Gabriel Mizrahi (@GabeMizrahi) joins us for this deep dive into why the impulse for blaming other people is a phenomenon familiar to most of us, and how we can curb it in ourselves without defaulting to always taking the fall when it’s undeserved.
What We Discuss with Gabriel Mizrahi:
- Why the externalization of blaming other people when you’re at fault robs you of being truly in control of your own life.
- Why the internalization of blaming yourself when you’re not at fault is just as toxic as externalization.
- How you can use the Accountability Spectrum to find an appropriate balance between externalization and internalization.
- What true accountability requires of you and what it gives you in return.
- The best antidote to blaming.
- And much more…
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The instinct to blame is a toxic pattern. It deprives us of our agency, weakens our relationships, causes dysfunction in our workplaces, and creates inertia across our lives. We need to see blame for what it is, and we need a new way to reframe it so that we can better understand how and when to appropriately take responsibility in our dynamics.
In this episode, we dive deep with Gabriel Mizrahi to examine how we fall into the pattern of blaming other people for our own mistakes and, just as often, take ownership of problems that are really bigger than our sphere of control. We’ll see what it takes to operate with true accountability and set a tone, standard, and operating procedure for navigating life’s challenges. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
To dive even deeper into striking the appropriate balance along the Accountability Spectrum between externalization and internalization, make sure to read this episode’s companion article here: How to Stop Blaming Other People When Things Go Wrong by Jordan Harbinger.
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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THANKS, GABRIEL MIZRAHI!
If you enjoyed this session with Gabriel Mizrahi, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Gabriel Mizrahi at Twitter!
Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- How to Stop Blaming Other People When Things Go Wrong by Jordan Harbinger
- The Secret to Avoiding Suffering by Jordan Harbinger
- Why You Take Things Personally (And How to Stop) by Jordan Harbinger
- FAE: The Big Mistake You’re Making about Other People (And How to Overcome It) by Jordan Harbinger
[Featured image by Domenichino]
Transcript for How to Stop Blaming Other People - Deep Dive (Episode 181)
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer Jason DeFillippo. When life gets hard, our minds so quickly point a finger elsewhere that we often don't even realize we're doing it. If you're quick to blame others, join the club. I think if we're really honest with ourselves, a lot of us are guilty of this either in our personal relationships at the office or both. In fact, pundits galore are calling blame an epidemic in our society, although they usually name it something else. The truth is the instinct to blame is a toxic pattern and one that deprives us of our agency, weakens our relationships, creates dysfunction and inertia in our lives, and stops us from growing and moving forward. I probably don't need to keep selling you on the idea that blame is one of the worst habits to have and should be at the top of your list of habits to break. Today, Gabriel Mizrahi and I explore why the impulse to blame is uniquely human and outlined what we call the accountability spectrum so that we not only stop blaming others, but we also do not simply absorb blame ourselves, which is equally harmful. Of course, once we can spot blame and identify when we're doing it, we'll also give you some tools to break the habit and show you how to replace it with a process that's functional, keeps us happy and productive and makes the right kind of accountability, a habit that we can take to the bank.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:01:16] As many of you know, I have a huge personal and professional network, and the way that I built that was through systems and tiny habits and consistency. I'm teaching you how to do this for free in my course. Six-Minute Networking over at jordanharbinger.com/course. It's free. It takes six minutes a day, hence the name, jordanharbinger.com/course. All right, here's Gabriel Mizrahi and I on blame.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:01:38] I'm excited for this one today, Gabe, because this topic -- first of all, it came from a listener and at first I wasn't sure if it was going to be relevant and then I thought, wait a minute. Blame is something that I'd spent years in a culture that does a lot of blame. And my family isn't really like that, but a lot of my friends were growing up. The last business that I was in, we had a blame culture. It's actually, there's a term for this in business and it's called a zero-defect culture and it's where the instance somebody makes any sort of mistake or perceived mistake, that person gets blamed and so everyone is afraid to take risk and you never solve problems because it's always someone else's fault. The blame can get ridiculous and yet people are still kind of eating it up. You know you'll go, "Oh well we couldn't do any video today, or all the video we did today is useless. And it's not our fault for hiring a schmucky video guy that was $4 an hour. It's the assistant who showed up late with the coffee. So we get started late. So the video guys were flustered and on caffeinated. And so then we didn't get started until noon and then all the shots were out of focus. But if that coffee guy had just been there on time, then none of this would've happened." And for like 20 minutes, you feel better because you blame someone else. And then the next day you have literally the exact same set of problems because you'd never solve anything. And you spend three hours in the car whining about it, but never actually finding a strategy. And I found that this was actually the case because I'd go, "Great, yeah, that's good. How do we solve the problem for next time?" And a lot of the sort of blamers would be completely uninterested in that line of thought. And that's how I started to highlight that this was a non-productive line of thought. But it's insidious. It's sneaky and I think it's a great way to waste a lot of time in your life and in your business. So I'd love to attack this in a Deep Dive here.