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A Psychology Expert Shares 7 Toxic Phrases ‘Highly Insecure' People Always Use—and How to Deal With Them

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As a leadership consultant who studies workplace psychology, I've spent more than 30 years helping thousands of individuals navigate tough relationships.

I've found that one of the most difficult personality types to deal with are highly insecure people. These are the folks who find comfort in stable and predictable environments. They prefer security and despise changes. But change is a necessity for success.

Unfortunately, I've seen many teams and organizations fail because of a highly insecure person standing in the way. The first step to preventing things from getting worse is to know how to identify them.

Are you dealing with a highly insecure person?

Here are seven things highly insecure people say when they sense that change is coming:

1. "I don't have time for this. My other priorities are more important."

Usually, it's not that they don't have enough time; it's that they don't know how to manage it effectively. And they rarely have any deliberate or mindful strategies of how to prioritize their tasks.

2. "I've already tried this [or something similar], but it didn't work."

This claim is often a complete lie. Insecure people don't try new things. They mostly talk about trying new things at best.

3. "This is just another way for management to cut jobs."

Highly insecure people who don't believe they're validated and appreciated at work can become paranoid. They may suspect that someone, most often those in leadership, are out to "get" them.

4. "This is a stupid idea. Everything is working fine as it is."

When a highly insecure person has a strong and dismissive reaction to a new initiative, it may be a sign that they realize they will have to put more effort into their work, and they feel threatened by it.

5. "This might work for others, but it's not for me."

Insecure people are big on inflating how unique they are and how special the conditions surrounding their work are.

6. "Can't we think of something else? I'm not feeling this."

This is usually an attempt to stall and completely avoid any real change or improvement. The alternative way the insecure person suggests is usually more or less a continuation of the same behavior. 

7. "It's obvious that whoever came up with this idea is clueless about the complexity of my work."

If a person claims that what they do is too difficult and can't be comprehended by someone else, it only means that they actually don't fully understand what they do. Or they may be avoiding being transparent because they have something to hide.

How to handle a highly insecure person

The most important thing you can do is to develop a sense of compassion for your insecure colleagues. Having dark, negative thoughts about them won't get you anywhere.

Find a balance between being supportive and exercising tough love by maintaining a sense of positivity and composure. But don't show that you feel sorry for them. Insecure people often react without any deeper thinking or understanding of what they're reacting to.

If they only get a comforting response from you, it could make them believe that they are right to be fearful or reactive, and not interrogate why.

And don't accept excuses. It will only make it easier for them to stay stuck in their ways. Instead, make this your mantra: "An excuse is a claim, and a claim needs to be proven to be true."

Ask questions to pokes holes in their argument, and get them to identify what is actually true in this moment. This method can help them see that their excuses may be standing in the way of what they can accomplish if they face their fears.

Stefan Falk is an internationally-recognized executive coach, workplace psychology expert, and author of "Intrinsic Motivation: Learn to Love Your Work and Succeed as Never Before." A McKinsey & Company alumnus, he has trained over 4,000 leaders across more than 60 organizations and helped drive transformations valued in excess of $2 billion. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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