Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Blame Game: positive, negative or somewhere in-between

I received a book recently entitled The Blame Game: The Complete Guide to Blaming: How to Play and How to Quit. It is written by physician and researcher Dr. Neil Farber who is described on the back cover as "an international expert on blaming." I would think that would be a very narrow specialty but anyway, after skimming through the book, I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with the author.

The books discusses all of the ways in which we blame others such as group blaming where we blame men, women, Christians, Jews etc. and then there is blaming our parents, siblings, bosses etc. In a chapter on how to stop playing the blame game, the author suggests one "take responsibility" and "judge others favorably" and "make excuses for others." In a section called "Empathize--externalize for others," he states: "When someone does something that you don't like or something you feel negatively affects your life, externalize their behavior--come up with reasons, besides negative personality traits, why they would have acted in that way." Huh?

While I can respect the author's point, that blaming others can lead to a lack of personal responsibility, I think that not blaming others at all can also lead to the same outcome. Why? Because not judging and assuming others have good intentions or motives can be naive and lead to a society where no one thinks they are at fault. Yes, going too far and externalizing all blame has its problems but assigning no blame teaches a society that there is no right and wrong in the world and that moral relativism rules the day. In my opinion, being adept at knowing what and who is to blame has its place, as does knowing when blaming is not a solution.

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30 Comments:

Blogger Thag Jones said...

That sounds like a waste of time of a book. I prefer the Buddha's advice, "Drive all blames onto one." This doesn't mean blame yourself for everything, rather, take responsibility for what you can control and forget the rest. Sure, maybe you're screwed up because your mom [insert blame here], but now it's YOUR problem, so deal with it. I'm fucked up, you're fucked up.

Trying to get "closure" (don't get me started on that one) through expecting others to make amends is a waste of time, which is why blame is a waste of time, but that doesn't mean you should perversely sit around trying to glean the motives of someone who molested you as a child to the point that you make excuses for the behaviour. WTF?!

Don't make excuses for others, don't make excuses for yourself, but don't hold on forever to blame and grudges. If you can, pray for them, because we are all afflicted, but for the love of all things holy don't make excuses for poor behaviour! That just makes you a doormat.

8:58 AM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

I had an interesting experience yesterday. I was at a meeting where a man spoke for several minutes. In his speech he insulted the audience, made several incorrect assumptions and proved to be quite arrogant. I wanted to smack him.

As the meeting progressed I thought about raising my hand and performing a confrontation. But then I thought about empathy, this man's particular perspective, externalizing for others, being unnecessarily judgmental, assuming the man had good intentions, controlling my behavior and my own personal responsibility.

After the speech people clapped and I ate some cookies. Once I got done eating the delicious cookies I walked up to the man and said, "You made me so angry I wanted to smack you". Then I told him why he made me angry. The man listened to me, apologized for his damaging words and agreed to tweak his speech.

Blaming might be wrong but it certainly is effective.

9:21 AM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Thag Jones said...

I don't know what he said Cham, but it seems a bit ridiculous to try to tweak everything one says in order to avoid offending someone - just about everything a person says is probably going to offend someone, no matter how careful you are.

The problem here is that his speech didn't make you angry, you made you angry. You chose to respond in that way. No one has that control over you unless you let them have it. This may sound ridiculous, and it's not to say we don't all let our emotions get the better of us at times, but it's you who is allowing someone else's words to affect you to the point where you feel violent.

Imagine if you were a man and he was a woman, and you said "You made me so angry I wanted to slap you." Would you find that an acceptable response to a speech?

9:27 AM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

I feel that being all nicey nice doesn't necessarily get people's attention. Feel free to hang me out to dry but I got the result I wanted. That man insulted me and everyone else in that room, and he didn't realize. He's not going to do that again.

9:33 AM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger MB said...

You sure fixed his little red wagon, Cham.

Now you are freed up to find someone else to "get". And you are free as a woman to threaten him with violence.

9:42 AM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Thag Jones said...

I'm hardly one to talk about being "nicety nice" all the time, lol. That's not what I mean. What I am talking about is not letting yourself get worked up, because it clouds judgement and hinders reason. Like I said, I don't know the specifics here, and maybe what you said after saying you wanted to smack him was less emotional, but I'm just talking about the info you've given here.

Taking offence is also a choice. This is what the Buddha means by "driving all blames into one" and it's more about having peace inside yourself than it is about being nicety nice. You can make a point without a thinly veiled threat of violence. Strong points can be made without anger, it's just that we are accustomed to that in our culture. It's a bit like throwing a tantrum instead of talking like adults, even if the tantrum is mostly internal.