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:03:38] Yeah, it's funny when life gets hard or when business gets hard or relationships get tough, that the human mind is so good at pointing a finger elsewhere that we don't even realize we're doing it sometimes.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:03:48] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:03:49] And when you see it in someone else, it's a lot clearer.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:03:52] Yes.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:03:52] It's a lot harder to see it in yourself. But there's this, it's a very human tendency because when things get hard or when a problem arises and if the stakes are high enough, a problem will create real anxiety in you, right? Or anger or frustration or whatever the feeling might be. And the more intense the situation, the more intense the feeling. Who wants to live without feeling? Like it makes sense that you'd want to discharge it onto someone or something else. That's the best kind of blame, I mean best in quotes, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:04:20] Yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:04:20] When you see someone blaming it on some inanimate object or some vague situation, that's even harder to see because there's nobody on the other side of that equation who can be like, "Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, hold up. I didn't, I didn't do that. That wasn't all me." But you know, you could, you could easily blame a door for not closing correctly if it'll get you out of a problem or traffic. Traffic is a great one, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:04:41] Traffic is the classic one.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:04:43] It's a perfect one because yeah, that's probably a very LA specific example, but like it's made up of individual people who are contributing to the problem, but it's an abstract concept that really can't fight back or speak up for itself and point out like, "Yeah, traffic me, traffic sucks." But isn't it the case that you should've left 15 minutes earlier? Isn't that the problem? You know what I mean?
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:05:03] Sure.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:05:03] So there are all these clever ways that we can blame and when we do, as you point out, like especially in workplaces, it can deprive us of our agency. It can weaken our relationships. It causes massive dysfunction, massive and deep dysfunction that can take months or years to unwind in some cases and it creates inertia. And that's probably the worst part about it is that this thing that is designed to get us out of the problem that we don't want to deal with only gets us in deeper and then makes it harder for us to act in a way that's actually productive. So I'm glad we're talking about it. I think it's a really timely topic. And also it's something that's taking shape in our society at large. Like the more complex and problematic the world gets, I think the more insidious the tendency to blame becomes.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:05:47] Yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:05:47] And people disagree about this, but I think in many cases people are rewarded for blaming. They're encouraged to do it.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:05:55] Sure. Blame the Democrats, blame the president --
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:05:57] Blame anybody.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:05:57] -- blame the snowflakes, blame them all right. There are all kinds -- I mean, you can literally just take a group and put blame in front of it and you end up with like a whole subgroup or other groups that exist solely to really just do that blame and it becomes a lens on everything. It's the filter with which you see everything. And instead of becoming a choice that we can control, it's the way that you navigate the whole world, which is really a great way to become powerless immediately.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:06:28] Totally. So what is blame really? I mean, I think we all know what it is intuitively, but it's worth exploring a little bit. So the impulse to blame is deeply human, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:06:37] Yes.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:06:37] Like when people hurt us, when mistakes get made, or relationships reach a conflict point, our minds will do anything to avoid the discomfort that those situations create. In most cases, the easiest way to avoid that pain is to externalize it. So that just means to project the discomfort or the anger or the anxiety or that pain onto another person or situation so that we ourselves don't have to sit with it any longer than seems necessary.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:07:04] Right. It's harder to admit that you made a mistake or that something else has happened or that this is avoidable and take ownership, which we'll get to in a second than it is to go, "Well, you know, if you had gotten ready earlier, we would've had more time to solve this problem as it cropped up." And then it's like, "Well, how was I supposed to --" "No rational counter-arguments, please." I just want to not be the person whose fault this is, right?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:07:28] Yeah. Because I don't want to be the person who has to live with the discomfort of that.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:07:31] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:07:32] Now the opposite of blame is internalization. So that just means taking on responsibility fully for any pain and it's source ourselves. So when we completely internalize something, what we're really doing is bearing the burden of the negative experience in its entirety. So we're believing that we're ultimately responsible for what happens to us around us because of us, how we feel, what to do about it, all of that. But here's the thing, internalization can be just as toxic as externalization. So when you blame, when you externalize, you project that anxiety and anger onto other people. When you internalize, you hang onto those feelings and you attribute them entirely to yourself. That is not any better than blaming other people. It's a different way of dealing with things which is just as toxic and sometimes just as dysfunctional, even though we don't always recognize it as problematic. So this, this spectrum of internalization and externalization kind of represent the two poles of how to deal with problems in this world, both of which create their own issues that we need to unpack.