Blame comes in many forms, and they all suck. There’s blame when you did something wrong, or when the result wasn’t what was expected. Blame when you leave someone out, or when you forget something. Blame when you let someone down, or don’t see around a corner to help someone when they were expecting it.
For me, likability is a key aspect of my personality. I put entirely too much weight on being liked by people. This means that when someone doesn’t like me for some reason, it hits me hard.
It Isn’t About You
Blame happens when someone expects something of you. This may be something you have agreed to, but it could be an assumption they have about how you will behave or handle a situation. How do you handle blame?
How do I Handle Blame?
Unfortunately, I’ve been on both sides of blame a lot in the last few months. We’re changing a number of roles and restructuring a number of teams at my work, which means that not everyone will always be involved in every decision. I’ve also felt blame to certain people who didn’t include me in certain decisions, or didn’t buy in to help support these changes.
When someone else blames me I immediately look for ways to fix my relationship with this person. According to Strengthsfinders, one of my top strengths is “restorative”, which means bringing things back to a healthy place. This includes mending bridges and maintaining relationships. In practice, this includes a lot of talking to other people — at least when I know someone is blaming me for something.
For me it’s all about putting in effort with the other person and being transparent in what I was thinking. My first response isn’t to ask the other person to explain more on why they’re upset. I’m currently trying to switch my mind to asking first, and only chiming in based on their feedback. It’s a work in progress, but just this little shift in my approach to problem resolution has felt better, and given others a stronger voice.
When I blame someone else for something, I try to have a talk with them as soon as I possibly can. I say talk, and not email because this needs to be a conversation. If I’m the only one talking, that’s not fair for them, and leaves things unsaid. Letting them know that what they did affected me and what I felt, is cathartic for me, but also helpful for them. By not holding a grudge on my side, I’ll have better interactions with them going forward.
Who do you Blame?
What do you do when you blame someone else? Do you go to them to talk, or do you wait for them to come to you? If you wait for them to come to you, you’re making the choice to be responsible for the situation. They may know you’re upset, but you’re making the assumption they know they need to talk to you.
If you catch yourself thinking “they need to apologize”, try to catch yourself and rephrase this as “I need to talk to them”. If you think “I don’t know why they’re mad at me”, then make it a point to have a chat and ask.
Holding a Grudge
By skipping these conversations, cracks form in a relationship. One may not be enough to break a relationship, but it could be enough to start a grudge. Why chance something important as a relationship when you could get to the root of it. Even having this conversation gives both people the chance to show that this relationship is important, and there’s a shared desire to build a future.