Surviving and minimizing blame!

Blame is a very negative influence on a person’s reputation and can last for as long as the relationship lasts. The best antidote for blame is; immediately and without equivocation, take full and sole responsibility for a mishap if it truly is your ‘fault’. If you made a mistake and everyone involved knows it, you elevate your stature in the eyes of all if you immediately take full responsibility, even if other people were involved to a lesser extent than you were.

If you weaken your apology by trying to explain it away, you do yourself no good and instead you damage your credibility to everyone involved. Saying; “Everyone does it” or “We all make mistakes” Only buries the problem in the minds of those present and plants the seeds of a poor reputation. Saying: “I’m sorry that I spilled your drink, I will get you another one” is far better than saying; “you shouldn’t have left your drink where it could be spilled.”

The more freely you can take the blame for incidental accidents, the more you will be respected. Immature people feel just the opposite as they struggle to maintain a ‘perfect’ image of themselves in the minds of their peers. They feel so insecure that admitting any fault is beyond what they can bear. It is a sign of maturity and professional responsibility to assume all of the blame if you are the top manager regarding the episode. This gives you power over others who were working under you by saying something like: “Look you guys, I ‘saved your bacon’ when I took all the blame, but if it happens again, I will not be so generous – get it?”

I once entered a professional field that consisted of technicians who were not graded according to competency. I knew that I needed additional specific training so I enrolled in classes. In my first session, the very first thing that the instructor did was pick students to answer specific technical questions. Here I was among ‘experts’ who were strangers to me and I was feeling very awkward as it was. I was hoping against hope that the instructor would not pick me to answer a question, making me look foolish before the whole class. I felt that it was unfair for me to be require to show my ignorance when the reason I came was to learn. I continued attending these professional seminars for over 30 years and I became acquainted with many other technicians. I also became friends with many instructors so the fear of being discredited in the eyes of my class was gone. I could relax and enjoy the experience. However, I can certainly identify with the feelings of an immature person who would feel devastated to be found with ‘blame’ in the eyes of his peers.

If the cause of an unfortunate incident was the fault of another person, be quick to minimize the event saying; “You didn’t hurt anything, these are just my old shoes.” Be quick and generous in your responses. It is much better to take blame for something that is not your fault than to quibble over blaming someone else for something they could have prevented. This all comes down to ‘attitude’ which is based on who you see yourself to be and how you see other people. An improper response is also based in the insecurity of having low development of social skills. Nothing reveals your maturity level as well as how you assume proper responsibility for the incidental mishaps that happen to everybody.

If you respond generously, people are inclined to accept it and really dismiss the incident from their memory. They are also more likely to admit their part in the mishap if they are not challenged in the situation. This is especially important in dealing with people less mature than yourself. Such action makes you to be more mature in the eyes of others, especially the less mature. Instead of ‘losing face’, you actually gain strength and more control. This attribute is a powerful element in building your image in the minds of your peers and others as you grow in understanding of ‘who you are’ and ‘who other people are’.

You are not obligated to fight every fight offered to you. You do not need to answer every challenge. Can you see how much control this gives you? You are rising above the fray and taking control. If someone calls you a ‘bad name’, consider the source. If someone offends you with word or action, learn to ignore it. You may ‘heap coals of fire’ on their head by your lack of response. For your own sake, you can ease the offense by realizing that they are lesser persons than you are. They are less mature, educated, civilized – whatever. In fact, as you grow, you will be constantly realizing that you are ‘better’ than those around you. You will realize the element of ‘age appropriate behavior’. You have more understanding, more control over yourself and others and more power to take command of situations. You will develop more perception and understanding of other people and yourself.

What if someone falsely accuses you of some offense in anger? If you respond in anger you are already losing the contest. Remember, people do not become angry because they are winning. Just stay cool and let the other person ‘blow his top’ without answering any of their charges. When they eventually wind down, ask them: “Is that all?” keep talking calmly and sincerely without making any response. Let them completely ventilate and you may come to a place that you can have a rational conversation. If they don’t, you may say; “I’m sorry that you feel that way, or “I am sorry that you are distressed.” And present yourself in a way that implies that you are not going pursue the subject any further. If they insist that you answer their charges, simply say; “I'll get back to you on that as soon as I can figure out what is going on”, or something similar, and see if you can change the subject with something like, “How about a cup of coffee – I’m buying.” If you can do this, you are exercising your power. You have taken control.

Written by guest author, Bob Davis!


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