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:08:38] It's funny you should mention this because I know that when I was working with this blame culture, the zero defect culture, it started off by other blaming, but then it was like, "Oh well that's not solving the problem." So then I went to self-blaming and I was like, "Look, if I take responsibility, everything then maybe we can get these problems solved." And what that did is it just ended up turning all the blame canons toward me all the time. But I wasn't able to solve the problem because what I was doing was not actually to cause the problem. In fact, there was no solving the problem because everything could have gone perfectly smoothly and there still would have -- three weeks later, 20/20 hindsight been some sort of thing to complain or blame later on. And it's a no win situation because blamers tend to also be black holes or I should say infinite sources of blame. Whereas people who are self-blaming blame-me's as even if they're doing it to themselves, will be black holes of accepting blame. There's never like an amount of blame that you can accept. And in fact this bears repeating -- there's never an amount of blame you can accept where you are full and the other person says, "Well, I'm done blaming Angela. She has accepted responsibility." You just end up being the garbage dump of blame for yourself and everyone around you.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:09:53] Yeah, that's bottomless, right? Yeah, that's totally true. And it is crazy that there isn't a limit to how much we can do this because number one, it seems like human beings can never get enough of it.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:10:03] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:10:03] And also there will never be an end to problems, right? They'll just keep cropping up. The process you just described can lead among many other things to depression and shame, guilt and you can carry that around. So that's not the answer either. So if both approaches get us into trouble, then the natural question is, well, what's the right approach to understanding our role when negative situations arise? And that's when we have to start teasing out what the spectrum includes. So if we think of internalization, which is really self-blame and externalization, which is other blaming as two ends of the spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, we take on too much ownership of those experiences. And on the other end of the spectrum, we refuse to take ownership of our negative experiences and project them outward. In the middle is a healthy synthesis of those two impulses. And that healthy synthesis is what we could call accountability. So accountability means inappropriate recognition of other people's responsibility in a situation and a healthy ownership of our own. And it's crazy that so few of us are able to do both of those things. But that's actually a learned skill because most of us are taught unconsciously from a young age to either project everything outward or to take everything on. And as we get older, I think it's on us to decide -- okay, let me, let me do the work to figure out in every negative situation I encounter, how can I parse it in a way that helps me understand what I could have controlled and what I need to address and what the other party can address and what they need to control. And so that's what we're going to be talking a lot about today.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:11:37] This is a little bit scary for a lot of people because I think what you'll find when, when listening to this -- and by the way, there's so much more detail in the article that we wrote about this that will be linked in the show notes also called, I think, how to blaming other people.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:11:54] Yep.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:11:54] And so if this is a topic we have rings a couple bells, alarm bells or otherwise, go and read the article because there's going to be a lot more in there for you.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:12:03] Some of nice case studies, some good tables and some nice exercises.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:12:06] You're so proud of your tables.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:12:08] I like the tables, you know, I'm a big fan --
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:12:10] Guess who made the tables and guess who's made tables --
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:12:13] And the crude spectrum diagram.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:12:14] Diagram that shifts when you touch it on the Google Doc.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:12:20] This can be scary for people to parse for themselves because you either realize that you're the blamer and you've got a lot of work to do or that you're the blame-me and you've got a lot of work to do.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:12:30] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:12:30] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:12:31] Yup.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:12:31] So nobody wants to do this, especially people that are sloughing off accountability. Because right now there's somebody who blames other people going, "Well, I wouldn't have to blame other people if they were more competent. I mean, well, I wouldn't have to blame other people if they would just get their freaking job done."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:12:47] And then -- oh wait, are you actually confronting the solution? Are you just blaming other people for not being competent enough? I mean, it's a, it can go. It can turn back in on it own so quickly.
Jason DeFillippo: [ 00:12:59] You're listening to the Jordan harbinger show with our guest Gabriel Mizrahi. We'll be right back.
