The blame shifters

Opinion: Columns

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By Kwame Salter

Change is inevitable; growth is optional

John C. Maxwell


In today's world, we often encounter people who have perfected shifting the blame whenever things go wrong for them. We see them in the ever-popular "reality shows" on TV, in the workplace, shopping, driving or even, more intimately, at home.

What I've noticed is that these "blame shifters" use one, if not all, of the tactics listed below. Their objective is to throw you off, to buy time, or simply to avoid taking any responsibility for their actions — or lack thereof.

In the workplace, these tactics are usually employed during performance evaluation or a feedback session where constructive criticism might be necessary. If successful in use of these tactics, they leave the other person feeling guilty or insensitive.

However, what is important to understand is that we must help them get back in touch with reality. The reality is that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Yet, until we acknowledge our mistakes or shortcomings, we will never improve ourselves.

Based on my observations, the five most popular tactics used by the "blame shifters" are the following:

Denial – "I didn't do anything wrong!"

Deflection – "It's your fault I feel this way because …"

Derailment – "Stop what you're doing and deal with me and my issues."

Disruption – "I will throw your routine off unless and until you deal with me and my issues."

Depression – "I feel bad and hope you feel worse."

The best way to deal with these tactics is to be clear, consistent and confident in communicating your expectations. Avoid negotiating with the "shifter." Never argue with them regarding their statement and always ask them to explain what they really mean and why they feel the way they do. In closing, ask them what do they want out of the situation and how do they plan to reach their goal?

Finally, ask them if how they are feeling has anything to do with the current situation — or are there other issues they are dealing with? Don't expect a coherent answer to any of your questions. You are basically giving them something to think about versus reacting to the moment.

If none of the above works, consult a professional therapist.

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