I have been working with the public since I was 15; I have been managing people since I was 24. On top of that, I was single for 30 years. These are the credentials I offer for claiming to know the most fundamental truth of all human interaction: Anything we hope to accomplish in life comes down to accountability. Regardless of personality or beliefs or socioeconomic status, all individuals fall into one of two categories: those who take ownership of their experiences, and those who blame everything on external forces. For the sake of this blog, I am going to call the latter group “blamers”, and the former group “normal people”. I hope you will forgive me for sounding judgmental. I’m actually pleading a case for blamer acceptance.
There is a book called, “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)”, which explains the mindset of the blamers. Apparently they suffer from “cognitive dissonance”, which is a fancy way of saying that they lie to themselves because they couldn’t cope with the truth of their own failures. I won’t go too deeply into why they can’t cope, because it doesn’t interest me, and because it is enough to know that these blamers are out there, with their fancy-sounding disorder. For whatever reason, they are completely incapable of the one sentence that normal people say on a regular basis: “Well, I messed that up. I’ll do better next time.”
Blamers don’t realize that admitting a mistake is not a big deal. It’s like they are stuck in the third grade, when all kids lie about who glued a frog to the teacher’s desk or who jammed their gum into the pencil sharpener. It is unfortunate, really, because people admire a person who is not ashamed to apologize and offer to make amends. Blamers think their self-worth is tied to their mis-steps, and after too many hits, the ego cannot do anything but regress into the old habit of pointing the finger. It doesn’t matter where the finger points- another person, the weather, a broken computer-as long as there is a reason for their error that takes the ownership off of them.
Here is the main “take-away” for you, dear reader, and I want you take it in slowly and pause for reflection. You cannot change a blamer or tell them that they are a blamer. By definition, they could not accept that fact. You cannot argue with them, reason with them or help them improve. Their lives belong to the wind or the random chaos that surrounds them. They do not believe they can improve their lives, and therefore if you attach yourself to them, you need to accept that a certain amount of randomness will impact you. Let them experience their own consequences without trying to save them or get wrapped up into their stories. The “drama queens” of the world are all blamers, and they all ironically claim to hate drama.
The only strategy that will save your sanity is to be able to recognize a blamer, control your emotional attachment to their issues (which they always have), and focus on their positive attributes. For example, when dealing with a “blamer” customer, who often likes to go on and on about the bad things that happened to them, just stay calm and focus on the solution. “Let’s not worry about why things went wrong,” you can calmly offer, “let’s just focus on moving forward in a positive way.” When you demonstrate enough confidence and reassurance (often through repeating the above line in what is called the ‘broken record’ technique), the blamer will eventually calm down and revert back to their core personality, which is frequently quite charming.
So when at all possible, surround yourself with people who will own or even embrace their flaws. Making mistakes is a beautiful thing. Be gentle with the blamers, understand that they are just hard-wired that way, and appreciate their good qualities. Recognizing and understanding these two types of people will simplify your interactions and minimize the drama in your own life. Now that’s what I call a fundamental truth.