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Jason DeFillippo: [ 00:16:38] Don't forget. We have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Gabriel Mizrahi and Jordan on this Deep Dive. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more about our sponsors and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit jordan harbinger.com/deals. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go on over to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe and now back to our Deep Dive with Jordan and Gabriel.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:17:07] So here's what we're here to do, Jordan, we're here to honestly understand the role that we play in the way life happens at the end of the day. That's what we're here to do and we're here also to not take on any more or any less responsibility than we absolutely should. So recognizing how much of a relationship or a situation or an outcome we are responsible for and how much of it another person is responsible for is, is the game. And our job is to internalize the appropriate part of a dynamic, even when it's a dynamic and that's worth calling out is that I think a lot of times in life, very rarely do you find that there's a situation which is entirely one person's fault in most cases. There's a dance going on between two people or three or more people or a situation in a person, a person in a company, right?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:17:51] And in those situations it's very tempting to blame because you know that you are not responsible 100 percent for what happened, but you are 100 percent responsible for the 50 percent of it that you do own or whatever that percentage is. So being self-aware and disciplined enough to not take on more of a situation than is appropriate or healthy, but also being willing to recognize what you do need to take ownership of is part of what we're going to be discussing. And as you point out, that also means not becoming the object of somebody else's blame, which is a very easy pattern to fall into because the origin of it is other people are out of our control. So true accountability is the end game. It's the mindset that allows us to take the best parts of each side of the spectrum. And the first step in understanding how to do this is to recognize why and when you're blaming in the first place.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:18:39] I think that's wise and I think that a lot of people are going to be in denial about when they're doing this. So I think when we're going through it, when you're going through in your own head to recognize why you're blaming, resist the urge to justify it because that's Sabbath starts. Well, I'm blaming but you know this person in this particular instance, they were really late.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:18:59] Well, look like it seems kind of obvious to be like, hey, just be a little more self aware. Try to notice when you're blaming. But the thing is that blaming is a very clever coping mechanism for psychological pain.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:19:11] Yes.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:19:11] So if you're anxious or you're frustrated or angry, it's not irrational to not want to deal with that. It makes sense that you wouldn't want to, but blaming can take a number of different forms that actually fulfill other functions that we're usually not even aware of. Like in a single day, you could wake up and you can blame the city for traffic on the way to work. You can blame your colleagues for like not making the next pot of coffee when they finish it. You can blame your boss for making you stay past seven. You can blame your friends for making you feel silly over drinks that night.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:19:41] That's right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:19:41] You can blame -- this is getting a little personal, but you can blame your cat for knocking over a glass of water on the bedside table, even though he's done it like nine other times this week. It's like clearly telling you that it's time to stop putting the glass of water on the bedside table. You just got to have your glass, don't put it in here. There are so many situations that seem to call for blame. Like there's no end of problems in life, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:20:05] Yeah, you can easily find someone to blame for pretty much anything.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:20:10] Anything big or small. And in some of those cases, blaming might be somewhat rational. It might even be appropriate. It is possible that your city's traffic is a problem, that your boss is inconsiderate, that your colleagues aren't thinking about you as much as you think. Like those things could be true and yet you could still fall into this pattern of externalizing all of the anger and frustration, which isn't healthy either. But if you dig a little bit deeper into those instances of blaming, you'll usually find some more complicated intentions underneath. So for example, let's just go back to these silly everyday examples, right? When you blame the city for traffic, is it possible that you're also maybe avoiding responsibility for like leaving the house late or failing to set an alarm earlier? I mean, it's a very easy way to get angry at traffic as opposed to being like, "Yeah, that's on me for not leaving earlier." Or when you blame your colleagues for not making the next pot of coffee, are you also making yourself the saint of the office? Like, "I'm the one who cares about everybody. I'm the one who takes the time to make the pot of coffee." It seems like such a small thing, but it actually represents a very big psychological shift that you're making.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:21:17] You're elevating yourself to this pedestal.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:21:20] A hundred percent exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:21:21] And you're doing it by bringing other people down.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:21:24] Exactly. Somebody has to bear that there's a price to pay for that.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:21:27] Right. It's not just, "I often make the coffee. I'm a nice person in the office. I clean up trash sometimes in the break room."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:21:33] And move on.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:21:34] It's, "No one does this but me."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:21:37] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:21:37] "I am the only one that does this. Everyone else is lazy. This place would fall apart without me."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:21:43] Oh yeah. That's a great one.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:21:44] Right?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:21:44] Yeah, totally.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:21:45] And that ends up being, when we talk about things in the future, like personality archetypes, it ends up being pretty negative. It's almost like you're bullying people, even if you're not doing it in front of them. You're doing it in your own mind.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:21:57] In your mind. Yeah, yeah, to prop yourself up and that's exactly what you're doing because when you blame other people, you're not just externalizing the pain of the responsibility. You're also enhancing yourself in this other more subtle way, sometimes a way that you're not even fully aware of. So when you blame, whether it's something small like the coffee or it's something huge, like -- "You guys messed up this product. We delivered the project late because you guys couldn't manage your work streams properly." Think about some of the deeper reasons that you might be doing that. And then one of the most common is the desire to be right by making someone else wrong or to make yourself more competent by casting other people as less competent or to be special even if being special. Even if you get to be special by being the person who's suffering, who's frustrated, who's angry, right? Like you take on a special role because you're the person who knows enough to know that it's everybody else's role.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:22:52] That's right. Yeah, you are the special victim. And even though it's your own making essentially. You're the special victim. Everybody else is doing this to you and it's a very interesting -- we'll get to this in a second, but basically it's a great way to hand over responsibility and control.