To Blame or Take Responsibility: It Can Make a Difference To Make the Shift

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Crappy things happen to all of us. But we all react differently when these kinds of things inevitably happen.

And how we deal with crappy situations mentally can be the difference between getting to a solution and feeling better sooner or feeling stuck and upset for longer.

Do You Tend to Blame Others or Yourself, or Take Personal Responsibility?

When bad things happen, it makes sense for any of us to take some time to feel badly or sad or mad. If we were to break a leg, we don’t expect ourselves to be running down the street the next day.

But once the initial sharpness of the bad thing happening wears off, how do you handle it mentally?

As human beings, one of the advantages we have is that we can solve complex problems.

Our basic instincts, though, can be to default to a black and white defense mechanism: Who’s to blame? Them or me?

This can be one of many helpful questions to ask when you’re trying to solve a problem, but if it’s the only question you’re asking, it can get you stuck and feel disempowered.

There is an important caveat: This is not about excusing or minimizing the severity of a situation or excusing others for their bad behaviour.  It might not be your fault that the crappy thing happened, but it’s your responsibility to acknowledge the situation for what it is and to do something about it.

Whether it’s a situation at work, family member, friend or partner, it can feel temporarily satisfying to lay blame on someone else… even if it’s just in your own mind.

But it’s very rare that the actual problem will get solved this way.

However, from a psychological standpoint, to keep mentally spinning or cycling about who or what was at fault will keep you busy thinking about that thing or person. Often, over and over again.

You’ll likely either stay mad at the situation which will keep you stuck or because you feel it’s someone else’s fault, you can find yourself feeling as though there’s nothing you can do.

The flipside of the blame game is, even if there is someone else to blame, you might find that you’re blame yourself, too.

Either way, staying in the blame is not going to get you to moving forward or to be feeling better.

The thing that’s going to help the most in terms of feeling better about things and ultimately what will be most productive is: Taking personal responsibility.

It’s not about self blaming or taking personal fault for what happened, but it is about taking responsibility for how you’re going to deal with it and also taking into consideration what may have been your part in it, too.

What’s the Difference Between Taking Responsibility and Placing Blame:

  • Taking responsibility means to be accountable.  When we take personal responsibility it is believing that a situation is actionable.
  • To blame is not to be responsible but to find fault. Putting fault onto others or ourselves is placing judgement and often associated with being bad, which can be disempowering.

When our focus is on blame, it is all about finding someone to get. It turns focus away from what went wrong and how to keep it from going wrong again. It is judgmental and vindictive.

One way to side step the blame thing entirely is to focus on a completely different question: What choices can I personally make to deal with this situation?

Not: Who is at fault?

Tips on Taking Personal Responsibility

  1. Acknowledge what happened.
  2. Notice what questions you’re asking yourself: Is it… “Who did this?” or “Why do I always screw up?” or “Why did this happen?”
  3. Instead start retraining yourself to ask: “How am I feeling?” “What do I need to take care of myself?” and also, “What choices do I have to move forward?”
  4. Try doing one thing out of the choices that you have identified.

Will Smith, yes – that Will Smith, has a video online about the difference between blame and responsibility: Check it out here.