6 Ways to Cope with Blamers

Your co-worker is constantly blaming his boss for his 80 hour plus work weeks.  You are blamed by the project chair for the missed deadline although they were responsible for the delay.  Your partner blames you for the cold dinner, after arriving thirty minutes late.  You end up embarrassed.  Dumbfounded.  Sometimes seething.  These destructive feelings, when ongoing, cause irreparable damage to the relationship and your self-esteem.

blamersBlamers are everywhere.  I see blamers as those who have external locus of control.  As defined by Psychology Today, “The belief that events in one’s life, whether good or bad, are caused by uncontrollable factors such as the environment, other people, or a higher power.”  If you feel as though everything is out of your control and out of your realm of responsibility, you’re going to have lost that responsibility elsewhere.  This is what blamers do.  “A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes.” Odds are that if you are suffering from the blamers around you, you have an internal locus of control and are feeling responsible for the blame that is heaped on you.  Fear not!  There are ways to cope with this.

 

6 Ways to Cope with Blamers:

 

  1. Own your piece. Everyone has at least 2% of the truth. This is a tenet of CRR Global. So does the blamer.  If you get defensive and start arguing with the blamer, it is discounting the 2% of truth.  Maybe you were late with one little piece of the project, maybe you didn’t answer the email by the deadline, maybe your ideas weren’t well fleshed out.  I’m not suggesting you be a doormat, but acknowledge the 2% that is correct.  It’s not “I completely blew this, I’m sorry” but “I can see that responding faster to that email would have impacted the outcome.”  Everyone is right…partially.

 

  1. Find the brilliance. A lot of people rarely compliment the other folks in their lives. Whether at home or at work, we don’t try and catch people doing something right.  But everyone does something right every day.  Even if it’s brush their teeth or complete the monthly report on time.  Look for the positive.  Hunt for it.  I was working with a narcissist once.  She didn’t like any of my ideas for a project.  She showed me one of her ideas which I sincerely thought was innovative.  I said, “This is brilliant.”  She did a 180 degree change on the project.  Now she was onboard.  If I had held my tongue, we would have remained at logger heads.   Look for the brilliance.  Then broadcast it.

 

  1. Listen with empathy. When someone is blaming either someone else or you, be sure to actively listen with empathy. This can be difficult.  It can be painful to hear someone trash your best efforts.  It will help to focus on your breath so that you can stay out of going to your lizard brain and activating your limbic system (the fight or flight response). It may even take returning to the topic later after you’ve had a chance to cool off.  My husband was upset with me a few nights ago and asked that we talk about the topic on Sunday morning.  This was really effective.  I had time to reflect and he had time to reflect.  We were in a better space to listen and be empathetic. Make space to listen.

 

  1. Respond looking for solutions. Aja Frost wrote a great article called 7 Perfect Replies to (Politely) Shut Down Negative People. My two favorite for coping with the chronic blamer is, “Is there anything I can do?” and “I’m sorry to hear that. Did anything good come out of the situation?” This can shut the blamer down because it is focused on forward positive motion.  Blamers typically want to dwell on how bad everything is. I have asked clients who are focusing on blame, “What 2% are you responsible for?”   This is a proactive approach.  It focuses on what can be versus what was

 

  1. Come from a place of love. As Kelly Smith wrote for Tiny Buddha, “Remember, all actions are based in either fear or love. Base yours in love. Realize their actions are based in fear. Often, these fears are ones that no one can reach because they are too deep-seated for the person to acknowledge. Accept that, and continue to operate from your own base of love.” I personally have been meditating on loving kindness for months.  My mantra has been to be the “Love and light” in my life.  Having an open heart and compassion for others helps me see the good in all people regardless of the facade they may be exhibiting.  We all want to be loved, happy and at peace.

 

  1. Let go. As Kelly Smith wrote, “It’s not worth your constant wondering and worrying. It isn’t good for you to hold onto it and over-analyze it. Let it go; visualize yourself blowing it all into a balloon, tying it off, and letting it drift away. Feel lighter because of it!” I love the balloon metaphor.  Another practice is to clench your hand in a fist with your anger towards the blamer, and then release.  Let the blame dissolve into the ether.