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:23:10] Totally. Which is ironic because in a way, you're giving up all of your control.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:23:14] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:23:15] It's a very weird thing. It's like a strange paradox. You give yourself a sense of control over the problem at hand by attributing that control to other people.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:23:23] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:23:24] You're saying like, "You guys could have made it work but you didn't, so it's your fault." And that makes me feel better because I don't feel as out of control. It's absurd.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:23:32] It is absurd, yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:23:33] But in a very limited mental way, it does work for maybe five minutes or maybe a day.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:23:38] Short-term strategy.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:23:39] Exactly. So no wonder we tend to blame so easily. Like blaming seems to work seems to, but once you really see how blaming is designed to prop you up, it becomes a lot harder to engage in it. A lot of the tendency to blame that we see in companies, workplaces, even families, that's another really very complicated dynamic where blaming comes up a lot. It's because the people who are involved or are not aware of these subtler motivations. If they were, then it would give them pause to be like, "Okay, I know that I don't want to feel responsible for what's happening right now, but am I doing this because I want to be the only nice person in my family or to be seen as the only nice person." You know what I mean? Or to be seen as the person who cares enough about everybody else in the office to complain about the coffee not being made or whatever the situation is. So you can catch yourself getting mad at the city and then you realize that, well, the city didn't force you to be late. It was you who overslept. Or you find yourself yelling at your colleagues in your head and you realize that, yeah, they might've forgotten to refill the coffee, but that doesn't make them bad people and more importantly, it won't make you a good one.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:24:43] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:24:44] It just makes you the person who either does or doesn't refill the coffee.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:24:46] Exactly.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:24:47] So the first key to stop blaming is self awareness. And that means bringing more consciousness to your thoughts and your feelings and catching yourself in the moment, hopefully. But even if it happens after the fact, that's a really, that's an important process to go through. It doesn't matter when it happens.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:25:01] 20/20 hindsight is better than no hindsight at all, I suppose.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:25:05] Totally.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:25:05] It's great if you can catch yourself in the moment and then just not do it.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:25:08] Yeah, and I think that's where you can end up if you do this practice enough, but just to be able to parse something after the fact is huge. And to notice when you're externalizing those thoughts and to understand why, and if you can get a handle on the underlying reasons that you're blaming, beyond just shifting responsibility, which is very clear, then you'll give yourself two huge advantages, huge advantages, and this is worth repeating. The first is that you'll find it a lot harder to justify your blaming in situations that are not being helped by it. And the second is you'll gain some critical insight into yourself because there's something very useful about studying your own blame. It reveals the things that you might not know about yourself that are very important to know, especially if you're a manager, if you're managing other people, if you want to be in a relationship, if you want to be a good friend, you want to be a productive colleague. Like the things that we tend to blame in other people are usually reflections of something that we need to own in ourselves. So whether that's better time management or knowing how to give feedback to people or understanding how to be kinder or whatever the situation happens to call for. If you study your blame and you figure out those intentions, you'll usually learn something really important about yourself.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:26:18] That's interesting. And yeah, that makes total sense because whatever we have these sort of bad habits or negative patterns, whenever we dig down to the bottom, there's usually something that we're either trying to hide and make up for, overcompensate, compensate for whatever. So it's like the control thing. We don't have control so we blame other people. Hand over control to them, thereby gaining what we think is control.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:26:44] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:26:44] It's weird.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:26:45] Yeah. And then you ask yourself, well, why do I want that control so badly? Okay, I do want control. Of course I want control. I don't want to feel out of control my career, but if I want that control, is this the way to go about it?
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:26:55] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:26:55] And to what end? Am I trying to be a manager or am I just trying to feel less chaotic? You know what I mean?
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:27:00] Yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:27:01] You can unpack that and discover as you point out these insecurities or these vulnerabilities or even this like hopes and expectations that sometimes are operating without our full consciousness.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:27:10] When you go to a therapist and do it, they're often like, "Tell me about another time in your life when you didn't have control." And then you're like, "Oh my parents got divorced and then my mom left and then blah blah blah." Like you find these weird things that -- that's not a real example from my life by the way. My parents are still together, very cool.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:27:27] Yes they are. And they look adorable sitting across from a breakfast table.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:27:30] That's right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:27:31] But your point is great. Like you start drawing those connections among data points that you didn't even know were there.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:27:38] Right. You find these weird connections where you're like, "Oh, I've never had to control in my life. I've always felt like life was done to me. Oh my grandmother and aunt raised me and they were too doting. And so I never really had control over my path." And now dah, dah, dah, dah, blame other people.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:27:52] Yep. And isn't it interesting because you usually don't think about blaming as this portal into self-discovery. But what you're talking about is really important. Like I guess that's always the case though when you -- it's interesting, like this is a little bit off the beaten path of what we're talking about, but you know, you take this problem like blame and if you really dig into it, you end up with this window into yourself. But that's the beauty of, of good self-help, I think, is that you can, if you really unpack a problem, you can get something more than just the solution to that problem. You can come to a better understanding of yourself and other people. And because blame involves two parties, it's a really good one to do that because if you can work on this blame problem at work, like in a professional setting, you can become a better manager and help everyone else become a better employee. Or if you do it in your family, you can understand the roots of all of your neuroses and issues or just values or whatever and you can become a better family member.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:28:46] Yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:28:46] So it's actually really useful.
