let your clients feel like victims

Let your clients feel like victims.

It will take your further.

Here’s what I mean . . .

You probably think that it’s better to take responsibility for your life and not be a victim.

You might even secretly feel disgusted by people who ‘play the victim card’ all the time. You might have it in your mind that people who play victim to the world are weak, annoying and huge energy drains. You might be sick of listening to them whine all the time. You might wish your clients would finally just be ready to take responsibility for their lives. Good god.

And I want to suggest that your judgments of them might actually be what’s killing your marketing.

Let’s ignore, for a moment, the irony of feeling like you’re a victim of the constant whining of these other people who play victim. Let’s put aside the doublestandard of saying, ‘my clients victim story is totally getting in the way of my healing them with my awesome healing powers (or insert whatever it is you do that you think their victimhood stops you from doing)!’ It’s amazing how easy it can be to feel like a victim of other people’s victimhood.

When you come from a place of judging their victimhood then you’re going to shame them and make them wrong. And that feels awful to receive.

What if instead of judging the places they feel like a victim you honoured it? What if you could just honour that it is the truth of how they feel.

What if honouring where they are was different from agreeing with them or enabling them? What if, instead of saying, ‘you shouldn’t feel like a victim’ you said, ‘I get it. It can be so hard sometimes. That must feel frustrating. How is it for you?’

I’d even go a step further: don’t wait for them to whine – search for it in advance. Ask yourself, ‘What do my clients feel like they’re a victim of in their life?’ And then, instead of rolling your eyes, could you actually offer them help there – right at that sore and scary place in their life where they feel out of control.

What if their victimhood racket wasn’t in the way of you helping them, what if it was the way?

What if their victimhood wasn’t a wall, but the doorway in?

Imagine someone doing renovations on their home and feeling so overwhelmed and daunted thinking, ‘this isn’t fair! It’s so expensive! I don’t even know where to start!’ and  just collapsing emotionally but then they walk into a Home Depot and they see a sign for a class saying, ‘How to Do Your First Home Renovation Under Budget and in Half the Time Your Thought (Even if You Don’t Know Where To Start).’ Can you imagine the relief? Can you imagine how awful it would feel to show your plans to an employee and have them laugh at you and roll their eyes as they mutter, ‘what were you thinking?’

Where do your clients feel like a victim?

Where do they feel like the results they crave are beyond their control?

Maybe they’re a man who’s had no luck with dating and feels like the god’s of love conspire against him and they feel like a victim of their fear which keeps them from approaching women in the first place. Now, you might think, ‘what they really need is to become a stronger man, be more present and more open to life.’ But that’s what YOU think they need. Be kind to them. Help them with the one piece they know they’re struggling with, ‘how to approach a woman’. Sure, there’s more beyond that. But instead of saying, ‘Don’t be shy. God. Grab your balls. What’s wrong with you? Are you a man or a mouse?’

Don’t assume that what’s easy for you is (or should be) easy for others.

Where do your clients feel like a victim?

I think victimhood is our breaking point. It’s where things have officially become too much. It’s beyond our capacity to deal with or make sense of. And telling people that they should be able to deal with it or that ‘everything is perfect’ doesn’t help much. When people feel like victims they’re desperate for help – the last thing they need is someone telling them they should’ve been stronger or more spiritual.

When we feel like a victim we get scared and we begin to image the worst case scenarios (that we might never ever speak to anyone else about).

When we hit this kind of overwhelm there are four things we most need. And judgment and condescension aren’t on the list.

Callan Rush teaches people how to fill their workshops. She knows there are three parts to succeeding as a workshop leader. First, you have to fill your workshops. Second, you’ve got to give a great workshop. And then third, you’ve got to be really good at enrolling people into the next step programs beyond the workshop they’re in. But, instead of trying to convince people of those second two pieces (i.e. the quality of the workshop and effectiveness of the next level offer) her intro workshop focuses squarely on the first piece – the one that they’re thinking about the most – how to get people there. And then, when they’re at the workshop – she also educates them a little bit about the other two pieces. But she focuses on the piece where they feel like a victim first – ‘why doesn’t anyone come to my workshops?!’

Victimhood is a feeling of self pity and ‘poor me’. That can be a turn off. But instead of getting ‘turned off’ . . . sit with it. Really put yourself in their shoes. See if you can feel what it would be like to hit the end of all your rope. And then offer them some help where it hurts most. You’ll connect better, you’ll have a chance to build credibility and you might be shocked how much business it gets you.

And here’s a powerful thing you can affirm that will have people love you: it’s not your fault.

I think everyone is doing the best we can with what we have. And sometimes we lack the skills, perspective, the support etc. to get the things we want. We do our best but we all have our breaking points. And if you can affirm that, ‘yes, you’re responsible for getting what you want but . . . it’s not your fault that you don’t know how or got miseducated’ it feels really wonderful.

Can you imagine what an unmitigated douchebag I would be if I went around to everyone and looked at their marketing and pointed out every place it was contrived, pushy or manipulative? Do you get how arrogant it would be for me to stand up on high and imagine myself to be looking down on everyone who’s not as authentic as me and condescend to them with words like, ‘How can you not get this? What’s wrong with you? Why would you ever think about marketing to anyone like that? Gross.’

There’s a notion called ‘pulling rank’ and it happens all over the place. Have you ever left a conversation feeling ‘smaller’ somehow? Diminished? If you have there’s a good chance that the other person was pulling rank on you. They were subtly condescending to you. They were imagining themselves to be wiser and better than you. Hipsters do it (e.g. ‘Oh you’ve not heard of that band?’) and new age people sure do it, (e.g. asking you ‘What are you learning from this?’ when you’ve not even asked for any coaching). It happens all over the place.

