Why shouldn’t we pile on blame when somebody is obviously at fault? Can’t we shame the perpetrator into better behavior? Won’t we feel so much better when we “clear the air”?
Consider these 3 reasons why blaming is not the path to positive change:
1. Wrong starting place.
To improve a relationship, start with yourself. Even though projecting your feelings into the open seems relieving, you may sabotage your goal because you’re clouded by poor judgement.
Example: One of my children, after many years, stunned me by confessing, “Mom, I wanted to apologize, but I couldn’t because you were so angry!“ I’d had no idea my self-righteous anger had created a barrier against the apology I longed to hear.
Even if you feel sure you’re right and the other is wrong, chances are you both played a role in the dispute. Maybe you simply didn’t make your expectations clear. Or you failed to share information. Or you missed clues that the other was unhappy. Begin a tough conversation by acknowledging your own part; this will make it easier for the other to move from defensiveness to acknowledging their own part in the dispute.
2. Wrong assumptions.
We all make assumptions based on our own experience. Most of these are unconscious opinions, but we think they are facts. Our worst mistakes are caused by acting on what we think we know that’s plain wrong.
Example: Your single, unemployed brother moves into mom’s place “to take care of her.” You know she shouldn’t live alone, but you want her to move into assisted living and sell her house. You’re sure your brother is freeloading and running through Mom’s money – and your inheritance. He even talked Mom into taking him on a cruise! And now he wants you to take a turn with Mom every other Saturday so he can be with his girlfriend. The nerve!
Let’s look at what your brother is actually doing for Mom: Personal care? Yard work? Household repairs? Driving to doctors, shopping, church? What would outsiders charge? What would assisted living cost? Is Mom willing to move? Is brother paying any of his own living expenses?
Instead of blaming your brother, ask him some open open questions in a polite conversation. You need information. You might find out he’s actually saving Mom’s money. In fact, you might discover you need to express some appreciation.
3. Blaming never works.
It only makes the situation worse. AA groups have a saying: “One definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result.” Blaming is like scolding an alcoholic. You might feel better temporarily, but you won’t change his behavior. Blaming will back the other into a corner which he’ll defend to the end; nor will it solve a problem or mend a broken relationship.
Instead, acknowledge your own part, figure out what you don’t know, ask open questions – and listen to the answers.
Beyond Dispute Associates
© Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.