Jason DeFillippo: [ 00:28:50] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Gabriel Mizrahi. We'll be back right after this.
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Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:32:01] So let's get a little more tactical now. The next step in this process is to replace the impulse to blame with the decision to understand, because when the impulse to blame arises, it happens so quickly, our minds are already blaming other people or situations before we even choose whether we want to or not. That's where self-awareness comes in. That's where checking in with yourself can slow things down for a moment. There becomes a moment where you can decide, "Okay, I'm angry, I'm frustrated, I'm concerned, I feel out of control. I can either follow this mental impulse to project it onto someone else, or I can say, hang on a second. Let me really understand what's happening in this situation." When we blame another person in any given situation, we usually are attributing responsibility unfairly. So there's a version of events that supports our desire to blame. So when we blame someone else, we're usually attributing responsibility, more responsibility to them than they actually have. Or when we internalize, we attribute more responsibility to ourselves and we actually should, but when we correctly dull out responsibility among everybody and every situation that was involved, then we achieve true accountability.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:33:12] Right. Because you can't solve the problem if you are taking on responsibility that you don't have because you don't have the ability to solve that problem. And if you're sloughing off all the responsibility that you would have normally had onto the guy who got ran and got your coffee that morning, now you can solve the problem either because there's nothing for you to solve. It's all someone else's fault.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:33:32] Exactly. Yeah. Accountability, like true accountability, actually requires honesty and self-awareness and maybe most importantly, a willingness to bear the discomfort that comes with honestly owning your piece of it.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:33:46] I think that's the key because there's a lot of people who don't want to own it because they take ownership and responsibility, accountability as something that means something negative about their personality or them as a human.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:33:58] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:33:59] You know, they've been raised or something in such a way where if you've done something wrong, worthy of an apology or some sort of change in behavior, you are a defective person that doesn't deserve love or whatever.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:34:12] Yup. Their feelings around that feeling. Yeah, totally.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:34:16] Yeah. Like in my family and in my current home, if you do something and you make a mistake, it's okay. The other person's not going to leave you. You're not going to be abandoned by your wife or you know, parents for doing that. But I know that other people probably live pretty consistently with that fear and I truly think that some of the stuff we were dealing with in the old company does stem from -- there was one person whose mother had abandoned them as a child and I think a lot of his behavior came from the fear of abandonment. So it was like everything he did had to be perfect even if he had to beat it into you, that it wasn't his fault. And so, by definition, it had to be someone else's fault. It couldn't be his fault. So if there was a problem and it wasn't his fault, well shoot, you're the other person in the room, it's got to be you then. And that's toxic. It's toxic for them because they can't fix the problem and it's toxic for you because then you, you're going like, "I guess I'm a bad person." Right?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:35:15] We learned this stuff from a young, young age and most of us have to learn later on how to deal with it the right way. It's sad, but I guess it makes sense because if we were taught accountability without being punished for it from a young age, then there wouldn't be so much of this dysfunction in the world. But there is, so that's why we're talking about this. So yeah, we have to get a handle on all of the variables that are at play in a situation before we can decide whether someone is really worth blaming, whether it's fair to blame them and how much of ourselves we should blame for the situation. So specifically there are a few questions you can use to get a handle on all of that, that data. So let's just talk about a few of them. I mean, one of them is, you know, what specifically is the negative situation taking place right now? Like how is it showing up in this moment? How did we arrive at the situation? So what events, which decisions, which factors led to this moment? Now that sounds obvious, but think about when a problem arises at work. How much time do people really spend unpacking the variables that got them to that moment?
