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Friday, May 11, 2007

Blaming: the toxic response

Edwin Friedman's last book "A Failure of Nerve: leadership in the age of the quick fix" challenged me right from the first chapter. In it he wrote: "the greatest capacity to be a leader....turned out to be the one who could express himself or herself with the least amount of blaming and the one who had the greatest capacity to take responsibility for his or her own emotional being and destiny." Wow! What a challenge!
I have been trying to monitor my own conversations to see how much I let "blame" enter the picture. How often to I revert to blaming others for congregational issues? How often to I slip into blame when discussing denominational politics? How often to I revert to blame language when I talk about national politics or global issues? It is so easy! It is such a simple solution to pass problems off to "them" or "those people" who are so ignorant and stupid that they don't see the right solution. Scorn, cyncism and sarcasm constantly wait at my door to enter the conversation area and season my language and thinking.
The funny consequence of this self-monitoring is how it affects others (not blaming them!). When I cease participating in blaming and focus on acting responsibly, the chronic blamer quickly grows tired of positive comments. It's as if I'm changing the rules. Try speaking positively about a person your group is dissecting with gossip. Try apologizing to a person blaming you. Try offering an action step to a person blaming a group or institution. Too few actually want next steps, because they are stuck in blaming. It provides almost an addictive high; venting blame on others.

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