The Persecutor role in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) uses control and domination to take charge of a situation. Persecutors may show up in our lives as people, or they may also be conditions (such as a health issue) or situations, (such as a natural disaster). Regardless of the form, the Persecutor dominates the time and attention of the person in the Victim role.
In The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) and the 2nd of the 3 Vital Questions® frameworks, the “antidote” role to the Persecutor is that of the Challenger, which evokes learning and growth. Rather than reacting and feeling persecuted by the condition, situation, or person, you ask, “What has this come into my life to cause me to learn, to change, or to develop?”
As you increase your capacity to nurture empowering relationships, you will sometimes need to step into the Challenger role. When you do, you are entering into a powerful partnership with another Creator – holding strength and willingness to stand for envisioned outcomes and being a “truth teller” (and doing so without blame or judgment).
How you approach challenging another is a significant consideration. Being clear on the intention behind your challenge is an important discipline for a Challenger.
In our workshops, we share the idea that there are different intentions behind the Persecutor and Challenger behaviors. We learned this idea from Diana Cawood, an executive coach from Vancouver, British Columbia. Diana names the first intention the “looking good intention” and the second intention the “learning intention.”
The intent of the Persecutor is that of “looking good.” Because of a desire to stay in charge, the Persecutor is concerned with looking good by winning, being right, or powerful, even if it is at the expense of others. Persecutors do this by one or more of the following characteristics:
- Needing to be right or be the hero;
- Appearing smart and as a “winner;”
- Projecting judgement and control toward the other;
- Using energy and techniques to protect how they are seen;
- Connecting only when it serves their “agenda;”
- Making others cautious of connecting or engaging; and
- Finding ways to be “one up” on the other.
There is a completely different intent behind the Challenger role. When you challenge someone with the clear intention for their good or the group’s good, you are learning with them. Challengers therefore come from a “learning intent.” Characteristics include:
- Enhancing others’ capability and capacity to learn and create;
- Maintaining integrity, with no “hidden agendas;”
- Showing respect and care for the other(s) – even when it involves “tough love;”
- Using energy to create a safe space for learning and exploring;
- Creating and sustaining connection, even when there are disagreements and/or difficulties;
- Inviting and supporting others to connect and engage; and
- Building up others as Creators
All of us have had such a Challenger in our lives. It may have been a teacher, grandparent, neighbor, parent, sports coach, or minister who was clear and direct about what you needed to learn. At the time, you may have seen them as a Persecutor – cajoling and pushing you to step-up. Looking back now, a little older and wiser, you are likely grateful for the Challenger they were to you at that time in your life.
While you cannot control how others will respond to you when you Challenge them, pausing to make sure you are coming from a learning intent increases the probability of being perceived as a Challenger, rather than a “looking good” Persecutor.
The other person’s job is to be a Creator and accept their responsibility to learn and grow. What you can feel good about, is that you were clear about your intention to evoke learning and growth.