Monday, January 4, 2016

A Psychologist's Open Letter to U.S. Voters

A research-backed guide to picking the next president.

Dear Fellow Voters,

I've been watching all of the presidential candidates with great interest—and deep concern. Concern for us. Concern for the fate of our country. Concern for our world.

As an expert on narcissism, I'm not especially worried that narcissists might make it to the White House. According to research (link is external), they've always been (link is external) there. And that shouldn't scare us anyway, because, just to be clear: Being a narcissist is not a diagnosis (link is external). It never has been. Narcissists are people higher in narcissistic traits than the average person, and while they may or may not be disordered, they all share one thing in common: They feel special (link is external). Some feel special enough to lead a nation, in fact.

What we should be far more concerned about is not whether politicians are narcissists—most are (link is external)—but how healthy (link is external) they are. And that's where you come in.

You have the power to shape the future of this country.

Politicians are groomed by us—by our applause, by our polls, by our votes. Whatever you seem to love or hate, they'll embrace or reject. So be careful what you applaud or attack. It matters what they—and all the little future leaders watching them—think you want in a leader.

That's why this isn't another rant about Donald Trump being a narcissist because:

Did you really need an expert to tell you that? 

We don't need another article or book about obvious narcissists, because apparently we're pretty good at recognizing (link is external) them already.

Instead, I offer a guide, based on research, for what keeps leaders healthy, so you can applaud the right behaviors, and, I hope, punish the dangerous ones.

People high in healthy narcissism (link is external) inspire without undermining. They lead with conviction not cruelty. They bring out the best (link is external), not the worst, in the people around them. That's who we need leading the nation.

So here are some dos and don'ts:

Do applaud careful reflection.
Please, for everyone's sake, stop making politicians worried, on either side, that changing their minds when they have new information will be viewed as a weakness. Ditch the reflexive and empty attacks on "flip-flopping." When someone gives careful reasoning behind changing their position, it's not weakness; it's strength. It's called thinking. Weakness is barreling into a brick wall because that's the direction you first chose to head in, and, dammit, you stay the course. Want to know who worries most about seeming infallible at all costs? Extreme (unhealthy (link is external)) narcissists.
Read more at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/romance-redux/201509/psychologists-open-letter-us-voters

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