Why You Struggle With Changing Habits and How to Change This

I have a question for you: how often do you find yourself in a situation where: 1) you know you should change, 2) you even want to change, and yet 3) you don’t change?

If you’re like the majority of us, I’m going to guess that your answer is: “Quite often, damn it!” Join the group, take a seat and pay attention, because the solution to your predicament is close, very close.

It’s Not about Want or Willpower

The standard view in our society is that if a person truly wants to change and to get somewhere, they won’t just try, they’ll make it happen. And if they don’t change in a reeeeally long period of time, then they either don’t want it badly enough or they lack willpower.

Like Yoda says: “Do or not do. There is no try”. Right?

Well, NO. It turns out that the little fella is full of bullshit.

Not changing in the direction you chose is not a problem of want or willpower. You are not lazy, stupid or unmotivated for finding it quite hard to quit smoking, lose that extra weight, spend less time online or change your communication style.

You’re only human, and there is no need to feel guilty. It turns out that the habitual behaviors of human beings are very much influenced by personal, social and situational factors. Thus, the real key to change is not to try harder, it is to improve your change strategy.

How to Actually Change

This being said, I invite you to watch the 53 min. video below for a powerful lesson on the topic. It’s a recent Google Talk where Joseph Grenny shares the real science of changing habits. I came across it yesterday and I found it mind-blowingly smart.

Seriously, this talk could be one of the best pieces of personal development information you’ll ever get. So if you skip it, I’ll personally kick your ass.

Image courtesy of Krikit

Are You Invisible?

Do your work colleagues barely notice you when you enter the office? Does your boss hardly know your name? Do the people you hang out with have no clue what you’ve been doing lately? Do persons of the opposite sex pretty much ignore you?

Chances are that you’re socially invisible.

I am continually amazed by the importance of making yourself noticed, both in your career and your social life. It’s often not a complete method in itself to get what you want, but it is always the first crucial step.

If others don’t even notice you, they’re also not going to remember you, want to get to know you, build a connection with you or pay attention to what you have to say. When you’re invisible, you have no visible impact and you suffer the consequences.

In my coaching, I frequently work with ‘invisible’ people and help them learn to stand out more.  If you’re an invisible person, there are three action steps I advise you to focus on.

1. Dress to Stand Out, Not to Fit In

The majority of people dress to fit in. They wear commonplace clothes in boring colors; they have generic and predictable attire. Thus, they fit in so well that you pass by hundreds of them on the street every day and you barely notice a few.

You want to do the opposite: Instead of wearing what everybody else is wearing, be original. Instead of wearing dull colors, add color to your wardrobe and accessorize with style (even as a guy). Don’t go all outrageous, but do make sure you stand out.

Dressing in a way that expresses you and gets you noticed is not only a sign of fashion style but more importantly, a sign of confidence. Most people are too afraid to attract attention by dressing with personality. Well, you want to get comfortable with attracting attention.

2. Stop Avoiding Conflicts

Most invisible people are inclined to be harmonizers. They are scared of conflicts and upsetting others; so when the possibility of a conflict arises, they’ll do whatever it takes to prevent or suppress that conflict.

They’ll hide their opinions, wants and feelings. They’ll make pointless compromises and sacrifice their needs for the sake of always getting along. And since they never rock the boat, they don’t get noticed and don’t get their needs met.

Here’s what’s essential to realize: conflicts are not all bad. Often, the journey towards a positive change involves conflict; things need to get worse before they can get better. So embrace the constructive potential of conflict and assertively put yourself out there, even if you generate conflicts.

3. Talk More about Yourself

Listening is certainly one of the valuable people skills to have; and there is plenty of praise in the self-growth and business literature for it. But guess what? So is talking and expressing yourself.

I find that sharing yourself, your experiences and your ideas is frequently the ignored half of career and social success. I’ve also noticed countless times that we don’t connect emotionally with persons we barely know anything about, and this makes being talkative essential.

If you’re invisible, chances are that you’re the kind of person who keeps to themselves and tries to give others room to talk. Unfortunately, this is an excellent way to get people either using you, or ignoring you.

In this case, it’s time to get more outgoing. Share yourself more, talk about your experiences, tell stories, express your thoughts on various subjects and get used to being the center of attention, at least some of the time. It will do wonders for you.

