The blame game is prevalent in our society. To make our lives easier, we have to learn how to break the cycle.
Blame: To assign responsibility for a fault or wrongMerriam-Webster
I’m not talking about assigning responsibility for actions. That kind of blame is assigning responsibility for THEIR actions and is appropriate.
I’m talking about when we take the fact that someone did something and blame how we feel on that person. Or blame how we acted on that person.
This is absolutely not true! We can’t give that kind of power over us away to anyone!
Let’s say Suzy said she would make some charts for me and when she sends them, they are full of errors. I get irritated and snap at her.
The responsibility of error-filled charts is on her; that’s the fact. But I have to own how that made me feel and how that made me act.
If I don’t, I put the power to make me feel better in her hands. Why on earth would I want to do that?!? This person who just irritated me now has to make me feel better? What’s the likelihood of that happening?
I have to own my thinking, which causes my feeling, which causes my actions, which give me my results. Yes, this is exactly the model I wrote about last week.
I gave Suzy the power to put me in a bad mood. My mistake. But I can fix it.
Blame: How to Break the Cycle
We are always responsible for our thoughts, feelings and actions – always.
This is the most empowering thing you can ever learn.
It means we don’t have to change someone’s behavior to change how we feel.
And it means we don’t have to change OUR behavior in a misguided attempt to change how others feel.
Here are the questions you need to answer to define your blame cycle:
- Who is someone who has caused you stress?
- What actions did they take (or not take) that caused the stress?
- What thought did you have about their action/inaction? Be super clear!
- How did this make you feel?
- What actions did you take as a result of your thought/feeling combo?
- What result did you get and does that serve you over time?
OK. Now we have to break the blame cycle:
- Reflect on the person and their action/inaction (same as 1 & 2 above)
- What result do you want to have with them?
- What actions do you have to take to get those results? You can list many
- What thought/feeling combo do you need to generate in order to take those actions?
The Suzy Example
Let’s walk through my example from above.
- Suzy caused me stress
- Because she sent me error-filled charts
- I thought “It’s faster for me to do them myself then check her work!”
- I was annoyed
- “Check your work before you send it to me! I spent 20 minutes checking them and found errors on 4 out of 5 of them” in a curt tone
- Suzy doesn’t volunteer to create charts for me anymore which does not serve me over time.
This is a true example, so here’s how I change my thinking
- The fact is Suzy sent me error-filled charts
- The result I want is for Suzy to continue to volunteer to help and send me accurate charts every time.
- mark::Actions include: mark up these charts and have Suzy correct them. Let Suzy know that I want all the names on the chart, in the correct groups and spelled correctly. Let her know that if she doesn’t have the time to do accurate work, she needs to tell me so neither of us wastes time we don’t have. Talk to her in a friendly but direct manner.
- In order to take the actions in 3, I need to think that Suzy didn’t do this on purpose and that she’s busy. I also need to feel calm to have the conversation.
Blame: In Conclusion
It’s a powerful shift in thinking, to realize that you are in control of your thoughts and your feelings. Particularly when it comes to blame.
This works in every aspect of your life. Annoyed with your teenager for breaking curfew? Irritated with your coworker who takes conference calls on speaker phone? Despise that guy who interrupts your every sentence?
The tips here work.
So who are you going to stop blaming today?
Leaving you with this from the lighter side: Teamwork. A word that means never having to take all the blame yourself.