Some people in distress magically absolve themselves of all responsibility for their behavior and emotions. They blame everybody and everything for what happened, become blameless themselves, and resort to whining and complaining about how difficult and boring everything is. These people have excuses for everything. When things don’t go their way or someone tries to hold them accountable, they lash out vengefully as if it’s your fault they are in trouble.
The back story
Behind the scenes, people who blame and are blameless need positive contact; lively and upbeat exchanges that include plenty of humor and movement. When they don’t get contact positively, they attempt to get it negatively by blaming. This invites others into power struggles around responsibility, thus delivering negative contact. Nobody wins when we spend all our time trying to corner and convince blamers that they are accountable.
These people are naturally spontaneous, creative and playful, and hate the emotional discomfort associated with personal responsibility. So they blame, whine, and vengefully attack others to avoid it. Paradoxically, it only results in others trying to exert more control and box them in, which is the opposite of what they need to thrive. Eventually, they get sanctioned or fired.
One very important dynamic to know about blamers; they don’t care if they suffer, as long as others suffer as well. They are more than willing to take the people down with the ship. So threats, sanctions, and punishments are ineffective because if the blamer doesn’t care, then the punisher ends up doing all the suffering.
If this is you
- Use your creativity and humor to solve the problems in front of you, not avoid them.
- When the going gets tough or you are uncomfortable with something you’ve done, it’s OK to feel it, own it, and work through it. You’ll love it later!
- It’s OK to vent, as long as it doesn’t turn into complaining and avoidance. Consider installing a “muffler” on your negative reactions.
- Get your contact needs met by building in plenty of fun and movement into your life. Games, sports, or time with friends all help energize you to do the stuff that’s not so fun.
- Keep it light with these people, even if you are discussing serious stuff. It’s OK to use slang or less formal language.
- Movement is key. Whenever possible, move around, stand up, use a game to get things done.
- Avoid preaching expectations, values, morals, or ethics. These come across as judgmental and condescending.
- Avoid emotional appeals. Keep it short and sweet.
This article is part three in a series on how to communicate with people in distress, starting with six tips for staying sane when others are acting crazy. Read all six articles to discover why people act the way they do in distress, and how you can communicate to make a positive difference.
This series is based on our work using the Process Communication Model, a research-tested framework for understanding and communicating with different personality types, in and out of distress.