There is one tool that is being used more and more nowadays. It’s so pervasive, one can say “it’s gone viral”. We see it in the media, we see it in the workplace, and as a therapist, I see it in families where it has it’s most damaging effect.
Blame has become so ubiquitous that when things go south, there is a gold-rush to claim the moral high-ground. We turn our daggers on each other and denounce any and all in our vicinity. Including, unfortunately, loved-ones.
What’s wrong with blaming? After all, it’s your fault!
For several reasons, blame is one of the worst means of conveying your message, of “Getting to Yes”, of resolving issues, and ultimately changing your situation.
1. Blaming turns us against each other.
Blame immediately creates an “us against them” or “me against you” dynamic. And unless your intention is to start a war, this never leads to a harmonious resolution. Even if you include yourself in the accountability (“It’s both of our faults”), you are still pointing an accusing finger at others, which separates you from them.
2. Blame is a cheap-shot.
It vilifies it’s victim without having to justify its rational. The message behind blame is — you are responsible for doing or saying something I think is wrong; ergo, you are wrong, bad, stupid, moronic — essentially, evil. Simply said, blame makes us “right” without actual understanding or dialogue. And in making ourselves morally right, we turn others into morally wrong.
3. Blame is Kryptonite to intimacy.
Because the ultimate message of blame is that “there is something wrong with you”, nothing destroys intimacy quite the same way. It is a wrecking ball to the very cornerstone of our relationships — trust and vulnerability, which are built on mutual, unconditional acceptance. It’s effect on marriage is so devastating, that John Gottman has included blame as one of the Four Horseman of Relationship Apocalypse, his gold-standard for predicting divorce.
4. Blame destroys children.
When we throw our children under the bus by blaming them, it’s not just feelings that are being hurt. Children are too impressionable to protect themselves from the effects of blame. The negative messages, judgements and criticism implicit in blame burrow deep into their sense of self. Blame essentially undermines our children’s sense of value and worth, effecting every decision and action they will take for the rest of their lives.
You are the real victim of blame.
As devastating as blame is to it’s victims, it is perhaps most subversive to the perpetrator. It robs us of our opportunity to take responsibility for our own circumstance, and make life-altering, personal changes. It hides our agency, and reduces us to mere pawns in our own life. This does nothing more than ensure that you will be revisiting the same situations again and again; it’s just another opportunity to look within.
3-Steps to Eliminate Blame
Once we understand how destructive blame is to our relationships, we are inspired to ditch-it, for good. But how?
Step 1: Bite-Your-Tongue
When we are honest with ourselves, most of the transgressions our partners have perpetrated we are guilty of as well; but when they do it, it somehow becomes sinister. Why? Because most often we perceive something our partners did as negative or hurtful because it touches a soft-spot in our own heart that has yet to heal. This is casually called our “Victim Story” which we are unaware of in general. It only rears it’s ugly head when prodded or poked – a comment, a look, a thoughtless act. When we make a decision to examine this wound first, we are giving our relationships and our partner a fighting chance of succeeding.
Personally, I cannot tell you how many (100s) of times, when I was wise enough to bite-my-tongue, I realized that the issue I was set on “bringing-up” was actually NOTHING at all. As I like to say, I’ve never been disappointed at withholding blame and criticism. And I’m almost always disappointed when I do express it.
Step 2: Focus on Appreciation
Perhaps the most important factor in eliminating blame is learning not to see negativity in the first place. This is done not by living in a land of make-believe, where everything is rosy and perfect. No. This is done by making a choice of where you will put your focus. When you consciously focus, talk-about, acknowledge and praise the way your partner shows up as superman in your relationship, you will lose focus on the way he doesn’t. Your entire perspective on your partner shifts, and you raise the bar on your expectations and intimacy of your relationship. This feeling – this new environment – becomes precious, and is not something you will want to destroy by noticing something “wrong”. Blaming and criticism naturally has no place in your new, heightened relationship.
Step 3: Learn Relationship-Centric Communication
The number one protest I receive as a marriage therapist is “How will I ever get my needs met if I don’t use negativity?” My typical response is: “How well has that worked for you so far?”
Believe it or not, there are very powerful ways to communicate your needs and wants that don’t involve blame or criticism. Especially if you are a woman. But the first place to start is learning how to put together a needs sentence that expresses your feelings & needs with not one ounce of criticism or blame. You can do this, and can learn how, here: 3 Steps to Effective Communication Skills
In conclusion, once you get good at this, you will no longer have to resort to any negativity at all to express yourself clearly and powerfully. In the words of the great Wayne Dyer,
“All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won’t succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy.”
— Wayne Dyer