Seven Steps to Stop the Blame Game
Blame is fascinating – it shapes our lives. It can be a benign way of positioning ourselves, a gentle joust or banter, or it can be poisonous, hurtful or devastating for its victims.
It can tear apart marriages and fracture work relationships;
it can disable major social programs;
it can inflict damage on powerful corporations; it can bring down governments;
it can start wars and justify genocides.
– Stephen Fineman, The Blame Business
There are times when people and businesses really mess up and need to be held accountable and pay the price for their mistakes. It’s all right to give reasons for a mistake – if you don’t point the finger of blame. Learning is everything.
I’m specifically addressing something totally different. I’m addressing a plague that is spiraling out of control, the plague of blame.
As I travel, run a business and read extensively, I’ve observed that blame is truly an epidemic – in the professional world and life in general. Many, many individuals wallow in self-pity and hate those who have hurt them. Others shirk responsibility, especially when the going gets rough: “It’s not my fault!” Or, whenever anything goes wrong or slower than planned or doesn’t get finished at all, fingers start to point.
People blame others, the weather, God, politicians, their political parties, or each other. They hold grudges, deriving secret pleasure in the suffering of those they blame. Sometimes they even seek revenge and feel totally justified in doing so.
An excuse is worse than a lie, for an excuse is a lie, guarded.
– Alexander Pope, Poet and Writer
If blame is counterproductive – and I believe it is – why does it happen? Blaming others is an addiction, a habit of faulty thinking, a cop-out from being held accountable. The solution is to recognize that our lack of action or choice of the wrong action are often part of the problem, that we can learn to control inappropriate reactions, accept responsibility and start looking for solutions.
Something very peculiar happens when I bring up the subject of blame – either in my private coaching practice, socially or in my business presentations. First, there’s a hush. Then, people begin to shield themselves in a kind of a psychological protective bubble. Maybe the mere concept of blame whispers to some primitive, fear-based protective part of our mind, triggering an automatic defensive posture.
Nonetheless, blame needs to be addressed and examined IF you want to grow emotionally and gain control over your ability to create change and craft a joyous, exciting, productive, and meaningful life.
The bottom line is that much blame really has to do with faulty thinking. We tend to forget – or never realize – that we create the scripts of our life or turn that option over to others. We live out of our expectations of how others should act and the world should work, according to the script we wrote.
When those expectations are not met – we blame or, as Doc Childre and Howard Martin, founders of the Institute of HeartMath say, “We have two choices: continue to blame the world for our stress or take responsibility for own reactions and deliberately change our emotional climate.” Life can be tough and so can we.
Some never have the issue of blaming others, but they still have an issue. Here’s the big one. Virtually all people have the same favorite target – themselves. And, for many of these individuals, blaming themselves feels tough and strong and righteous and fair.
When you encounter difficulties and choose to take the path that leads to fear, the natural reaction is to blame yourself. Blaming yourself is not a sign of strength but of fear. Keep this in mind – fear needs a fall guy. When you blame yourself, you reinforce fear. You convince yourself that your worst dread is real – you are not good enough, smart enough, knowledgeable enough, loving enough. When you believe this, you drain yourself of creativity.
Blame isn’t responsibility or accountability.
Responsibility is about learning and making positive changes. Blame is about sabotaging your growth and staying frozen in fear. Responsibility is a call to positive action. Blame is a call to anger. Positive action solves problems; blame solves nothing. You want to learn to make a much more positive choice. Because blame is inspired by fear, the strongest force against fear is love.
To stop the blame game and break free from self-limitation, you must choose to ask yourself some hard questions and become aware when you fall in the trap of making excuses or blaming. Ask yourself, “When you blame, is it because you made some wrong decisions either because you didn’t have enough knowledge or didn’t prepare adequately?”
As writer and poet Erica Jong says, “You take life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: No one to blame.”
To take your life in your hands, you might take this approach. When something goes wrong, instead of blaming outside forces, others or yourself, take a couple of deep breaths and look within. Consider your thinking, actions and communication and how they might have contributed to it and, instead of blaming – LEARN – so that you will not repeat your mistakes.
Here are 7 steps to help you stop the Blame Game
Make a decision (set an intention) to stop your blaming behavior
Identify what you want and hope to achieve and experience (the payoff) for blaming: What do you get out of it? What is the value of expecting others to behave according to the script you wrote? How do you grow? What do you learn?
Now, identify what you want to experience by moving out of blaming: more freedom, more peace, more fulfilling relationships, less time worrying.
Start paying attention, now! Catch yourself when you are tempted to blame, pause for a breath and then make a more positive choice.
When you feel the impulse to blame ask yourself, “If I couldn’t blame, what would I have to feel? What is hard about feeling what I want to avoid?”
Breaking the blaming habit is a process that takes time. You will not be able to catch yourself before you blame on every occasion. You may slip up and that’s okay. Congratulate yourself for noticing when you are about to blame – and keep practicing.
Be gentle with yourself!
As my wife says, “We aren’t here to see through each other. We are here to see each other through.” We have a finite amount of time on this earth. Don’t you want it to be as loving as possible? I do.