If you have entitlement tendencies, choosing to work on them is likely to improve your relationships.
See if you can identify any of the following entitlement tendencies in yourself. Then, try some of the suggestions that follow.
Examples of Entitlement Tendencies
1. You expect the same rules that apply to others shouldn’t apply to you. For example, other people might need to start at the bottom and work their way up but you shouldn’t have to.
2. You feel massively put upon when other people ask you for small favors but expect that when you ask people for favors it’s no big effort.
3. You expect other people to be more interested in you and what’s on your agenda than you're interested in them and what’s on their agenda. You see your own interests as more interesting than other people’s, and see your goals/dreams as more valid or important than other people’s.
4. You disregard rules that are intended for everyone’s comfort. For example, you ignore signs to please not put your feet on the chairs at the movies.
5. You freeload. For example, you use bittorrent programs to download movies rather than paying for them. Or, you listen to public radio all the time but never donate during donation drives.
6. You inconvenience others without thinking. For example, you cancel appointments or reservations repeatedly. Or, you make plans with friends and then bail on those plans without considering that your friend may have organized other plans around fitting you in. Or, you run into a store 1 minute before closing without thinking about the fact you’ll be delaying the shop assistant from getting home on time. You think “it’s only 5 minutes” without considering that the assistant may have somewhere they need to be.
7. You think it’s ok to upset or offend other people. You see people who like to keep the peace as weak.
8. You cheat in environments that are based on reciprocity. For example, you ask loads of questions in your favorite internet forum, but you don’t spend the same amount of time answering other’s questions.
9. When working in groups, you think you should be the leader or get the most credit.
5 Ways to Work on Entitlement Tendencies
1. Practice perspective taking.
Take a recent example of a time you got mildly annoyed with someone and spend 3 minutes writing about the situation from the other person’s perspective. Practice understanding what their agenda was.
2. Sensitize yourself to how good it feels to promote other people’s successes.
There is an area of social psychology research called capitalization research that shows that promoting other people’s successes has a positive effect on the sharer. To make a project out of it, try promoting someone else other than yourself at least once a day for 30 days.
3. Use cognitive restructuring.
Take any of the entitlement tendencies you can relate to and consider alternative evidence and perspectives. For example, what are some reasons the same rules that apply to everyone else should also apply to you? What are some reasons why keeping the peace and avoiding upsetting/offending people (unless absolutely necessary) is a virtue? What are some examples of how people are generally more generous to you than you are to them?
4. Observe what happens when you curb your entitlement tendencies.
Do relationships run smoother? Do you find it's easier for you to sustain relationships without you burning other people out? Do you end up feeling less annoyance? Do people end up supporting you more because you’re supporting them?
Understanding when curbing your entitlement tendencies actually benefits you is a great way to reinforce making changes.
5. Catch yourself if you fall into the moral licensing trap.
Moral licensing is a cognitive distortion in which people internally justify things they do that are wrong. It’s a common tendency. See if you can catch yourself doing it. For example, develop mindful awareness of thoughts like “It’s okay to take more than I give in X situation because....”
People with entitlement tendencies come in two types - (1) those who feel ashamed of their tendencies and feel motivated to change, and (2) those who see no reason to change.
If you fit in the former category, don’t be too hard on yourself. Expect yourself to put in consistent effort to change your ways, but don’t load up on self-criticism (harsh self-criticism is likely to result in less positive change rather than more).
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You can read my prior articles for Psychology Today here.