Examples of Blame-Free Communication

Posted by: Center for Growth Therapists

Center for Growth: Couples Counseling / Marriage Therapy in Philadelphia

Examples of Blame-Free Communication

It is common for individuals in Philadelphia to avoid discussing conflict, especially when it involves expressing emotions and discussing a negative experience due to a loved one’s behavior. You may fear hurting your loved one’s feelings with blame, or perhaps being rejected or misunderstood by the listener. In order to effectively express yourself and to address conflict, there are six basic steps to follow in order to successfully confront conflict with a friend, loved one, partner, etc.: Mindset and Ownership, I-Statements, Remain Fact Based, Identify your emotions in response to the issue, Accepting reality, and Keep it Simple. Read the following two examples to learn how to apply these 6 steps to blame-free communication, and learn how to develop your own sentences. (used frequently at the Center for Growth / Couples Counseling / Marriage Counseling in Philadelphia

A typical statement is:

“When you freaked out at me last night and just went crazy and started yelling at me, I was really pissed.”


How would you revise this to create a blame-free statement?

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“You made me really mad when I made a big deal over our anniversary; and you didn’t care about our anniversary at all.”
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Scroll down for the Center for Growth / Couples Counseling / Marriage Counseling in Philadelphia answers and explanations..

ORIGINAL STATEMENT:

“When you freaked out at me last night and just went crazy and started yelling at me, I was really pissed.”

 

Blame Free Communication: Revised Statement:
“When I told you I didn’t trust you, and you began to raise your voice and told me to leave, what I told myself about that was I wasn’t heard, and I didn’t know if you were going to hurt yourself, and about that I felt anger and fear.”

The goal of talking is to make it safe enough for your partner to hear the message. To use the above example, this sentence is very attacking. You want to use language that indicates that you take ownership of your role in the conflict. Beginning the sentence with an I-Statement instead of telling the listener what he/she did wrong, demonstrates ownership, and avoids blaming. Labeling behavior by using descriptions like “freaked out” and “went crazy” will cause the listener to stop hearing your core message. Their defenses are now up after being called crazy and they are ready to argue labels with you. So to take the part of the sentence “You freaked out at me last night and went crazy,” it’s important to look back at the behavior that actually took place and describe in factual detail as if you were a detective. Look back over the situation, is “freaking out” and “going crazy” really what happened? If you dig under those labels you used, you’ll find something more.. “When I told you I didn’t trust you, and you began to raise your voice and told me to leave the house.”

Shifting the beginning part of the sentence with removing labels, and adding in your part of the situation, you have now taken ownership of what occurred, and decreased the attacking language and blame by describing the behavior more accurately.

With these revisions here is your new sentence at this point:

“When I told you I didn’t trust you, and you began to raise your voice and told me to leave the house, I was really pissed.”

Your sentence now has a better chance of keeping the listener focused and engaged, instead of defensive and distracted by the arguing the details and labels. What is still missing at this point is identifying your emotions in response to the issue. Saying “I was really pissed” indicates feelings of anger, but the word “pissed” can come off defensive, and can mask what feelings are really going on for you under the surface. Think about what feelings initially went on for you in response to being told to leave. Feelings of anger, shame, fear are all valid feelings to experience when loud arguments are going on and someone is yelling at the other person to leave. So for the sake of this example, let’s go with anger and fear.

With the new revisions here is your newest sentence at this point:

“When I told you I didn’t trust you, and you began to raise your voice and told me to leave the house, what I felt about that was anger and fear.”

To truly finesse this sentence, and to really let the listener in on what was going on for you in this moment of conflict, it would be helpful for the listener to gain a sense of WHY you experienced feelings of anger and fear. This is an essential part of accepting and expressing your reality; to describe why you experienced these emotions is sharing with the listener what it is like to be you. Was there anger because you didn’t feel heard by him/her? Or perhaps another reason? As for the fear, what was it you were fearful of? The outcome of the fight, what would happened if you were to leave? It’s important to avoid glossing over issues, and get to the core triggers for these emotions; this is what will captivate the listener, this is what will get them to focus and hear you instead of looking for the blame.

ORIGINAL STATEMENT:

“You made me really mad when I made a big deal over our anniversary; and you didn’t care about our anniversary at all.”

Blame Free Communication REVISED STATEMENT:
“When I prepared a three-course anniversary dinner for us in Philadelphia, and you arrived an hour after you said you’d be home and gave me one word answers when I was trying to have a dinner conversation with you, I thought you didn’t care, and how I felt about that was anger and pain.

The first thing to always look for when creating a blame-free statement is to start with where are you owning your role and reaction in the situation. Statements like “you made me,” imply a lack of ownership, and instead convey blame onto the listener. Remember, no one can make you do anything, you have the control and ability to choose your reactions. You may feel the other person had set you up, or manipulated the situation for you to react the way you did. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, you have the final say. So for the first revision, take the reaction of being mad and let’s put that on the back-burner for now. Which then leaves us with beginning the sentence “When I made a big deal over our anniversary.” If we stuck to remaining fact based what would be the actual details of you making a big deal over your anniversary? Was it that you cleared your schedule to make a 3 course anniversary dinner and was looking forward all week to celebrating together? To continue with remaining fact based, a statement like “you didn’t care about our anniversary at all” is a thought rather than an accurate description of the facts. So what was the behavior that lead you to think “you didn’t care at all?” again stick to the facts. Was it that she/he showed up late, or didn’t even bother to get you a card? For example sake, let’s pick a behavior that the listener showed up late, and didn’t engage in conversation for most of the night, and didn’t help to clean up after the dinner.”

“When I prepared a three-course anniversary dinner for us, and you arrived an hour after you said you’d be home, and gave me one word answers when I was trying to have dinner conversation with you, the story I made up is I thought you didn’t care.”

This example has almost all of the steps: Ownership and I-Statements, facts, simplicity, and almost all of accepting your reality. The missing piece is identifying your emotions in response to the issue, which would also complete accepting your reality. Explore your emotions: anger, guilt, fear, pain. Pain seems to be an appropriate fit for this statement, because it carries added layers of lonely, sad, and hurt. If you felt a little anger over spending your entire afternoon cooking a fancy meal, and getting nothing in return, that would be expected.

Remember, this type of communication is most likely new to you, so it’s expected if it feels unnatural at first. Mastering such structured communication takes time, and takes practice. Strike when the iron is cold, practice with friends on lighter topics. You can also practice by writing your thoughts down. If you find yourself struggling with this exercise, take a look at some of these tips:

http://www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/tips/5-ways-to-fix-communication-with-your-partner-today

http://www.sextherapyinphiladelphia.com/how-to-listen-judgement-free/

If you are finding yourself blaming, and need help.  Call 267 324 9564 to schedule an appointment at the Center for Growth / Couples Counseling / Marriage Counseling in Philadelphia.