How to Avoid The Blame Game ...by Stan Hyman, PhD, LCSW
What is The Blame Game?
This is a game we all know but often hate to play. I don’t think there is anyone who can truthfully say that he or she has not played it. It is a game that is addictive, seductive and can cause untold damage to a relationship. It is a game with no winner!
To blame someone is to hold them responsible for something. In general we would all agree that everyone needs to be responsible for his or her actions.
However, in a relationship blaming one’s partner comes out of strong emotions and takes the form of accusations, recriminations and outright attacks. (see my Newsletter on Why Couples Argue).
The way a message is conveyed or a conversation engaged in can either cause a partner to become defensive, confrontational and resentful or forgiving, understanding and more loving.
Try to resist blaming when you are attempting to get your point across. Statements that are accusatory will set your partner up to become defensive almost immediately.
If you want cooperation it is in your best interest to engage your partner with more neutral statements and manageable requests.
If the objective is to be heard and the goal is to have better communication, don’t play the blame game! Instead use other strategies outlined below.
If you want to be angry and have a bare knuckle, destructive, bloody verbal battle then simply disregard this article.
However, if you want to create better communication and have a more respectful, satisfying and civilized relationship, there are some very clear and helpful strategies you can use.
Strategies of Engagement
Agree On The Rules: Both partners should go into a discussion with the understanding of the following rules of behavior:
Stay Calm: Overreacting will not help in getting your point across. If you need a little time to compose yourself then take it and come back ready to talk.
Stay Focused: Keep on topic. Don’t bring up extraneous or unnecessary details, they cloud the issue and undermine the conversation.
Stay Specific: Don’t generalize. Being vague often causes confusion and inaccuracy.
Stay On One Issue: It is often too confusing and counterproductive to address more than one thing at a time. Try to work on one topic until you both agree to change the subject.
Don't Interrupt: Let the other partner complete a thought and make their point before making your comment. It is not only respectful but will also help you to understand more clearly where they are coming form. Don’t Exaggerate: Overstating what the truth is can diffuse a good position.
Don’t Minimize: Respect the other’s concern about a topic even though you might feel it is “no big deal”.
Express Feelings with Grace: Be honest and straightforward without losing your cool.
Don't Attack: The objective is to have a discussion, not a war. If you use “below the belt” tactics the atmosphere will turn ugly and the talk will become ineffective.
Don’t Make Up Facts: Speak the truth. Don’t fantasize!
Propose Solutions: Be ready to problem solve, not just “complain”. Ask your partner to brainstorm with you in finding good solutions you can both agree on.
Be Ready to Compromise: A good relationship is based on give and take. Don’t back your partner into a corner by sticking to only one course of action.
Schedule Another Discussion: Get into the habit of talking things through. If you approach difficult issues in this way you will avoid bloody battles and have much better communication.
Strategies are only as good as the people who use them. If you find that you and your partner cannot change your destructive patterns then you might consider the help of a marriage counselor or relationship coach.