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:36:23] I mean, a good company will do that, but everyone's knee jerk reaction is who's freaking fault is this.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:36:29] Exactly the problem is just taken at face value.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:36:31] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:36:31] It's treated as this big monolithic issue. And then the next step is let's figure out who's responsible.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:36:37] Right. They're fired or they're getting written up for this.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:36:39] But what about all these other questions? Like, okay, who else is involved in this situation? What are their roles and responsibilities? Also which external factors came into play, the factors that were not under anybody's direct control, like weather or office policy or tangential conflicts or somebody rough morning that literally had nothing to do with you but ended up playing a role in the situation. By the way, this is, this has a really strong connection to a cognitive bias that you and I have talked about a lot, which is the fundamental attribution.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:37:11] Ah, yes.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:37:11] So this is a really interesting little subplot, but like there's a cognitive bias that makes us want to attribute people's decisions to who they are like to their deepest character.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:37:21] Right, their DNA.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:37:22] Their DNA. Like if somebody cuts you off in traffic, it's because they are a terrible person, not because they were late to work because of some unrelated issue that if we were in the same situation, we would be responding in the same way too. Like we don't take into account environmental or situational factors or matters of circumstance when we judge other people. We tend to judge them based on who they fundamentally are. That's the fundamental attribution. We're attributing fundamentally something to their character that we shouldn't. That's the error and it has a connection to blaming because in a lot of cases blaming depends on the fundamental attribution error, like our willingness to blame a situation on somebody's core character, their choices, what they value as opposed to, well, let's take into account like all these other things around this situation that contributed to the problem.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:38:14] That'd be great if we could do that. That sort of perfect world scenario, right? Like, okay, let me pause, take a deep breath, figure this out, and you can kind of picture a wise CEO doing that and going, "Hmm, let's unpack this before we jump to conclusions." But then that's the kind of thing that maybe happens in movies and then in real life it's like, "Nah, let's just blame Gabriel. He's here and had something to do with it."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:38:40] Sure. Probably. Yeah. I mean, yeah, there's this --
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:38:43] It's easier to blame.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:38:44] It's easier to blame, but it's not easier in the long term.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:38:47] In short term.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:38:47] Short term, easy.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:38:48] It's the path of least resistance. Long term, it doesn't solve anything.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:38:52] And by the way, I mean most people you talk to who work in major companies are unhappy. I mean they're frustrated. There's office politics, office politics depends on what am I responsible for? What are you responsible for? How much power do I have, how much power do they have? How do I get more power? I mean, no wonder people are so miserable in a lot of their jobs. They're dealing with cultures that depend on and reinforce the impulse to blame. So what we're talking about is how to short circuit that impulse and the way to short circuit is, is to take, and by the way, it wouldn't take all day to do this exercise.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:39:26] No, no.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:39:27] What we're talking about could be five minutes.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:39:30] It doesn't let you open that emotional steam valve and go, "Screw, that guy. What an idiot!" And I'm so guilty of that too. I love just being able to open the valve vent. And I think a lot of people will do that. The problem is it's like we've been saying over and over, it doesn't actually -- when we come to that impulse to blame other people and open that steam valve, we deprive ourselves of the chance to actually properly appreciate the problem.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:39:57] Yeah, exactly. Like we're so eager to avoid the pain that we missed the opportunity to actually understand and that ability to understand is what differentiates great managers from bad managers, good leaders --
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:40:07] Or parents.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:40:08] Good parents or bad parents. Exactly. So the thing about this though, and what's so interesting is why do these two things blaming and understanding have this relationship. It's because if you really understood all of the factors that play in the situation, you wouldn't be able to blame --
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:40:23] Right, not credibly. Yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:40:24] That is why people don't take the time to understand because they want to enjoy the privilege of being able to point the finger at somebody else. It's a lot harder to say, "Well, hang on, let me understand the situation, if not fully, as fully as I can in this moment so that I can identify the factors that we actually have to work on. Some of which might be mine."
