We have all heard one of these painful stories before – likely about someone, we know personally.

The person who chooses a business partner that steals their money, company, or dignity.

The person who chooses a romantic partner that turns out to be someone different than their expectations – narcissistic behavior with the ensuing mental abuse, deceit, divorce, a financial mess …..

As much as we don’t want to acknowledge or talk about it, this is the real world.

Situations like this can ruin your precious life.

In Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell reminds us that we default to the truth.

What we want to see and believe in. This is human nature.

A partner has a profound influence on your career success.

This can be the most important decision of your life.

Consider this as a key part of your career strategy.

We need a set of ideas to protect us from our naivety and thinking fast.

A test for compatibility of who we spend our precious time with.

This is not an exact science – the best we can do is reduce the risk.

You will be rewarded by choosing the right partner that supports your aspirations.

Know who to take on the journey.

1. Balance emotion with logical reasoning.

Favor the head over your heart when making a partner decision – seducers know how to choose the right victim.

Analyze the potential partnership methodically and unbiasedly.

Take your time to form an opinion and uncover red flags. This may save you from years of pain.

Resist the temptation to easily explain away concerns you may have – time tells.

2. Discover their character stamp.

Study people’s values and behaviors over an adequate period.

Be curious about their childhood and life experiences.

Notice habits, patterns, and behaviors – expect these to repeat over time.

Look deep past the facades and myths to uncover the hidden character flaws for a more accurate sense of their true persona.

3. Escape the deep narcissist.

Be aware of people’s need for constant attention – this will lead to compulsive behavior that does not have anything to do with you.

Run for the hills if everything must revolve around them.

During a conflict, look for signs as they position themselves as the wounded victim and draw sympathy.

Think about and measure their ability to admit a mistake or say sorry.

4. See through people’s masks.

Observe more – talk less.

Accept that much of life is role-playing – people’s appearances are not reality.

Balance what people say with their non-verbal cues – these give insight into what they may be thinking or hiding.

Establish a person’s baseline expression and mood – notice deviations.

Trust your intuitive, gut instincts of someone when something feels off.

5. Piece together people’s Shadow.

Take note of off-character actions and situations that occasionally leak out – their dark, shadow side.

Plan and expect to see this behavior again when the conditions are right – such as when drinking alcohol.

Shine a light on people’s dark side by uncovering the opposite trait that people vehemently demonstrate.

When someone shows you their dark side and who they are – believe them.

6. Beware the friendly facade.

Be cautious of those that are overly friendly and charismatic early in a relationship.

Discount these first appearances as the opening act – they are likely seeking dependence.

Measure people’s overwhelming need for control.

Look deep to understand people’s ultimate quest – they may do anything to obtain it.

Be bold to aggressive people – they are counting on your fear to fight them or your habitual surrender.

Maintaining your dignity and self-worth is more important to your long-term well-being.

7. Decode envy.

Notice people’s reluctance to praise your successes or qualities.

Recognize the praise with a poisonous putdown.

Be aware of criticism without a basis, that makes you feel guilty.

8. Plan an exit strategy.

Plan for disagreement in advance – always have an escape ready and available.

Create a document that outlines how the partnership ends.

Know how to end things on an ambivalent note.

Keep yourself balanced during a conflict – bring closure by finishing it well.

Plan not just to the end but past it, to the aftermath.

Explore these questions.

  • Is your partner who you think they are?
  • What are the values and character traits of your ideal partner?
  • Have you fallen into a mentally-abusive narcissistic relationship without realizing it?

Resources for Deeper Study

Some of the content above was derived from the references below. I highly recommend reading these books in their entirety to expand concepts and insights that are unique to your lens.

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

Chapter 2 – The Law of Narcissism

Chapter 3 – The Law of Role-playing

Chapter 4 – The Law of Compulsive Behavior

Chapter 9 – The Law of Repression

Chapter 10 – The Law of Envy

Chapter 16 – The Law of Aggression

The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene

Chapter 22 – Know How To End Things: The Exit Strategy

The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

Part II – Choose the Right Victim

Warren Buffett, Melinda Gates and Sheryl Sandberg agree: This is the most important decision you’ll ever make