How to avoid blaming when expressing your emotions or reality to friend/partner/coworker, etc

Do you ever struggle to get your point across? Do you find yourself in conflict with a family member or friend, and you both feel unheard and understood? Do you every experience confrontation so intense that it distracts you and impacts your mood for days? If so, you may be losing sight of the important aspects of communication when in conflict. Follow the six steps to help you address the conflict head on without walking away feeling defeated. Or as a therapist might say “try this exercise to learn how to avoid blame and still get your same point across.”

Overcoming Blaming and Codependency STEP ONE

Mindset and Ownership

First in order to begin a conversation blame-free, it’s important to check in with your current mindset and reality, to make sure that you are in a blamed free place. In order to do this you need to take Ownership. Ownership means to acknowledge what has happened, who was involved, but then to move forward and protect yourself is up to YOU. While people may have done things to contribute to where you are, or how you feel, only you get to decide how to respond. Once you feel you are in this mindset and agree with this idea, then you are ready to engage in a conversation with someone to share your emotions and perception on whatever the issue is.

Overcoming Blaming and Codependency STEP TWO

I-Statements

When confronting someone about an issue or conflict, always begin your sentence with an “I-statement.” Such as: “When I thought,” “What I felt,” “The story I told myself about your behavior,” etc. Starting with an I-statement is less accusatory and it is more likely for the speaker to actually hear the content. I-statements imply ownership, taking responsibility for your role, and your perception, in the situation. An I-statement helps right off the bat to prevent blaming the other person, and keeps you on track with speaking directly from your own experience. I statements are direct, honest, and non-attacking (if used correctly!)

Overcoming Blaming and Codependency STEP THREE

Remain Fact Based

To remain blame free, you need to focus on the actual information observed. For example, “Your volume used was loud, you were cursing and called me a ‘bitch.” This is an example of someone sharing their accounts and observation of their friend’s behavior with the facts, as opposed to labeling the behavior, “You were out of control and behaving like a maniac.” Labeling one’s negative behavior gives a person more motive to argue against it, have a different perception, and to not hear the true point of your message. The more accurate your facts, (meaning the other person would agree), and the more you focus simply on the core of the issue, the more difficult it will be for one to argue with your perception. Either they will agree with your reality, or they won’t (but more on that later).

Overcoming Blaming and Codependency STEP FOUR

Identify your emotions in response to the issue

Knowing your emotions is an essential component in determining your perception of something that has happened; it helps develop your view. When you express your emotions while communicating your perception to the listener, the emotions is what helps the listener in trying to understand your point of view and experience. While we can’t control ones emotions, it’s important for us as compassionate individuals to know how certain events have impacted a friend/neighbor/spouse, etc. If someone said to you , “I waited for 45 minutes for you at the restaurant last night, I thought you maybe you were hurt.” This information is helpful, but once a feeling is connected with this thought and behavior that the experience for this individual has been fully described. Emotion creates empathy.

Overcoming Blaming and Codependency STEP FIVE

Accepting your reality, and accepting his/hers

By you expressing yourself with I-Statements, non-labeling descriptions of the issue at hand, identifying your emotions connected, you are successfully expressing your reality. This means you are being true to yourself and the person you are communicating with about who you are, and what it’s like to be you. This is a way to let go of controlling how you are perceived.
The listener may not have the same perception as you, but that’s okay. Having different experiences is what makes people interesting, it doesn’t mean your reality is inaccurate, and it doesn’t mean anything about your relationship, or you as a person. There is no requirement that one of you has to be right and the other wrong. These means that due to your backgrounds, how you view the world, and what your values are, you may end up having different experiences of the same event. To help you in accepting another person’s reality, try and keep your focus on the person’s perception described. While listening, give yourself a mantra like, “I am listening to what it’s like to be him/her, this is not about me, this is about “John.”

Overcoming Blaming and Codependency STEP SIX

Keep it Simple

Try to keep your statement simple and brief. The longer you go on as the speaker, and the more elaborate your statement becomes, the less likely the listener will hear your main message. Try to construct one full sentence encompassing all of these points. Plus, most likely if you keep it brief and simple, you’ll have an easier time of keeping your perception facts based.

Do you have a better understanding of how to communicate without blame, but wonder “what does it look like in practice?” The following tip illustrates through example how to apply these six steps in your everyday communication and overall mindset.