Now and then, many of us commit the sin of wrongful casting blame or consequences on someone else for something we did. Doing this violates principles of people skills, basic fairness, and decency. Yet sometimes we do it. And about the only excuse that can be offered, if by a stretch it can be considered an excuse, is that it´s a human frailty.
So, let´s take a close look at this human problem. What follows are some common ways to play this wrongful game:
Killing the Messenger
When we jump someone for bringing us bad news or unfavorable, distasteful, but necessary information, for umpteen reasons this is abominable. Not the least of which is that it doesn’t make sense. To blame the person who brings you information for creating it, is logically, off the wall. That’s the nub of the wrong.
In childhood, we learned how unjust this is from the legend about the king who had the messenger beheaded for bringing him news that his army had just lost a battle.
So, clearly we know blaming a messenger is illogical and morally wrong. But still, most of us have an innate, human expectation: “Tell me what I want to hear, not what I don’t.”
Again, we know it’s not right to do, but we still have to battle against punishing messengers. And that’s true of so many our bad behaviors. We clearly know they’re wrong, but we allow this knowledge of wrongfulness to slip into our subconscious and cease to obstruct us.
And in this case, as mentioned we submit to human frailty by caving to our desire not to hear something we don’t want to hear. And unfortunately, it’s so facile to come down on a bearer of grim news. Sometimes, we do it so subtlety that we don’t realize we’re doing it.
What follows is a common way to butcher an innocent bearer of bad tidings. But it’s anything but subtle:
Wendy and Ryan are married and work for the same company. She is telling Ryan what their common boss, Sandra, said to her the day before.
“Sandra asked me into her office. We both sat down. She then asked me to tell you something, Ryan. She said that I should ask you to stop berating other employees. She said that they’re filing complaints against you. Then she showed me two of them with names blocked out.”
(Face flushing pink and with raised voice) “What the hell is that nonsense? Those people are liars. You know damn well, Wendy, I don’t berate anyone. You know better than that!”
As you can see, Ryan is talking to his wife as if she were Sandra. Yes, illogically and unjustly, he is turning Wendy into the person making or believing the charge. He’s making her pay dearly for simply having passed information on to him as requested. And it’s something vital for him to know. Wendy is actually trying to help him, so he won’t lose his job. But he is too blinded by his rage at Sandra, to see this.
But at least Ryan is limiting his venom to words. Some persons throw things, break things, slam doors, et cetera.
Nevertheless, whether it’s words or actions, it’s misdirected. And it’s anything but constructive to a relationship. After Ryan’s tirade, his wife feels brutalized, penalized by his words.
Clobbering the Handy
This one is also common. Someone has a miserable day at work, comes home, and takes it out on whoever is handy. Too often this is an unlucky spouse or a child. How unjust!
And it’s behavior equally irrational as is killing-the-messenger. It involves the same type of misdirected ventilation and anger. And it smacks of bullying. The actor picks on the innocent and defenseless, exactly what the king did in beheading his messenger.
This kind of bludgeoning happens in a business setting:
Bob Smith, an attorney, receives a call at his office from a deputy-clerk of a court:
“Mr. Smith, I’m calling to tell you that your motion for a new trial has been dismissed. This is because no one from your office appeared at the hearing on the motion this morning. I will put a copy of the judge’s order in the mail. Please call if you have any questions.”
Bob, in a peeved, abrupt tone that belies his words: “OK, appreciate the call.”
Agape, and furious, Bob slams the phone down so forcefully that he breaks its cradle. He turns to Dawn, his secretary, and kicks her desk like it’s a football. The jolt knocks her keyboard to the floor.
The blow leaves a notable dent in the desk. All the other employees nearby look up, agape, shocked. So, to wisely and quickly leave Bob and Dawn alone, they scamper out of the room.
“Dawn, why in the hell didn’t you remind me of the Jones motion for this morning? Damn it to hell, you cost Jones a new trial!”
“Sir, you didn’t tell me about it. I didn’t know.”
(still enraged) “Well, you should have made it your business to know. That’s your job!”
Obviously, Bob goofed, and he’s trying to make it Dawn’s fault. He doesn’t want to admit to himself that he blew it. And, even if he had told Dawn about the hearing, for something so critical, he should not have depended on her alone.
So, anyway you look at it, the buck stops with Bob. And whatever the state of his relationship with Dawn was, well, it deteriorates considerably. Shortly, he just might have to find a replacement for her. His behavior is just another example how taking it out on someone can destroy relationships.
“Put the Blame on Mame”
So, persons like Attorney Bob will cast blame for their mistakes anywhere but where it belongs. That famous old Broadway song, Put the Blame on Mame most aptly sums up the blame game. “Blame Mame, anybody, or anything but me!”
Now, here’s one more scenario:
“Mario, last month I gave the Jones invoice to you. Could you get it and see how much the gas bill was. You can call me back.”
Mario then spends fifteen minutes or so searching for the invoice but cannot find it. That’s because he misplaced it somewhere in the horrific clutter of his disorderly office.
He calls Janice and tells her he doesn’t have the invoice. And that he distinctly recalls her talking about it. “So, you had it last.“ (Aha! It’s now Janice’s fault)
He’s convincing enough to put some doubt in Janice´s mind. So, immediately after hanging up, she searches every nook and cranny of her office to make sure that her memory is not failing her. To no avail, she spends almost an hour looking for the invoice. And this convinces her that Mario just has to have it somewhere in his messy office.
So, Janice makes a beeline for there. She asks his permission to look for the file. He reluctantly replies, “If you want to waste your time, be my guest.”
After about twenty minutes of looking, lo and behold, she finds the file in a stack of other ones in a jumbled pile on a second desk. Does Mario apologize to her that he had wrongfully cast blame on her? Nope.
The Constant Bellyachers
In concluding this not-accepting-responsibility or blame subject, let’s now jump to one-final-classic way that it’s done. Let´s talk about those who don´t cast blame on other people for their failures, but instead on their lots and situations.
They regularly bug you by crying on your shoulder and deluging you with their reasons for not doing what they’re supposed to: They’re up to their ears with problems supposedly unique to them. They’re tired, they’re not getting enough sleep, their work load is overwhelming, their feet hurt, too much is expected of them, and so on. They almost make you think these things are your fault. By implication, they seem to be saying, why aren’t you doing something to unburden them?
But what they overlook is that you too could be experiencing some of these same problems. Isn’t just about everyone? Don’t we all at times feel like there is too much on our plates?
And do these constant complainers ever seem interested in hearing about your hurdles? No way. All they want to do is bemoan their own problems to escape accountability for not doing what they should have done or some blooper they’ve made.
Finally, as to the Blame Game
All in all, as to blaming, it’s one heck of a people skill to have the gumption and providence to flat-out admit when you’ve blown it. You say to yourself as well as communicate to others, “It’s my bad.” You make no bones about it that you alone are to blame and offer no excuses.
Employing this simple forthrightness as part of a self help, self improvement, or even a communication skills discipline can garner you oodles of respect, and sometimes a tinge of compassion. And doing this just might accomplish the very thing that blame switching or offering excuses tries to do but fails to do: Make the person to whom you’re admitting you “blew it,” overlook your blunder and move on.
So, when something bad happens that really is your fault, and you tend to blame someone else, how do you get yourself to stop and flat-out admit fault, be forthright? Well, you do it by doing what is repetitively recommended in this book: Blast yourself with blunt logic. Tell yourself over and over how unfair it is to take it out on somebody else. Put yourself in that person’s shoes.
Yes, think long and hard about how morally wrong it is to make another person pay a price for something you’ve done.
It will look like this: Do You Play the Blame Game?