The Victim

Several years ago, I witnessed an intriguing keynote speech from Keith Ferrazzi. He is not the victim. He is a media star and an author of a business self-help book entitled Never Eat Alone. Keith is a master networker, and the book is a good reminder of how to improve one’s approach to person-to-person interaction. Helping others is THE critical value of our time. The more you support people, the more likely others value your relationship. Multiply that by your number of acquaintances, colleagues, and friends, and the more value you are to the world.

Today, in keeping with the spirit of the Ferrazzi book, I weathered a lunch with a colleague, Maryanne. I occasionally worked with her years ago. Recently, I heard of a company I knew looking to hire, and I thought of her. I figured I could help. Long story short she is a lot of work. Thus, I am hesitant to recommend her for the job.

The Victim

Becoming the victim seems more and more like an American pastime. Entitlement is not just a typical Millennial trait. It belongs to the Gen-Xers, too. And, lately, I’ve heard from victimized Boomers claiming defeat due mostly to their lack of planning for the future. Today, though, Maryanne is the perfect victim with her “it’s not my fault” or “I can’t help it, it’s my boss.” This afternoon the big excuse was “I can’t be held responsible for how I feel.” These are the flags now flying from the towers of our post-responsible culture.

We all enable victimization to a certain extent. I know it first-hand. I wallowed in the middle of it once. Indeed, sometimes there are forces beyond our control.

Achieving stable relationships and healthy connections come from people who know they, alone, create their own emotions and attitudes. Situations don’t cause one to feel anything; people, themselves, do. I learned that years ago from divorce therapy and listening to Dr. Laura. In fact, Dr. Laura says, “the people and circumstances around me do not make me what I am, they reveal who I am.” Exactly!

Listen to President Trump in a mixed crowd. Inevitably, there are three types of people; irritated, hopeful, and indifferent. The President isn’t the cause of those feelings. It is the perceptions brought on by each determining their unique beliefs.

Maryanne has a lot to deal with, for sure. We all create certain expectations to live well in the real world. There needs to be a balance between those expectations and an understanding of what one can and cannot control. My hope is she can learn and not repeat bad habits.

Our collective, American mental health in the next few decades hinges on our willingness to take ownership and be accountable for our happiness. Regardless of the actions of others, we can remain caring, empowered, and happy.

Mr. Ferrazzi doesn’t talk about it in those words in his book. But, he does talk about a couple of points (and I’m paraphrasing here):

  • Relationships are living, breathing things. If one is worthy of the time, then you should be willing to help make that person successful. If they flourish, you flourish. There is no victim in mutual successes.
  • Some audacity is good. Be upfront and ask for things that help you succeed. It is a ‘no’ anyway, unless you ask. Waiting around for handouts is playing the victim role.
  • Network well. Don’t gossip. Give something away to help. Be transparent and genuine.
  • Be interesting. Ask questions. Learn things. Move forward, not backward. Victims don’t move forward.
  • Help out others. And, seek out help from others. Help.
  • Make! (This one is mine.) Create!