Ever dealt with someone who always plays the victim?
If you’re not exhausted just reading that line, you will be after you have to spend emotional energy on someone who always plays the victim.
What does it mean to play the victim, anyway?
Before we talk about how to deal with and engage with these people, we have to understand the type of person we’re talking about.
By definition, someone who plays the victim is someone who always points the finger at someone else.
They never take responsibility for their actions or for their situation and life.
Someone who “plays the victim” is also usually not the victim.
Plenty of people have serious life stories and are victims of terrible things, but if you’re dealing with someone who plays the victim, the “play” part suggests that they’re just someone who always blames everyone else.
If you know someone in your life like this, here’s what to do.
1. Establish Healthy Boundaries
Sometimes, the problems we have in our relationships with other people has to do with a lack of boundaries on our end.
For instance, why do you have to “deal with” someone who plays the victim?
Are you letting them into your life when you would be better off disconnecting?
Are you letting their life or emotions impact you?
When we establish healthy boundaries in our friendships and relationships with family members, we essential put up a (healthy) wall in between us and how they impact our lives.
If they are critical and spewing negativity left and right, you can draw a line in the proverbial sand and refuse to stay for any more of the conversation or engage with them.
This, over time, teaches someone what we will or won’t tolerate.
Yes, I would love to hang out with you.
No, I will not stick around to chat after the meal if you spend the entire meal talking about how your life situation is everyone else’s fault.
Or I won’t even stay at all, I’ll politely excuse myself and leave.
This can be hard the first few times, when you start to set the boundaries, because people won’t be used to it, but over time, it can lead to much healthier relationships and a happier you.
2. Don’t Give Them an Easy Excuse
Any time you have to work with them or deal with them, try to not give them any easy “excuses.”
For instance, if your coworker is always late and you’re planning an event that they need to attend, make sure you have confirmation that you sent them the correct time and even added a note about how traffic is usually bad for you at that time, so you’re going to leave earlier.
Go out of your way for them to have a seamless experience on your end, so that when the time comes to play the victim because they were late, you won’t be the one blamed automatically.
This can be seen as pandering to someone, and shouldn’t be used often for close family members or people you don’t have an opportunity to disconnect from, but it can be so helpful if it’s just a coworker or acquaintance that you’re dealing with.
3. Refuse to Take the Blame
You might come under fire when something bad happens to this person.
Maybe your friend has gained 20 pounds in the last year, and suddenly it’s all your fault because you always suggest that you two meet at the Cheesecake Factory (never mind that they can say no or order something healthy).
This is just the type of thing someone who plays the victim would say, but you have to consistently refuse to take the blame if it’s not your fault.
For instance, if someone is late for a meeting and blames you because you didn’t remind them of the time, politely respond, “Respectfully, I told you the time last week and it was up to you to write it in your calendar, just like it was on me to write it in mine. I’m sorry you were late, but it isn’t my fault.”
This can be extremely jarring for someone to hear, and takes real assertiveness to say, but don’t just give in and take the blame because they have a problem taking responsibility for anything.
It’s not good for your mental health, and it’s really not great for them becoming a less annoying person either.
4. See a Therapist
Yes, one of the ways to deal with someone else is to see a therapist!
If you’re having problems in your interpersonal relationships with someone who always plays the victim, so much so that it’s weighing on you, you should consider speaking to a professional about it.
They can’t change the other person, but then, neither can you.
They can only help you change yourself with tips, techniques, and a trained listening ear to help you discover your own boundaries and help you walk through life in a positive way.
People often think that going to see a therapist is for people with serious mental health issues, but it can really help you react to people in your life and not take on their issues as your own.
5. Point Out their Behaviors in the Moment
Accusing someone of “always playing the victim” isn’t helpful.
Not only are they likely going to be defensive, but it doesn’t help call out the particular behavior.
The best thing to do is, in the moment, address it.
So, for instance, if someone is at lunch with you complaining that they got fired from their job because the world is against them, their boss hates them, the traffic made them late every morning, etc, you need to say something about it then and there.
“Julie, I’m really sorry you lost your job, but I don’t think blaming other things are going to help you figure out what happened so you can get the next one. Is it possible that you weren’t well-suited to the job or should have handled things differently?”
Or just go straight in and say something harsher like, “Julie, you always blame everything else, but honestly it seems like it was due to your performance.”
This might end up in tears (they’re certainly not going to just agree with you), but if it makes you feel better by pointing it out, then go for it.
6. Have Compassion for Them
Often, someone who plays the victim does so because they have a low sense of self-worth.
It’s easier to make everything the fault of someone else rather than face their flaws or things they could be doing better.
Try and have compassion for them and why they act this way, and help them to have more life-affirming experiences and boost their self-worth in your interactions with them.
7. Cut Them Out of Your Life
Part of the boundaries you need to set may include cutting off contact with someone. You’re not obligated to keep anyone in your life, including family members.
If someone always playing the victim is becoming toxic or they’re just not at all fun to hang out with, cut them out of your life to the largest extent possible and stop interacting with them.
Life is too short to make other people’s problem your problem, and many times it is a friend or acquaintance that you can simply slowly stop responding to and not have to deal with again.
If it is a close family member, like a parent, then you can still distance yourself as much as possible and keep them at an arm’s length.
Don’t engage with them on any serious conversations, don’t give your opinions, and just keep things light and surface-level with them when you do have to deal with them.