Lessons for Life

It's all your fault!

How to cope with people who blame others

Who's fault?

Who's fault? (Leonora Saunders, Cultura/via Getty Images)

Do you know people who like to blame others for their problems? If you're exhausted by your friends, co-workers or family using the sentence, "It's all your fault," you're not alone, according to therapist Bill Eddy.

"This kind of behavior is really increasing in our society," said Eddy, author of "It's All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything."

Eddy said blamers have what he calls "high-conflict personalities," which makes it difficult for them to manage their emotions.

"This can be caused by abuse or trauma in early childhood—or even the opposite, where the child is entitled and gets away with anything," he said. "The third option is that it's biological. You can have a totally reasonable parent and if they have a child with a personality disorder; that child has no ability to manage their emotions."

The result, Eddy said, is an extreme overreaction to everyday problems.

"They might even engage in behaviors that 90 percent of the people would never do," he said. "Like spreading vicious rumors or even damaging property."

Eddy said these behaviors can be especially toxic in the workplace.

"The more narcissistic high-conflict people see themselves as superior, so if they see someone who is smarter than they are, they are threatened by this," he said. "They want everybody to praise them and they don't praise anybody else. In fact, they are often disdainful and demeaning to people."

Here are Eddy's tips for dealing with a person who blames others:

Make a connection.

"Rather than putting them down or fighting back and arguing, try to connect with empathy, attention and respect," he said. "And this is really counterintuitive, it's the opposite of what you feel like doing, you really feel like escaping. But say to them, 'That sounds like a tough day,' rather than mirroring what they do. You want to calm them by showing interest."

Analyze your options.

"Ask yourself, 'What do I want to accomplish here? Is this someone who will ease out of my life, or do I need them in my life?' By analyzing your options, you realize you aren't powerless, and you can think more realistically so you don't just react to the person."

Respond in writing.

"Make sure your correspondence is brief, informative, friendly and firm," he said. "This is a good way to write emails when you get an inflamed email from somebody. Send three or four sentences that are just straight information. Do not add any emotions or opinions. Then end it with something nice like, 'Have a good weekend.' This will end the hostile communication because you end the conversation from your end so you don't fan the flames."

Set limits.

"This is so important when you deal with blamers because they don't stop themselves when they are attacking," he said. "Stay calm and talk about the future rather than criticizing the past. You can think, 'I can hang up the phone or I can walk away,' whatever it takes to get away from their outburst."

Don't try to change them.

"Probably 80 percent of the energy we spend on people like this is spent trying to persuade them how they're wrong and they need to change which just makes it worse. You may just have to walk away from this person."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

CHICAGO

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