Ultimately, I see getting yourself noticed as a matter of confidence. The individuals who believe in what they have to offer authentically put themselves out there, get noticed and get ahead. It is this kind of a mindset that you want to take in.

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Are Your ‘Friends’ Holding You Back?

A few years ago, I was learning to be more spontaneous in social interactions and practicing saying whatever popped into my mind without thinking twice. I ended up saying a lot of witty and creative stuff, combined with even more goofy and retarded stuff.

I remember that during that period, there was one condescending comment I would get once in while from some of my friends and other people who knew me. Or at least they thought they knew me.

“This Isn’t You”

That comment was like a subtle sting: “This isn’t you”, those people would say.

I was puzzled by the remark. What did they expect? I was getting out of my comfort zone and trying new ways of behaving socially in order to sharpen my people skills. Of course I was acting somewhat out of character!

I later started to notice that some of my communication coaching clients were getting the exact same comment from some of their friends during their conscious growth process. Often it was phrased in the exact same words, like some sort of popular slogan.

Why People Reject the Changes in Others

Let’s take a look at the psychology behind this occurrence. What you’ll learn may surprise you.

I think that most of the time, the people who make this kind of a remark, especially your friends, are not ill intentioned. It’s just that they are not used to people consciously changing and it’s something that goes beyond their comprehension.

You see, the average Joe or Jane out there barely changes anymore in terms of personality after the age of 18. If they do change, it’s not a voluntary change; it’s the involuntary results of an external change in their life: new job, promotion, marriage, breakup, business failure, etc.

They are used with adult people having a fixed and predictable personality. So when a person in their social circle voluntarily behaves in a new and unpredicted way, this can actually be anxiety producing for them. They don’t understand what’s going on because they don’t understand conscious growth, so they reject it.

There is another common explanation, and this one has less to do with ignorance. It has more to do with self-interest or envy.

It’s important to realize that for some individuals, your change is not in their interest. The friend who brags all the time doesn’t want you to start teasing them for being such an attention-seeker. The colleague who is less competent than you doesn’t want you to become more self-assured and advance your career, while their career is stalling.

The fact is that most people, as kind and noble as they like to seem, are actually quite egocentric. This is not necessarily bad for them, but it can be for you. On top of that add all the envious people out there, and it all makes sense.

Smart Comebacks for Dumb Comments

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to not take comments like the one I’m talking about too seriously. From my perspective, the best thing you can do is to just let them slide.

Occasionally, you may want to have a short comeback to that kind of a comment, but make sure you don’t get into a debate. Here are some smartass comebacks to the remark “this isn’t you”, for your inspiration:

  • Me is a very slippery concept right now.”
  • “That’s because I have multiple personality disorder.”
  • “Really? Well, who the hell is it then?”
  • “You’ve noticed” (my favorite, a James Bond line).

Whatever you do, don’t let such remarks from friends or other people in your life make you feel bad and give up on your self-improvement. If you know why you’re behaving differently and you believe it’s the right thing for you, that’s good enough.

In the long run, if the people you call your friends are constantly opposing your growth through their attitudes, whether it’s due to ignorance, self-interest or envy, it’s time to consider applying your people skills in changing your social circle.

If personal development is important for you, then you want the kind of persons in your life that value it as well, not the kind that don’t even know the concept.

Image courtesy of Brian Auer

How to Make People Like You

Let’s face it: we’re all social animals and we want to be liked by others. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you don’t become desperate for people’s approval and feel shitty when someone doesn’t like you. It’s cool to want to know how to make people like you.

One of the central benefits of having good people skills is that you can increase your likeability factor. And the more likeable you can be my friend, the more options you have in your social life and beyond.

I’ve always been amazed by the ability to sweep people off their feet with your very presence. It’s one of the things that got me into improving my people skills more than a decade ago, and later into helping others do the same through communication coaching.

During this time, I’ve learned a thing or two on how to make people like you.

How Not To Make People Like You

girlThere is one way to make people like you that’s very popular and I’m adamantly against. That is being really nice with people and doing nice things for them all the time. Sure, you can get some people’s approval be being a nice guy or a nice girl. However, there are huge downsides to this strategy.

