Now residing in the beautiful Rio Grande Valley area of Texas, dedicated primarily to OPI (Over the Phone Interpreting), and Face to Face Interpreting as requested.

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A Narcissist Among Us

Spanish David


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I am participating less within the Facebook groups related to my profession, Interpreting and Translation. There are many members of the groups that I admire and respect, and with whom I continue to engage. There are, however, more and more within these groups that I have begun to question their emotional and mental stability, as well as their true intentions for becoming members.

Disagreements among members of a group are not anything new, and we often learn as a result of these debates. Some, however, are so rigid in their beliefs that everyone is wrong –except them. These superior beings spew their knowledge on the rest of us peons, and in a way to ensure that we know we are beneath them in every aspect of the profession.

In a recent ‘debate’ a question was asked about terminology. The initial responses were respectful and answered the asker’s question. Then, it started. Someone just had to comment –and they always begin similarly—”I don’t mean to be rude, but….” I always think, then why the hell did you comment? Of course, you intended to be rude and to make yourself look superior to that of the asker; otherwise, you wouldn’t have commented.

What amazes me is that these groups are comprised of language professionals, and yet many don’t understand the basic concept of communication. Now I am not so naive that I think that everyone in these groups is a member because they like the comradery of their colleagues, want to share their experience and knowledge with others, and genuinely care about the profession. These members do exist, and they are easy to spot. They never make themselves appear superior to others. They accept the opinions of others. And, when there is a disagreement, they never make it a personal attack. Instead, these members ask for clarifications and do everything possible to understand the point of view of the other member. They truly know how to communicate.

Opposite, we have the members that I honestly think join groups for the sole purpose of arguing with others. I am sure you know these members too. These are the ones that no matter what you post, they have something negative to say. These are the ones that will tell you what you are asking is a ‘basic’ question that you should already know, and how they are ‘concerned’ that you are practicing within the profession and asking such a basic question. News Flash! Everyone is at a different level, some just entering the profession and some preparing to retire. As someone stated these ‘know it all’ Interpreters/Translators were born already certified. My advice, don’t engage.

Although it is so tempting (I have personally fallen into the temptation more than once) to put these snobs in their place, you have to ask yourself if it is worth it? Everyone in the group already knows what an ass the person is and if you engage others will question your motives. And, in every single case, there will be those that will side with the ‘know it all’ and those that will side with you. These are the minions of the group, and you don’t want to be a minion, do you?

Others join solely to promote themselves and their wares. Nothing wrong with this, I guess. I think it is a scum move. These members are also easy to spot. They rarely, if ever, participate in conversations. Instead, you will see their promotional posts, and that is about it. On the rare occasions that these ‘users’ of the group do briefly bless the members with a comment, it is usually to state their superiority on a particular subject matter. Although they will claim not to be bragging, they will often find a way to inform those with whom they engage of their credentials and educational accomplishments. This, of course, is supposed to end the debate as they are right –based on their credentialed superiority, and you are wrong.

These self-promoting members are the most enjoyable to watch when others purposely engage with them. It is one of those times when you should bring out the popcorn and enjoy the show. Whenever these types of members are challenged, they will almost immediately go into a defensive posture, and this wakes up the minions. It is fun to watch. At some point, though, one of the more mature thinking members of the group will step in and tell the minions to settle down and behave. Then, all the drama suddenly fizzles out. It is indeed a letdown. And, if the engagement happened to fall within a group that the self-promoting member controls, guaranteed that the challenger would be banned from the group. At this point, all the minions will jump up and down with joy and singing praises to the enlightened one. Can we vomit now?

To not allow yourself to get caught up in the drama that these Facebook groups will inevitably have, I recommend the following:

A) Use the old motto of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In other words, keep quiet no matter how much you want to put in your two cents –which is about what your opinion is worth.

B) Remember that every single member is using a different lens for how they view the world. Life, as well as professional experiences, are different. Sure, you may have always used ‘X’ term but guess what, it doesn’t mean that someone using ‘Y’ is wrong. And, even if they are wrong, why is it your responsibility to publicly shame them? Is it a need to feel superior to others? To make yourself look good at the expense of others? If so, you have some real issues. The approach here should be the tried and true ‘praise publicly, correct privately.’

C) Keep a list of names –both good and bad. At conferences, trainings, and so on where there will be ‘face to face’ interactions, you will know who is worth your time, and those who are not. When there is no keyboard to hide behind, the bad ones will camouflage themselves behind a smile, but you will already know that their smile is fake.

Life is short. You nor I will ever change these narcissist types so why waste time arguing, and of all places, in a Facebook forum. Just move on and enjoy life.

_____David Martin Tucker, Certified Spanish Healthcare Interpreter, CHI™, or “Spanish David” as he is known, is a certified healthcare interpreter dedicated exclusively to OPI (over the phone interpreting) whose passion for Latin American culture and language is second only to his desire to become a voice for his Spanish speaking clients. Conveying more than words, David’s continuous thirst for knowledge thrusts him into the culture of his clients.

David is an honor’s graduate from the Southern California School of Interpreting’s Medical Interpreter Program and holds bachelor degrees in both Modern Languages (Spanish) and Business from Metropolitan State College of Denver and the University of Southern Indiana respectively.

A founding member of the El Puente Bilingual Toastmasters in Denver, David is also a contributor to the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC), and is a member of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Health Care Patient Advisory Board.

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Certified Spanish Healthcare Interpreter
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