If you are reading this, you probably have someone in your life who truly believes the world is against them.
It could be a friend, a co-worker, a family member, or your significant other.
We all have to deal with it at some stage.
The first time I encountered this was with a university friend who never failed to complain about the great injustices of the world. Well, his world.
One day, his father was to blame for his misfortune. The next day, it was the lecturer who misunderstood his paper. Another day, it was another friend who made him feel bad.
Honestly, it was everything and anything.
While I wanted to make things better, I simply couldn’t. I consoled him by agreeing. I tried to be a problem-solver by offering solutions. I tried tough love and gave him some hard truths.
Did it work?
Nothing seemed to work, and in the end, I could no longer put up with his victim mindset. We cut ties.
This may sound harsh, but that’s often what happens when someone constantly plays the victim. It’s draining and can easily push us to our limits.
There are better ways to deal with this kind of behavior, however, as I have learned over the years since then.
Today, we dive into five smart things you can do. I wish I’d known these all those years ago.
1) Listen to understand
I’ll be the first to admit that this was something I lacked when dealing with the situation I mentioned in the opening.
I was listening…but to respond.
I was preparing to complain about whoever the villain was that day or thinking of ways to solve the problem.
However, to really get to the bottom of the issue, we must listen to understand. We need to genuinely focus on what they are saying and do our best to be empathetic.
While this may seem like a simple tip, it’s incredibly important as it is a prerequisite to all of the following strategies on this list.
So now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s get into the meat of it.
When we have really listened, how do we respond?
That’s where this next point comes in.
2) Acknowledge their feelings without validating them
When trying to make my friend feel better all those years ago, I started by agreeing with him because I thought it was what he wanted to hear.
I jumped on the victim bus and cursed out the lecturer or criticized his parents, girlfriend, or whoever.
But I now realize this was the wrong approach. I was an enabler.
Sounds obvious, right?
It is. To be honest, I probably knew it was the wrong approach at the time, but it was the path of least resistance.
It can be easy to fall into this trap.
So what can we do then?
Acknowledge their feelings without validating them. We can let people know that we are listening to them without enabling their victim mindset.
Focus on how they feel rather than the situation in question.
Instead of saying, “Yeah, that’s really unfair,” we can change it to “I can see how you feel that way” or “It sounds like it has been stressful for you.”
By doing this, we avoid reinforcement of their victim mentality but can still show we are there for them.
3) Ask questions
“The right question can open doors and allow people to explore what was once stymied, shut down, or blocked off.”
Sharon Salzberg, Best-selling author & meditation teacher
It’s easy, as I did, to jump to suggesting solutions, but it rarely helps.
Most often, perpetual victims don’t want solutions.
They may act like they appreciate your suggestions, but the truth is, they don’t want to solve the issue. They like being the victim and passing the responsibility for their happiness onto others.
You may have noticed the constant victim is never to blame. They will have many excuses but rarely show any accountability.
Once you realize this, there is then a great temptation to lay some hard truths on them.
We might feel the urge to tell them to get over it, to point out their mistakes, or to tell them that life isn’t fair and they should get over it.
I did that. It ruined a friendship.
And I didn’t regret it, then.
At the time, I was so sick and tired of listening to my friend banging on about his constant misfortune. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I didn’t know a better way to solve it.
Is there a better way?
You see, those who play the victim often don’t want to be told what to do, but by asking questions, we can help them to come to their own conclusions.
I know it sounds a little new age, but asking questions that focus on their feelings rather than the situation can help them to engage in self-reflection rather than self-pity.
Questions like“Why do you feel that way?”, “Are these emotions helping or hurting you?” can help to put a stop to the blame game and encourage self-reflection.
Moving away from the personal can also be helpful to give some perspective. You might want to ask something like, “What would you tell me if I were in this situation?”.
You will, of course, need to change the questions depending on the situation, but make sure they encourage introspection.
It will take longer than you just dishing out some tough love, but it will have a lasting effect if you can make it work.
4) Reinforce positive behavior
When someone is constantly drowning in their own sorrows, it is draining. I know.
It is so draining, in fact, that it can be easy to tune out and overlook any positive steps they may be making.
It’s essential to be on the lookout for these, though, however rare they might be.
When dealing with someone entrenched in a victim mentality, recognizing and rewarding moments when they exhibit strength, accountability, or a forward-thinking attitude can pave the way for more constructive behavior in the future.
We often underestimate this. However, with time and patience, reinforcing positive changes in their mindset can have a compounding effect.
It’s about taking note of the small wins. Just make sure you do it in a genuine way.
I chose to leave the next point until last on this list, but it’s actually one of the most crucial things to keep in mind when dealing with someone with a victim mentality.
5) Take care of yourself
If you regularly interact with the person in your life who is a perpetual victim, it can become overbearing and impact your own mental health.
This is particularly true if that person happens to be a close friend, family member, or partner.
Remember that your own well-being is crucial and that if you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others.
Ignoring your own needs can easily lead to emotional drain, resentment, emotional outbursts, and even heartbreak.
You need to set boundaries without feeling guilty. As professor and bestselling author, Brene Brown told us:
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”
Take a break from seeing them. Engage in activities that rejuvenate you. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.
The bottom line
Dealing with someone who consistently adopts a victim mentality is exhausting.
Before you know it, you might find yourself drained of energy and empathy.
I sure have.
However, through gentle probing and positive reinforcement, you can interact with them in a more balanced and healthy way.
Make sure to remember your own well-being, too.
As always, I hope you found this post enjoyable to read and helpful.
Until next time.