk out of the room with her. “I’m sorry Abbie, you’re helping us a lot but you won’t be able to fix this one,” said Roger. “Is it something personal?” Abbie asked.  It was. “Take some paid time off,” she told him. “That would be awesome, thank you, Abbie,” answered Roger.

Abbie bought a small puppet that looked like one of the team members, put a cape on it and placed it on her desk. When people asked about it, she said it represented Charles, another teammate, and his superpower to catch errors before our clients caught them.

Time went by and traffic kept coming back. 

Roger returned from his days off and his attitude was completely different. He now was motivated, dedicated and focused.

By the end of the third month, numbers had never been better in Project Inneris.


Do you want to know how she did it? Keep reading.

The effective leadership of a team can make or break up a company. Understanding the following principles and using proper tools to bring the most out of them is of critical importance. You have to remember, then, that success depends on good leaders, too.

The Need for a Team

Why do we need a team in the first place? This is a fair question and it took me a while to properly answer it. The first thing that came to my mind was to speed up production, but that is also incomplete, although it is true. The correct answer to the question is that we need to surround ourselves with other people because we’re not complete. We need things that only other human beings can give us, such as labor, money, power, love, … and we exchange what we have an excess of. 

Sounds too easy to be true, right? As a matter of fact it is, but we tend to unnecessarily overcomplicate things.

How to look at a team as a manager

What defines a team is having at least one goal, otherwise it’s just a group of people. In order to achieve that goal, each member needs to give something to get something else in exchange. 

You can see the importance of knowing what your goal is in the previous example:  the team had different directions to go, and Abbie, very cleverly, made a step in the right direction by eliminating all the noise around the team. I say that was a smart move because Abbie, out of all the options, ended up choosing the right one, that is, what her boss wanted: the client. So if you don’t know which way to go, you should ask your boss, as it is their responsibility to set goals for your team.

Another characteristic is that a member always loses prominence in favor of a team. The whole group is more important than each of its members. In our example, Roger wasn’t focused on the job but the team was doing well regardless of his state of mind. 

We also need to take into account that a member isn’t just part of one team, but many different systems with their specific goals (work, family, friends, …). Roger wasn’t focused because he was struggling in a different system of his life. Abbie very cleverly, offered him the time not to worry about work for a while so that he could come back at full speed. An individual wants to make the right decision, on average, for every system.

However, it should also be taken into account that every action happening within a team affects everyone in the group in the same way that a rock thrown into a still pond affects all of the water molecules, not just the area nearby. If your co-worker is on paternity leave, the team will have to cover for him.

Finally, there are three laws that govern all growing teams. If you follow these principles, your team will most likely succeed.

The Three Laws

Bert Hellinger, who recently passed away, was the first to talk about these laws. He spent most of his life developing them, and I personally think he did a great job here, since I haven’t been able to find a better explanation so far.

The Law of Belonging

This law states that everybody in a team has the right to belong in there, no matter what this person has done.

One night we were playing darts in a bar and we got to know Olivia, a girl that had just moved to Miami for work but didn’t know anybody in town. We liked her, so we invited her to come back the next day to play some more. Eventually she became another member of the group. Few months later Oliver, another member, stopped coming with us and we didn’t know why. When we finally got to ask him what happened, he answered that Olivia had threatened him and he wasn’t comfortable around her any longer.

Does Olivia have the right to belong to that group of people? The answer is yes.

Of course you’re no longer going to let her stay in the group but she’ll always be there, not as an actual member but as a historic member. Her staying as a historic member is important because she showed a vulnerability to the group that can now be fixed and be stronger.

The Law of Balance

This law states that all exchanges between the members of the team have to be balanced. What you give and what you get need to be good enough for both parties.

Keep in mind that the value of a transaction is subjective, not objective. Don’t make the mistake of judging the interactions of others. That’s why people earn different salaries for doing the same job. Some people are okay earning less in exchange for getting new opportunities, recognition, status, etc.

It is important to say that the value depends on the moment of the transaction. You might be willing to sell a house underpriced if you urgently need cash, for a price that you wouldn’t accept otherwise.

The Law of Acceptance

How many times a worker has come to your place and said something like: “Oh my… Who did this? It’s a mess, everything is wrong!

The law of acceptance states that every system is perfect the way it is when you join it for the first time. That doesn’t mean the team cannot be improved, that’s the whole reason why you joined it in the first place. What I mean is that you need to honor the team exactly as it is today: it’s your responsibility to make it better, just exactly like Abbie did in Team Inneris.

