Victim language is the antithesis of leadership language. When you want to empower someone who talks like a victim, you need to tread lightly. Misguided efforts can entrench someone in their victimhood all the more. Find out how to empower leadership language.
A dynamic leader is someone who empowers others to speak like leaders. There’s a saying that if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it probably is a duck. If you walk like a dynamic leader and talk like a dynamic leader, people will regard you as a dynamic leader. And if you don’t, they won’t. And may the walk precede the talk.
Our developing leaders need dynamic language skills that reflect a higher leadership level. This section develops language habits to clearly reflect high levels of leadership that emerging leaders are developing.
When we see ourselves as victims of circumstances, other people, lack of resources, or some other obstacle, it is impossible to move on and solve the problem. Sometimes we don’t realize when we are seeing ourselves as a victim, but our language will reveal unconscious views. If you mentor, lead or manage someone who sounds stuck, here are some phrases to move things forward.
You’re talking like you have no power in this situation. Tell me what options you have.
It seems you are playing the victim here, but I believe you always have choices and you always have power, let’s explore those.
What are you going to do about that?
Who controls the story you’re telling? When you resist them, they still define you. How can you make the story your own?
Many teachers have signs that read, “Would you like some cheese with that whine?” Many leaders wish they had that sign! The difference between a complaint and a request and between stating a problem and whining about the situation lies in wording and intent. The information is often the very same. If you mentor, lead or manage someone who seems to whine, here are some phrases for you.
Our words signal whether we’ve overcome a school child mentality of looking to the teacher for all the answers and taken responsibility and ownership for our lives and decisions. When we hear our emerging leaders speak as if they are looking outside of themselves for answers and solutions, these phrases will help them redirect their language from follower language into collaborative leadership language.
There is a delicate balance between being a self-defined person and being a rigid closed book. The previous section aims at getting emerging leaders to stand up in an empowered way, but not to wield power or be controlling. Should your emerging leaders err on the side of rigidity and aggression, these phrases will help you guide them back to a more collaborative communication style that invites input from others without abdication.
These phrases are adapted from the book Perfect Phrases for Developing Dynamic Leaders by myself and Wendy Mack. You can find many more in that book.