“Entitlement” is a word we see in the news and magazines very often today: our entitled culture, entitled kids, entitled employees, spouses and family members. It addresses what I call a disease in our culture today, which has two components: a belief that the person is special and above the rules; and a demand of getting something for nothing. It is causing great difficulty in our relationships and organizations today. It is not related to age: I have worked with highly entitled people in their 80s. And let’s don’t forget that there are very healthy entitlements, such as those our government gives to our military veterans and to those in poverty so deep that they have no other recourse.
In my new book “The Entitlement Cure”, coming out October 6, I give several keys to helping the entitled person in your life to resolve it. And this entitlement can apply to all of us as well. Here are some of the skills that can help you and your family members.
Help them keep inconvenient commitments. Life holds together when people make and keep promises to each other. Governments have agreements, businesses have contracts, marriage has a vow and relationships have promises. When someone agrees to show up at a lunch and decides at the last minute that something else more important came up, this impacts people. We lose trust in the person. Also, the entitled person learns that they are not accountable for their actions, which only makes the situation worse. Help the entitled person to see their impact, how it made you and others feel about the broken promise. If their entitlement is so severe that they don’t care about their impact, then set up consequences that matter to their comfort. My book Boundaries is a good source of ideas for this.
Engage them in altruism. We have a neuronically-based ability for empathy for the suffering of others. Our mirror neurons can actually respond to the happiness or hurts of those around us. However, entitled people tend to not involve themselves in helping others, they avoid it. But engaging in service to others is a very effective way to break the self-centeredness and cause them to deeply care about others. Volunteer with them at an organization that serves the poor or homeless, a mission agency, a shelter for domestic abuse, or a church that serves. When they serve those marginalized others, it can have a profound effect on reducing entitlement.
Replace “I deserve” with “I am responsible for.” Our language is important to our health. The phrase “I deserve” tends to support entitlement: I deserve to be happy, to have people be nice to me, to be given a job or money. This is a disempowering phrase, causing the person to look outside his own energy to get something, and to feel helpless. Help them replace that phrase with “I am responsible for”: learning to be happy, being the kind of person others want to be nice to, working hard to get a job or earn money. This empowers the person to action. Talk with the person about that phraseology and help them change their language.
There are many more examples of these solutions available in my book when it comes out. I have seen a great deal of entitlement changed and resolved. You can do the same.
Best to you.
Dr. John Townsend