How can I use this?

Selfish Reasons

Understand that we form a group of people for selfish reasons, since we need something from someone. We can get it from a team, and we give something back. The sooner you accept this idea, the better your life will be.

Does it mean that we are all selfish? Yes, but we’re healthily selfish: we get what we need from a system and we give others something they may be in need of, and that’s perfectly acceptable. The unhealthy selfish is someone who takes more leaving others without their share. Even Mother Teresa? Yes, even Mother Teresa. Her need was to see a world where people could be at peace so she did everything in her power to see it through.

Respect and Accept the Hierarchy

Hierarchy exists for efficiency. That is why we need somebody to overlook the system. 

Take into account, though, that the manager is at the team’s service, not the other way around as I commonly see in companies. The leader is also responsible for the team’s success or failure.

Recognize Performance

As a manager, one of your responsibilities is to judge how the team is performing and recognise the ones who give more to the team. You can see it in our example when Abbie bought the superhero doll.

WARNING: We tend to judge performance by our phobias and philias, meaning that we tend to reward people we like and not reward people we dislike. Be aware of this and look for the general interests of the team and the goal, instead.

Put Order

Imagine that you live close to a river where nothing has been built around it and every time it rains, the river floods the fields nearby. What do you do? You build a dam in order to control the flow of the water, thus getting the benefits and eliminating the negative aspects.

This is also your responsibility in a team.

Do you know the guy that’s constantly interrupting the team by giving ideas on how we could work better?

That type of energy is fantastic, but it’s poorly channeled and it’s flooding the team. Your job is to come up with a dam to channel the team’s energy.

Have Diversity

You need a diverse team so that you can match all the aspects required in order to achieve the goal. 

Create trust

This is, in my opinion, the most important idea. Be honest with the team, put yourself in their hands like they put themselves in yours. If you manage to create trust in a team, the team will grow naturally. Notice how Abbie involved the whole team in meetings by asking, facilitating and being aware of the interactions, and as soon as she detected that Roger wasn’t interacting, she took care of it. These are the actions that make people trust each other.

But I’m Not a Manager

I hope these lessons help great leaders. However, not everybody is or wants to be a manager. If this is your case, I’ll give you some advice that will improve every relationship you have right now, no matter if it is your significant other, co-worker, friend, etc.

Have adult relationships

There are only three types of relationships:

  • The ones you feel you’re in debt to
  • The ones you feel the other part is in debt with you
  • The ones that are balanced

If you want to have balanced relationships, follow these two rules:

Don’t give anything that you haven’t been asked for

It may sound weird the first time you think about it, but think twice. How are you treating a person when you give something they didn’t ask you for? The answer is simple: you’re treating them as kids, not as adults.

But what if I know exactly what the other person wants?

What I’m saying is that even if you think you know what this person wants, ask for permission first.

“I’m thirsty”
“Would you like a glass of water?”
“Yes, please”
Ask for what you want

Don’t expect the other part to naturally know it. How many times have you been in a conversation like this?

“Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m fine”
“Are you sure? You seem a bit off today”
“If you loved me you’d know”

When you expect the other person to know something without telling them, how are you treating this person? The answer is you’re being the kid, expecting mom and dad to know how I feel.


Think about a relationship you have today, see which one of these two rules is affecting it, change it and let me know in the comments below. I’d love to know more about how your relationships improve.

Thank you very much for reading!

How to Be Successful Managing High-Conflict Personalities (Part 2)

In our last post we discussed the behaviors one can find in problematic personalities (Blaming, Extreme and Moody), and then we focused on the most common disorders (Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic and Paranoid). If you remember the story, Sean was incredibly lucky to be friends with Jimmy, because he was able to explain to him what had happened. Had it not been for their friendship, Sean could’ve gotten fired and his reputation would have been ruined. Now we’ll learn the best ways to deal with them.

Avoiding

The best approach to dealing with a problematic person is to avoid them completely, especially during the interview process. Having no problems at all is better than solving unnecessary issues.

Back to our example, Sarah was angry and decided to leave the company along with four more co-workers because the manager wouldn’t give them opportunities to grow in the company. That reaction seemed a bit over the top, as you would expect people to make a formal complaint first and then, if nothing happens, leave. Sarah, however, chose to quit the job on bad terms.When you interview someone, if you detect something unusual, keep it in mind and do your research to know what really happened. You can also ask this person to give you a list of references to support their job application. If you still feel unsure about it, ask for help or ask people you trust for their opinion.

