Retriever sent along an interesting link about blaming people for what goes wrong, including blaming yourself. It’s a good article that links to real research, so you may find it worth your while. Barker is clearly not a professional in either psychology or research, but he does seem to be a reasonably clever guy who is very popular these days talking about self-help. At least, I conclude he is not a professional because I cannot find any credentials discussed anywhere on the web. He tells you who he writes for and what he does, which is perhaps appropriate for a positive-thinking self-help guy, as if saying Those things don’t matter. What matters is if I can produce good material or not.
There are some things you should be cautious about in reading such material however – things that you know but I am reminding you about.
- He has no obligation to report research that points in another direction or clouds his preferred narrative in any way.
- Just because people who do X have preferred outcome Y, it does not mean that you are going to be able to do X yourself, nor that even if you succeed at doing X, Y will happen to you as well.
Let me expand on that last just a bit. In this case, Eric Barker claims that people who blame less are more productive, implying that if you reduce blaming, you will become more productive as well. This is not necessarily so. You may have a set-point of how much you are going to blame, that can be changed only slightly, or with enormous effort. Barker may think you can turn it on and of, but you may be wired for the amount of blame you engage in, and your inability to change that be just one more thing to kick yourself about.
When I started in this biz years ago, there was a psychologist who kept a number of paper bags in his office. He used them to illustrate his favorite lesson, that guilt was unnecessary. He would tell people to put their guilt in a bag by blowing it up, then have them pop it. Observers noted that this never seemed to have the least positive effect on his patients, but he had been doing it for 40 years and wasn’t going to change now. Pop psych strategies often have this weakness. If they don’t work, it is somehow your fault for not activating the technique properly.
Not that you shouldn’t try them. Sometimes you can make the adjustment and they do create an upward spiral. At a minimum, they can remind you that the opposite isn’t likely to help – that blaming others or feeling more guilty doesn’t have a track record of improving outcomes either, allowing you to distract yourself for a bit.