Have you stubbed your toe on a chair and in pain yelled, “Who put that stupid chair there?!”
If so, your reaction was due to an innate, intense need to not be responsible. This is typical of the human race: we readily look outside of ourselves for anything or anyone to blame.
It’s a lousy way to live life and makes success in any endeavor elusive.
Why We Blame
We blame because “pain avoidance” is Job One for the human race. We shun mental, physical, and emotional pain. In the feelings realm, negative emotions like shame, embarrassment, frustration, fear, and anger cause us to lash out, point fingers, and deflect responsibility.
Without going deep into psychology, I maintain that a driver of these emotions is one that’s either born or trained into us by parents, teachers, and coaches and that driver is this:
The need to be right.
Early in life, we are taught it’s good to be right and bad to be wrong. We take tests in school where questions have right answers and wrong answers. When we’re wrong, we’re admonished with an “F” or zeros. Who wants zeros?
So, being wrong brings pain — like shame, embarrassment, frustration, fear, and anger. Sound familiar?
My Personal Discovery
When Karen kindly invited me to marital counseling at our 11-year mark with, “Johnny, I’m going to counseling. You coming?!”—I went. We both learned a bunch, but a defining moment for me was the therapist stating, “John, you have an extremely powerful need to be right—and it’s not helping you one bit.”
Of course, I thought he was wrong. 🤪
Actually, he was 100% right and I needed to hear it.
I’ve worked on my problem, greatly reducing the need to be the “man with the plan,” have all the answers, or win each debate. This lesson, along with others, saved our marriage.
Quitting the Blame Game
I’ve changed for the better. Karen has, too. We’ve grown. Married since 1980, our marriage is at its best. Why?
Blame has been <mostly> banished from our relationship.
Did we do it through sheer willpower and a positive attitude? Nope. Like most people, we needed a tool. So …
Karen and I employ The Question Behind the Question (QBQ) method of practicing Personal Accountability. Using our stubbed toe scenario above, the Blame Game can’t be played when we instead ask QBQs like these:
“How could I have been more observant?”
“What can I do to take ownership for my safety?”
“How can I place that chair where it belongs?”
“What can I do to be more careful?”
These accountable questions cause me to look in the mirror, swallow my pride, and subordinate my need to be right—replacing it with a desire to learn, grow, and change.
All of which makes life a whole lot better.
Getting To Success
Do you want success at home and at work? Then apply QBQs to any problem you’re facing.
“What can I do?” “How can I contribute?” and “What could I have done differently?” are accountable questions—QBQs—that make a difference for each of us. They also cause Personal Accountability to become not only a habit but a guiding value in my life.
This can happen for anyone. Trust me — I know I’m right.
Question: How are you doing banishing blame from your life? Share!