Carla is a participant in one of my personal leadership classes. She is extremely supportive, loves helping others and hates saying no. One Friday afternoon, she was really excited as she had permission to leave work early and go away on a weekend with long-time friends. That day, and this happened regularly, her boss (who had approved her request to leave early), calls her in to her office at 3:30 pm (time she was supposed to leave). Carla with her supportive style said nothing and ended up spending 1 hour and 30 minutes with her boss to discuss and work some files.
What happened here? Carla did not assert herself; she left the office two hours later than planned; her friends had to wait for her; she spent hours blaming her boss, her job, the colleagues who don’t do their job properly, the photocopier, the requests from others, etc.; it put everyone in a bad mood; the weekend started on a negative note.
Carla is a participant in one of my personal leadership classes. She is extremely supportive, loves helping others and does not like to say no. But she understands that it is sometimes necessary even if difficult. One Friday afternoon, she was really excited as she had permission to leave work early and go away on a weekend with long-time friends. That day, and this happened regularly, her boss (who had approved her request to leave early), calls her in to her office at 3:30 pm (time she was supposed to leave).
Carla with her supportive style is reluctant to say no, and feels a lump in her throat. But she decides to put into practice an approach that I teach in my communication classes: “say no with options”. So she walks into her boss’s office and, after checking the urgency of the meeting, she decides to assert herself and honor her needs and her commitment made with her friends. She reminds her boss of their agreement about leaving early and offers to come in earlier Monday morning to prepare the material her boss needs for the management meeting that morning.
What happened here? Carla was assertive and helpful; she left the office at the scheduled time; she met with her friends, and all were in a good mood and relieved of this outcome; the weekend was starting well.
It’s 21 years this year that I’ve been teaching skills related to communication, team leadership and self-leadership. And unfortunately, some comments constantly show up in my classes: “It’s my boss who should take this course”; “There are several people where I work who should take this course”; or “Yes but in my environment, EVERYTHING is urgent, and I have no control over it”.
No matter how you put it, it feels like a complaint; it amounts to saying “It’s not my fault, it’s the other person’s fault.” It’s like giving all of your power to others?
Entertaining such thoughts greatly impacts our well-being. Feeding “victimhood” thoughts traps us in a life lacking opportunities and full of powerless decisions that would otherwise improve our personal and professional lives. Instead, let’s remember who is responsible for our choices; going through a situation or taking action in a situation are two different choices; yes, to suffer through it is a choice even when done unconsciously. When we keep ourselves in “suffering mode”, we go through life experiencing unpleasant feelings such as guilt, fear, anxiety, lack of self-confidence, and so on.
Here are 3 actions that will help you keep victimhood under control.
- Become aware that you are blaming someone else or the situation for what you are experiencing. Small visual reminders such as a post-it or an image on your desk can help you think of the question “Have I been in victimhood mode today?” If so, noticing it is a huge step forward.
- Stop blaming others or situations, and ask yourself, “What else can I do?” Instead, use your creativity to find original ways to handle the situation. For example, if your colleague is noisy and you need to read a report in peace, why not read it in the park, in the conference room, or in another empty office. Try it!
- Practice gratitude on a daily basis. It may sound like a simple advice, but when you start focussing on the behaviors you value in your colleagues, or on the good aspects of your work or personal situation, you will be much less inclined to blame others.
In which of the two scenarios do you recognize yourself? Do you give yourself the power to choose? Will you exercise your creativity to find different ways to respond to people and situations? Do you believe you can influence unpleasant situations in a positive way rather than suffer through them? Victimhood is a learned behavior that can be changed and transformed into more constructive possibilities. Will you help create a new era where self-responsibility is more present and brings more peace of mind?
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