Notice how hard it is to own our own stuff? Especially when the other person is the bigger problem? Consider the following conversation:
Speaker A: He’s such a jerk! I never want to talk to him again.
Speaker B: What happened?
Speaker A: He never told me that the assignment was due today or that it had to be done up professional. He just yelled at me when I asked him a question and told me I was going to get written up and reported to _____.
Speaker B: Wow that was so unlike him. He must have had something that was bothering him. Aren’t your assignments listed for you ahead of time?
Speaker A: Yeah, they are listed, but I wasn’t there when they put them up and because I have so much to do I couldn’t check what was listed and anyway he should tell me or at least cut me some slack since I work my butt off for him.
Without considering the wrongs or the mistakes of leader (which may be numerous!), notice that speaker A doesn’t tell you that he/she has a habit of forgetting to look at the assignment list nor that when the unnamed “he” called speaker A on messing up, speaker A then spoke in sarcastic and demeaning and defensive tones.
This is a fictional account. And yet we all struggle with saying, “I didn’t like how he treated me but to be fair, I keep forgetting to do what he asked.” “I wish he didn’t yell at me in front of everyone, but I have to admit I was goofing off and talking when I shouldn’t.” If I yell at my kids it is because I was tired or they deserved it. If I speed, it was because I was late. If I’m late it was because of bad traffic. If I didn’t finish my writing assignment it was because of some last-minute crisis. Notice how we take truths and turn them into defenses and thus avoid any blame at all.
What if you are only 10% of the blame for a conflict and your child/spouse/coworker/parent is to blame for the other 90%? Do you find it hard to say, “You know, when we were fighting yesterday, I said _________ and that was hurtful and wrong. Will you forgive me?” Do you find it hard to stop at the end of the sentence without adding, “but you….”
I do. So do my clients and my kids. We seem to think that if we acknowledge our part we let the other party off the hook. In fact, most frequently, when we own our part, the other party is MORE likely to own their stuff too.