Avoiding the Blame Monster - FEb 17, 2016

image courtsey of www.solarwinds.com/
image courtesy of www.solarwinds.com/

I don’t know about you all, but for years, I would search for and force the Blame Monster into conversations I had.  Statements such as “you didn’t ___!” or “who’s responsible for ___?” fell out of my mouth on a regular basis.  In all honesty, I didn’t really care who was responsible as long as it wasn’t me.  I wanted it to be somebody else’s fault that I felt what I felt.  Usually, these would come up when I was feeling angry, disappointed or hurt.  I wanted to blame someone else for how I was feeling.  I was looking to create a Blame Monster.

Here is the thing about Blame Monsters.  Any of us can turn into one.  If we feel attacked by statements of others and we start to get upset and defensive, BOOM!  We become a Blame Monster.  Another thing about Blame Monsters, like with most communication monsters, once they show up productive communication ceases.  In the case of the Blame Monster, usually the Blame Monster will turn on you and try turning you into another Blame Monster and you two will spend a very unproductive time blaming each other for all sorts of things and only increasing the hurt both of you feel.

In time I realized that by going looking for Blame Monsters I was fouling the relationships I cared about and hurting people I love.  So I began looking for other ways to communicate what was going on inside me.  First I had to figure out what was going on inside me when I went looking for a Blame Monster.

To begin with I started keeping track of when I noticed myself seeking a Blame Monster.  Then I would stop myself and ask “what am I feeling right now?”  That is when I began to connect feelings of hurt, anger and disappointment with seeking the Blame Monster.  Then I would ask myself “What do I really want here?”  The Blame Monster training I had done for years told me I wanted someone else to hurt or to take responsibility for hurting me.  I realized that having them hurt wouldn’t change the hurt and anger I felt it would only increase it.   So what I really wanted was to find a way to stop feeling hurt and angry.

Next, I needed to find a way to talk to others about what I was feeling that wouldn’t be actively looking for the Blame Monster.  This script is slightly modified from Non-Violent Communication by Marshal Rosenberg and it has worked very well for me.

      “Hi ____.  Do you have a few minutes to talk?” *

*(note, if they say “no” accept it and try again later.  Do not allow this to create more hurt in you or you might become a Blame Monster yourself! If they say yes continue:)

           

     “Thanks.  I feel _____(hurt, angry,annoyed, frustrated) because I would have liked to see __________ instead of __________.”

Now as soon as I say that, the Blame Monster may start stirring especially since I had a past of going looking for it, so I would quickly add,

       “Can you help me find a solution for this?” or “can we try_____ instead?”

The Blame Monster cannot surface in someone who is thinking of ways to help.  Help is completely contrary to the Blame Monster’s skills and it simply cannot come out where people are working together on solutions.

 

Here is an actual example from my past:

     “Hey, Dragon.  Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

     “Sure love what’s up?”

     “I feel very frustrated because I would have liked to see the litter boxes cleaned before company came over yesterday. I felt really embarrassed when I saw that they hadn’t been cleaned part way through the visit. Can we find a way to try and prevent this from happening again?” (I used another feeling statement instead of the “I would have liked to see..” in this example but it still works)

     I could see him start to puff-up and the Blame Monster start to surface when I mention the litter boxes, this was not the first time I had been upset about litter boxes and I did have a habit of seeking Blame Monsters when litter boxes were involved. But as soon as I asked for his help, he turned thoughtful instead.

     “I’m sorry you felt frustrated and embarrassed. I really hate cleaning the litter boxes,” he said.  “Would you be willing to do those before we have company if I take over cleaning the bathroom?”

     After a little bit of negotiation, we came up with a working solution and it has not been a problem for us since. Now, my Dragon had also been reading NVC and so he knew that reflecting and acknowledging the emotions first is another great way to avoid the Blame Monster.  It is possible that if he had just jumped into “I hate cleaning litter boxes!” My Blame Monster would have started showing up and I might not have even heard his suggestion of a solution.  So it helped that he was using that too.

I have, with a lot more practice, gotten to where I can feel my Blame Monster start showing up and refocus myself on my actual feelings and desires.  Even when the person I am speaking to doesn’t response using NVC.  If you would like to learn other tools for helping your communication skills, I highly recommend getting a copy of this book and reading it and rereading it every chance you get.  You can even get the audiobook and listen to it while you drive.  The tools it suggests can help you avoid many communication Monsters, not just the Blame Monster.

Please let me know what happens when you try to stop the Blame Monster.  I look forward to hearing from you.

-xiaoyi

I am not formally trained in NVC (Non-Voilent Communication). I have many books on the subject and reread them as well as practicing this style of communication to the best of my ability. It has imporved every relationship in my life when I do employ it.   

 

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