In Jim’s previous post, he discussed The Grand Crisis Response Management Strategy: 5 Crucial, Time-Sensitive Steps that End All Crises. In continuing the segment on what to do during and after a crisis, Jim’s newest post is;
OK, So You Have Lots of Enemies & People Mad at You: 5 Ways to Wage Peace; 4 Things Victims Need That Will Help You Sleep Better at Night.
The weakest areas of management knowledge and leadership come to the fore when there are victims, angry people and emotions are running high.
The problem with creating victims, enemies and critics, is that perpetrator behavior makes them generally angry forever. It seems like critics never die and lie in wait to mess up your life, your ambitions, and your future dreams at the most inconvenient moments.
Victims are created by perpetrators, not by chance. Stop believing that they create themselves.
Restoring the victimized to some state of neutrality is a challenge. Remember, a victim remains a victim until they decide to move on. The best you can hope for, despite grandiose PR schemes you may hear spun, is that you can behave, interact and reconcile enough for these people and groups to simply go home, begin their own recovery, and leave you alone. Anyone who tells you that you can make advocates out of your adversaries has never had real enemies, or is smoking something. This transformation is simply too much to hope for. The goal is to neutralize the afflicted, for their own benefit, so they can go focus on someone else.
Stopping the production of enemies, angry people, victims and managing the issues victims present requires five powerful behaviors:
1. Acknowledging victimization: Stop fighting it; stop doubting it. If someone sounds like a victim, acts like a victim, appears to be a victim, you’d be wise to treat them accordingly.
Want to fail? Try to explain why they can’t be victims and why you are not a perpetrator.
2. Constructive persistence: The three manifestations of victimization:
- Intellectual deafness
- Continually re-asking the same questions
- Pretty much chewing on you and what you care about 24/7
They are powerful because they confound the rational root cause approach management uses to find a single underlying factor that will respond to a perfectly thought out solution. The strategy is to continually suggest helpful approaches, thoughtful ideas and doable steps to take to resolve elements of victimization, rather than the silver bullet, single, totally rational solution.
Want to fail? Get irritated because the victims repeatedly ask the same questions, even though you’ve answered them many times before.
3. Relentless engagement: Management’s reaction to anything they feel is irrational is to counter with over-rationality, data, facts, third party validation, all in an effort to avoid having any real contact, conversation or confrontation. Facts never speak for themselves. To the victims, only lies lie in the data. Relentless engagement fosters incremental, mutual solution-finding and ultimately some reason to reconcile.
Want to fail? Stay away and shun contact. Do another study that shows you really are smarter than they are.
4. Aim for reconciliation: This is really a form of outcome-focused thinking. Decide what the most constructive, ultimate goal is and do everything in your power to move in that direction, and everything else in your power to stop those things that prolong victimization.
Want to fail? Try to impose solutions without victim participation or permission.
5. Wage peace: To gain peace, you have to wage peace. Anything other than waging peace muddies the waters, confuses everyone – even supporters – and prolongs the agony for everyone.
Stop waging war. Stop waging aggravation. Stop waging contention. Wage peace instead.
Want to fail? Start by threatening, degrading, discrediting and doubting. You will lose.
OK, I know you don’t feel that you’re a perpetrator. You feel that criticism of you in this way is unfounded and unfair. But once the situation of active conflict and confrontation arises, your definition, your excuses, your denial, and your refusal to acknowledge no longer matters. It’s what the victims want, need and expect that matters most. The longer you wait, the more pain and suffering that is inflicted, the more difficult it is to get to peace, to get to forgiveness, to get your life back on track.
From my experience, and the literature of victims and observing the failed efforts of so many, so often, it’s pretty evident that victims require four things to begin their process of healing, from their perspective:
1. Validation: Acknowledgement, preferably by the perpetrator, that the individual or individuals who are suffering are actually the victims of your behavior or someone else’s behavior or actions. That they’re not making it up; their pain and suffering is real. At least acknowledge their suffering.
2. Visibility: Victims need to speak about their pain and suffering, and who caused it. This means they want to talk about you. Your failure to help them talk about their pain and suffering, and identify you and others directly with what they’re experiencing, will only further energize and emotionalize what’s going on. Help them talk about their troubles.
3. Vindication: When you change your policies, or your attitudes, or your expectations, victims want to get proper credit for having caused this, “so my daughter did not die for nothing.” Pushing back, refusing to acknowledge that they had some significant role in your change of behavior, approach, language and attitude, simply re-victimizes them and akes them more recalcitrant and more emotionally active against you. Let them win one, or more.
4. Apology: Apology (See The Perfect Apology) is the atomic energy of empathy. When a genuine apology is offered, bad things start to stop happening almost immediately. Talk to any victim, even those suing for hundreds of millions of dollars, and they will tell you that the money really doesn’t matter. Their attorneys said, “A bigger number gets you more attention and a bigger settlement.” Yes, more attention, but a bigger ettlement is unlikely.
All victims really want is the perpetrator to stand up, admit what they did and everybody can go home pretty much in one piece. The victims are still going to file claims and seek recovery, but they are unlikely to sue in an aggressive do-or-die circumstance to destroy your reputation.
Get Over It, Nobody Knows or Cares that You’re Suffering, Stop Whining
Move on. If you’re suffering, understand that suffering is something you do by yourself. The rest of us could care less.
Ancient Polish Proverb:
If you try to share your suffering, 50% of those you would try to share it with don’t care, 25% of those you try to share it with have troubles worse than yours, and the remaining 25% would probably be glad you’re suffering when you’re suffering.
Everyone I work with comes to me because someone is angry with them, frequently with very good reason. Most smart people are reluctant to move in the direction I’m advocating at first. Once they do, one of the most common comments they make to me is, “I’m sleeping again.” Get a good night’s sleep, reconcile, say yes a lot, think about apologizing but at least be extremely empathetic, and wage peace, so peace can return to your valley and to your life.
Give peace a chance and you’ll sleep a lot better tomorrow tonight.
About the Author:
James (Jim) E. Lukaszewski (Loo-ka-SHEV-skee) is one of America’s most visible corporate go-to people for senior executives when there is trouble in the room or on the horizon. As America’s Crisis Guru®, Lukaszewski is known for his ability to help executives look at problems from a variety of sensible, constructive and principled perspectives. He has spent his career counseling leaders of all types who face challenging situations that often involve conflict, controversy, community action or activist opposition. He is known for taking a business approach rather than traditional PR strategies by teaching clients to take highly focused, ethically appropriate action. He is a consummate storyteller.
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