Any X-Files fans out there? The sci-fi TV series ran from 1993-2002—and I never watched it. We were too busy changing diapers and making dance/guitar/piano/soccer runs. But now, at 51, life is different, and with many airplane hours to fill I decided to buy and watch all nine seasons on DVD. (And you thought author/speakers were busy people!)
Anyway, in the sixth episode of the sixth season there is a moment when the guest star, longtime actor Ed Asner of Mary Tyler Moore fame, tells the series’ star, FBI agent Fox Mulder, “You are a narcissistic, overzealous, self-righteous, egomaniac.” Mulder responds meekly with, “That … does not … really … describe me.” Well, if you know the character, played by David Duchovny, it’s a humorous denial, because, essentially, the accusation is true of Mulder.
And I must admit—setting aside my own desire to deny—it’s true of me. Well, at least the narcissistic part.
That’s why I keep QBQ! The Question Behind the Question around. No, I don’t mean I carry one of my own books with me—now that would be narcissistic—but rather the QBQ! method for practicing personal accountability, achieving excellence, taking ownership, and serving people. When the temptation of narcissism flares, I can pause my thinking, fight my self-serving John-centric nature, consider my potential responses, and choose one that is unselfish and giving. This all happens by asking better questions (QBQs) like, “What can I do to serve others?” and “How can I better understand this person’s needs?”
Pastor Mark Hardacre, featured in the new Outstanding! book in the chapter titled “Be Coachable,” once made this understatement to me: “Narcissism is a character flaw.” It sure is—and that flaw is running rampant in our world today. At the risk of being deluged with angry emails from some of you, I dare say that when I choose to Tweet “I’m sitting on my patio right now” or update/post “I just went to Denny’s for their Grand Slam breakfast and now have guilt”—I just might be exhibiting a touch of me-centric behavior! And how about these examples?
All interesting, but none as relevant to me as this:
Karen, my wife since 1980, is a spur-of-the-moment person. I am a planner. So on a Sunday afternoon as I slip in and out of Couch Consciousness, she calls home from a quick grocery run to say, “I was just thinkin’—wanna load up the kids and meet me at the movies?”
John’s narcissistic response: WHAT!?! YOU MUST BE JOKING! THAT WAS NOT IN TODAY’S PLAN! I WANT TO WATCH THE BRONCOS!
John’s QBQ! response: “Well, hmm, we could. If you want to—sure, that works. OK.”
Now, this isn’t about “caving” or failing to state my wants and needs in a healthy manner. It doesn’t even mean we end up going to the movies. It just means the better response draws Karen toward me, adds trust to the relationship, and causes her to think well of her spouse—a wonderful thing in any marriage. Karen may decide a movie isn’t in the cards, but she’s been heard—all because for one precious instant I put another’s wishes above my own. Something I’ve not done enough of in my two-and-a-half decades of living.
Narcissism defined: An inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.
Yep, that’s me on some days. But as we enter the new year of 2010, I can
strive to be a “10” by
applying The Question Behind the
Question when the allure of self-love presents itself. Simply
asking QBQs such as, “What can I do to be more giving?” and “How can I
change me?” will empower me to put others first—and it’ll make for an
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