One of my children who is under the age of 8 and shall remain nameless is a master of blame. I can be on the other side of the house from him and when something goes wrong, he blames me. Last week, he blamed me for a mess he made with his Lego toys. When I told him to stop blaming me, he said, “I’m not blaming you. I’m just saying it’s your fault that I have this big Lego mess.” How can you argue with that logic?
Honestly, I can relate to my child’s desire to blame others. It feels better (at least temporarily) when I don’t have to feel guilty for my mistakes. If the problem was caused by someone else, I’m off the hook. In my work as a marriage counselor, I often see couples who made joint decision that backfired. Ideally, these couples deal with the problems and move on. Among unhappy couples, though, I see this pattern: they launch into blaming each other. They ask questions such as:
- How could you have gotten us into this mess?
- Why did you make me go along with this?
- How are you going to fix this mess?
Try This Activity:
Here is an easy activity that can help couples rid their relationships of blame.
Sit down with someone close to you with whom you often play the blame game.
What to Say:
- I feel like I get blamed unfairly for things and I’ll bet you could make the same complaint about me.
- From now on, I don’t want to try to read your mind anymore. If you say “Yes” to something I propose, I’ll take you at your word and I’ll do it. If you really don’t want me to do it, you’ll need to tell me about your concerns because I’m going to take your “Yes” at face value.
- If I make a suggestion that backfires, I don’t want to be blamed for it. Let’s short-circuit the blame game by agreeing that you won’t sign on to my proposals unless you also feel strongly that it’s a good idea. In fact, if we proceed and the plan blows up, I hope neither of us will even remember (or bring up) who suggested it.
Why This Works:
The fuel on which relationships run is TRUST. If you trust that I’m committed to decision we make together, you implicitly trust that I won’t jump ship on you. If our plans go south and I blame you for it, your trust will fly out the window. I love this classic saying, “Speak now or forever hold your peace.” At home and at work, weigh your decisions carefully. If your plans are unsuccessful, it’s usually best to hold your tongue. Emotions may be running high and you can win the hearts of others by quietly picking up the pieces.
What Doesn’t Work:
Blaming others when your shared plans backfire is like kicking people when they are down. It takes a mature person to see what went wrong and quietly regroup. Learning a lesson from mistakes is one thing, but constantly blaming others for problems destroys trust.
Share Your Thoughts:
What do you get unfairly blamed for?
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