First of all, as many nice people exemplify, having a nice behavior towards others all the time often projects neediness and insecurity. That doesn’t make someone like you, it makes them either avoid you (if you’re lucky) or use you (if you’re unlucky).

Second of all, in order to keep people’s appreciation with this strategy, you have to keep doing nice things for them. Eventually, all the effort you put into pleasing the people in your life by being nice turns into a huge pain in the ass for you.

Want to know how to make people like you in the best way possible? Make them like you for who you are, not for what you do for them. This idea is a huge mental shift for many and it puts the focus on developing edgy people skills and a charismatic personality, not on being nice all the time.

Be a Positive Presence

It is a psychological fact that emotions are contagious, both positive and negative ones. When you can make people feel good, in a way they reward you for this by liking you.

Interestingly enough, the most effective way to make others feel good is not by giving them cheesy compliments or shallow encouragements, but by being positive yourself. Therefore, learning how to make people like you goes hand in hand with learning how to manage your emotional state.

A very helpful exercise for getting yourself in a positive state is simply faking it. You see, in your psychology, everything is connected: your thoughts, your emotions and your body. Walk, move and talk like a person feeling good and you’ll elicit that very state. You’ll feel positive because you act positive, and you’ll transmit it to others.

Share Yourself

There is some fascinating research emerging lately in the field of social psychology that points out one of the simplest and most powerful answers to how to make people like you is to open up and share yourself.

Not only that we tend to feel more comfortable with people who share themselves, but we also like them more. Thus, it’s not surprising that timid people are often not very likeable. They don’t put themselves out there.

Listening is a very important people skill to have, but so is opening up. Talk about yourself; put yourself out there in an authentic manner, even if you may find it hard at first. You’ll notice how people will grab on to what they know about you and like you more.

If you have a hard time sharing yourself, it’s probably because you lack social confidence. In this case, all I can say is watch this presentation, because you’ll learn from me in it how to overcome this problem, permanently.

Add Value in Every Conversation

There is a much better mode to add value in people’s lives than being very nice. It’s through the style you make conversation. Want you want is for people to end a conversation with you better off than they were when they started it.

There are many ways to do this. You can be the wise person who inspires others and talks about interesting things, you can be the funny person who gives a humorous spin to everything and gets people laughing.

Find the ways of adding value in conversation that fit well with your personality and develop those. Ultimately, people want to interact the most with those who can offer value, and by being a funny, witty, exciting or wise person you have an endless stream of value you can provide effortlessly.

Knowing how to make people like you permits you to develop very sharp people skills. When you can push people’s buttons through your personality, you open the doors towards a lifestyle of abundance that most people only dream of.

Image courtesy of Kam

How You Fuck Yourself Emotionally

This week I’m somewhere up in the mountains, delivering a communication and public speaking training. I can see snow and skiers out the window; it’s a pretty epic scenery.

Today was speech delivery day. Each participant to the training delivered a speech and received feedback on it, from myself and from some of the other participants. It’s been another reminder for me of how our fears are self-generated and most of them are based on pure crap.

Almost every participant had a lot of anxiety before and during their speeches; the kind of anxiety you would expect somebody to have in front of an execution squad. Discussing with the participants and finding out the way they think, it wasn’t hard to figure their fear out.

Two Faulty Ways of Thinking

First of all, almost every participant was convinced that they will have a terrible speech, and they will make total fools of themselves. Despite these expectations, all speeches were actually above average and many of them were quite good. Several participants couldn’t believe this even after receiving numerous positive feedbacks.

Secondly, many of the participants had hideous interpretations of feedback on their speeches that pointed out areas to improve. Emotionally, it was like a blow to the stomach for them. One person almost started crying during the feedback process, despite the fact it emphasized a lot more strong points than weak ones.

A Million Scenarios, the Same Two Problems

These two faulty ways of thinking are only particular and slightly stronger manifestations of two broader thinking and attitude patterns. These two patterns can be found in the psychology of numerous people.

1. A negatively distorted self-image. There are tons of individuals who see themselves as less able speakers, less skilled professionals or less attractive persons than they really are. Their self-image simply doesn’t keep up with their competencies, which leads to low self esteem and low confidence.

