Paula works in a male-dominated service industry setting where each person is responsible for his own business, but the group operates out of the same building. She is the only woman.
Several months ago, Paula realized that she had to stop complaining that the “good ol’ boy” network wasn’t sending referrals her way. She decided to stop waiting, to step into her power as a business-owner, and start creating her own outcomes by upleveling her marketing, her brand, and her clients’ experience.
Well, guess what? It’s working.
She has already doubled the TOTAL number of clients she had last year, her team is happier – and she’s in control of her business for the first time in a long time.
Recently, Paula found herself confronted by the aforementioned men who weren’t particularly happy to discover the extra work she’d done on herself and her business. Although Paula hadn’t violated any rules, her male colleagues positioned themselves as victims to her newfound success. They accused her of not honoring “the group.”
Now, in situations like this, most of us react. We hear the accusations and we can’t help ourselves. We rush away from our power and rush toward the drama. We want everyone to know that we, in fact, are the victim here!
So, Paula’s response to these men was the same response many of us would give:
“Sure, you can say we’re a ‘group,’ but none of you were referring anyone to me – so I had no choice but to do something about it.” (In other words, they were the perpetrators in the first place! Paula was forced to react to their bad behavior!)
Eventually, she made it through the conflict, but there were still hard feelings and she felt a little bruised by the conversation.
Here’s what I told Paula:
When you begin upleveling, the people in your life often do not know how to face the truth of their own feelings or reactions, so they might try to “hook” you with drama. They may accuse you of causing harm to them, rather than claiming their own feelings. It can catch you off guard – and suddenly, you find that, instead of standing in your power, you want them to know that it’s YOU who is the victim.
Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level – one of the best books I read last year – calls this “racing to occupy the victim position in the relationship.” He writes that almost every argument among couples is about this dynamic of trying to be the victim. (Just think of how many times you hear someone say to his spouse, “Well, YOU’RE the one who…”)
Even though Paula wasn’t arguing with her spouse here, she did catch herself racing to the victim position. She had stepped out of her power and her personal responsibility. (And her truth.)
It’s understandable, of course. But you can handle conflict, or even criticism, while staying centered and clear. Here’s what to do:
1 – Get present.
When you are caught “off guard,” it means that your attention is not where it needs to be. In any situation where someone steps into accusing you or hooking you into a drama, the very first thing to do is call on your most powerful tool: Your attention. This is the time for high alert. Be fully in your body and call your attention to the present moment.
2 – Put off the conversation for 24 hours.
When the time comes for your response, you can thank the person for their observations and let them know that you’d like to address each one, but that you would like to schedule time later in the week. Schedule a time, and assure the person that you will be able to give him a higher level of attention when you meet.
3 – Remember the drama triangle.
Many people spend their entire lives moving from position to position on the drama triangle. The drama triangle consists of 3 positions: perpetrator, victim and rescuer. Stay aware of this and get clear on your response by making sure that you are not playing into the drama triangle. Step out of it and find a more powerful platform to speak from!
4 – Take time to explore the accusations.
When you are quiet and centered, ask yourself if there was any truth in the accusations. If there were highly-charged accusations, be sure to use language that is neutral. See if you can find any lesson or truth in what was said.
5 – Share your intentions. Admit your mistakes.
When the time comes, start by thanking the person for his observations. Tell him you’d like to address each point he made and ask him if he’d be willing to listen until you are complete.
Then, share your intentions and frame them from a place of your own power and creativity.
Next, admit where you might have messed up or could have done something better.
The end result will be a higher level of communication and resolution.
The coolest thing about NOT racing for the victim position is that you learn how to handle yourself OUTSIDE of the drama triangle. You learn that there is a more powerful way to respond than the knee-jerk methods that have been modeled for us all our lives.
Note: This is a topic people rarely talk about when it comes to their work in the world, so please add your thoughts, experiences or questions below. I’d love to chat with you about this!
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