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Are you egotistical and unteachable?

Posted January 24

Question:

I have a friend who is driving me crazy with the way he knows more about everything than I do. Whatever I say, he knows better or has a different opinion, and I swear he would take the opposite view on anything, just for the sake of argument. I don’t want to quit being friends with him, but I wish there was a way to change his behavior and get him to stop being the expert on everything all the time. There is some great value I could offer this person, but he is not open to hearing what anyone else has to offer. Any advice?

Answer:

My first question for you is “Are you sure you aren’t also a little attached to your own ideas and your need to be right?”

You seem very bothered by your friend's egotistical behavior, and usually we are most bothered by behaviors that also show up in us. That may sound counterintuitive, but it’s true. There is a law in the universe I call “You Spot It You Got It.” It means other people serve as a mirror for you, and you often possess the very behaviors you love and appreciate or are irritated over in them.

Whenever you find yourself in judgment of another person, you need to step back and look for that same beam in your eye. It’s highly likely you do the exact same thing to some degree. Bossy people are always bothered by bossy people, and "know it alls" are always bothered by EOEs (experts on everything).

There is a valuable You Spot It You Got It worksheet on our website that can help you check yourself to see if this is happening for you.

Take an honest look at your own need to be right, because we all get overly attached to our ideas, ideals, beliefs and opinions on occasion. We all are guilty of some projection too, where we see our fears and judgments in others. We also tie our ideas, opinions, thoughts and feelings to our value as a human being. This means if someone doesn’t agree with us, we subconsciously think they don’t value us.

This isn’t true, but it feels like truth.

After being brutally honest with yourself about how attached you are to your ideas and opinions, you must also be honest about how teachable you are and how much your ego or pride get in the way of learning from others. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you ask questions and listen to other people before (or more than) you talk? Or do you often dominate conversations?
  2. Can you handle constructive criticism without getting defensive or feeling you aren’t good enough?
  3. When you are judged by others, instead of just rejecting their assessment can you step back and look for validity in it? Can you also see when the feedback is a shame and blame projection from them?
  4. Do you believe everyone has something they could teach you? Do you care enough to find out what it is?
  5. Are you clear about your own strengths and weaknesses? Do you know that neither affects your value nor makes you any better or worse than anyone else?
  6. Will you ask for help? Do you understand it’s a sign of strength not weakness?
  7. Do you read books and attend seminars so you are always learning and improving?
  8. Can you take responsibility for mistakes and apologize easily?
  9. Do you see every experience as a chance to grow? Do you see life as a classroom?
  10. Are you open to hiring a coach, mentor or adviser who could teach you new skills?
  11. Are you more comfortable hanging out with people who have the same beliefs and opinions as you do?
  12. Are you judgmental and critical of others? If you are, you may be subconsciously focused more on the negatives than the positives, which might make you less open to possibilities.
These questions should help you see it if you struggle here. The reason you and/or your friend might have an issue with being teachable is simple because your fear of failure (the fear you might not be good enough) gets in the way. One way to get your ego out of the way is to choose to see all human beings as having the same intrinsic value that cannot change. This means you can't earn more value by being right and you can't lose value by being wrong. The more you work on adopting this mindset, the more teachable you will become.

Bruce Lee said, “The usefulness of the cup is it’s emptiness”

It is only when we are empty that we can be filled with anything new. Being open and teachable means realizing there is always more to learn and being humble enough to embrace that when around other people.

With your EOE friend who struggles with this, you have three options.

1. You could have a mutually validating conversation where you ask questions about how he feels about your friendship first, then ask if he would be open to an observation if it came from love and wanting the friendship to be better. Then, using mostly “I” statements like: I have noticed … I feel … It would mean a lot to me if you would listen and try to respect my opinions a little more moving forward. Would you be open to that? There are worksheets on our website with more specific instructions for how to have these conversations.

2. If you don’t think you’d be comfortable addressing this directly or if you think he’d get defensive or mad, you could just decide to ignore it and love him as he is.

3. Or you could try what I call the “Encouragement Technique” and every chance you get mention how much you appreciate what a great listener he is, and how he validates, respects and honors everyone’s opinions. Even though this isn’t really accurate yet, showing someone the good behavior you know they are capable of often makes them want to be what you see.

This works because most people will want to live up to your highest opinion of them. Telling them they are the person they have the potential to be encourages them to choose that behavior.

If nothing you do changes your friend though, it might be a chance for you to grow in maturity, tolerance and love. Just choose to understand this is where he is and love him anyway.

You can do this.

Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.

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