Join Fred Kofman for an in-depth discussion in this video Empowering others to be players and heroes, part of Powerless to Powerful: Taking Control.
- The first temptation is to be a victim. It feels so good. It's so easy to fall into that, that most people live in that state. Hopefully by now you're aware that that's dangerous. And you will have the disciple not to fall into that temptation. But the second temptation, which is perhaps even worse than the first, is to give advice to people not to be victims. And that's what I want to alert you now about. Because it is so easy to say oh, now I learned this and now I'm going to be-- I'm going to teach the world not to be victims.
And then you just go around pointing, oh you're a victim, and you're a victim, and you're a victim, and oh that's a victim. And it's very, very damaging. Don't do it. You know, I rarely give prescriptions, but I'm going to give you one prescription: do not do that. That's insulting, it's not going to help anybody else, and you lose all your friends. It's not funny. You may think oh, now I got it. I want to enlighten other people, but that just doesn't work. So instead of the temptation to judge people and say oh, you're a victim, and use this distinction ruthlessly or with cruelty, I want to encourage you to use it with compassion.
There's some truth of the matter, and the truth is a person is hurt. When someone does the story of the victim, they are in pain, they are suffering, something bad happened to them. So before you say anything, you have to listen. You have to listen empathically, you have to understand what happened to them, you have to realize that they're in pain. And then the key question is, how do you do that without creating this codependence? Without colluding with them and giving them the so-called drug.
Like, don't become their drug dealer to say, oh I'm going to soothe you by siding with you and blaming the outside. Because that's in essence what they're asking you to do. They're saying oh, wasn't that person terrible? Look what they did to me. And you feel the desire to support them, but real support is not to fall into the temptation of being victims with them. But real support is also not go back and say, hey you're being a victim. That's not cool. Stop being a victim, take responsibility. You contributed to create that.
Because that is cruel. That will upset them and it will shut them down and they won't listen to you anymore. So the last thing I'd like to recommend, or how to help you do, is to engage with them in a conversation that pivots from being a victim to being a player and from being a player to adding this dimension of heroism that we've talked about. How do you do that? Well you have to do couple two things. The truth of the external situation and the truth of the internal pain from the untruth that that is all there is to it.
That is not true. It's true that traffic is there. It's true that I'm anxious because I am late, but it's not true that there's nothing I can do about that. You may not be able to do anything about traffic, and you may not be able to do anything about your anxiety in the moment. But you're able to pick up a phone and call and say look, I'm late, how can we deal with this? There's always something you can do. So how do you do this with another person when they are telling a victim story. Well you listen. And you ask them and how do you feel about that? Then they'll be able to say, oh I feel bad because of this.
And then you generally express your empathy, your sorrow. I mean, if you care about the person and they are in pain, it's okay, you will feel some sorrow too. But then after that, you ask a very simple question. It's just one pivotal question. Would you like to do something about this? And the person will be a little shocked. Well what do you mean? Yeah, I mean, you've told me what happened to you, and I realize that it's painful, but is there something you would like to do to make it better? Most people will say yes.
In fact, I never use the language of the victim and the player except to teach the material. It's a useful language to present the distinction, but I never tell people oh that's a victim story or that's a player story. I simply ask is there something you'd like to do about this? And most people say yes, I don't know what to do. No, but I'm not asking if you know what to do, I'm simply asking would you like to do something. And everybody I ask the question, the moment I ask the question it's obvious the answer is yes. If you're suffering, you'd like to do something about it. And then the question is, well let's think about it, how could you do something? What could you do? What's within your control to respond to this situation? And shifting to a future focus, so instead of looking back at what happened, shifting to what could you do to make it better in the future opens a whole new conversation.
And then asking and what would you need to do to be proud of yourself? Even if you can't accomplish what you need or what you want, is it possible for you to feel strong and proud because you did the right thing? Everybody will say yes. So, victim, player, and hero are for you and I. You and me, we can discuss this, we can talk about how we learned this, but let's not take it out into the world as a way to beat people up. It's not a stake or just some sort of weapon to make people feel bad or chastise them.
This is a distinction to open new possibilities. And the possibility requires empathy, understanding the pain, and then shifting the backward looking towards forward looking and creating a sense of empowerment in the person. When you can do that, you may not have as many friends as you get by distributing the drug our victim hold. But the friends you have will thank you for life.