It is extremely wearing to live with or work with someone who insists on playing the blame. Most of us will admit when we are at fault and will accept the blame when it is right for us to do so. Sometimes we will choose to accept blame for something that is not our fault just “to keep the peace” though this strategy can lead to resentment on both sides. The blamer fees that the person accepting blame doesn’t really believe it’s their fault (true) and the person taking the blame begins to feel frustrated and resentful or even worse eventually comes to believe that everything really is their fault.
So how do you begin with to deal with the type of toxic individual who insists on playing the blame game? For most of us it helps if we accept that playing the blame game is part of human nature. There are various theories associated with why people have a tendency to play the blame game and one of these has to do with our inbuilt negativity bias. In short we tend to look for flaws and problems (the negative aspects of a situation) rather than looking for what’s good about it. So for example we may look for what a partner is doing wrong rather than looking for what they are doing right. We may even just take what they are doing right for granted, continually criticize them and then wonder why they leave us for someone who is “less hard work”!
This is not to say that a negativity bias isn’t useful as it certainly has its place. The whole purpose of the negativity bias is to ensure that human beings are able to identify problems, threats and things that need to be dealt with. Identifying a problem is the first stage in solving it and is absolutely crucial when it comes to survival of the human race. However, this bias can lead to a lot of inappropriate blaming, criticizing and complaining and when this happens a useful evolutionary adaptation becomes a major hindrance. Not only can it lose us loved ones, it can lead to the person who is continually on the receiving end of the blame game feeling continually under threat. This feeling under threat usually leads to a hostile response or a complete withdrawl if the threat goes on for long enough. As a rule the first of these two reactions is not desirable and it may be difficult to avoid the person dishing out the blame, so a better way forward for the person who is finding continually being blamed unfairly too much to handle is to explore ways of getting the blamer to change their nasty little habits.
There are some things that we can do to combat the problem of someone frequently blaming us unfairly. There are a couple of steps that one can undertake so as to foster behavioral change within the person who is blaming us unfairly. These steps are designed to encourage people who play the blame game to become more responsible for their own actions and the outcomes of those actions and thus desist from the habit of blaming others unfairly.
If the person is so toxic that it is impossible to have a sensible discussion with them and if mediation is not possible then avoiding them as much as possible is likely to be your best strategy backed up with a good detox in the company of loyal supporters who will help you get things in perspective. If we are being continually undermined it is all too easy to start making mistakes thereby giving the person evidence to back-up their original assessment of us.
Some steps that we can take to deal with people who play the blame game will be outlined in the next post on this topic…