Tendency to blame others

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Human Nature is to Blame Anyone or Anything Else

We had a saying in the SEAL Teams:  

Nothing ever turns up until you accuse someone of stealing it.

“Who took my gear?”

“Which one of you picked up my eye pro? I just set it right here.”

The running joke was that invariably, as soon as you accused someone else of taking your gear, it would turn up—right where you had put it. Usually, this was because you had placed it somewhere and forgotten. Then, thinking it was stolen, you blamed everyone else for taking your stuff until it turned up, and you realized that it was nobody’s fault but your own.

As human beings, we all tend to blame others. Something in our nature drives our immediate default response to blame anyone or anything other than ourselves. The level of frustration or stress we are under only exacerbates this tendency. But knowing this, you can contingency plan to counter your default response and reprogram yourself to take ownership. But even then, you will likely still occasionally stray from the path of ownership and blame others. When you do, recognize it, take ownership of it, and fix it.  

Real-World Example:

My family and I rushed to get out the door for church on a recent Sunday morning. But the car keys were nowhere to be found. A text message soon confirmed that our babysitter had accidentally left with the primary set in her purse. That wouldn’t have mattered, except that the extra car keys had been missing for at least a week.

Frustrated, I unloaded the kids from our larger SUV and put them into two separate vehicles to have enough seat belts for everyone.

“I’m sure they are in a jacket pocket or purse somewhere,” I said. There have been many occasions where a missing set of keys turned up in my wife’s jacket pocket or purse.

She just looked at me, knowing I was accusing her of losing the keys.

“So, you’re blaming this on me?” she asked.

Immediately, I recognized that I had chosen poorly.

As I drove to church in a separate vehicle, I detached and analyzed my embarrassing lack of ownership. As the co-author of Extreme Ownership, I should know better and start taking some. This circumstance was my fault. I knew the extra car keys had been missing for at least a week. I should have searched for them and found them well before we were in a time crunch to get out the door.

When we returned home after church, I started the search. I quickly found the extra set of car keys in the first place I looked: in my computer bag, where they had been sitting for more than a week.

Nothing ever turns up until you accuse someone of stealing it.
I had to shake my head for being such an idiot. But it reminded me how easily I can fall back into my natural tendency to blame others.

“I owe you an apology,” I told my wife. “I found the car keys. They were in my bag. Next time, instead of blaming you, I will take ownership and look for them—starting with the places I might have put them first.”

She smiled. Some people learn the hard way.

For Action:

This week, identify a past situation where you have blamed others for something that was your fault. Can you take ownership of the situation and fix it going forward? What contingencies can you put in place to prevent you from blame-casting when you get frustrated? Analyze these lessons and set yourself up for success going forward. Then, IMPLEMENT.

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