 

Sometimes your best efforts can’t change or pacify other people’s behavior.  There may be a difficult decision in front of you.  Chronic blamers can be toxic for an organization or family unit.  If you’ve tried these coping mechanisms and you still feel like your self-esteem is being affected, you might need to move on.

8 Tricks to Being a Better Listener.

You want to impress your boss with your novel idea before anyone else says it, so you interrupt.  You categorically disagree with your wife’s view on politics so you butt in to straighten her out.  You start planning your day while your child is telling you the same old knock-knock joke they always do and misses the punch line.   You wonder why no one listens to you.  You can’t seem to get anyone’s attention.  The thing is that listening is a gift and if you don’t give it?  You don’t get it.

listen

It’s so easy in a world of constant distraction, a presidential election, and task-switching to just give up on the generous act of listening.  Active listening is an investment and it’s not readily apparent when it will pay off.  I believe that active listening–or as Stephen Covey defines it, “listening to understand”–is the single greatest gift you can give anyone.  Everyone has a deep-seated need to be heard.  Deeply heard.

Here are the 8 tricks to being a better listener:

  1. Turn off the noise. If it’s possible, try and find a quiet place. If you are in the middle of a rock concert, it’s probably not a good idea to decide to start listening.  There is often a lot of background noise, so shut off the television, turn off your phone and close the door.  When you prepare the space to listen, the other person, whether it be a co-worker or family member, feels respected as you prepare for them to speak.
  2. Shut down technology. There is nothing more disrespectful than someone checking their phone while you are talking. It’s essentially saying that what might possibly be on this phone (be it an Instagram notification or junk email) is more important than you.  Since most of us are addicted to our devices, turn it off so that the temptation is gone.  Set the stage to be a good listener.
  3. Mirror their posture. So if they lean in, you lean in. If they cross their arms, you cross your arms.  Don’t go overboard and mimic every raised finger or eyebrow.  It needs to be subtle but the mirroring helps you connect.  As the article “Mirroring in Body Language” in Psychologia states, “Mirroring body language is a non-verbal way to say ‘I am like you, I feel the same.’ The research shows that people who experience the same emotions are likely to experience mutual trust, connection and understanding.” Make a better connection through mirroring.
  4. Get present. Mindfulness training like meditation or yoga can help with this. It’s time to quiet the mind.  You can be more open to any direction in conversation when you are in the moment.  Let the grocery list go and forget about the weather report.  Relax and be in the moment.
  5. Don’t talk. This can be incredibly difficult for extroverts like myself. I have a ton of ideas I want to spill out.  I have this feeling that I need to express everything that is in my head before I forget it.  What I realize now is that if I forget it, it probably wasn’t that special anyway.  And if it is that unique or special, it will eventually bubble up again down the road. It can even give you the opportunity to go back to the person and say, “I was thinking about our talk and…” They will feel heard and acknowledged. For the introverts out there, this is as easy as pie.  Keep your mouth shut.
  6. First seek to understand. This is a tenet by Stephen R. Covey: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” At this point, it’s ok to ask clarifying questions, like, “How did you feel when he said that to you?” or “What was the impact of that on you?” or “What are you learning about yourself?” These are all questions focused on the speaker. It’s not: “Can I come too?”; or a judgment: “That guy is a jerk.”  Clarifying questions help you understand the speaker’s point of view.
  7. Don’t let the influence of accents or slang put you on the defensive. As Skills You Need states, “Everybody has a different way of speaking – some people are for example more nervous or shy than others, some have regional accents or make excessive arm movements, some people like to pace whilst talking – others like to sit still. Focus on what is being said and try to ignore styles of delivery.” Let go of your personal prejudice and be open to the message, regardless of the mode of expression.
  8. Everyone is right…partially. This is a tenet of CRR Global.  Everyone owns a piece of the truth, but not all of it.  I can feel like the “Corrector in Chief” which will make me jump in and pronounce a word correctly for someone or, worse yet, actually finish their sentence. Let the speaker own their message and deliver it.  If you agree or not.  That is not the question.  It is all about listening and understanding the intended message.  This is not a debate and there are no winners.  Everyone is right…partially.

Growing up my father was always a good listener.  He would ask probing questions and listen to the answer.  Patiently.  It was a gift to have that as a child growing up. And he still listens. I hope I can give the same gift to my children and all the other people in my life.