Are You the Victim or the Villain?
I know Halloween is right around the corner, but that doesn’t mean you get to play the Victim or Villain role more frequently. Do you ever hear yourself saying, “It’s not my fault.”? This is the Victim playing its part. Or, do you ever hear yourself saying, “It’s all your fault.”? This is the Villain in action.
The more responsibility you take over your actions, even the ones you are not proud of, the more control over your own life and outcomes you will have. Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler (2002) talk about the Victim and Villain roles in their book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.
Depending on what context you are in, you may play different roles. For example, in your marriage you may play the Villain role where you are consistently assuming that your partner has bad motives for their actions.
For instance, if you promised to pick up something after work and forgot and you get home and your spouse asks you for XYZ, if your reaction is “You never understand how busy I am! You don’t care about what I do and how stressed out I am! You are so inconsiderate and not helpful,” you have used the Villain role.
The reality is, you promised to pick up XYZ after work. I understand that you are stressed but you made a commitment. If you didn’t come through, fine, but you can’t turn someone else into the problem because you didn’t commit as promised. Instead, acknowledge that you forgot, were wrong, etc., and then step back and assess how you can approach the fact that you need more support. Also, as you step back instead of lashing out, take this time to assess your priorities and life roles. Maybe there are areas that you need to cut back in life because of the choices you made, the boundaries you did not set, or the times you said “yes” to tasks that you know you shouldn’t have taken on. This may have nothing to do with your spouse. Take control of your life by avoiding using the Villain role.
Perhaps outside of the home you are the Victim. According to Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler (2002), when you play the Victim role you are exaggerating your own innocence. For example, in the workplace you come to find out that you were again passed up for a promotion. You have been at this place of employment for three years and you feel you deserve it over Adam who just received a promotion after being with the company for only nine months.
However, in this deceiving Victim role you play so well, as you tell other people about your “tragedy,” you leave out details that might discredit your Victim role. For example, the fact that you are late at least two times per week, you dropped the ball on a major project that your boss gave you last month, and you are the office drama and gossip, not to mention that you use every sick day you have as soon as you earn it. It is obvious why you did not get the promotion, but instead, you tell everyone only facts that support and highlight why you should have received the promotion and “forget” to tell everything else.
Instead of putting yourself in a helpless Victim role, take this time to complete an honest self-reflection and start looking at yourself through a different lens. What can you improve on? What strengths do you have? How can you take responsibility and control over your life to start aligning more in a direction of fulfillment and better outcomes? Take control of your life by avoiding using the Victim role.
The problem with the Victim and Villain roles is that you are taking personal control away from your life and passing it to someone else. At the same time, you are also ruining relationships with spouses, family coworkers and bosses. Instead of retreating from a situation to think about how you should approach a mistake you or someone else made, you are reacting first. This shows lack of self-control as you are letting strong emotions control you. Remember the order of action when you are upset is to first Retreat, then Rethink and always last, React.
So, which are you, the Victim or the Villain? When are you the Victim? When are you the Villain?
This week take time to reflect on which roles you play most often and when. How can you take control back and kick both the Victim and the Villain to the curb?