2. Perfectionist expectations of oneself. There are also tons of individuals who believe they need to be perfect, to have no flaws, and they can’t accept themselves otherwise. Thus, any emphasis on personal flaws or discovery of personal flaws is a real drama for them.

When you ask of yourself to be perfect but you see yourself as a loser, you create a huge mental gap. Thus, you fuck yourself up emotionally. And from there, you destroy most chances you have of a prosperous and fulfilling life.

Cognitive-behavioral therapists have been saying for a few decades now that for the most part, we make ourselves feel like crap through erroneous ways of thinking. Well, my training experience this week is just another concrete demonstration of this.

The Takeaway

This is a good moment to reflect upon your self-views and self-expectations. Are they pragmatic and anchored in reality? Do they help you make progress in your personal and professional life, or do they harm your life?

If the later is closer to the truth than the former, it’s time to seriously consider changing your attitudes and your thinking. And I mean REAAAAALLY consider it.

I often say that improvements in your people skills and your attitudes are the most relevant ones you can make. The more you support your emotional life through your thinking instead of screwing it, the better you will be.

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Are You Missing Half the Ingredients to Happiness?

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that in the end, all of the things we aim for are ways to increase our happiness and that happiness is our ultimate goal as living, breathing human beings.

It does take a bit of a genius though to achieve a high and sustainable level of happiness. Coaching others, I’ve realized that many people seriously lack in happiness because they have a bad understanding of what happiness is and what actually makes us humans in general happy. So, I’m gonna tell you.

The Two Sides of Happiness

One of probably the best things psychologists have done lately is to deconstruct happiness. Their conclusion, which I support wholeheartedly, is that although happiness has many sides to it, there are two basic ingredients that compose it.

The first ingredient is pleasure. It’s the basic, positive emotional state you get when you do certain kind of activities. We sometimes call these activities our passions. Examples of passions include: reading, writing, dancing, painting, organizing, evaluating, solving problems, talking, listening and so on.

The second ingredient is fulfillment. This is the more complex positive emotion you get when you look back at the things you have done and you find that those things are meaningful to you, because they’re aligned with your values.

Some people – such as myself – find fulfillment in helping others develop, some in making others feel happy, some in building a thing and some in creating a piece of art or poetry. Generally, we feel fulfilled when we have a contribution to something larger than ourselves.

Here Comes the Problem

In my experience the number one way people sabotage their happiness is this: going for one of the two ingredients above, while ignoring the other. Thus, two types of people are shaped, for which I have coined up names:

1. The party person. This is the person who knows how to have fun but not how to get fulfillment. Party persons do the things they’re passionate about; they typically have a lot of hobbies and they party a lot (therefore the name). However, they often end up reflecting upon their lives and feeling unfulfilled because something is missing.

2. The spiritual person. This is the person who is aware (mostly intuitively) of the importance of contribution and a higher purpose. Spiritual persons seek a higher plain of living and they stick to their key values. However, in their strict spiritual journey, they often work themselves like a mule and they forget to have some fun.

Of course, there is also a third type of people who don’t go after pleasure or fulfillment and they pretty much gave up on life, but I don’t even want to talk about them.

The Complete Life

By this point you probably already know where I’m going: you can only have a truly happy life if you:

  • Acknowledge both sides of happiness, pleasure and fulfillment, and
  • You seek to balance them out in your life.

Me, I love public speaking. When I’m doing a speech and I’m in front all those people dissecting a topic I’m knowledgeable about (such as people skills), I feel very good. At the same time, after a speech, I have this perception of having helped those people in the audience open new doors in their lives and I also feel fulfilled.

It is the mix of pleasure and fulfillment that’s key. I believe that what you want to do is combine activities that give you pleasure with activities that give you fulfillment every day. Better yet, find activities that give you both and spend as much time as possible doing those kinds of activities.

Get out there and wisely make the best of it. If life is worth living, life is worth living right.

Image courtesy of BoSquidley

What Do You Do For a Living? The Better Way to Answer

What do you do for a living?” – I ask him eager to do some chill networking. As I say this, my mind is automatically thinking: “Here comes another crappy answer I’ll have to work with”.

You might say that’s pessimistic of me; I say it’s more of an educated guess. It’s not that they’re not a lot of people out there with interesting jobs they’re passionate about. It’s just that they haven’t learned or haven’t considered the people skill of talking about them in a powerful way.

