Overcoming Blame Game: Fostering Healthy Communication in Personal Life


John and Sally are working on a project together. An issue is flagged by their direct manager, and suddenly, both are pointing fingers at each other! There are no real winners in wars. The same goes for blame games.

When it comes to personal relationships, blame games tend to focus too much on finding fault rather than thinking of a solution. A pillar of personal relationships is healthy communication — without it, everything becomes shaky and inevitably falls to the ground.

This article will explore the complex concept of blame and the psychology behind it. It will also emphasize the importance of healthy communication and constructive conflict resolution in your personal relationships. All that whilst providing tips and insightful remarks that should get you on the track of living a more fulfilling life.

Understanding the blame game

Blame is a distinct moral judgment that is both cognitive and social, which regulates social behavior and is essentially dependent on social cognition. It’s putting the responsibility or the fault of something that went wrong on someone.

People engage in blame games for various reasons. Sometimes it’s shifting the personal guilt to someone else. Other times, pointing blame gives a sense of clarity in times of confusion. 

Based on a study by researchers Neil Malhotra and Alexander G. Kuo from Stanford University, results showed that citizens blamed officials for natural disasters like hurricanes. When things go vague, and it’s nobody’s fault, in need of assurance and a set structure, people will place the blame on the first potential scapegoat they can find.

At times, the blamed person is at fault. They were behind the issue at hand. But is engaging in the blame game the right approach to fix the situation? Why should you avoid blaming someone?

Getting involved in blaming, not to mention chronic blame, can be detrimental to your own well-being. Blame can stimulate resentment, hence hindering a person from getting into a positive headspace that is supposed to lead to thinking of an actual strategy to help with the existing problem. “Pointing fingers” can also affect your road of growth and development. It’s not easy to find time to reflect on the situation and analyze your weaknesses and areas of improvement when you’re busy blaming others for problems.

But it doesn’t just stop on the personal level. Blaming others has a massive negative impact on your relationships with other people. As mentioned above, it opens the door for resentment and hatred. No one likes to be attacked or pointed at. 

Blame can also break the trust between a person and their partner in a romantic relationship. If you’re constantly blamed by your partner, there’ll be a point where you stop and think, “Am I actually doing that? Or is it the other side’s perception that is faulty?”

Self-reflection and awareness

One of the keys to overcoming blame and maintaining healthy communication with others is self-awareness and self-reflection. Instead of instantly blaming someone, you can ask yourself questions like:

  • “What can be the other narrative rather than my current perception of the situation?”
  • “Is there anything I could have done differently that would’ve eradicated part of the issue?”
  • “Am I reading the incident wrong here?”

Developing a habit of asking these questions is beneficial, for they open a person’s eyes to repetitive patterns that might normally go unseen. They also curb the primitive temptation in us as humans to just throw responsibility for something that went wrong on someone else. Additionally, self-awareness and reflection have been found to aid in recovering from external trauma and healing psychosomatic wounds.

Read More: Reaching a Higher Sense of Self Through Mindfulness

Taking responsibility for actions

There’s nothing better than communicating with someone without worrying you’ll have more than your share of responsibilities, blame, and finger-pointing. A responsible person is someone who can be trusted and depended on. Whether it’s a romantic relationship or not, taking responsibility paves the way for a strong connection and relationship between you and others.

Below are a few tips and exercises to help you improve responsibility and accountability:

Develop an eye for excuses

Part of self-reflection is noticing patterns. When you notice a pattern of giving excuses for a certain behavior, you need to have a self-set-down and think, “Now that I’m aware I subconsciously create excuses for this, what can I actually do to help the situation effectively?”

Even if the solution and the action to be taken are not sorted out immediately, you’ll still be aware that this is just an excuse and not a real reason. This will make you less likely to blame someone else when things go south.

Practice compassion towards yourself

It might be hard to hold yourself responsible all the time when you’re beating yourself up for every single error or mistake. The harsher your own reaction is, the more difficult it will be to admit mistakes. We all make mistakes. Accept it when it happens, and treat yourself kindly. Always remind yourself it’s better to focus on what can be done to improve the situation.

Speak up and maintain ownership

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Do not hold your thoughts to yourself. Speak your thoughts and communicate them. Express your opinion when you think a change is necessary or see something that needs to be flagged.

Read More: Standing Up for Yourself: It’s Called Assertiveness

Empathy and compassionate communication

“Because if it’s not love…if it’s not love, then it’s the bomb that will bring us together,” said Morrissey, lead singer of the English rock band The Smiths. If it’s not kindness and empathy that you share when it comes to personal relationships, then your communication with others might easily fall into a hole of passive aggression, condescension, and unproductivity.

Implementing empathy in your communication with others opens the door for moving forward, positivity, and productivity. Scholars have found that empathy promotes many forms of prosocial behaviors, such as forgiving, volunteering, and assisting, and that it is negatively connected with behaviors such as aggressiveness and bullying. 

Even though empathy is a long journey of self-discovery and an approach that has to be deeply rooted, some techniques that can be shared to strengthen your own sense of empathy are:

  • Putting yourself in the shoes of others
  • Being considerate
  • Taking a step back to reflect and evaluate

Read More: Emotional, Cognitive, or Compassionate: How Do You Empathize With Others?

Active listening and open communication

If your actions can be referred to as your output, then listening would be one of your main sources of input. In order to correctly issue an “output,” the input needs to be received properly as well. This means that only by active listening and “seriously” listening to what the other person has to say can you communicate effectively and respond accordingly.

Many techniques can be implemented to enhance active listening, including:

  • Keeping eye contact
  • Asking questions
  • Giving visual cues and paying attention to them in return
  • Not getting distracted thinking about what to say next, even before the other person finishes speaking

Conflict resolution strategies

The best approach in the presence of conflict is communication. You cannot go wrong with replacing blaming with constructive communication. Talk with the other person and see their concerns. Negotiate with them and reach a mutually beneficial compromise: “I want 1…you want 3…what if we go for 2?” Reaching a win-win solution is ideal as well, whenever achievable.

In order to make the best out of these strategies, they should be tackled in harmony with other aspects of communication, such as empathy, active listening, and awareness.

In conclusion 

Even though there are no winners in a blame game, a win still can be made out of the situation by shifting energy to work out the issue instead. By tackling problems, equipped by habits and aspects mentioned in the article, such as self-reflection, taking responsibility, and conflict resolution, you can achieve a better way of communicating with others, another essential step on the eternal road of happiness and satisfaction in life.

If you would like to see more resources on blame-related actions, check out the Personal Resilience Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Personal Resilience Science Labs today.

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