It is a fact of life; things go wrong. That is, they don't go the way we'd like them to go or the way we expected them to go. When they do go wrong, either we can focus on blame or we can accept things as they are, look at what caused the problem, and decide what to do about it.
Often, people get stuck reactively focusing on who or what caused the problem. The blame game begins. In this game there is a likelihood of anger, retribution, fear, defensiveness, blame shifting, and apologies. The game often ends with nothing being accomplished to remove the cause of the problem. Nothing is learned. Relationships are damaged. The useless cycle continues.
Blaming is holding an individual, group or circumstance (for example, if it hadn't been for the accident I'd be a happy person today) responsible for having caused some negative outcome. Blame can be directed at oneself or at others. Either way, we are likely to waste a lot of time and energy that could better be spent to learn from the things that do go wrong, correct the situation and avoid repeating the dysfunctional behavior that caused the problem.
Ending the blame game is not easy. It's a habit and habits are hard to break. They are even harder to break when the habit is socially acceptable as normal behavior. It's natural to blame when things go wrong. Everyone does it.
Blaming is a Waste of Time
Wayne Dyer says that "All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you."
The commitment to learning from everything that occurs, good or bad, is the key to ending the blame game. If each time you find yourself blaming someone or something for what has happened (or not happened) ask yourself, "Why am I doing this? What do I seek to gain? What effect will the blaming have on me and others? Will I be satisfied with placing the blame without getting to the real cause of the problem and correcting it, if possible?"
When we blame we are making judgments about ourselves or others.
Why do we blame? It may be a way of devaluing others or of off-loading blame or of making ourselves feel superior. It may be a way of reinforcing a negative image of oneself or of another. In some circles, it is expected that someone or some group must be found guilty, so we seek to blame.
We may blame to remove the sense of uncertainty that comes when something happens without there being a logical or obvious reason for it. For many, uncertainty is an unacceptable feeling. They blame the rich for poverty, the poor for crime and their own misery. They blame the government, the immigrants, the military, pacifists, liberals, or conservatives. The list goes on. They find a scapegoat, some poor soul who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and sacrifice him to the gods.
There is often a quality of anger or fear associated with blaming. We are angry at not having things the way we want them to be, so we find someone or something to blame for it and direct the anger at them. We are afraid that we may be blamed so we blame someone or something else.
Whether from habit, uncertainty, anger or fear, the felt sense in the body of an emotional reaction can be used as a signal to stop and redirect the focus to the real issue at hand; the personal issue that gives rise to the emotion.
Feel the sensation and short circuit the reaction; the blaming. Replace the blaming with understanding.
Thich Nhat Hanh Offers the following advice:
"When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look into the reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change."
The understanding is expressed in working by yourself or with others to find the real cause of the problem and to resolve it. Understanding does not mean passively standing by and letting negative events go on without resistance. Understanding changes the focus so that instead of animosity there is a sense of acceptance and unity. With that as a foundation, there can be learning and resolution.
Think of the attitudes of people like Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi who understood that the people who oppressed and opposed them were not inherently evil or to blame. They were simply ignorant and in need of understanding and education. It was through love and understanding that these great men succeeded in overcoming racism and colonialism.
The end to the blame game comes when we look at the attitude we bring when things go wrong. If, we can't accept things as they are, then we are going to react and, often, that reaction will include blaming. When the attitude is based on understanding and a sincere desire for acceptance and resolution, then there is no room for blaming.
Managing Conflict in Projects: Applying Mindfulness and Analysis for Optimal Results by George Pitagorsky charts a course for identifying and dealing with conflict in a project context.
Pitagorsky states up front that conflict management is not a cookbook solution to disagreement-a set of prescribed actions to be applied in all situations. His overall approach seeks to balance two aspects of conflict management: analysis based on a codified process and people-centered behavioral skills.
The book differentiates conflict resolution and conflict management. Management goes beyond resolution to include relationship building that may serve to avoid conflict or facilitate resolution if it occurs.
Projects are often more complex and stressful than they need to be. Far too many of them fail to meet expectations. There are far too many conflicts. There are too few moments of joy and too much anxiety. But there is hope. It is possible to remove the unnecessary stress and complexity. This book is about how to do just that. It links the essential principles and techniques of managing projects to a "wisdom" approach for working with complex, people-based activities.
Project management becomes a metaphor for how we can live our lives and, if we follow the wisdom traditions, the way we live our lives becomes a metaphor for how to manage projects.
"The Zen approach to Project Management brings together sound wisdom, a nuts-and-bolts grasp of practicalities, and original insights. It's the Zen that's been missing in all too many of today's business books, and George Pitagorsky is the master we've needed." - Daniel Goleman, author Social Intelligence