A little while back, I was leafing the pages of former Australian Rules footballer and coach, Neil Daniher’s book When All is Said and Done. It’s about Daniher’s response to his battle with motor neurone disease.
I was struck by Daniher’s discussion about what he described as the temptation to play the victim when the going gets tough.
He speaks about the tendency to blame others. How we can feel justified in wallowing in our own persecution. What really got my attention were his comments about the effects of falling into victimhood.
Daniher said it was devastating for our own wellbeing – and for others.
As good reads do, this got me thinking.
“Devastating” That’s a pretty strong word to use. But when I began to think about my own experiences of acting a victim, and working with people who’ve done likewise, I realised he was spot on.
When playing the victim we often act helpless. In tough situations we want to be rescued. If someone does, we tend to be super grateful. Trouble is I’ve never learned anything when this has happened. I haven’t seen great gains in others either.
All we achieve is adding work to someone else. Maybe we’ve reinforced their rescuing behaviour.
I tend to whine when playing the victim. I’ve done a bit of it during lockdown.
You realise you’re not nice to be around when you hear others trying to change the topic, or respectfully ignoring you.
It’s draining being around people who play the victim.
It’s also hard to know how to deal with a person stuck in this place.
“Their behaviour is so painful. I feel like telling them to snap out of it, but I don’t want to hurt their feelings” is a thought pattern I know to be familiar.
A solution? Time to throw another spanner in to help the works.
It’s not as hard as many think to break this cycle of helplessness.
A key is to support the person to shift from their emotions to their thoughts. And the shifter to throw in the works as a first step, is called: ‘What does better look like?’
It’s a versatile spanner. It could easily be called a few other names. Maybe the: ‘What might the ideal look like?’ spanner. Possibly the ‘If things were perfect, what would be different?’ model.
Whichever one you choose, the impact of jamming the cogs of victimhood is the same.
The question forces a person to stop wallowing. To start thinking.
To think about what if things were just a bit better. What would look different? What might they or others be doing that they’re not doing now?
When using this spanner it’s crucial to follow the instructions.
Don’t throw it in anger. It’s not a “Shut the $@*& up” and hurl sequence.
Instead, it’s a “How can I help this person out of their rut” and throw, approach.
Victimhood is devastating.
As leaders, colleagues, friends and loved ones, we need to do our bit to reduce the devastation.
Throwing the ‘What does better look like?’ spanner is a great first step.
Next time I’ll chat about an important companion spanner. It’s designed to help people take action on their thinking…about better.