Blame Stops Thought
When something goes wrong, we want to blame someone or something. This is true whether it is in a family or a business. It is almost unbelievable how quickly we go looking for someone or something to blame, and when we think we’ve discovered the culprit, we breathe a sigh of relief and look no further.
Many, many years ago, I was married to Roger, a man who was 6’5” tall. I am 5’3”. There was always splattered toothpaste on the bathroom mirror, right at my eye level. I was annoyed by this. I cleaned it up begrudgingly and complained about it often. Then we divorced. Imagine my horror when I discovered toothpaste splattered on the bathroom mirror at my eye level, when the only people living in the house were me and my small children! I assumed my original blaming was right. I never gave it another thought. The takeaway here is that it is worth asking, “How might I be contributing to the very thing I’m blaming on another?”
Should we blame ourselves, then? This is not much more helpful than blaming another. Self-blame also stops thought and therefore learning. It reinforces a negative sense of ourselves, and doesn’t give any clues about how to improve.
The Full Quote
The full quote by Epictetus, a Greek philosopher born in AD 55, reads:
“An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune.
To blame oneself is proof of progress.
But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.”
In a Workplace
In a workplace setting, when things go wrong, the problem is often the system. An individual may SEEM to be the culprit. We figure out whom to blame, and breathe a sigh of relief. We stop thinking about it. But retraining or replacing the individual with a more skilled person will not help, if the deeper issue is a deficient process or system.
Instead of Blaming
If we stop blaming, what will we do instead? Where can we channel that knee-jerk energy?
Here are steps that can give you direction:
1. Notice when you have the urge to blame
2. Commit to learning instead of justifying – (decide not to stop thinking)
3. Get curious and ask a lot of questions. After each answer, ask, “And what else?”
There is relief in this process. It takes a lot of energy to keep blame alive.
Sharon Eakes, MA, BCC, is a coach, author and educator. Her companies, Hope Unlimited, LLC, and Two Wise Women help people live joyful, productive, generous lives.