You see, answering “What do you do for a living?” in a stylish way is a great method to get the other person interested in the conversation, in your person, and to brand yourself. As a communication coach, there are a number of things I find important in answering this question.

Use a Suggestive Title for What You Do

It’s not important to use the exact job title in your job description in a conversation, even if it’s a business conversation. I sometimes meet a person who according to the JD is an ‘Executive Assistant’, but their job is much more of an HR job. ‘HR Assistant’ works a lot better as a title for them.

The point is to use a job title that realistically reflects the nature of the things you do in your job or the type of impact you have.

There is one answer to “What do you do for a living” that I find particularly bad: “I’m a consultant”. That doesn’t tell me shit about your job! They’re a zillion consultants out there.

Be Memorable

Some titles, they may be suggestive for what you do, but they simply aren’t remarkable in any way. Of course, there are plenty of ways to be memorable; you don’t need to desperately seek being memorable through your job title, but it is certainly a big bonus, especially in jobs where personal branding matters the most.

This is why I encourage you to use a memorable title for your job. Alain Cardon could have called himself a ‘Life Coach’, but he calls himself a ‘Breakthrough Catalyst’. Mars Dorian could have called himself a ‘Blogger’ but he calls himself a ‘Digital Crusader’. These are the kind of titles that stand out and they stick.

Follow-Up with an Exciting Explanation

After you’ve said your job title to answer the question, do not stop there. A title may be cool, suggestive and sexy, but it’s still only a title.

You want to do is continue with a short and powerful description of your job. Again, it’s important to remain clear and memorable. Some things to consider adding to this description are:

  • What you do exactly. Ex: “I speak on the area of Customer Service at conferences all over the world”.
  • What practical benefit you create: Ex: “I help organizations improve they way they interact with their customers and increase customer loyalty”.
  • Why what you do is important for you. Ex: “I believe that good results start with good customer service”.

But Eduard, What If I Have a Job I Hate and I Don’t Want to Talk About?

For this not so uncommon scenario, the first significant thing I can tell you is that you’d better at least have an aim for a different career and know what that career is.

Based on this, when you answer the question you can name your current job and then quickly move on to talking about the job you’re aiming for.

You may say something like: “I now work as a Sales Agent in an FMCG company, but I’m training to become a Career Coach. I have a passion for helping people find their way”.

The more you master your people skills and the better you present yourself, the more you “attract” all sorts of remarkable people and breathtaking career opportunities. And it often all starts with answering in style one simple question.

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How Badly Do You Really Want It?

Take a moment to ask a person about their dreams and they’ll tell you about a fulfilling career, a great relationship, or their own island in the Pacific Ocean.

Take a couple more moments, as I often do in coaching, to ask them what they’re planning to do in order to make their dreams come true, and you’ll often hear the most unrealistic fairytales.

In my experience, most people are simply not willing to do the things which will realistically make them achieve their big dreams, things which happen to also be pretty hard. Thus, they automatically reject the most effective alternatives, they’re stuck with bad alternatives and they eventually abandon their dreams.

Real Stories

Here are three real examples, of people I’ve interacted with in the past few months:

  1. A person who wants to become a top professional in a Fortune 500 company, but is not willing to leave the small town they live in. Why? Because all their friends and relatives are there.
  2. A person who hates their job and wants to go into a new professional field, but is not willing to take the initial salary cut. Why? Because they would have to sell their fast car and take the subway for a while.
  3. A person who wants to have a successful business, but is not willing to work for 2 or 3 years at developing this business besides their regular job, until it becomes sustainable. Why? Too much work.

In all these examples, the path exists. The only problem is that the person is not willing to take the path. They don’t want to make the necessary compromises.

Quitting In the Face Of a Challenge

Now I’m not saying that all compromises are good. Sometimes, the effort to get to a certain place in your life is just not worth it by comparison with the benefits. However, this is not the case I’m talking about.

The real issue in my view is that many people aren’t willing to make even strategic compromises, which in the end would be worth it: the short-term compromise for the much bigger long-term benefits.

In my area of people skills, I see countless examples of people who aren’t willing to accept a challenge and put in the work to improve key people skills, even though they know how much it would enrich their lives. They stop at the level of: “Yeah, I know: I should probably work on this.” And they pay the price.