In some cases, though, you’ll have to deal with people that are already working in the company. The best thing to do if they cannot be avoided is firing them. Yeah, it sounds harsh, but by doing that as a manager, it may be for the greatest good. Talk to your support network, explain the situation, validate your point of view: if the person is disruptive, letting them go will be the best solution. It was difficult for me to face a situation like this, but I learned my lesson.

Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.

Jerzy Gregorek

Facing

If the high-conflict person is your manager or a co-worker, you won’t be able to avoid them. If so, you’ll have to face them every day. It’s not the end of the world, though. Here are some suggestions for you to deal with these people.

Be close, but not too much

Being a manager means having time for the people who report to you. Hence, do not avoid them, but don’t be their best friend either. By being too close or by keeping your distance, you’ll end up triggering them. Stay somewhere in between.

React to misinformation

Most of the profiles we mentioned will lie to get what they want. You need to detect this misinformation by double-checking whatever you feel suspicious about. Then, if you find something untrue, let them know.

Use what you know about them

If you have identified the specific disorder, use it to your advantage!

Remember, you know that Antisocial people want to dominate you. They like power so don’t let them take over you. When giving feedback, always give them options so that they can choose and feel empowered.

You may not be aware of this, but if you keep being late every day I’ll have to fire you, it’s up to you. You choose”.

Narcissists seek respect. When you have a conversation with that person, use the word respect if you have the chance, but do not lie or it’ll only make things worse.

I respect you for thinking that, but I don’t agree with it”.

Furthermore, when setting limits to a Narcissistic personality, you will have to stick to these limits, otherwise, they’ll ignore everything over and over. Certainly, you don’t want to repeat yourself, but when dealing with a Narcissistic profile, you’ll have to do it all the time, or they won’t respect you anymore.

Histrionic profiles tend to be over the top. Their reality doesn’t usually match the real world, so you have to be skeptical or dig deep to get at the facts by asking someone else.

“Everybody is against me,”
“Everybody?”
“Well, just Colin”.

I gave you some examples, but there can be plenty of different situations. To be effective in this, be creative, think of what you know about them, try to be as assertive as possible, and don’t let them use their weapons against you. If they don’t manage to dominate you, they’ll be the ones avoiding you in the end. We’ll cover this when we talk about the DESC format in another post.

Helping

Mike was friends with Liam. They worked together in the same team, and they did really well. Mike was the manager and Liam was the star of the team: they had worked together for years solving problems the rest couldn’t even understand.

One day, Liam called Mike. “Hey, Mike, I know it’s your day off, but could you come by my place, please? I’d like to see you,” said Liam disappointed. Although Mike was spending the day with his family, Mike noticed his tone of voice and decided to drive up to Liam’s place. Little did he know about what was going to happen.

Mike, confused about the call, felt something was off and thought Liam was in trouble. He drove as fast as he could, parked the car right next to the house and knocked the door. Liam opened it. “Hey, come on in,” he said. “What’s up, man? You sounded different over the phone”. Liam didn’t answer. They walked through the door into the living room, where the fireplace was lit. Mike saw an open bottle of Scotch and an empty glass on the coffee table. “What are you doing here?” asked Liam. “I don’t understand the question,” answered Mike. “Are you in?” Liam insisted. “Am I in what? I really don’t understand what you’re talking about, man. You called me twenty minutes ago and asked me to come, so I did. Is everything alright?”. “I’ll ask one more time. Are you in the plot?” Liam asked. “I don’t know what plot you’re talking about. You’re scaring me,” answered Mike, terrified.

“Okay, so if you’re not in, I need your help. The rest of the team are plotting to hurt me! I’ve seen Susan walking down the street this morning and when I texted her she didn’t answer. She was avoiding me,” explained Liam. “Dude, it’s not that big of a deal. We all do that all the time! I even put my phone in airplane mode when I’m working sometimes, so that I can concentrate better,” Mike tried to calm him down. “That’s not all. I followed her and I saw she met Earl, then she looked at her phone and still didn’t answer me. That means they are plotting against me,” Liam said angrily. 

Susan and Earl were two members of their team. “Liam, what you’ve been doing is stalking!” said Mike. “It’s okay, I’ve been doing it for weeks. It’s not that big of a deal if I don’t hurt anybody,” replied Liam. “Wait, what? Weeks? Liam, I think it’s time for you to see a doctor. Something in you seems to be broken,” said Mike, trying to help. “I knew it! You’re also in the plot. Get the fuck out of my place, now!”

