In our last two essays, we wrote about how to shift from two of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) roles to the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® roles:   Victim to Creator and Rescuer to Coach.  This week we tackle the third role shift:  Persecutor to Challenger.

Many people tell us they resist embracing the Challenger role because they view it as risky, fearing that others might see them as demanding or pushy.  Once people understand the Challenger role, we have found these fears disappear.

The shift from Persecutor to Challenger starts inside oneself, because we humans have a strong tendency to judge and be critical of ourselves.

The “look for what’s wrong” trait – which helped our distant ancestors survive by being sensitive to danger – can get turned inward and become your inner-Persecutor if you are not conscious of how this human default system works.  The inner-Persecutor views itself as “the problem” and the internal chatter becomes:  “What’s wrong with me?” Or, “Why aren’t I prettier or more successful than others?”

Here are a few insights to support your inner-shift from Persecutor to Challenger:

  1. Give yourself a break. Life is challenging enough without piling on more self-criticism and judgment.
  2. Cultivate compassion toward yourself. Growth and change are not easy.  As you become more compassionate toward yourself you will naturally become more compassionate toward others.
  3. Embrace learning as a way of life. An attitude of continuous learning seeds the Challenger in you to take root.  Our favorite Challenger question is: “What has this experience come into my life to teach me?”

There is also an external shift from Persecutor to Challenger.  This involves learning to challenge others. When in the Challenger role, you become a catalyst for learning and do so from a “learning intent.” Challengers also are willing to stand for a vision and what they believe in, even in the midst of chaos and change. They are often called the “truth-tellers.”

We’ve all had a Challenger in our life at some point:  a teacher, boss, or grandparent—-someone who delivered the rock-solid truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not.  They challenged you because they cared about your learning.

While Persecutors want to control uncertainty, the Challenger is committed to learning and growth as a continuous process of life, even when the destination is not clear.

Here are a few suggestions to cultivate being a Challenger in relationship to others:

  1. See the other as a Creator – whether they know it or act like it.
  2. Ask, what is my intention? Is your intention to put down and blame or, to build up and support others?
  3. Embrace your values. Challengers are guided by integrity.  They know what they value and believe and are unafraid to state it.
  4. Cultivate compassion – again! Just like with the internal shift, having compassion for others that learning and growth is not always fun and easy, allows the other to feel supported.
  5. Focus on outcomes while being unattached to how you would do “it.” Again, as a Creator, they are capable to guide their own learning.
  6. Hold them as responsible and accountable for their choices and actions, including the consequences that result.

A word of caution here—you can never guarantee how others see you.  Your intention may be to Challenge without blame or judgement, but you cannot guarantee others will always see you that way.  Don’t let this possibility deter you from this powerful shift.

And finally, observing role models that you admire can help support your shift from Persecutor to Challenger.  Who are those people you look up to that are willing to be courageous Challengers without blame or judgment?  How might you lean-in to becoming more of what you admire in them?