We’d Have a Wonderful Relationship If It Weren’t for You—The Temptation to Blame

We’d Have a Wonderful Relationship If It Weren’t for You—The Temptation to Blame

When we experience discomfort or disconnect in a relationship, one of our first tendencies is to find fault with the other, to view him in a negative light, and express these thoughts and feelings to those around us.

Sample scenario #1: Oscar finds his supervisor to be challenging to work with. In Oscar’s opinion, Bob is inconsistent in his focus, feedback, and praise. Instead of Oscar initiating a conversation with Bob, he often has lunch with Orville, and they spend much of the time denigrating Bob, his quirks, and his perceived performance deficiencies. Coworkers steer clear of them during breaks, and Oscar is puzzled why others don’t see Bob’s weaknesses as clearly as he does.

Sample scenario #2: When Betty is in meetings with Sally, she is uncomfortable with what she has determined to be Sally’s brownnosing—speaking directly to the boss without making eye contact with others, for example. Betty makes snide comments to the person next to her—not loud enough for Sally to hear—about the “golden child,” and as the meeting ends, Betty says to Frank, “Did you see how she was batting her eyes at him?” Betty is in search of someone who will triangulate.

Why will this help me at work? When we blame others, a multitude of unhelpful consequences occur. First, it does not move us any closer to identifying and solving business or relationship problems. Second, it invites others to blame us, and lastly, it creates an unhealthy culture that impacts trust.

Why is this so difficult at times? In one sense blaming others “works”—in that it is a way, albeit a dysfunctional one, to discharge our feelings of disappointment or frustration. In addition, many of us come from families where this was so much the norm that it was invisible in either blatant or subtle ways. Much of today’s political discourse is almost completely based on finding fault and assigning blame (instead of taking responsibility for what can be changed), and much of our media takes this same approach.

Your frank self-assessment:

  • Who are the “incompetents” whom you work with? Make up a full list. Are you surprised at who they are or how many are on the list?
  • What feels good about targeting others? As difficult as it might be to admit, jot down the ways.
  • What are the conditions that are most likely to generate a blaming response on your part? Can you figure out the role stress plays in wanting to “let someone have it?

My tips:

  • Consider the tendency to assign fault and blame as a sign of the need to develop your emotional intelligence more fully.
  • Shift to a practice of empathy—this is the universal antidote to distancing ourselves from others by finding fault in them.
  • Remember that sometimes we get “triggered” by someone at work because she represents unresolved dynamics from our past.

Action for traction:

  • Find someone at work who doesn’t seem to get his buttons pushed by the people who push yours, and invite him to have lunch or a cup of coffee. Ask how he is able to keep a “Zen approach” in interactions with these folks.
  •  Shift to the “observer” role—imagine yourself as a movie camera, simply recording all of the interactions at work without judgment. Look for places to “rise above.”
  • Invite one of your trusted colleagues to engage in a little role play, and have her give you helpful feedback first, then get her to shift to “it’s your fault.” Notice how it feels to be the recipient.

Baked-in benefits:

  • You’ll release emotional energy and blocks of time that will help you to be more productive.
  • You’ll take less negativity home with you.
  • Your coworkers will take more delight in being around you!

Excerpt From: Flip Brown. “Balanced Effectiveness at Work. How to Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor without Driving Yourself Nuts.”  Published by: Starr Farm Press