Emergency Chutes: Dealing with Narcissists

Steven Slater. The JetBlue flight attendant who grabbed a beer and jumped down an emergency chute after an altercation with a difficult passenger. Steven Slater may have just been trying to do his job. But that day, like most days he had to deal with someone who was suffering from the great American epidemic of narcissism.

Any idiot who has flown more than once knows that you are NOT supposed to stand while the plane is taxiing. But this woman was different than everyone. Perhaps she needed her bag, she needed to get off the flight before everyone, she needed her phone – who knows? Who cares? How could this woman think she was different than the 100 other people on the flight? She, like most narcissists, thinks she is different, special, and the rules don’t apply to her. But believe you me, she would be the first in line to sue the airline if her runway shenanigans got her hurt. Interestingly, calling a narcissist out on her s**t doesn’t work – the little charmers are made of teflon. Slater’s behavior reveals a beautiful metaphor – when dealing with a narcissist – a beer and an emergency chute may be the only recourse.

Most of us do one of two things when dealing with narcissists. We either (a) capitulate, give in to them, or ignore them, because it is what everyone does and we don’t want to deal with them anymore (thus we are rewarding them for their nonsense because they don’t really care what anyone thinks of them) or (b) call them out on their nonsense, which usually leads to a maddening fight. When fighting with a narcissist, plan on getting hurt – their emptiness and ability to toss all of their crap out on other people – leads us to effectively start punching ourselves.

Slater did (b). Probably after a career of (a). On EVERY flight, in every hotel, just about EVERYWHERE I go – I observe narcissistic customers. Narcissists wear down the front line service workers (complaining about tables in restaurants, rooms in hotels, seats on airplanes) in a way that destroys it for all of us. Because by the time the poor service employee gets to us normal folks – he or she is burned out and underpaid. Narcissists breathe more of the oxygen in a room than to which they are entitled.

Did Slater handle it well? Obviously not. When a narcissist runs afoul of the law – it is the perfect place to corner them. Let more powerful entities take them down. They love power, so they gravitate to it like a moth to flame – and bam – lights out. Nothing sweeter than watching a narcissist squirm. As a psychologist I can say his better recourse would have been to ask her to sit. After the bag fell on him and hurt him he should have tried to calmly get photographic evidence, and in lieu of that, to get contact information and statements from witnesses. He should then have gently told her that authorities would be meeting the plane and taking her in for questioning. I bet the little sweetheart would have lost bowel control then.

Want to deal with narcissists? Unplug. Give them nothing. Least of all, emotion. Document everything. And if it comes down to it, use existing regulatory mechanisms to nail them. This applies when dealing with these folks in family, love, work, and life. (or better yet, when you can control the gateway – don’t let them in in the first place).

Then, when no one is looking – grab a beer and find the nearest chute.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 11th, 2010 at 12:56 pm and is filed under Media and Mental Health, Relationships and Sex. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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