Recently I blogged about the "Triangle of Disempowerment" - Perpetrator, Victim, Rescuer - and how we can break the cycle by avoiding the role of rescuer.

The other day, when I was coaching an executive, I realised it's not only rescuers who perpetuate disempowering behaviours: we can do just as much damage by giving sympathy.  

This executive wanted to manage his anxiety about anunpleasant boss upcoming 1-2-1 with his "unpleasant boss". 

Now, as a coach I don't always go with what clients want, instead focussing on what they need.  To me it was clear the anxiety came from his attitude towards his boss, so we needed to stop the harmful programmes he was running and replace them with something more empowering.

I gave him a whole range of options including: writing a list of all the things his boss is good at; making up stories around what makes his boss the way he is (How much pain is he in?  What traumas did he suffer as a child? etc.); and imagining how someone else (Einstein, Ghandi, Micky Mouse) would handle his boss in a similar situation.

He clearly had a lot of attachment to believing his boss was "unpleasant."  He may choose to hold on to it and continue as the victim.  If he does, we'll have to do some digging around his need to continue playing out the old scenarios, and find some new perspectives to make him more resourceful.

It would have been all too easy to sympathise with him for having a nasty boss and work on reducing his anxiety.  But that would just have been a sticking plaster and wouldn't have addressed his real problem.

Do you sometimes find yourself sympathising with people when what they really need (but may not want) to hear is: "Get a grip"?

At the UK Leadership Academy, we believe in helping people achieve thier full amazing potential.  To do this they need to be challenged and stretched.  

For their sake, don't sympathise!