March 20, 2022
Welcome to Disagree Better, a twice-monthly email designed to help you collaborate and negotiate in ways that keep vital relationships resilient and important decisions sound in business and life.
Blame is an insidious way to pollute an important personal or professional relationship. It shifts responsibility for the problem onto one side’s shoulders, implying that you’re only a team or partners when you want to be or when things are ok. Blame for a poor dynamic feels particularly lousy (like the old, “you started it“) because we know in our heads and our hearts that it takes two (or twenty). When you’re being blamed, an approach borrowed from theatrical improv is fruitful for turning the conversation from a tug-of-war into something more productive:
Blame often just feels unfair, right? It turns out there’s a reason for this: Research has found that we may truly experience less responsibility when the impact of our action is negative. The next time someone (maybe you) declines to take responsibility for words or actions that had a bad impact, don’t immediately assume it’s a character flaw. Maybe it’s just their protective brain doing its job:
When we forgive someone, we increase the likelihood they will want to interact with us in ways that will preserve or reconcile the relationship. When we refuse to forgive, or just fail to explicitly forgive, new research suggests we add an unexpected wrinkle to the situation: We may inadvertently leave the wrongdoer feeling like a victim too:
Take care of each other,
P.S. This is the trouble