imagesWhen something has gone wrong we are often inclined to assigning blame to individuals or groups. It happens in families, in schools, in companies, and in politics. The assumption is apparently that assigning blame is useful and necessary for solving the problems in question. But is this true? I don’t think it is.

I think that blaming people never contributes to progress. The reason is that the person who is blamed will view this as an attack and will try to defend himself. As psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson show in their book Mistakes were made but not by me, people seldom agree with accusations against them. In the way in which people view reality and their own choices and behaviors, a mechanism of self-justification operates.

We perceive reality to some degree in a self-serving way. We think we do often think we have made culpable mistakes. When things go wrong, we blame others or the circumstances which have hindered us. Or we did not have the necessary information to make the right choice. It may seem strange or objectionable that we act like this (nearly all of us are vulnerable to this serf-serving bias, whether we are aware of it or not) but it is actually not so strange.

As Kathryn Schulz explains in her book Being wrong we normally assume that we are mostly right in our opinions and choices. Her argument is strong. If we would think that our opinion was incorrect we would have a different opinion. If we would think that our choice was wrong we would not make it.

That is why blaming people does not work. People will probably not think you are right. They will defend themselves against the accusation and will brace themselves. They will get into a negative state of mind which will remove most nuance from their thinking and block cooperation. Solution-focused trainer who work with domestic violence offenders don’t ask of these clients to admit their guilt. Instead, they work with these clients to help them define and realize positive life goals (read more). And this works.

My thesis is: blaming people never contributes to progress. If, after the assignment of blame there is still progress, I think this will only be due to the fact that the damage which has been caused by the assignment of the blame has been ‘repaired’ (for example by conciliatory words).

What do you think about this?

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