Merriam-Webster defines ego as “the self especially as contrasted with another self or the world.” But in our world of selfies, the humblebrag and YouTube stardom (I don’t think that’s a thing, but my daughters do), the definition of ego in today’s vernacular is something more along the lines of “a person who is a legend in his or her own mind.”
We all deal with people with big egos: a colleague, a neighbor, a boss, or even an acquaintance at the gym. Working with athletes, I came across more than my share of big egos. In some ways, athletes have to be selfish. In my recent podcast conversation with University of Connecticut’s head women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, he admits that if you’re not a little bit selfish, you’ll never be great, but goes on to explain that it must be within the context of what’s best for the team.
Regardless, for those of us who have to deal with these big egos on a regular basis, here are some small ways to help you manage these large personalities.
Several years ago I was driving around town with one of the athletes I represented, and due to a time crunch, he was in the car with me during preschool pick up. As many people know, in car pool you have your children’s assigned number adhered to your front windshield so the teachers know which kid(s) to put in your car. We were pulling into the school when the athlete noticed the number on my dashboard and remarked, “Wow, Molly, that’s awesome!” For a minute I was stumped. I had to pause to process what he said. And then it clicked – I looked at the number, then looked back at the player (who will remain nameless), and I realized he thought the car pool number was because of him. I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, this guy thinks I have his jersey number as a sticker on my car!” I knew right then and there this guy was as self absorbed as I thought. I let him know that he was really important to me, but I wasn’t running around with his number on my windshield! It was just a coincidence and that was my kids’ carpool number. This conversation really helped me work with him down the road. I was able to manage my expectations when interacting with him and could also check him with love when needed. Once I had recognized what I was dealing with, our future meetings and interactions were much more manageable.
Let It Go (Unless the Facts Prove Otherwise)
It’s cliché, but it’s true: Let. It. Go. As best you can, let them have the last word. Remind yourself that those with big egos have something to prove, and you don’t. That said, it is also important to have facts on your side. If an egotistical colleague continues to spout off statements you know to be false, definitely speak up. Luckily the smart phone in your pocket can help you find accurate statistics like a boss! It’s especially important to speak up if the person using these erroneous facts is doing harm to his reputation or the company’s. It can be hard to correct someone with an ego, but my rule of thumb is to speak up if it puts him or the company in a negative light. Ultimately, choose to let harmless, unimportant statements slide off your back, but stand firm when it comes to statistics, accuracy and your/your company’s reputation.
When you see someone with a big ego do something selfless, I highly recommend positively reinforcing that behavior. Compliment them in front of others or send them a private note to say how nice it was they gave someone else the credit. If you can show them to put their personal win second for the sake of a team win, that will go a long way to help tame their egos.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
In a nutshell, be the bigger person. It can be hard to deal with a big ego, but many times you’ll have to in order to complete your project, solve your problem or even finish your workout at the gym. In Ryan Holiday’s book, Ego is the Enemy, he tells us that that the main impediment to a full, successful life is not in the outside world but lies within: our ego. The book reminds us that an ego is a living, breathing thing and we need to keep it in check on a regular basis. I encourage you to be patient with the egos you deal with in your life, while also remaining humble in your own.
The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. Her company’s Game Changer Negotiation Training workshops teach business people the framework for successful negotiating, so that you can close more deals while building stronger relationships. Sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.