Working with people stuck in a Victim Mindset can be exhausting and infuriating. When they have a problem, they often prefer to complain or blame, rather than focus on a solution. They cope with life by thinking there is some force outside of them that prevents them from taking charge of their life.
We are not writing about being a victim of a tragic event, which is true victimization. We are referring to an attitude or outlook that determines a person’s response to a situation, another person, or event. We call this pattern of thinking the Victim Orientation, or Mindset.
The good news is that you can greatly influence someone to grow beyond their Victim thinking. However, sooner or later, you must face the fact that you cannot “make” someone change. For the person really stuck, here are a few suggestions that will help influence them.
Drop the Victim Label
If you put others in the “Victim box”, whatever they say you may hear as evidence of their Victim thinking. To connect with this person, stop being overly virtuous about how they are ‘such a victim’ and you aren’t.
Instead, shift how you see them. They are Creators in their own right, whether they act like it or know it themselves. If you can believe—and really know—that their true essence is that of a Creator, you will start treating them differently and may very well be surprised that it might encourage them to also realize it for themselves.
Connect Rather Than Collude
There is a misconception that to connect with someone stuck in the Victim Mindset you need to share your own Victim story. This approach encourages people to “one-up” each other, trying to amplify their story more than others. Instead, let them know you understand their feelings and complaints. Suggestions might be:
“That must be difficult.”
“I understand your frustration.”
“I hear what you are saying about… (fill in the blank).”
Listen for Their Commitment
What possibility has this person given up on? Ask: “What do you really care about?” They may not tell you at first because they may not know! Being stuck in the Victim Mindset means they may have experienced life through the lens of what they don’t want, rather than what they do want.
Don’t give advice. When a person with a Victim Mindset seeks advice, it may not be because they want to take responsibility for their life. They may want you to be a Rescuer and are looking for evidence of your attention.
Instead, ask them to identify one Baby Step they can take. Be patient. Once they select an action step, work with them. Set a time for follow-up and make sure you keep that commitment. It will show them you care while increasing the chance they will follow through. You can encourage accountability with an occasional check-in via an email, or text, “Hi, curious about how things went with that Baby Step you committed to.”
We All Need Support from Time-to-Time
Transforming the Victim Mindset is a journey and may take a while. Remember, you are learning to work with someone stuck in the Victim Mindset because you really want to support that person—not judge or fix them.
You, too, may need the same support one day. We all move through the Victim Mindset from time to time. Practice most what you want others to do with you in those times.