It tends to be a very common human reaction to blame other people for interactions that are frustrating and conflictual.
I’ll bet that if you’re really honest with yourself, you’d say that you’ve caught yourself pointing the finger at someone else – probably more than once.
I consider myself to be a pretty understanding and empathetic person. And yet, I still find myself getting caught up in the blame game. I shift into a reactive state and communication is suddenly no longer stress-free.
The Blame Game
I’ll give you an example that I experienced just the other day. We had brought the groceries in and had unpacked them in the main room. Everyone was helping bring the groceries to the kitchen and someone placed several packages of yogurt right next to the entranceway to the kitchen.
About an hour later, my husband said to me “hey, there’s some yogurt that didn’t make it into the fridge”, as he pointed to their current home on the floor. I assumed he would put them away and he assumed that I would.
And then we both forgot about it.
Another hour or so later, I noticed the bright yellow yogurt containers still sitting on our hardwood floor. I then proceeded to forget about them entirely. Again.
The next morning, when I yet again stumbled upon the now warm and ready for the garbage yogurt packs, my instinct was to call my husband and blame him for not putting them away.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? Something happens that you don’t like and your immediate reaction is to blame someone else for it? Brené Brown talks about how we do this as a way to discharge negative emotions.
When we blame others, we’re often doing it impulsively and reactively. In these moments, we’re not consciously engaged in how we’re interacting with those around us.
The result? Stressful communication.
Many times in my life, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of just discharging those emotions onto someone else and blaming the other person instead of turning inwards first.
But this just exacerbates the situation.
No one really wants to go down this path. But we do it again and again. Out of habit.
We create stressful communication by communicating unconsciously.
Moving Towards Stress-Free Communication
The key to moving towards stress-free communication in this type of a situation is to turn inwards first.
Take some time to consider what is truly causing you to blame someone else. It’s often something that we dislike about ourselves.
We can only control how we respond to situations. We can’t change anyone except ourselves. So when you find yourself about to blame someone… Stop! Turn inwards and ask yourself if this is truly about the other person.
Now, I’m not saying that we should never address situations when someone has done something that we don’t like. I’m simply suggesting to take some time to turn inwards to make sure you are in a receptive state before addressing it.
When someone has done something that we don’t like, we can choose to address this without blame.
Like I said… we can only control how we respond to situations.
Back to my story about the yogurt. You see, I knew my level of irritation was much greater than a few packs of yogurt warranted. Unlike many other times in my life, I managed to choose to bite my tongue instead of call my husband’s name. I decided to leave space and turn inwards.
A little while later, I realized that my true anger was actually self-directed. I have always struggled with perfectionistic tendencies and was irritated with myself that I had forgotten to put the yogurt away after seeing it twice. Did I wish my husband had put it away when he saw it? Sure, but that wasn’t what my reaction was truly about. Because at the end of the day, I didn’t actually care so much about the actual yogurt, nor was it his oversight that had gotten me riled up.
Shifting Away from Blame at Work
So how does this all relate to stress-free communication at work, you ask? Good question.
The dynamics of a workplace setting is often an ideal climate for people to blame one another. Many organizations have a very hierarchical structure which can leave some leaders feeling that their role is to provide corrective feedback to their team. The type of power differential that this creates also leaves the people below feeling disempowered.
So what happens?
Each group blames the other for any missteps, instead of taking a moment to turn inwards first.
Add to this the fact that many companies have a high-stress environment, with long working hours, tight deadlines, and sometimes big financial consequences for missteps. This only adds to the likelihood that employees will fall into the reactive zone of communication. And being in the reactive zone increases the chances that we will simply turn and blame someone else when we’re faced with something that makes us feel challenged or uncomfortable.
Moving Towards Stress-Free Communication at Work
The key to changing these frustrating dynamics at work is to know that it all starts with you.
Stress-free communication is not about focusing on what we can do to get others to change what they are doing or saying. It’s about learning to turn inwards first. This helps you stay in the receptive zone of communication. It also creates space between something that upsets you and how you react to that situation. Choosing to calm myself before addressing the silly yogurt situation brought me back into a zone of stress-free communication.
Stress-free communication is all about taking charge of the changes that you can make within yourself. It’s about how you choose to approach the world, and how you interact with others. This includes setting different boundaries, saying what needs to be said and not being afraid to have a voice and to say the things that people need to hear, so that you’re not feeling frustrated.
The change starts with you. You can’t change anybody but yourself.
For more on workplace dynamics, visit my blog at lindsaylapaquette.com/blog
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