Mike left, feeling absolutely terrified. He didn’t know what had just happened, but he was determined to help Liam. He texted Susan to explain the situation. “Hey, Susan, I think something happened to Liam. He was acting weird today. Do you know anything about it?” Susan called Mike straight away. He explained everything to her. “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s been following me, texting me… for days. I even saw him staring at my window at 11 PM the other day. Can you believe it? I don’t know what the hell is happening to him, but he’s creeping me out,” Susan said.

Mike wanted to look for help, so he called a psychologist friend of his. After explaining everything to her, her response was very solid. “There is nothing you can do now. It’s better to step away, all of you, because thinking about it is gonna make it worse. You’ll get burned out yet you won’t be able to do anything about it,” she told Mike.

Suddenly, Liam left the company. Still to this day, the team doesn’t know anything about him. It was as if he’d disappeared into thin air.

If you’re like Mike and want to help out by listening to their stories or telling them what you think about their potential personality disorder, well, don’t do it. Yes, you might be thinking you are careful, having everything under control… but, again, DO NOT DO IT. It is not your job as a manager to do so. You are not a psychologist or a psychoanalyst, and it would only end up making things worse for you and the person in question. Believe me, I learned this the hard way.


Phew!, that’s a lot to take in.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, call for help. Talk to your boss or give me a call. Remember the first consultation is free of any charge.

And that’s it folks, I hope you like what you learned, hopefully you’ll be a little more aware of these people from now on. In our next post where I’ll give you the secret to handle any relationship. Stay tuned!


Thanks to my collaborator Noemí Peiró

Edition by Sergi Estorch

How to Be Successful Managing High-Conflict Personalities (Part 1)

Sean was interviewing Sarah for the software developer position. He had asked her why she was applying for the job, to which she answered that, in her current company, her boss was being unfair to the team, as they were not given opportunities to grow in the company. “It’s becoming such a big problem that four of my teammates are also leaving the company this very same week,” Sarah said angrily. Sean was sorry to hear that, as he himself had worked for somebody matching that description and it certainly wasn’t fun.

The results of her tests were great. Sarah was cheerful, charismatic and willing to join the team… “the perfect choice,” thought Sean. So she joined the company.

Sean and Sarah spent months working together side by side. However, the quality of her work wasn’t as good as her tests had proved. The code wasn’t bad at all, but it was just okay.

A few months later, Jules, the CTO, called Sean for a meeting. He told Sean he was really satisfied with the work his team was delivering. “It’s in part because of the dedication and expertise that you’ve put into this,” Jules said firmly. So he offered Sean the chance of being a team lead.

Sean’s heart rate increased and he started to sweat. He didn’t know what made him so special that, out of the nine people in the team, he was the chosen one to lead them. He knew of at least two other people that were as good as he was and could be team leads as well. Sarah was not one of them, though. Unable to sleep well for a few days, Sean finally pulled his socks up and accepted the position. He felt so grateful for the recognition he had been given.

Soon after Sean’s promotion, Sarah wanted to have a one-on-one with him. He figured she was going to congratulate him and wish him good luck. Little did he know that something quite different was about to happen…

When they met the following day, Sarah asked for a raise. “We’re friends, and this is what friends do, they help each other out,” said Sarah with her charming voice. Sean wasn’t feeling good about it and politely rejected the proposal. Instead, he gave her a reasonable list of goals for her to achieve. By doing so, she’d get the raise she wanted. Sarah immediately stood up and left the meeting room without a word.

Two days later Sarah presented her resignation letter to Sean. “I don’t feel comfortable working with you any longer,” she said. Sean didn’t know what to say but felt relieved to see her go after what happened a few days back. He wished Sarah good luck and accepted her resignation.

The day after Sarah’s departure, Sean received two new resignation letters from his teammates. One of them, Jimmy, also wanted to talk to him. They met in the coffee shop down the street. “I don’t want to work with you anymore. We’ve been working together for years now and I would’ve never thought you could do something like this,” said Jimmy very sternly. Sean was overwhelmed by the intensity of the conversation. “Something like what specifically?” he asked. “Oh come on,” answered Jimmy. “Don’t play dumb with me, Sarah told us”. He was getting angrier by the minute. “Jimmy, like you said, we’ve known each other for years. Is this because I didn’t give Sarah a raise?” Sean asked skeptically. “It’s not about the raise. It is because you didn’t give it to her because she’s a woman,” replied Jimmy.

