Monday, 8 September 2014

A Kinder Approach to The Blame Game

Nobody really enjoys the blame game.  For most of us, being blamed feels painful.  And if we blame others (often in self-defence) we rarely feel good afterwards.

However, there is a way of playing the blame game in a more positive way.  It works best with a friend, but you can play on your own too.  This particular approach to the blame game was devised by two Australian psychologists - Dr Toni Noble and Dr Helen McGrath.

Here's how it to do it:

Step 1. Reflect on a situation that didn't go well (and which involved another person). Draw a circle and divide it up in a way that reflects the responsibility for what went wrong.  Some of the responsibility might be yours, some of it might be the other person's and some of it might just be the situation (ie, bad luck).  You will end up with a pie chart with the size of the different segments reflecting the different degrees of responsibility for the outcome.

The example below illustrates a situation where you criticised another person, and they reacted badly to your comments.
Your assessment of the situation

Step 2.  Ask a friend to help you review the situation.  Describe what happened (but don't show them the pie chart that you have already drawn). When you have described the situation, your friend draws a pie chart which reflects their view of where responsibility lies.

Step 3. Compare the two pie charts.  There are three possible outcomes at this point:

A. Your pie charts are similar.  This suggests that you were accurate in your assessment of where responsibility lies.

B. Your friend has allocated more responsibility to you. This suggests that you might be letting yourself off the hook and need to take more responsibility for the situation (an apology might be in order).

C. Your friend has allocated less responsibility to you.  This is the most common outcome of the exercise, and reflects that fact that most of us tend to be too hard on ourselves.

Your friend's assessment of the situation

To play the game on your own, draw your pie chart soon after the event.  Then draw a second pie chart a day or so later when you are able to be more objective.