Listen closely to the conversations and narratives around you. Be it about this group, or that group, in politics or about The politicians, perhaps its about the pandemic or about a neighbour. Blame and accusations are rife.

At work or in relationship, when something goes wrong, what is your go-to-response? To blame those around you and deep dive into shame for your own behaviour or do you look at workable solutions to the discomfort and look at ways together that will mitigate the ‘problem’ in the future?

Brene Brown, a prominent expert on shame, vulnerability and courage having spent the better part of two decades researching these subjects explains “Blame releases discomfort and pain. We often try to fault others for our mistakes because it makes us feel like we’re still in control. “Here’s what we know from the research,” says Brown, “blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. Blaming is a way that we discharge anger.”

  • “It’s your fault.”
  • “You should do better.”
  • “You should have listened.”
  • “You didn’t listen.”
  • “You don’t care.”

What is interesting is the relationship between shame, blame, anger and accountability. Blame has an inverse relationship with accountability. Blame turned inward becomes shame and blame turned outward is rage at others. Brene Brown defines shame as ‘the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

In the middle of shame and blame, is a feeling about a need not met or a value infringed upon. Instead of feeling the pain, we push it down into shame or we push it away into blame.

What’s needed is to validate and acknowledge the feeling and then begin to look at the different perspectives, not just our own position. To ask is my perspective the only perspective and could there be other things going on here?

  • Attend to your breath– Where is it? What is the quality of it? Do your best to slow down your breath.
  • Attend to your vision– Soften your gaze and take in more of the room to see the space you are in. Look at the different colours and different textures.
  • Attend to your body– Feel your feet on the ground, wiggle your toes.

Blame is faster than accountability: Accountability is a vulnerable process that takes courage and time. “It means me calling you and saying, hey my feelings were really hurt about this, and talking,” says Brown. “People who blame a lot seldom have the tenacity and grit needed to hold people accountable. Blamers spend all of our energy raging for 15 seconds and figuring out whose fault something is,” adds Brown. It’s difficult to maintain relationships when you’re a blamer, because when something goes wrong, we’re too busy making connections as quickly as we can about whose fault it is, instead of slowing down, listening, and leaving enough space for empathy to arise’. [2]

Fostering greater compassion for yourself and the ability to observe discomfort and its source are key self mastery skills. When we are able to create space to observe our responses and those of others with empathy and compassion we begin to build the opportunities for collaboration within our workplaces and our relationships. It really does being with you, and me and looking inward first. To move beyond the negative cycle of blame and shame to accountability and true lasting progress. Blame and shame will not change society, the research proves it. Change can only come when pain is validated and accountability, authenticity and honesty are the only accepted means of communicating.

[1] Kim Eilisha Proctor, https://www.kimelisha.com/navigating-the-pendulum-of-shame-blame-and-anger/

[2] Heather Hurlock, 2017, https://www.mindful.org/two-lessons-on-blame-from-brene-brown/