Sean felt dizzy, but everything started to make sense in his head now. Luckily for him, Sean had been friends with Jimmy for a long time, and when he explained the situation from his point of view, Jimmy believed him and apologized, feeling somehow embarrassed.


Yes, this is based on a true story.

The DSM-5 study suggests that 15% of people have personality disorders so raise your head and take a look around you. If you see seven or more people, chances are that some of them are potentially difficult to manage, although you might not be able to recognize them yet. As it happened to Sean, as soon as you become the manager you’ll automatically become a target for some of these personalities. Thus, if you want to succeed, you need to be ready to face this kind of situations.

How to identify them

Each personality has specific yet recognizable traits. There are, however, three behaviors in common, so once you identify them, you will be able to narrow it down to  the specific profile. I use a mnemonic strategy to remember the behaviors: BEM (Blaming, Extreme, Moody).

WARNING: Keep in mind that what you have to look for is the pattern of these behaviors, that is, you have to find the repetition of these behaviors, not just one in isolation. Remember we can all have bad days.

Blaming

Most of the subjects constantly try to find people around them to blame for things they should be held responsible.

In our example, Sarah blames Sean for not getting a raise and her former boss for hindering her career.

Another situation you might have experienced, but might have not recognized as a sign of alert is discussing a mistake someone made in a meeting where someone is trying to find a person to blame. I once had the following conversation:

“We deployed the latest release introducing a bug and people couldn’t log in to the site for 15 minutes”
“Who wrote that code?”
“It doesn’t matter. The error slipped through all of us, we made a mistake as a team”
“Yeah, I get it… but who wrote it?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Just curious”
“I don’t know who did it”
“Then go figure it out”
“Why?”
“Because I say so!”

Take a moment to analyze the conversation and think about what was going on there. My former boss was trying to find someone to blame instead of figuring out what happened to prevent it from occurring again. When he realized that I wasn’t going to reveal the information he was asking for, he redirected his anger towards me. Had he been just curious, he wouldn’t have been so pushy to know the facts. In the previous conversation you can also notice the next pattern.

Extreme

Most of people with an extreme attitude will say or do things that are over the top. For instance, they can utter the following sentences: “It’s either my way or the highway”, “If we go with that decision I’m leaving the company” or “Because I say so”; like in the conversation with my former boss. This one also reflects a difference of status among the two of us, which indicates he’s likely to be a narcissist, a profile we’ll mention later on.

Moody

Temperament changes over short periods of time is also a pattern to look for. These people might be really mad at someone and the next day they can become their best friend.

You can notice this in our example. Sarah asked Sean for a raise speaking with a soft, charming voice. However, the day after she decided to resign without even having a follow-up conversation about it. Borderlines and Histrionic profiles are especially good at this. They might abuse you emotionally, so if you feel you’ve been taken advantage of or if you expect someone to apologize but you end up doing so, you might be dealing with a toxic person.

Trust your emotions

Sometimes you’ll see some of these behaviors but you won’t be sure whether you’re dealing with a difficult person or not. If that is the case, my advice for you is to trust your gut.

Ever since we are kids we’re told to suppress our emotions and not let them cloud our judgment. Has someone ever told you “Don’t get angry” or “Don’t be scared”?

Be that as it may, we need to take into account that emotions warn us about what goes on around us. In our society, it is better not to let them take over you, but that does not mean you have to suppress them, as they give you valuable information. If you feel scared, maybe there is something you don’t understand or there is something the rest are not capable of seeing.

Use your emotions instead, understand them, ask yourself questions: “What am I afraid of?”; “Why does this make me feel uncomfortable?”; “Why am I feeling down after this meeting?”. Then, use the answers to these questions to your own advantage. Do you remember when Sarah asked Sean for a raise because they were friends, but Sean wasn’t feeling good about it? Well, that was a perfect example about your gut telling you something is off. In a nutshell, whenever you are unsure if someone is a high-conflict person or not, remember to pay attention to your emotions and listen to them.

Specific disorders

Okay, now that you have detected some of these characteristics, you may want to narrow down which specific profile you’re dealing with. There are five types: Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissist, and Paranoid. Let’s analyze them one by one.

Antisocial

Antisocial profiles are the most dangerous ones since they lack empathy for others. They can also be known as sociopaths. Antisocial people can be really hurtful if they target you: they will try to exercise control over you and, if you let them, they’ll easily succeed at it. Furthermore, it is believed that most company leaders have an antisocial disorder. I would agree to some extent. Companies are very competitive and having no scruples when competing against others gives you an edge.

