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Blame vs. Explain

 

Explanations > Preferences > Blame vs. Explain

Blame | ExplainSo what?

 

When something goes wrong, what do you do? Some people first ask 'Who is to blame?' whilst others ask 'What went wrong?'

Blame

Those who focus on blame when things go wrong believe that we all have responsibility and things go wrong because someone is lazy, incompetent or just plain bad. They thus make attributions about the internal characteristics and motivations of others.

Their values typically say 'The wicked should be punished' and finger-pointing and blame is a part of this punishment. They take the moral high ground, sitting as prosecutor, judge and jury, and pronounce guilt and sentence.

They may also be driven by a sense of guilt or fear, and blame others in order to distract or deflect attention from themselves.

Explain

Other people attribute cause to the environment, to situations and systems, rather than people.

They typically see people as 'doing the best they can' in any situation, and that many actions are driven more by external structures and systems than internal motivations. Thus, even when a person makes a bad choice, it may be explained in terms of the company compensation system that encouraged that inappropriate decision.

So what?

For a blamer, point out their potential culpability if they do not agree with you or help them point the finger in an appropriate direction.

For an explainer, do not blame or use guilt. Instead, rationally focus on external systems that must be coped-with, managed or changed.

See also

Blame, Attribution Theory, Fundamental Attribution Error, Actor/Observer Difference, Blame game

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