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Sharing the Blame Game- Take Ownership Now

Posted on Mar 12 2015 under Blog Posts

blamegameIn my first semester at University of Baltimore we were assigned a book to read called Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. The book provides a step-by-step approach to working through difficult conversations. The entire book was fantastic, but one particular section was eye opening for me. The chapter discusses how people need to stop blaming others and instead assess how they have contributed to the conflict. Stone, Patton, and Heen urge readers to ask themselves, “how did I contribute to this problem?” At this time in my life I was involved in a conflict with a friend and I was not taking any responsibility for my actions. It was a huge breakthrough for me because I realized how often we blame others for the conflicts we face; we abandon ownership of our problems, but why? Perhaps because it is easier to throw up our hands and say, “I didn’t do anything wrong”, but this does not resolve conflicts, if anything it prolongs them.

In any conflict you face, whether with a significant other, boss, or friend begin by taking a step back and asking yourself “How did I contribute to this problem?” Dr. Patty Ann Tublin a contributor to Entrepreneurial Woman explains, “Conflict in our relationships cannot be created in a vacuum. At least two people are responsible for it when it enters our lives. Regardless of whether you started the conflict or you are allowing it to perpetuate, you have some personal responsibility for its presence in your relationship.” Maybe your husband forgot to stop and pick up the items you requested for dinner at the store, he gets home and this starts a fight because now you have nothing to make for dinner. Ask yourself what you could have done differently? Maybe you could have sent a reminder to him so he wouldn’t forget. Even small squabbles such as this can build resentment, if both parties do not take ownership.

Why do people avoid taking responsibility?

In an excerpt from Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith’s book, The Art of Waking People Up: Cultivating Awareness and Authenticity at Work found on Mediate.com they explain that, “everyone in conflict tells a story in which they are right and the other person is wrong.” Cloke and Goldsmith suggests that, “These accusatory, self-serving stories are designed to disguise and divert attention from the role they play in keeping the conflict going, and reinforce their defenses, justifications, countermeasures, and irreconcilable positions.” Stone, Patton and Sheen point out “The urge to blame is based, quite literally, on a misunderstanding of what has given rise to the issues between you and the other person, and on the fear of being blamed.” People are not fond of admitting to their shortcomings. But the fact of the matter is, we are all human and we all make mistakes. It is easier to point the finger at someone else when things go wrong. And it takes courage and strength to own up to your part in any given issue and in doing so, it assists you and the person your in conflict with move forward.

Why is taking ownership important?

Jeff Durham a contributor to Life Coach Expert points out, “ taking responsibility for our actions equals success. It also makes us feel good about ourselves and rids us of negative personality traits such as anger, fear, resentment, hostility and doubt.” It is essential to recognize your contribution to the conflict in order to move towards resolution. The other person in the conflict becomes more open to listening allowing both parties to see and understand why the conflict occurred, what improvements you need to make and how to prevent the problem from happening again. So, the next time you find yourself attacking or blaming others, stop, think and ask yourself “What did I do or say, however small, that contributed to the problem?” Refrain from justifications such as “I wouldn’t have done X, if they had not done Y.” And then, own it.

 

Abigail Clark

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore


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