Have you noticed that there are people that enjoy throwing personal pity parties? They have mastered the skill of entertaining others using the theme of “poor me”, “why me” and “it’s not fair”!
If you show an interest in their situation and try to assist them to change or move forward, they give you reasons why they can’t; how everything that has, or is happening to them is someone else’s fault and, yes, even the universe is conspiring against them. If you don’t discern they have a scheme and a plan to draw others in but not to change, you may well be their next victim, or party guest.
At the risk of sounding heartless, let me offer some practical suggestions for helping those who are trapped in a self-pity cycle by showing them empathy, not sympathy –that’s fuel for the fire, and assisting them to rise out of the pit of despair, if they’re willing to move.
Leading With Empathy:
- Show empathy based on what can be identified as “objective” – facts, events, situations that you can both agree are not feelings based.
- Are they prepared to consider options or actions that they can engage in to change or improve their situation? Get a “yes” or “no” response- this is important because you may have to come back to what they said to remind them of their decision.
- Work with them to determine what they can or should do, where they can change to improve their situation. Identify 2-3 specific things that you will hold them accountable for. Don’t move on until you have that defined.
- Ask if are they are willing to be accountable to you? If yes, set goals with them that they can realistically achieve (some stretching may be required) and then schedule a time to meet and check in. (If they don’t want to be accountable don’t get sucked into being a permanent guest at their party.)
The person needs to “want” to change otherwise you are one more person they have captured in their negative emotional trap. I’ve learned from coaching for many years that those people that just want to blame others for their situation, get sympathy and not change are like energy sink holes. The best thing you can do is to try and help them see their situation and be willing to accept input and then begin the change process. That’s how you can demonstrate empathy and compassion by helping them move forward.
Here is a quick video from Ralph on this topic.
If you determine someone is not willing to change or accept your support, send them a sympathy card and move on.