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Playing the Persecutor Role

I’ve been talking about Stephen Karpman’s Drama Triangle and the roles we can slip into when we’re in conflict with others. And with the holiday season approaching, family drama is often on the menu. Throw in a second surge of a global pandemic and you’ve got the perfect storm.


As much as we don’t want to admit we’ve ever played the victim role, we really don’t want to think we’ve ever played the persecutor role. The persecutor is the dominant right-fighter, the one who makes everyone else wrong. It’s the finger-wagging, hands-on-hip bully who is ready to point out how you’re doing it wrong.


The persecutor is aggressive in making their case and knows exactly what everyone else should do. They’re the critic, the judge. Their payoff is the confidence and security that comes from being right, of not having to doubt themselves.


Before you declare you’ve never done that, ask yourself if you’ve ever silently thought to yourself that someone else doesn’t know what they’re doing, or that you could do it better? As a parent, have you ever unequivocally told your child no without any discussion? What about passively manipulating a situation to get your way? I can certainly think of times I’ve done all these things, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.


So, how does one step out of the persecutor role we may be playing (albeit without evil intent)?


The solution is simple but not easy: we have to give up our need to be right. We have to become a challenger to others by first challenging ourselves.



What might this look like? Next time you find yourself about to criticize, ask yourself:

  1. Is it possible I’m not right?

  2. What are they really saying?

  3. What is my goal here – to preserve the relationship or to be right?


These questions are what I call pattern-interrupts; they interrupt your judging and criticizing long enough to consider another’s perspective.


I’ve been able to incorporate this ONE thing more and more into my thinking and speaking.


I’m sure it makes my relationships more harmonious, but I know it’s brought me more peace. Is there ONE place where your playing the persecutor is harming a relationship?


Wanna talk about a Drama Triangle in your life? Go here to book a free 15-minute call with me. I know you’ll get at least one insight or idea from our conversation.

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