I Want To Start a Movement: Replace Blame with Empathy and Discernment

How often do we find ourselves in the midst of the blame game? Whether in the media, in the workplace, or in the personal comfort of our own homes—sometimes it feels as if deflection or the lack of ownership is unavoidable.

We blame others for the privation of our progression, and others blame us; frustrations circumvent over and over from person to person, and blaming becomes contagious. What if we took time to step back and reflect before reacting (negatively)?

I received a very short but impactful message this week—if you plant lettuce and it doesn’t grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce; you look for reasons the lettuce is not doing well, but you never blame the lettuce.

When was the last time you approached a disconnection or a challenge with empathy and discernment? No one intentionally desires to fall short or to fail in their personal and professional lives; nor are they intentionally seeking out your demise. The majority of us openly share our goals, but very few of us are comfortable sharing our struggles; if we did I’m sure many of us would be surprised by what we’d learn.

In most instances one small change can create a significant impact on the way we communicate, interact, and empathize with others; ultimately dissipating tenuous situations before they can bubble up into judgement and blame.

Here a few practical steps to combatting the blame game:

  • Don’t blame others for your mistakes.

The temptation is huge to point the finger elsewhere when a mistake happens, resist it.  Not only will you gain respect and loyalty from your followers, you will also help prevent a culture of blame from becoming normal.

  • If you see that you need to surface a mistake in public, be deliberate in how you approach it.

Be clear and direct in the way you recognize someone else’s omission or error. Avoid sarcasm, avoid eye rolling, and other behaviors which are not constructive and take away from the message. Establish clarity and get an action plan to move forward differently.

  • Set an example by confidently taking ownership when you make a mistake.

No person is perfect, and no department is perfect either, so expect some mistakes. Say you are sorry. If there was a reason you can share, share it; but resist the temptation to share the blame. Avoid comments like, “if you had only reminded me;” and ask yourself the question, “How can I stay on top of the work I need to get done?”

  • Thank people for learning from their mistakes.

If something does not go as well as you would like, learn from it.  If one of your staff admits that their approach did not work, ask “what did you learn from that? “  If they did learn something, recognize and acknowledge their efforts; and in the future, feel free to ask how they will apply that newfound lesson in new situations.

  • Focus on learning.

Help us create a culture of learning in our offices, homes, and site locations; when things go well, and even when they don’t— ask “what did we learn?”

The more we understand and practice understanding, the less we’ll blame; and the less we blame the more we cultivate an environment for new ideas and solutions, and the more we’ll grow.