n my line of work and definitely on social media, I see a lot of people blaming others for things that are not going right in their world. You know the “they should do this, they’re greedy and don’t care, they have no consideration for others, see I told you this would happen” mentality.
Whether it’s family, friends, their employer, banks, the government, you name it, there’s always someone else to blame. As a note: you are giving up your control to someone else when you do this.
Part of this comes down to something called the fundamental attribution error that Lee Ross coined in 1967 after observing an experiment by Edward E. Jones and Victor Harris.
What it means is, when we are judging someone’s behaviour, we overemphasize their personal characteristics and ignore the situational factors. When it comes to our behaviour, we convince ourselves that we had to do it because the situation made us.
For example, you see someone walking their dog, and the dog starts barking uncontrollably. You think, “what a jerk! That person clearly has no idea how to handle a dog.” (Character)
You’re walking your dog, and he starts barking uncontrollably. You think, “if those kids weren’t running around screaming and getting in my dog’s face, he never would have reacted like that.” (Situation)
The fundamental attribution error explains why we often judge others harshly while letting ourselves off the hook at the same time we rationalize our behaviour. Now that you know this, it’s not an excuse.
We all have responsibility for things that impact us. And I challenge you to find a situation where you don’t have a piece of responsibility.
Here is a recent example from my world. During one of Calgary’s famous summer storms, hail damaged our property. Am I responsible for it? Heck ya, I am.
Wait a minute, did she just say she’s Mother Nature? No, I can’t control the weather.
What I am responsible for is owning a property, in the hail capital of the world, and choosing to put vinyl siding and shingles on the garage. As crappy as the situation is, I made this choice, and I am responsible for it.
Before you blame others for what they are or aren’t doing, take a step back and ask yourself,
- What am I responsible for in this situation?
- What choices have I made that are contributing to how I feel or the outcome?
- What different choices can I make going forward?
Take back control and what you are responsible for in each situation where you find yourself blaming others.
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