Reality Check

Let’s turn the discussion towards you. I invite you to look at your life, your career and your relationships, and ask yourself four magic questions:

  1. What are my biggest, boldest dreams in these areas?
  2. What are realistically, the things I need to do in order to achieve these dreams?
  3. Which of these things have I really accepted and decided to do?
  4. Which of these things am I really doing?

If you’re like 98% of people, you’ll find out that your deeds aren’t exactly aligned with your dreams. There is a gap between them which if you don’t face, can become as big as the Grand Canyon.

You may try to find shortcuts and creative solutions to achieve your goals with little effort or struggle. If your goals are high, chances are that you will not find them or they won’t work.

The roads to great places tend to have quite the bumps at some points. The best thing you can do is to accept the bumps in the road and go through them.

In a way, you could say that making those hard, initial compromises to get what will truly enrich your life is the easy way. I say this because if you look at things in perspective, you end up living a much more meaningful and joyful life.

However, the meaningful joyful life does imply an initial level of work, perseverance and sacrifice which only few people are willing to go through. But if you want something big and you want it badly enough, it makes sense to go beyond what most people are willing to do.

If you decide that you simply don’t want if badly enough, no problem. Just make sure that when you’re an old person and you tell stories to your grandchildren about your life, you don’t say that you could have been a great person but you didn’t have the opportunity. It was right there in your face!

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Are You a Pain-In-The-Ass Person?

She calls me again. A business acquaintance of mine, who wants to partner up with me for this training, learning, changing the world project she has in mind. And again I say: “Thanks, but no thanks”.

The project is not the problem. It seems like a good idea. The person is the problem. I know from one too many previous experiences that working with her, interacting with her, is a burden. She is what I call a pain in the ass person.

You know the type: the manager whose employees quit constantly, the businessman nobody wants to work with, the friend nobody wants to hang out with. Even though this person might have good professional skills, because of bad character and even worse people skills, she manages to make everybody want to stay away from her. And of course, like most people in this category, she has no clue why this is happening and thinks people are just mean, evil creatures.

Unfortunately, pain in the ass people are very common. Over the years, I have worked with these kinds of people, helping them improve their people skills and attitudes. Are you a pain in the ass person?

I believe that the most important steps in not being a pain in the ass person are to accept that you might be one, at least to a certain degree, to understand the key traits this person has and to look for them at your own person. Here are some of the essential traits from my perspective:

1. Compulsive lying. Pain in the ass people will constantly tell you what they believe you want to here, without really thinking whether it’s the truth or not. They will make stuff up and lie constantly. Even when you catch them, they will apologize and promise not to do it again, than they’ll do it 10 minutes later. This makes it very hard to trust them. Speaking of promises…

2. Not keeping their promises. Pain in the ass people will promise big things all the time, but they will not even manage to keep their small promises. They will promise to send you an email tomorrow, and they will do it in 3 days. They will promise you an 800$ fee, and after you finish your job they’ll tell you they can only give you 400$.


3. Lack of fairness. Pain in the ass people will often want you to do most of the work, while they get most of the money and the appreciation. They bring little value to the table but they want to get as much value as possible. And when you ask for your fair share, they won’t think twice about calling you selfish, but they will fail to see their selfishness, especially when it’s even visible to a blind man.

4. Bad listening skills. Pain in the ass people will generally have bad communication skills, but their listening skills are usually the worse. They don’t really listen when you talk; they just phase out and think about their stuff. Then, when they have a thought they want to express, they will just interrupt you brutally and say it. This is how a hypothetical dialog with these people takes place.

5. Opposition to any idea different than their own. Pain in the ass people will reject your ideas simply because they are different from theirs. Their big egos cannot tolerate the thought that they are wrong or that someone else has a better idea. They will often try to bring arguments to support their side but in the end, even if they lose the debate on logic and arguments, they will simply ignore this and just say: “No, you’re wrong. We’ll do it my way.

If you identify any of these traits at yourself, I strongly suggest you work on your people skills and eliminate them. These traits sabotage your relationships and performances like crazy. If you’re working or interacting with a person with these traits, I have 6 words for you: Get the hell out of there!