6 Steps to Stop the Blaming

Posted on Posted in Church Leadership, Personality, Who's Killing Your Church

Stop the Blame Game!

Something happens. Your sermon flops. People don’t respond well to a new worship song. The server goes down. The copier quits on Sunday morning. Somebody accuses you of being harsh. If you’re a high Dominant personality, the first thing you probably do is think of who to blame—whose fault is this? And because of low self-awareness in Dominant personalities, you don’t even realize you do it.

Dominant personalities have a weakness with blame—we’re always looking outward for a place to put the blame, instead of looking inward. It’s a sign of a low leadership lid (where our leadership is “capped”). It’s an area we need to grow in.

While studying for my new book, I discovered more deeply (and personally) how shame and blame affect a high Dominant—they have little of one (shame) and give an over abundance of the other (blame). They are opposites for a Dominant. Not uncharacteristic, the Dominant’s opposite, the Supportive personality, naturally flips this: they have a lot of shame and rarely blame—or they blame themselves. Here’s what Dr. Brené Brown, Research Professor at the University of Houston, had to say that started me thinking of blame, shame, empathy, connection, and relationships—as well as where accountability fits in and why positive accountability is so important—

“Here’s what we know from the research: blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability. Accountability, by definition, is a vulnerable process. It means me calling you and saying, “Hey my feelings were really hurt about this” and talking—it’s not blaming. Blaming is simply a way that we discharge anger. People who blame a lot, seldom have the tenacity and grit to actually hold people accountable because we expend all of our energy raging for 15 seconds and figuring out whose fault something is. Blaming is very coercive in relationships and it’s one of the reasons we miss opportunities for empathy because when something happens, and we are hearing the story, we’re not listening—we’re in the place of making the connections as quickly as we can about whose fault something was.”

Actually, our brains tell us a “story” instantaneously. Whenever anything happens, our brains tell us a story as to why it is happening. When something happens, our subconscious searches for meaning from history, from experience, and it happens blindingly fast. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with the situation and subsequent story from our subconscious, so the reasonability test to and from our brain is happy, fine, nothing’s wrong—these aren’t the droids you’re looking for—move along. And we’re off to the next story. In other words, life continues unabated.

But if something happens that is not right, our reasonability test comes back confused or unhappy—we have told ourselves a story that does not have a good outcome. For example, for years I told myself the story that my bride doesn’t really care about me—doesn’t really love me. It became ingrained in my brain like whiskers from an old nicad rechargeable battery. In the original nicad rechargeable batteries, you had to charge them all the way up to full and discharge them all the way to empty before recharging them or you created what are called “whiskers”—a memory at the point you charged the battery when not fully discharged. Makes the battery much less effective. We do the same with stories. We have a collection of stories that our subconscious pulls from for everything—whether it’s true or not. It’s our story for the need of the moment. It gives new meaning to, “It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

My bride of 41 years is a high Consciousness/Supportive personality (doubly Reserved C/S from the DISC model of human behavior) and her display (operative word) of emotions doesn’t vary much between happy and sad (this is typical for a C/S personality)—it looks all the same to me. Or at least it did for the first 30 years of our marriage. You probably know people like this. That’s not to say there’s not a lot going on inside, there is—she just doesn’t wear it on the outside (like outgoing personalities do—like me). That’s normal for C personalities. They are the true introverts. She rarely—if ever—blurts out frustration or anger. To other personalities with empathy (S and some C types), her behavior is more obvious and understood. But to me at the time, it all looks the same whether happy or sad. Over the years of being married to her, sometimes my mind dealt with issues by telling myself stories that were based on a false premise—what I thought was true was in fact not true. So whenever anything happened, I told the same old story. It didn’t let me get past what I believed or how I responded to her. It was indeed a limiting belief. Because we are opposites, I can put my story on her truth without realizing it. And because I am a high Dominant, I naturally go to blaming when something happens.

Why do we continue to repeat history? We tell the same wrong story. Why does the woman who is in an abusive relationship keep going back to her abusive partner? She keeps telling herself the same wrong story.  It’s not okay. There needs to be change.

