Critical Conversations For Dummies
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People who play the blame game during critical conversations love to avoid responsibility by throwing the blame around. If you want a critical conversation to be successful, you must learn to corral people who blame others and avoid taking any responsibility or ownership for anything.

Someone who blames others is often doing one of two things (sometimes both): hiding his own insecurities or just trying to get away with doing nothing.

If someone is insecure about his job, abilities, or skills, do your best to build rapport and let him know that you’re there to help — not to lay blame. But if someone is just trying to get away with doing nothing, you may also employ two other stealth tactics.

First, you can simply say that you’re confused about why there’s so much blame when the goal of the conversation is to gain a clear understanding of what’s happening and to find potential solutions — not to harp on who did or didn’t do what. Ask the individual to take a break from pointing fingers and to focus on the process.

And, of course, you can always play the humor card. If you play it without being sarcastic or blaming others, humor can help redirect the blame, For example, try saying, “It seems like there’s plenty of blame to go around — I’m wondering whether there are just as many ideas for solving the problem.”

In some cases, especially in a group conversation when the blame game starts, you may need to take a break and talk off-line about the consequences of blaming others.

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Christina Tangora Schlachter, PhD, is a Certified Professional Coach. She has created and taught courses on communication skills, crucial conversations for new managers, communication for professionals, and dealing with difficult conversations. She is the coauthor of Leading Business Change For Dummies and is the Chief Leader of She Leads.

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