How do you stop blaming other people for your own failings?
Look what you made her do: Shift the blame.
Taylor Swift’s newly debuted, hyper-self-aware persona is an homage to feuds with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Calvin Harris and apparently the media — the product of her “killing” old incarnations of herself to usher in a darker, world-wearier era of TSwift.
But the title of her upcoming album’s first single (“Look What You Made Me Do”) and the lyrics that open it (“I don’t like your little games / Don’t like your tilted stage / The role you made me play / Of the fool, no, I don’t like you”) make it crystal clear who’s to blame for the self-immolation: anyone but herself. Her crumbling reputation in recent years isn’t her fault; it’s yours, and now you’re going to pay.
The self-victimization is old hat for Swift — it’s been her M.O. since West snatched her mic at the 2009 VMAs — but it does present a teachable moment for the workplace. How can you take responsibility for your own failings and stop blaming others?
First, check in with yourself in the moment, Rachael O’Meara, an executive coach and Google senior account manager, told Moneyish: “Am I blaming, shaming or justifying?” she said. Try and catch yourself when you start assigning blame or feeling helpless: “‘It’s not my fault; it’s his fault.’ ‘Why is this happening again?’ ‘Why don’t I have any time for lunch?’ ‘Why did I get this assignment?’ ‘Why me?’ … All of this is drama.”
She invokes psychiatrist Stephen Karpman’s “Drama Triangle,” which posits people cycle through the roles of victim, rescuer and persecutor. “Being a victim is a role,” O’Meara said. “You can choose to take it on or you can choose not to.”
Name how you’re feeling. “You might be hurt, you might be angry, you might be sad, you might be frustrated,” O’Meara said. “When you’re in your emotions, you actually drop out of drama, because it’s no longer about the other person, it’s about you … You’re in the present moment.”
Pause and make a shift out of drama. “It’s exhausting and draining to be a victim. So why not just understand how you’re feeling and try to get out of it?” O’Meara suggested. “Know you’re taking on a role. This is not you … You can take personal responsibility to shift out of it, and that requires you being aware of it in the first place.”
Practice catching drama. Next time you’re vegging out to your favorite Netflix series, take stock of who’s playing the victim, the persecutor and the rescuer. “When you see it in others, you can see it more easily in yourself,” O’Meara said.
Own up. “Let’s just say something was done incorrectly … the wrong numbers were entered into a report,” MaryAnne Hyland, a professor of management at Adelphi University, told Moneyish. “The best way to admit to that is just keep it to the facts about what happened, and then say how the process would change so that that wouldn’t happen next time.”
Be tactful. Let’s say you missed a deadline or made a mistake, caused at least in part by a coworker’s actions, Hyland said. “Rather than addressing this publicly in a meeting, pull the person aside privately and address the situation in a factual, constructive manner.” (And maybe don’t write a song about the person.)
Use the collective “we.” “Business leaders can take an example from coaches in sports, where even when it’s the players who may be making the mistakes on the field, when you listen to a coach or even a team captain giving an interview after a game, they’ll use ‘we’ instead of ‘they.’ ‘We missed opportunities on the field,’” Hyland said. “That’s part of admitting it and not passing the blame.”
“Taking responsibility is a big part of emotional intelligence and being a leader,” O’Meara added. “It’s not about the blame, shame, justification game.”
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