Plenty of comments on this blog have stated outright that women are inferior beings, have the mental capacity of a 9 year-old boy or something like that, and I could sit here and get all worked up and "offended," or I could let people think what they want and counter it in ways other than acting childish and proving their point.

How do you know everyone in the room was offended? Maybe sometimes people need to be offended in order to get a point across or to show up their wrong thinking, who knows.

9:44 AM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Thag Jones said...

I got the result I wanted

And that's what it's all about, right? Getting what YOU want, like a toddler. We probably all agree that it is bad for a child to get his way all the time, so why is it when we become "adults" we think "my way" is the only way and that getting our way all the time is the aim of this life?

9:46 AM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Helen said...

Cham,

You are side stepping the issue. Thag Jones asked if you would find it acceptable for a male audience member to say he wanted to slap a female speaker out of anger at her speech. Do you?

10:17 AM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger David said...

An executive of my acquaintance was fond of the phrase "fix problems, not blame." By which he did not mean that you should *never* fix blame--if someone kept screwing up, and was unable/unwilling to learn from the experiences, he would indeed fire the person. What he meant was that blaming as opposed to problem-solving should not be the first and most instinctive response in a situation.

Our current President has an attitude which is 180 degrees opposed to this one.

10:26 AM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Thag Jones said...

It's also interesting, Cham, that you are so indignant at this man's arrogance (whether he is or not, who knows) yet behaving arrogantly yourself. It really is true that what makes you most angry will tell you a lot about yourself. What would the reaction have been had he told you to piss off, one wonders? In other words, if he had not been so nicety nice to you. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that you expect to be on the receiving end of nice but not the one dishing it out if you don't feel like it.

But please, Cham, don't take this as a further opportunity to side step the relevant question about whether this would be acceptable behaviour if the sexes were reversed.

10:34 AM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger J. Bowen said...

Yes, going too far and externalizing all blame has its problems but assigning no blame teaches a society that there is no right and wrong in the world and that moral relativism rules the day.

Well, there is no right and wrong; moral relativism does rule the day.

10:40 AM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Helen, I used an aggressive approach to get his attention. I don't think it would have made a difference if we had mixed up the genders on this. I fixed what ailed in 5 minutes so I was successful, rather than doing nothing, having long conversations with my bff about the situation, feeling my feelings or writing a long-winded email to the meeting organizer about how the speaker may have, might have been just a little itty bitty wrong. You might want to take this path but I'm busy and no longer have time for the subversive passive aggressive route most women take to make changes.

1:00 PM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

"When someone does something that you don't like or something you feel negatively affects your life, externalize their behavior--come up with reasons, besides negative personality traits, why they would have acted in that way."

I further give a shit why someone breaks into my house and steals my possessions.

1:19 PM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Master Doh-San said...

Sounds like more '70s California hot-tub psycho-babble. ("I'm OK; you're OK".)

No need to personalize anything one way or the other. Focus on what's wrong, not who's wrong, and fix it. As David's boss quoted, "fix problems, not blame".

3:06 PM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Stormbringer said...

"Yes, going too far and externalizing all blame has its problems but assigning no blame teaches a society that there is no right and wrong in the world and that moral relativism rules the day."

You are right, and I blame you for it.

Seriously, I do see your point. I have such a story for you... My wife's daughter is dead at age 27. She ODd on prescription drugs, plus possibly buying something on the street to supplement pain medication. She had many mental problems and many medications, but nobody could treat her because she lied convincingly to her doctors and obtained more prescriptions.

Nothing was ever her fault, she was always blaming someone else. Even when she admitted that something was her fault, she blamed others for making her take her course of action.

Agonizing.

If you want to see more of that story, I wrote it up in hopes that *someone* might be able to get something out of it; cautionary tales, if you will.

3:14 PM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

not judging and assuming others have good intentions or motives can be naive and lead to a society where no one thinks they are at fault. Yes, going too far and externalizing all blame has its problems but assigning no blame teaches a society that there is no right and wrong in the world and that moral relativism rules the day.

And worse, it gives sociopaths/psychopaths free reign. People judge you and everyone else every day. It's a fact of life whether they/you admit they/you do it or you want to accept it. Get over it.

Our entire legal system is based on finding blame/fault for criminal and civil misconduct. Blame others but blame fairly, take fair action for misdeeds and accept responsibility for your own actions.

3:27 PM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Doom said...

To quit is as easy as realizing one is at least as at fault, if nothing else by simply lending one's self to a situation one knows, or should by now, better. Oh, and looking really closely at one's self in the mirror of spirit, mind, body. It ain't pretty, but it works. I like to think I have, in the serious realms, done so.

