Closing The Loop On The Blame Game
When people need something to blame, it’s usually pretty easy to find something. Whether it’s “he” that made them do it, or “she” that made them do it, or “the devil” that made them do it, the cause-effect explanation lays the blame for results on an outside agent. People that place the blame claim to be victims of circumstance rather than authors and creators of their own experience. And in a way, it’s true. If the cause of a problem is considered a result of circumstance rather than choice, those dealing with the problem may rightly feel and act powerless.
Some people are more practiced at assigning blame than others. There is no point in arguing with them. Much conflict comes down to blaming statements. Yet more often than not, no matter how reasonable these blaming statements sound, more often than not they are made up of reasons that don’t hold up to scrutiny.
This blame game of X (the cause) causes Y (the effect) is a formula as old as time. It is in common use whenever people are miserable. And it is incredibly easy to tease apart, to reveal the circular logic of which it is made. If the cause is you, and the effect is someone’s bad feelings, the first step is to backtrack and clarify the nouns and verbs. Once you’ve got those narrowed, down, ask about the connection between cause and effect by asking ‘How do you know?” Then the person will tell you the evidence they are using to make the blaming statement seem real. The third step is to offer a counter example or other explanation that changes the meaning of the cause.
Kendra tells Malik, “You don’t love me anymore.” Malik replies, “How do you know I don’t love you anymore?” She says, “You aren’t kind and considerate.” Malik backtracks, then asks, “What did I do that wasn’t kind and considerate?” She replies, “ You yelled at me.” Again, Malik backtracks and asks, “ So when I yell, that means I don’t love you?”
Now Malik can ask for a counterexample. “Have you ever yelled at someone you cared about?” Kendra replies, “Well, yes, I guess so.” And Malik asks, “How is it that you yelled at them yet you still cared about them?” Kendra confesses, “I was frustrated and concerned.” Malik backtracks everything to make sure the connections are still in place. Then asks, “Do you think other people ever yell when they are frustrated and concerned? “ And she has no choice but to agree. “Yes.” At that point, he can close the loop and click again with Kendra. “Is it possible that I yelled at you because I was frustrated and concerned?” That leaves her with, “ Yes.”
The blame game ends when the loop closes. I’d love to hear about your own experiences in closing the loop of blame! Your comments, feedback and suggestions are welcome here.
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.