Sunday, February 3, 2013


Before answering that question, ask

Would I rather be right or happy?

Would I rather solve a problem or avoid taking responsibility for that problem?

When something goes wrong in a country, an organization, or a marriage the first move we often make is to blame someone for what went wrong. This makes no one happy and the problem remains.

An example is the U.S. economy, which is currently not good. Who's to blame? Each political party knows the answer. It's the other party. No one is happy and the problem worsens. Instead of spending vast amounts of energy and ink blaming and defending against blame, imagine both parties taking 100% responsibility for the problem and setting to work.

Blaming and defending against blame is not only exhausting, it also hardens positions. Ceasing that activity releases huge amounts of energy and creativity to address the problem.

I, for one, cannot see that happening at the Federal level, but I have seen it happen in marriages and companies.

For the past 40 years I have counseled hundreds of troubled marriages. Without exception, each partner blamed the other for their troubles. My first step is always to ask couples to suspend judgment and blaming for now. I asked them to think of their marriage sitting in a boat that is sinking. For now, I say, it doesn't matter who put the holes in your boat. I invite each of you to take 100% responsibility for the marriage and do everything in your power to plug the leaks. When I get agreement things improve immediately. Then and only then can the attitudes and decisions that caused the leaks be addressed. When each knows that the other is for the marriage and has the other's back, so to speak, can systemic problems be worked on.

I have seen the same happen in troubled companies I have consulted. When the stake holders decided together that the success of their business is more important than finding someone to blame, things immediately improve.

Blaming and shaming is useless for solving problems. Rather, it's for self-justification and defending one's ego. Protecting one's view of one's self is not a strategy for long term happiness and a better future.

After all involved take 100% responsibility and do everything in his or her power to solve the problems, the stage is set for a calm, rational examination of what went wrong and who did what. This is when bad decisions and attitudes of the past can be identified and corrected. When everyone knows that everyone else is committed to everyone's mutual interest, the atmosphere is created for long term systematic problem solving. A small price to pay for having to be right all the time.

Look at the evidence. 

Being right is often costly and in any event is overrated.