Help Someone

When someone special to us exhibits entitlement mentality, we cannot force change. To effectively spark change, Dr. John Townsend recommends starting with a self assessment to prepare for subsequent conversations with the entitled individual. He also provides suggestions on how to overcome obstacles that inhibit successful rehabilitation from an entitlement mindset.

If the end goal is to help someone shift their thinking from “my life and how I impact others are not problems” to “my life and how I impact others are problems (and they are my problems),” then the first step is to do a self assessment. Where do I personally exhibit entitlement behavior? We need to address our own problems before asking someone to address theirs.

Once we have an actual conversation, we need to address previous unsuccessful attempts to change. It’s best to review this with the entitled individual so that any misunderstandings or failed attempts are not repeated. Both parties must agree to modify the approach, if needed, to ensure success.

To be effective, the process needs to include the following:

  1. Ask yourself why you want to have a conversation for change. To end your personal frustration? To vent your anger? To show them how they’ve hurt you? If you answered yes to any of these reasons, then you need to assess your own entitlement thinking before confronting the individual.
  2. Clearly establish what problem you’re trying to solve and the desired outcome. And remember that entitlement thinking is a choice. We cannot choose for someone; we can only guide the process.
  3. Recognize the stages of change and be patient. The phases of recovery include denial, protest, escalation, grief, and adaptation.
  4. Overcome obstacles by avoiding common mistakes. Common mistakes include trying to change someone where there is no existing relationship based on love and concern. Using warnings or heartless ultimatums instead of mercy and kindness won’t work. Not seeing things from the individual’s perspective (a lack of understanding) is a common mistake. If manipulation is used versus reinforcing that actions have consequences, there is little hope for change. Not having the right support group to work through issues is also an obstacle to change.
  5. Include the following in the actual conversation(s) with the individual:
  • Display vulnerability and not anger and frustration.
  • Clearly state how the individual has impacted you with entitlement behavior.
  • Express your care for the individual.
  • Address the negative attitudes/behaviors.
  • Admit you may be part of the problem.
  • Establish criteria for change.
  • State the consequences if expectations are not met.
  • Hear the individual’s side of the story.
  • Reiterate your care and concern for the individual.

Once the initial process is complete, it’s important to maintain gains and continue progress. Don’t give up! Expect that the stages of recovery may include personal conflict. It takes time to adapt to change.

If the process works, and progress occurs, there will be signs of change. For example, the individual will be able to admit and express:

  • “I can no longer say or do whatever I think is best for me.”
  • “I can’t always have what I want.”
  • “I have to do certain things, even if they are hard.”
  • “I own the consequences of my previous, current, and future actions.”
  • “I have hurt people with my behavior.”
  • “I have hurt myself.”

Similar to anything else that requires major change, motivation is key to maintaining progress. The next blog will review Dr. John Townsend’s keys to finding motivation that will help someone choose the Hard Way.

©, May 3, 2018


J. Townsend, The Entitlement Cure Finding Success In Doing Hard Things The Right Way, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. pp. 72-87.

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