What is blame-shifting? How can you tell if someone is shifting the blame? Here’s our 2-minute guide.
to make someone else responsible for something you should do or something bad that you have done (Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries)
Blame shifting can be quite tricky to spot. The person doing the shifting might have some highly effective techniques. Even if they aren’t consciously or deliberately avoiding responsibility as such, they may have developed habits over time that have enabled them to escape the consequences of their actions.
A deliberately abusive person might have developed even more skill at shifting the blame. So how can we recognise it?
Some quick examples of blame-shifting tactics
There are so many blame-shifting “tools” a person might use:
- They might blame an action of yours: “Now look what you’ve made me do!”, or “If you kept the house clean, I wouldn’t get so angry!”
- They might blame circumstances: “Anyone would lose their temper right now!” or “My job is very stressful right now!”
- Or they might play the victim: “I’m the one who should be upset!”
Words can be so confusing. Especially in the hands of a manipulative person. If someone is touching on our sore spots – like things we feel guilty about or past hurts, for example – that can easily shift focus away from their actions.
Focus on responsibility
What can we do? How can we cut through the words to see clearly?
Cut through the confusion by keeping things simple. The goal of blame shifting is to avoid responsibility for one’s behaviour. So, we can keep returning to that question:
“Is this person accepting responsibility for their actions?”
Mercy is important, and sometimes we all need it. But healthy people care about the impact they have on others. Rather than say,
“I lost my temper because I’ve had a hard day,”
a healthy person might say,
“I’m sorry I lost my temper. I’ve had a hard day but that’s not your fault.”
A healthy person will accept responsibility for repairing the harm they’ve caused.
The story of King Saul shows us a person who was adept at blame-shifting. He blamed his men, God, Samuel, or anyone close to him. You can read more about his blame-shifting tactics here.
At the end of the day, blame-shifting is about avoiding responsibility. That’s the key to spotting it.