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How to Work With a Perfectionist

Mo is always late in submitting his work. Nothing is good enough for him. If something goes wrong and he makes a mistake, he will try his best to hide it. He is worried about failure. Mo doesn't want to fail his boss, his company, so he works overtime. Despite his work ethic, his growth has been slow.

Really Slow!

His work-life balance is completely off because of the amount of work he takes on. His boss is unhappy with him, so is his wife, friends, kids, and almost everyone else. He feels lonely most of the time and sometimes depressed.

The good news is while perfectionists make up 30% of the population, their numbers are as high as 80% among gifted and successful individuals.

The bad news is: It's still hard to work and live with perfectionists, especially if they demonstrate all three types of prototypes.

"Perfectionist strives for the flawless outcome while setting unattainable standards for self and others, and unfortunately they closely associate their self worth with their achievements and how well they perform."

But here are some suggestions based on the research, the books I read, and my personal experience as a recovering perfectionist and someone who coaches other perfectionists.

  1. Understand them and be more patient with them. Constantly remind yourself that being perfect stems from the inner desire for approval. They are stressed and anxious, more than you can ever imagine. Believe me. I speak from personal experience. So before being another critic, embrace their gift and provide them with additional support.

  2. Help them understand the big picture. What the priority is, what the bigger goal is. Why? Because perfectionists often get so tangled up in small detail that they forget about the bigger picture. The overall goal. The cost of waiting. The price of a perfect outcome. Remind them! Kindly Gently! Continuously! Keep in mind; Managing perfectionism is a lifelong journey.

  3. Suppose you need to give feedback, for example, in a job setting or at home. Make sure you do this delicately, mainly because perfectionists internalize the mistake and WILL react. But this doesn't mean you should avoid such situations because your feedback is what they need to develop themselves. HBR suggests when interacting with perfectionists, give your feedback first. Without sandwiching it between positives because, after all, the perfectionist will hear the negative, so why bother!

Bonus tip: Now, here is a trick, you can open the conversation with "I'm not sure how to talk to you about how you can improve your performance. Or. What guidance would you give me about how to give you feedback?" Once they give you the green light, don't hold back! Use the same strategy if it works for you and your relationship.

In my 8th episode, I talked extensively about perfectionism, the 3types, and how to deal with it. You can have your perfectionist friend listen to this episode and learn about the reason behind their suffering. From experience, many perfectionists are unaware of their tendencies. By sending them this episode, you might provide them with an awareness that they need to improve their wellbeing.


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