Do you know someone who always tries to avoid taking responsibility for their actions? Or Do you have people in your life who always try and seek attention or sympathy by always complaining about how bad things are in their life? Or those who always play the victim? If you did, then most probably you would have felt an urge to rescue them from their woes.
We all come across people who function out of victim mindset in the work places or in our personal or business relationships who carry around the belief that world is against them and that there is nothing they can do about it or take action. It is normal to feel sorry for all of us every once in a while or feel helpless in the face of certain challenges, but perceiving oneself a victim always not only keeps them stuck but also affects people around them negatively.
However, when it comes to dealing with such people in the workplaces or in your personal life, it is important to differentiate between people who are truly victims, and those who use their victim card in order to manipulate or to draw attention. They use “woe is me “ persona to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and always try to find excuses or actively look to shift blame onto someone else.
Self-victimisation vs self-empowerment
People who are truly victims experience powerlessness that isn’t intentional. But self-victimised people tend to shift into victim mode whenever someone questions their motives or behaviour. They have high external locus of control, attributing their success and failure to external factors or some fated force outside of their immediate control, like factors such as luck, chance, other people, or circumstances. They often feel resentful or upset about negative events in their life and blame others for their life’s ups and downs. This not only leads to unproductive behaviours, but also pose problems for people around them.
Self-empowered people on the other hand have a high internal locus of control. They are clear of what they want and why they want it. They believe that success is the result of effort, hard work, learning from failures, and receiving feedback. For instance, if they perform poorly at work, from a place of victim mindset, they are more likely to blame people higher up, whereas from a place of self-empowerment, they may blame their own efforts and abilities and try to improve themselves in future or learn from their mistakes.
Self-victimisation and Productivity
Continuously finding oneself experiencing the negative consequences over and over again interpersonally, professionally or even emotionally manifests into victim mentality. Some people persist in such behaviours even though not consciously, but sometimes to deal with deal with things that don’t go the way they are supposed to go, or to remain in their comfort zones, or to avoid being responsible for their wrong-doings. Here is how victim mindset further manifests in work life.
- A person with victim mindset can pose real problems as their negative outlook can damage workplace morale leading to unproductive behaviours thereby reducing overall productivity of a team or work place.
- People with victim mindset resort to the belief that they cannot impact their own future and so they never put in total effort in their work or goals they pursue.
- Victim mindset further impacts how they approach setbacks or challenges. Their belief that there is nothing they can do about it makes them avoid taking risks.
- They use their vicim mindset not to own up their mistakes and can blame other people or some perceived difficulty in their work or personal life.
- Some people use ‘poor me’ strategy to seek attention and validation in order to get what they want from people with poor boundaries.
- They use it to divert attention from their own behaviour or to get sympathy from others to justify their negative behaviours or actions.
- People with victim mindset cannot be trusted with important tasks or responsibility for an outcome because of their external locus of control where they believe in fate, luck or other people’s behaviour.
You know you are dealing with victim mindset if a person in your personal or professional life regularly displays some or all of the following traits.
- Dwelling on negativity and continually putting him or herself down.
- Having an excuse for never taking an initiative.
- Frequently blaming, attacking or accusing others when things go wrong.
- Evade responsibility for their actions.
- Emotionally manipulate to control others.
- React negatively to constructive criticism.
- Carry a negative attitude like, ‘world is mostly unfair’, ‘life is against me’ or ‘poor me’.
- Seeing problems as catastrophe and blowing them out of proportion.
How to deal with people of victim mentality
So, how to deal with someone who perpetually plays the victim whenever they get in trouble in personal or professional situations? Handling them can be particularly difficult because playing victim is sometimes habitual and sometimes is manufactured or situational. So, directly confronting their behaviour only reinforces their victimhood. Here are few ways to handle someone who always plays a victim.
Don’t validate victim mindset
Listen with empathy to understand their despair and unfairness of it all, but at the same time, you shouldn’t let yourself dragged into their ‘woe is me’ attitude. Because people paying victim tend to consciously seek validation and attention, you can end up getting emotionally trapped or sucked into their negativity. Instead of reinforcing their victim mindset, redirect the conversation to something neutral without taking sides or getting emotional. Reaffirming their distorted view of reality only encourages their feelings of victimhood. Rather than give into their learned helplessness, you can help them realise possible solutions by helping them choose differently.
Reinforce personal accountability
Some of their victim behaviour is because they’ve given up on some possibility they saw or it can be that they resorted to victimhood for its benefits. Instead of giving into their sense of feeling right, make them accountable by assigning them to tasks or giving them responsibilities by ascertaining that there is no room for failure and that they are responsible for completion can help reinforce personal accountability. If they feel their victim mindset is because they are unappreciated at work, make them confident by letting them know the amount of confidence you have in their ability to overcome challenges or problems that arise, on their own.
Set personal boundaries
When you are spending a lot of time around someone with a person who plays the victim, setting personal boundaries is necessary to avoid unnecessary accusations, or feelings of frustration and stress. Drawing boundaries can help you detach from their negativity. Setting clear boundaries alert you to emotional manipulation. Setting clear standards of behaviour and performance makes them comply to deadlines for tasks or projects. Helping and supporting them in the process of achieving the set goals can help them understand that not everyone is out to get them and could give them confidence in assuming the responsibility for their outcomes.
Resist your urge to rescue
It is quite natural for you to jump into rescuer mode and tend to act like rescuers by setting them free from consequences of their actions or obligation or responsibility. This might help with people who are genuinely victims, but the person playing the victim doesn’t want you to do so and he or she is only interested in complaining or to tell you everything that’s wrong in their life. They don’t want to solve their problems because that would undermine their sense of being a victim. Trying to solve their problems will only results in validating their victimhood. Instead, providing them a context for self-reflection can encourage them to commit themselves to take an effective action.
When you are dealing with a victim, genuine or someone who plays a victim, labelling them or directly confronting their behaviour only makes them defensive. If the person seems pretty set on their being victim, it’s best to avoid referring to them as “She is such a victim”, “I don’t want to deal with them” or taking anything they say as complaining or whining. For instance, instead of saying “you are always playing the victim!”, you could say; “It feels like you are pretty set on there not being a solution, do you want to figure out a solution? “ or “How about this different way of being or looking at your situation?” This gives them an opportunity to reflect on other possibilities and what can they do differently.
Questions for self-reflection
How do you manage people who always play the victim ?
Do you have an internal or external locus of control?
How would your life be different if you stopped validating your or other’s victim mentality?
Do you believe positive events in your life are mainly due to luck , chance or choice?
How quickly you give up or blame others when you experience a setback or a problem?
Do you take personal responsibility for your choices and mistakes?
How often do you centre conversations around your problems or struggles?
Victim mindset can be quite distressing and creates problems, both for those living with it and for the people around them. People who play the victim not only damage productivity of workplaces, but also their personal or professional relationships. If you have people in your life who always plays a victim, use above strategies to set clear boundaries instead of getting dragged into their self-pity. By bringing up their specific behaviours, you can urge them to make small mindset shifts to empower themselves.