A good example of this profile is the character The Joker from the movie The Dark Knight. He does not give a damn about the consequences of his actions: he is capable of lying, stealing and murdering, not necessarily for pleasure, but simply to prove his point.

Questions to help you identify them

  • “Do I feel manipulated by this person?”
  • “Do I feel like I’m being hunted down?”
  • “Do I feel scared or ashamed when talking to this person?”
  • “Does this person show a lack of empathy for me or the team?”

If the answer to these questions is yes, you might be dealing with an antisocial profile. Thus, you should proceed with extreme carefulness. If you’re completely sure you’re dealing with one, ask for help immediately.

Borderline

Borderline profiles are moved by the fear of abandonment or instability in their lives. They can be terribly intense: one day they love you and the next day they hate you. They are usually very charming in the beginning of a relationship, but eventually they’ll start showing intense patterns of behavior.

Anakin Skywalker (a.k.a. Darth Vader) is a good example of this profile, in the movies Star Wars II and Star Wars III, to be exact. The fear of being abandoned worries him and makes him impulsive and lost, he displays anger and his feelings about people frequently shift.   

Questions to help you identify them

  • “Do I feel completely depleted of energy after talking to this person?”
  • “Do I feel an emotional rollercoaster when being with this person?”
  • “Do I feel this person has an unstable image or sense of self?”

Just like in the previous profile, if your answer to these questions is affirmative, you might be dealing with a borderline person.

Histrionic

Histrionic profiles are moved by the fear of being ignored. They can also be known as artists. They feel uncomfortable if they’re not the center of attention, and they can use inappropriate behavior – being provocative or sexually seductive, for instance – or use their appearance to draw attention. However, histrionic people can go unnoticed for years, often being mistaken for a cheerful, outgoing person.

A good example of this profile is Derek Zoolander, who is extremely dramatic. He is always the center of attention when he walks into a room, so he automatically assumes others are sexually interested in him – although they often are not– and shifts rapidly the expression of his emotions.

Questions to help you identify them

  • “Do I find myself dodging this person so that I don’t have to talk to them without a real reason?”
  • “Do I feel trapped when talking to this person?”
  • “Do I find myself thinking more about this person’s problems than my own?”

Histrionic people can be very exhausting to deal with. Do not take what they do personally, because they won’t.

Narcissistic

Narcissistic people are moved by the fear of not being respected. They have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, they feel entitled and they require constant admiration. Narcissistic profiles believe they are superior even without a reason. They can also become impatient if they don’t receive special treatment. Furthermore, they tend to have difficulty regulating their emotions and behavior, and they would feel attacked when realizing someone knows they have secret feelings of insecurity, shame and vulnerability.

Walter White, from Breaking Bad, is the perfect example of this profile. He had a grandiose sense of self-importance, and he only wanted to continue getting bigger and bigger. White believed he was above the law and didn’t hesitate to use Jessie and his wife Skyler for his own gain. In fact, he only considered mob boss Gus Fring to be his equal.

Questions to help you identify them

  • “Do I feel small or stupid around this person?”
  • “Do I feel I’m forced to admire this person?”
  • “Do I feel completely ignored by this person in the meeting?”

Narcissists can be dangerous for you if you don’t manage them carefully. In my next post I’ll talk about how to deal with them.

Paranoid

Paranoid people are moved by the fear of betrayal coming from people close to them. They tend to be unforgiving and are reluctant to confide in others or reveal any personal information, which makes them very cold people. Paranoid profiles can also be hostile, stubborn and argumentative.

Howard Hughes, from the movie The Aviator, is a good example of this profile. Because of his paranoia and his fear of germs, he leads a reclusive life in his own version of Neverland.

Questions to help you identify them

  • “Do I have to constantly prove I’m true to this person?”
  • “Do I have to tell this person where I’ve been all the time?”
  • “Do I want to talk about this person but have to whisper to others instead?”

Paranoid personalities are the hardest to deal with because as soon as you try to help they’ll think you’re against them. You’ll see a good example of a paranoid profile in my next post.


Final Notes

Keep in mind that some people are really good at hiding these traits, so spotting them is not as simple as you may think. The good news for you, however, is that if you spend enough time trying to identify the patterns, you’ll eventually spot them. No matter how good they are at hiding themselves, they cannot avoid being who they are all the time.

If you need help identifying these profiles give me a call. Remember that the first consultation is free.

In our next post you’ll learn how to deal with these profiles you’ve seen today. Stay tuned!


Thanks to my collaborator Noemí Peiró

Edition by Sergi Estorch