Have you ever stepped back and reflected on the tone and quality of the conversations you have with coworkers, friends, or family members? It’s amazing how much time and effort goes into talking about what’s wrong with this, or what we don’t like about that.
We call such interactions the “Kinship of Victimhood.” One definition of kinship is “relationship through common characteristics or a common origin.” It is all-too-easy for us to reinforce complaints we hear from others, and collude with them in “ain’t it awful” discussions.
Let’s face it: we have all participated in such conversations. They are common with almost any subject: the weather; the economy; global climate change; world affairs. The list is endless.
Nowhere is this more prevalent these days as in the realm of politics!
Recently, David attended a gathering of voters to meet-and-greet a candidate running for our city council. As people gathered, he listened to several conversations taking place around him. Almost all of them were focused on this or that issue that people were against and many of them included railing against certain national political figures. Because so many who were gathering were of “like mind” on their views, they seemed to “pile on” and collude with one another in staying focused on what they didn’t want or like.
Such an emphasis is a great example of the first of the 3 Vital Questions® framework: Where are you putting your focus? Are you focusing on Problems or on Outcomes?
This kinship does serve a purpose. It is a way of connecting; a way of relating; and many times, a way of coping. We see the positive side of the Kinship of Victimhood when we read or hear about neighbors coming together in times of disaster or threat. Sharing their feeling of victimization and their stories with this year’s hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires can help people heal from their trauma.
The “shadow” of this kinship is that if this is the only way you relate to your life experience, over time it will reinforce your sense of victimhood—as a role and way of being—by heightening the focus on victimizing experiences and perpetuate the problem-focused Victim Orientation.
This is not to deny the reality of problems that arise which we must create solutions to. However, all good problem solving begins by focusing on the outcome we want to create that solving the problem will make possible.
As Creators, we are called to move our conversations beyond the Kinship of Victimhood. We do so by focusing our attention on what we want to create and/or how we choose to respond to the situations in which we find ourselves.
When you find yourself facing an “invitation” to engage in a Kinship of Victimhood conversation, you can influence moving beyond it by trying the following two steps:
- Acknowledge the emotion behind their complaint. For instance, “I can tell you are really frustrated by (fill in the blank).” This allows the other(s) to feel seen and heard.
- Step into the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® Coach role and ask a question or two about what it is they care about that has them triggered by the situation. Having identified what it is they want, how they might choose to respond to the situation that moves in that direction. This can be an effective way to “invite” them to shift their focus to what they care about and want (i.e. Outcome[s]).
While this is not a failsafe method to move beyond the Kinship of Victimhood (some people choose to stay rooted in their “poor-me” focus), it allows you to stay centered as a Creator. You are then at choice as to whether or not you stay in the conversation.