To blame or not to blame–that is the question
August 6, 2012 Pros Corner
From the shop floor to the board room, people need to relate effectively with each other. This creates a relaxed atmosphere and an increase in productivity. Everyone knows this but then does something else. How come? What can you do about it? Here’s the explanation and the antidote.
Eric Berne developed an approach called Transactional Analysis of which there are four fields, the Organizational field being one. I am going to share one concept from that approach which will assist you in working more easily, effectively, and productively. This is a cursory glance at this concept but there are ample explanations in the book reference within the blog if you’re interested.
The life position is the basic belief about self and others which is then used to justify decisions and behaviours. These beliefs are established, at a sensory level, at birth, depending on how the birth went. Then this is either reinforced or changed by subsequent experiences.
I’m OK/You’re OK
If you’re held, supported and acknowledged you are likely to develop a belief that you have a basic right to be in the world and so too do others. When here you listen to others, though not necessarily agree or even like them, but will get on with other people. That is the OK/OK position. Here you don’t blame others but get on and solve problems, whilst at the same time take responsibility for mistakes and learn from them.
Ernst (1971), placed these positions on a grid (see below). We colour these to show that just like traffic lights, when in the OK/OK position you will get on with others and communication is likely to be easier. When in the red zones communication will be blaming of self, others or both and will not be equal in nature.
You can also think about this using the word “blame”. You can blame yourself which is the I’m not OK position, and so on, or blame no one and get on with problem solving. You can then explore the lessons learned from the situation and take responsibility for it.
I’m OK/You’re not OK
If you were picked on, bullied and talked down to you may believe that you have a decision to make: either be the victim or be the bully and often the latter seems a more powerful position. If you are a manager who comes from this position you are likely to be autocratic and self-promoting. You will tend to blame others as a way not to take responsibility for your actions. Those being managed by you will be fearful and either over-compliant or resistant and oppositional.
Antidote: Take a hard look at how others respond to you. Do they seem over-compliant or oppositional? If this is the case then there will be less creativity as people are fearful. Consider what you are fearful of. As a mature person you no longer need to be fearful of being controlled or made to be a victim. You are able to be in the present moment, be considerate and develop empathy for others, this will promote effective relationships and increase productivity. If you manage someone who is in this position then you need to put in, and maintain, firm boundaries. They will then more likely to use their intellectual abilities for good rather than for manipulation. If you come from this position then you need to monitor your own thoughts and actions and check yourself.
I’m not OK/You’re OK
In this position you will make others more important than you and want to please others. It may even be that others have a tendency to bully and patronise you and if so you find it difficult to put the boundary in to stop them. Expressing an opinion is difficult for you in case you offend someone. When anything goes wrong you tend to blame yourself.
Antidote: Know that these positions are only a belief not a fact. You are important and in this context, suffering is optional. Find ways to increase your confidence. Acknowledge your strengths in terms of both skills and personality. If you manage someone in this position then letting them know that their opinion is of value will be helpful. Give them positive recognition for work well done.
I’m not OK/You’re not OK
Here we tend to blame everyone and life is difficult. There don’t seem to be any options and all is hopeless. Here everyone is blamed, including you. At your worst you might think that a drink would help, and this can lead to drinking more than is healthy – and the difficulties are still there when the drink isn’t.
Antidote: Watch other people who view themselves, others and life differently to you, they manage to learn from mistakes, find solutions and move on, so it is possible. You can succeed and life can be easy. When asking for help really listen to your responses of “Yes but that won’t work because….” Or “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work then!” etc. and decide to respond differently and look for how you might make a suggestion work. If you manage someone who comes from this position and they respond with such statements as “Yes but….” then you can respond with “I’m sure you will work it out”. This will ensure that you don’t get hooked into their position and keep trying harder and harder to come up with solutions.
So, in short, remain in the I’m OK and You are OK position. When you experience yourself as slipping into one of the other positions you need to let yourself know that this is just a perspective not a fact. The only fact is you are in the world and others are in the world – that’s it. You don’t have to like everyone but you do need to acknowledge and accept that they have a right to be here. You don’t need to like their behaviour and you can address this with them and it will be more productive if you remain OK/OK to do so. If you have difficulty returning to the OK/OK position you can phone a friend; remember all the times when you have received positive recognition; catch yourself judging yourself and/or others and know that suffering is optional.