Pulling rank is a lot of things but there’s one thing it’s not: empathic.

If you judge where your clients are at you begin to develop the four most unattractive and client repelling traits. You begin to be a practitioner of ‘shame on you’ marketing.

Contrast that vibe with this approach: ‘I get it. Marketing can be hard. No one taught us how to do this and most of what we’ve learned is manipulative in some way. And so here you are this good hearted person wanting to engage in right livelihood but feeling scared to even do any marketing in case it comes across as manipulative but . . . you still need to eat! You need to pay the rent. So you have to sell. And you don’t always feel good about how you do it. I get it! That is hard.’

Consider which person you’d be more open to.

Life can be hard sometimes. Consider the lyrics of the song, ‘Lean on Me’. It’s okay to be someone that folks can lean on sometimes while we help them stand up on their own.

Empathy before education.

Where do your clients feel like a victim?

It might just be the doorway in.


Want Help? If you’d like some more direct guidance and hand holding on figuring out your niche then go and check out my Niching for Hippies coaching program https://marketingforhippies.com/niching-for-hippies/

About Tad

  • Wow, Tad, powerful! I love this post! Empathizing, and affirming that it’s not your fault.

    I hit that judging snag all the time and you just held up a very juicy mirror for me, complete with pointers to a better way.

    Thank you!

    Love and light,

  • thanks sue!

  • Molly

    Tad, reading your description of the two approaches made me think of the film The King’s Speech, in which we get to see so heartbreakingly the results of the judgmental, “just do it” approach contrasted with a supportive, accepting (but firm) approach. Thanks so much for this!

  • nice call. yes. the ‘try harder’ approach so rarely works.

  • Nancy Smeltzer

    I come from a family of “professional victims” so I learned how to play the victim card at a very early age. Then, I moved along in my spiritual path to the point of being able to say “I’m a recovering doormat”, and now, I think those old habits rarely surface. It was the blaming, judgmental, “you should be better than that” approaches from some that I feel actually kept me in my victimhood much longer than was optimal, but then all paths finally get us to where we want to go. In dealing with my clients, I feel that it’s important that they feel heard, and then slowly move them to wherever the Divine directs, not some sequence that I’ve orchestrated, that seems to have the fastest results with those with whom I am honored to work. Thank you for the compelling title that will draw people in to read the compassionate message that I feel you offered here.

  • Nancy Smeltzer

    I know for me, saying “just try harder” had as much meaning for me in my times of downfall as saying “If you just flap your wings hard enough, you could fly, if you really wanted to!”

  • thanks so much nancy :-) yes – the whole ‘you should be better than that’ doesn’t help anyone.

  • if we knew better, we’d do better

  • Hi Tad,

    When I saw the link to this blog post, with the word “victim” in it, I was almost scared to click on it, because I have been shamed for being in pain many, many times, and it sickens me to think of how that happened with people I was PAYING to help me.

    I am now working with a Nonviolent Communication teacher, and not only looking at feelings, but the needs behind the feelings that either me or other people are attempting to express.

    Now that I am going through this, actually being heard, and realizing that being heard, and having my emotional needs met, or if not met, at least validated….helps me automatically empower MYSELF, there is no pushing, rah-rah or bombast required……

    …..I see how this ubiquitous rhetoric/sound bites in self-help and personal growth of taking responsibility, stop giving your power away, stop acting like a victim (where does someone who says this get off, telling someone that they’re “acting”?! Actually implying that my or others’ suffering is guileful, is a manipulation? I can’t even express how offensive that is)

    I see how it does a huge disservice to my own ability to know what I need, what’s best for me, and truly to my own capacity to grow and heal, something that is inherent in me and in others as human beings.


  • amen.

  • Victoria Reeve

    Wow – what a great understanding – one that is sorely missing from the unrelentingly positive ‘sweetness and light’ approach that most of us have been taught (and, just as likely, are teaching)! I’ve never come across anything before where I thought, “gee, I wish I’d written that,” but this is the one (without the ball grabbing part, lol). Thanks, Tad.

  • thanks victoria! yes – the sweetness and light only goes so far.

  • Jeanell

    What a gift this post is. Thank you for your refreshing approach to such a common issue in healing fields. I am especially appreciative that this post shows compassion and support for all parties rather than shaming one or both.

  • thanks jeanell :-)

  • jill

    Great article. Thanks

  • This article makes me feel like I did when I heard the most healing sentence I ever heard: “This was an appropriate response to a difficult situation.”

    Thanks for writing it, Tad, and for having built such a wise and sensitive community around yourself that I’d feel comfortable posting this story :)

    When my facilitator said that, “This was an appropriate response to a difficult situation.”
    The shame I’d usually feel around this relaxed its grip… I’d remember all the times (long ago) that this response had been useful for getting me what I needed most at the time… and the facilitator waited for me to savor those memories as ‘positive’ experiences… for the first time. tears.
    The next thing he said was: “…and it might be a very effective & useful response in the future, so remember: you’ll always have this way of being as an option.”
    Him saying that had me going ‘eh, I can’t really think of a situation as bad or hard as that happening now… I guess I could come across one, but I doubt I will. I think I’m ready for some different, less-automatic responses…’
    So I was happy to oblige when he said:
    “Are you willing to explore what other options this part of you has, what forms it could take, or is something else more alive for you right now?”
    Sometimes more parts of me wanted to be seen and spoken to that way FIRST. Other times I would feel free to explore other ways for this part of me to operate in the world.
    [this work is called Enteleos – the wisdom from within]

    Your work is as beautiful as this, Tad.
    Thank you.

  • wow. now that’s empathy and understanding. so beautiful.