Now, that doesn't change a thing when it comes right down to horse wrangling with the loverly half of any equation I have been party to. Sometimes one must take off the good-guy hat and get down and dirty. Whether you want to call it politics, tactics, or... just plain fun. Just remember not to take it too seriously. Actually, it reminds me of when me and teh kitteh duke it out. Gentle but real enough that we can almost get angry.

Logic is nice, love is not and is better. Plus, love and all it's oddities, warts, and bumps keeps one young. Similar to friendships. Take your pick.

5:32 PM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger MB said...

"Logic is nice, love is not and is better. Plus, love and all it's oddities, warts, and bumps keeps one young. Similar to friendships. Take your pick."

-------------

You sound like the group "Up With People" in the 1970s. I had to sit through that shit in high school, and I would have been disciplined if I said a word against it.

But now I won't be; you are off your rocker. If I have to take my pick, I pick the truth. Sorry, Bubbie.

5:53 PM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Larry J said...

It is written by physician and researcher Dr. Neil Farber who is described on the back cover as "an international expert on blaming."

An international expert on blaming, is he? Sounds like a typical Democrat to me.

8:36 PM, November 14, 2010  
Blogger Helen said...

Larry J.,

"Sounds like a typical Democrat to me"


Actually, if you read the book, he sounds equally fair about the amount of blame going around to both Democrats and Republicans. He seems very much to come down on the side of personal responsibility. The problem is that he seems to think that blame is always a "game" that is wrong. Sometimes, other people are to blame, sometimes they are not but it is important to be able to tell the difference.

5:49 AM, November 15, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

Blame is different from responsibility. Affixing true responsibility can be very important. Spewing blame, not so much.

Trey

11:48 AM, November 15, 2010  
Blogger Susan said...

I left public education a few years ago because I was tired of being blamed for everything from a child's behavior problems, to all academic and social issues. I actually had parents ask me what I had done to make their child act up because "he never does that at home." Perhaps the book is a timely reminder to get on with your life without blaming your third grade teacher for not helping you (fill in the blank). I guess I'm blaming parents here for having to retire early. (I'm not bitter; I'm having a wonderful retirement since I now have time to do things I've always wanted and needed to do.)

1:30 PM, November 15, 2010  
Blogger Psy375 said...

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http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NVG3CBG

3:23 PM, November 15, 2010  
Blogger MB said...

"We are students at Smith College in Massachusetts taking a Research Seminar."

----

Oh ... gee ... I bet you're going to be dead objective from that college if it has anything to do with gender.

5:05 PM, November 15, 2010  
Blogger J. Bowen said...

You should go check out that survey. I think you'll be pleasantly unsurprised.

9:17 PM, November 15, 2010  
Blogger Neil said...

This book does not say that there should be no blame. The book is about taking responsibility for yourself. Personal responsibility and realizing that you have control over your life. Stop blaming others for your problems. Look at any successful CEO, blaming is not something that they regularly do. As Stephen Covey has said, it is not one of the habits of highly effective people. Trying to externalize is not a new concept - it involves not making a "fundamental error of attribution" - believing that someone did something wrong because of negative personality traits - even though we don't know them. This is to say we don't know the reason so why waste your time and energy blaming. You'll be happier and healthier if you forget it and move on with your life. The book also says that you should be responsible to make changes when you think they are necessary. Don't condone or ignore bad behavior. Attributing fault is good when it is done to make improvements in a system. The author (myself) is not a democrat and believes that the current, O'Blame-A administration should take more responsibility as well. Please read the book before you comment - this blog doesn't give you a true sense of what this book is about.

11:51 PM, November 15, 2010  
Blogger Helen said...

Neil,

It seems that you are blaming me for the way your book is being perceived here.

Seriously, I did like the book and thought you made some good points. However, I think that sometimes others are to blame. There are positive and negative ways to handle blame, of course. You point some out in the book. However, in some interpersonal situations (such as dealing with someone with a personality disorder), sometimes, realizing that it is the other person's fault and that you cannot change their behavior and that it is time to move on is not such a bad thing.

9:33 AM, November 16, 2010  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Blame as entertainment, here. Or humor. Maybe.

Have at.

10:13 AM, November 16, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

It sounds like the book's title, The Blame Game: The Complete Guide to Blaming: How to Play and How to Quit doesn't accurately reflect its content. "How to Play and How to Quit" are contradictory. Why would you want to know how to play if you're going to quit?

10:16 AM, November 16, 2010  
Blogger Doom said...

MB,

What happens at home does not leave. Much like what happens in the bedroom. And, from what I have seen, playing serious with a women leads to a divorce in about 12.5 years, or whatever the average is. They are made for, drama, they are aggressive, and they have all kinds of things that have to be dealt with. Play however you do, I will do it my way...

I don't think what I said had anything to do with what you heard, by the way.

7:29 PM, November 16, 2010  

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