How does this relate to a high Dominant? We are telling ourselves the wrong story—we are blaming someone else for our moral, emotional, physical—whatever—failure. Or, we are angry at something and blaming allows us to discharge that anger. We may not be happy that we failed, or we may be angry with society—or we may be angry with you for all the wrong stories we have told ourselves in the past about you—or even right stories that we have failed to confront over time. We miss an opportunity for empathy. We have built up a lifetime of not dealing with the issues correctly. We don’t hold others accountable because we don’t want to be held accountable.
How do we fix the blame game? It would be easy to say, get empathy. Like most things, that’s easier said than done.

Here’s a six step system you can use when something happens and you have the urge to blame—

1. Be quiet. Close your mouth. Press your lips. Bite your tongue. Zip it. Say nothing. Pause. (“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 17:28)  Move from anger to asking yourself a question. You’re not going to stay here (being quiet), just start here before you say something you should regret—before you blame the other person. Quick to listen, slow to speak (James 1:19). Start every confrontation this way.

2. Think. You just told yourself a story about the situation. Yep you did. In a microsecond. Challenge that story to prove it’s veracity—and to get you thinking. Thinking takes your mind off the anger and starts to return control from your amygdala (emotional control in the brain) to your prefrontal cortex (thinking control). When we get angry, the blood drains from our brain to our extremities—we get robbed of the fuel we need to think. Asking ourselves a question returns the blood and fuels our thinking instead of our reacting.

3. Ask questions of clarity—even if you understand the situation. Assume the other person is right, if only for a moment while you deal with this. You can always move to accountability if indeed it is another person’s problem. Get some time (distance) between your story and your anger, to think clearly while dealing with the situation. Then listen. Communicate. Connect. Don’t listen to find blame, listen to understand. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It’s not all about you—make it about other people, too—actually first and foremost, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

4. Tell yourself a different story—the right story. It’s probably your fault or maybe nobody’s fault. Stuff happens. Be vulnerable. Be transparent. Be bold in confessing. Others will think more highly of you—you will think correctly of yourself. There’s always time to afix blame. Deal with the situation at hand first.

5. Change your attitude. Lower your voice tones. Be gentle and kind. Especially if you’re dealing with more gentle personalities (S & C types). Confess if it is indeed your fault. Think how the other person feels, not just your anger or frustration. You probably just bowled someone over. You may have done more damage than the situation—story—that happened to you. Stop being selfish. It really isn’t about you—consider others more significant than yourselves.

6. Get positive accountability. My youngest son Christian and I have a system. When he walks into my office to talk to me or ask a question and I’m in a high Dominant moment—angry at my computer, Bill Gates, the world, whatever—and he notices it right off, instead of asking his question, he just smiles, looks at me and says, “Dad, I love you.” That’s code (or a real story) for, you’re in your high Dominant mode—how do you really want to be acting? My heart drops and I stop and go apologize and ask his forgiveness. He always forgives me. I do it much less these days, but it was a great system of accountability—and it was very positive. It helps that he is certified in the DISC model of human behavior, but you don’t have to be to build a good system.

The idea is to have a system in place—have the above things at the ready. Have people that care about you, empowered to help you when you need it (like my son was). Empower your staff and elders to always come to you when they see this. Then we become vulnerable and seek not to blame first, right out of the gate. We help others first, us second. We defuse a difficult situation and move toward closure, something that we all need but Dominants rarely get because of low self-awareness and quickness to blame. So we walk around like a powder keg ready to blow at any moment. People walk on eggshells around us because they are afraid of igniting the powder. And for all you Reserved personalities that get blamed by a Dominant personality, send them a link to this Post or a copy of the book.

So tell yourself a different story—the right one. Hold yourself and others accountable—in love. Our endgame is truth in love—not just one or the other. You will save yourself and others a whole lot of headache and heartache and build the influence you need to lead your flock in the next level of biblical growth and love.

In Christ, I remain your servant…


About the Author…

Leadership and personality specialist Royce White, CEO and founder of The Caris Group, offers keen awareness and specific solutions to high Dominant pastors, staff, and their congregations on how to help domineering pastors build and maintain strong and healthy leaders and churches. You can pick up his new book, Who’s Killing Your Church? here.

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This article excerpted from, Who’s Killing Your Church?