How to ace the blame game. 8 questions you need to know. 

My daughter trips and drops her lego on the floor. The lego that she just spent 2 hours creating. Immediately she is in a rage and her rage is directed at me. She’s yelling at me because it is my fault that she dropped her lego. She’s in full-on blame mode and her little 7-year-old brain can’t cope with any of the feelings that she is having and so it goes straight to blame as a coping mechanism.  It is an effective coping mechanism because as long as she is raging at me she isn’t feeling bad at herself for dropping it. She isn’t feeling shame that she made a mistake. She isn’t doubting herself or questioning her capabilities.  

This is what blame does. It is a shield that prevents us from looking at ourselves or facing our own feelings of inadequacy or failure. It shields us from shame. But it does us a disservice.  

It does us a disservice because as long as we are looking outside of ourselves for something to change, for something to be fixed, for someone else to do or be, act or say something different, we are powerless. And it is victimhood and helplessness at its finest. Everywhere I look on social media these days I see it. Veterinarians venting about this client or that client followed by words of support and stories of commiseration.  

Look, I get it. Clients are behaving badly in crazy and unexpected ways and it is so easy to blame them for your crappy day but I need to tell you, the blame game is a trap and it isn’t helping you. It is time we stopped using blame in our relationships. And I’m not just talking about our intimate relationships, I’m talking about our relationships with our friends, our family, our co-workers and our clients. 

The reason this is so important is that when you go through life needing your clients, your boss, your mom, your partner or your children to act a certain way in order for YOU to be OK or happy, you are setting yourself up for failure. 

Sure, everyone may play by your set of rules in your head sometimes. Maybe even most of the time. But when it doesn’t, unless you have some other strategy in play, the hurt and the pain will be too much to bear and you will resort to the flimsy shield of blame to protect yourself. And in doing so you will give up your power. 

Is it nice when our clients are sweet as pie, have unending patience, and do everything we ask of them? Yes of course it is. But I don’t need every client to be that way in order for me to have a good day. 

Bad things are going to happen. People will get upset, people will say mean things, people will be curt and rude because they are having a hard time. I can’t control them. 

What I can control is myself. I can control my thoughts. I can choose to keep my power in the situation and avoid laying blame. I can choose to respond to who they are instead of reacting to what they are doing. 

If someone is upset I’m going to look at the situation and see if I can figure out where my personal responsibility in the situation lies by asking myself the following questions: 

  1. Am I being clear with my communication? 
  2. Am I holding unrealistic expectations of them? 
  3. Have I been unclear as to communicating what their expectations of me are?
  4. Am I holding judgment of them and acting as such? 
  5. Do I need to adjust a policy or procedure? 
  6. Is this a time for me to practice compassion without understanding? 
  7. Where in this mess is the gift, the learning point FOR ME?  
  8. What can I do to make amends or do better next time? 

Because as long as we are willing to shift the blame onto someone else, we will not grow. We will not learn to be resilient. We will not take the lesson from the situation and so we will be destined to repeat the unpleasantness. Over and over again. Which leads to a pretty crappy life experience. 

The key is learning how to master yourself, your thoughts and your emotions so that no matter how the other person is acting, no matter what they are doing, you are ok. This is a skill and here is your first lesson. 

This is important work we do. 

You got this. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team.

Ericka Mendez, DVM


Dr. Ericka Mendez is a small animal veterinarian and veterinary professional mentor on the east coast of Florida. She loves reading, teaching and writing about veterinary wellness and channels all her loves into her blog, The Purposeful Vet. She shares her life with her husband and daughter and can often be found at the beach, at a Disney park or on the couch watching Harry Potter movies.