Dealing with Entitlement

Dr. John Townsend

October 2, 2015

Everyone has faced entitlement issues in his or her relationships, family and workplace. It emerges in poor attitudes, a lack of empathy for one’s impact on others, and irresponsible behaviors. In my new book, “The Entitlement Cure”, which will be on bookshelves and available online this Tuesday, October 6, I define entitlement as two beliefs:
(1) I am exempt from responsibility; and (2) I am owed special treatment. These beliefs cause alienation and frustration and are ultimately destructive to the future of the entitled person.

In my consulting practice, I have seen the cost of entitlement in companies, families and churches, and it is a high one. And God’s path is just the opposite from entitlement. He never takes short cuts and he does things the hard way, for our benefit: “I have set my face like a flint” (Isa. 50:7). The cure for entitlement is what I call the Hard Way, which I define as the habit of doing what is best, rather than what is comfortable, to achieve a worthwhile outcome. And there are specific actions you can take to help things move to a healthier place in your relationships. Here are a few of them, based on the content from my book:

1. Call it when you see it. Entitlement does not resolve itself by silence or infinite patience. While everyone needs grace and respect, the entitled person often also is unaware of the impact of the attitude on family members, friends and work colleagues. If this person is important to you, go to him and in a vulnerable way, say “I’d like to talk about an attitude I see with you that is affecting me and us, and I’d like things to improve.” I have many skills in the book you can recruit the person so.
2. Help the person change his wording from “I deserve” to “I am responsible.” We live in a culture of “I deserve”: anything from deserving a great marriage, to a great home to a great career. The problem is that “I deserve” is a disempowering phrase. It places the power of our success in the hands of others, in the hope that they will do something to provide that marriage, home and career. But when you change your wording to “I am responsible”, you are empowered. You are responsible to do what it takes to be well-married, to live in the right home and to find the career that works for you. You are in charge, and you are the agent of success, not others.
3. Do the next hard thing. I study very successful people to learn how they accomplish what they accomplish. And one trait I always find is that they don’t avoid difficult choices, such as tough conversations, projects that feel like drudgery and administrative tasks that are boring. Instead, they get to those early in the day and nip them in the bud. And they have great energy and mojo for the rest of the day. Good moms never say “Eat your ice cream and I’ll give you broccoli.” That would be a prescription for counseling for that mom! Instead, they reverse it. Do the next hard thing and life gets easier.

You will never regret doing tough things, nor helping others in your life to do that, as well. I hope you enjoy the book. Let me hear from you!

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