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:40:43] It's very difficult to understand and blame at the same time.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:40:46] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:40:47] Kind of like it's oil and water situation.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:40:50] Totally. Which is why the best antidote to blaming is really empathy. I mean empathy, of course, we've talked about this so much but it's the ability basically to understand and share the experience of another person. But more broadly it's the willingness to step outside of ourselves to stop taking things personally or entirely personally and appreciate the situation from all perspectives, multiple perspectives. Because when you apply empathy to all of the questions we just talked about, you end up looking at a situation from not just a number of different perspectives from but almost like from nobody's perspective, just truly objectively or as objective as you can manage yours, the other party's perspective, the world's perspective. And you understand the root causes of the problem instead of just being like, "I'm going to point finger that way because that guy should have brought the coffee." So you choose curiosity over certainty. You choose patience over gratification. So that's really the name of the game and when you study situations in that way, you inevitably discover. And this is what's so interesting, promising and also frustrating about this whole process is that when you study a situation in that way, you usually end up discovering the math of responsibility. Like how the responsibility shuffles out is never as clean as you'd like it to be.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:42:01] Right, yeah. It's never like, Oh, this was 100 percent Jen's fault.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:42:05] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:42:05] Good. I was right. My gut instinct --
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:42:07] Was correct.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:42:07] Was totally right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:42:09] Right never, with the exception of a few outlier cases, I would say there's really never a situation where one party is entirely at fault and the other party is completely blameless. Like in almost every case, there's usually a complicated dance that's going on among multiple parties that creates the negative situation. And the parties involved, they only realize that something is wrong when the problem comes to a head. They don't realize it in the moment of making all of those decisions. So we need to stop and tease those factors apart so you can clearly see who's responsible for what. How much are they responsible? What are other people responsible for? What is nobody responsible for? That's a huge one --
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:42:45] It's like force majeure.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:42:45] Force majeure, exactly, like acts of God or just circumstantial factors.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:42:51] "It rained. You should have been prepared." "Cool. I was, but I didn't bring seven umbrellas. One for each of you."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:42:56] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:42:56] "Okay, fair."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:42:57] So that's exactly right. So then if you do that, then you're in a position to get into the next step, which is really what we're here to talk about, which is to take ownership, to take appropriate ownership. And once you get a handle on all of the variables at play in a situation, then it's your job to identify and own your piece of it. So that means parsing the scenario for the aspects that you do control so that you can do your part in remedying the situation. But that process really starts with something very concrete and that is replacing the language of blame with the language of understanding. So replacing the impulse to blame with the choice to understand comes down to language, really, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:43:38] Whether it's in your head or spoken out loud.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:43:40] Yes, exactly right. And that, you know, that is a conscious choice to re-frame the language that you're using. So that means asking questions rather than making statements.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:43:48] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:43:49] It means leading with empathy rather than judgment.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:43:52] And these questions are decidedly less satisfying I guess in the moment. Because instead of saying, "I can't believe he did that. What an idiot!" You have to say, "Okay, help me understand why they made or why you made this decision."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:44:07] Yup.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:44:07] That doesn't feel as good as just choke slamming somebody verbally. Right?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:44:11] Exactly. No, because you don't get the steam valve.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:44:13] Right. The steam valve. "This is all their fault." Or "I feel like in this situation he or she could have acted differently here." Or "Is there something I'm missing about my role in this situation?"
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:44:24] Yes, exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:44:25] "This isn't my problem. That's your problem." "All right. Is this a problem? How much of this is my problem? Much of this is within my control."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:44:33] Yup. Oh, here's another fun one, right? Like, "This is why you're wrong."
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:44:35] Oh, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:44:36] Right. "This is why I'm right." That's the language of blame, but how much, how differently would that conversation go if you said, "Okay, here's how I see things. How do you see things?" Or, "I noticed that you did or said, or you felt X , Y, Z in this conversation. Why? Can you explain to me why you felt that way?" Or, "What did I do to create those actions or feelings in you? Did I do something? Can you help me see something that I'm missing and myself?" Or, "What should each of us have done to make the situation as productive as possible?" That is less immediately satisfying, but in the long-term, so much more useful because you're forgoing the impulse to be like, "Ah, yes, I'm correct. Everyone else is wrong and now I can just walk into the other room and this problem will no longer be mine." And you're saying, "Okay, let's slow this down for a second. Let me take myself from this limited position of wanting to be the person who's correct." And say, "Let me be a forensic scientist with this other person and figure out what's actually going on." And that really does come down to our language. It comes down to the words we use and the questions that we ask.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:45:38] Yeah, the shift of conscious requires that conscious choice often in my own head it starts off as the language of blame and then I go, "Oh okay let me take that again." Which is actually kind of a nice way because you get that frustrating part out. You open the steam valve and then you go, "Well, that wasn't really accurate." So let me take that again. It works when it's in your own head, it doesn't work as well when you're like let somebody have it in your office and then you come back 20 minutes later and you go, "So turns out that I was just being a complete dick." If you're doing this in your own head, make that conscious choice and shift whatever, you know, get it out of your system and then make the conscious choice, if you're doing this out loud, it is very helpful if you catch yourself beforehand.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:46:19] It is, but you know what, like let's put that under the microscope for a moment because there is a transitional phase in this work where you might not be able to go from blaming entirely to understanding perfectly. Like that is a big shift. It could take good leaders years to make that kind of shift. Is it so bad if you find yourself in two weeks from now with a little bit of this knowledge floating around your head in a problem at work? And you say, "I'm so angry right now. Like I know that this guy messed up the coffee," or whatever the situation is, "I really, really want to point my finger at this person and part of me really thinks that he's responsible. But you know what? Before I do that, can we talk about this? I'm angry. I just want everyone to know that I really want to blame somebody, but am I missing something?" And then you kind of straddle both and that's a really healthy transitional phase. There's nothing wrong with that. I actually think that's a great transition because then you're saying, "Okay, I might still be indulging in the old pattern, but at least I have the self awareness to be like, 'Okay, here's what I want to do, but let me enlist everybody else to help me do something that might be better than that.'"
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:47:25] Yeah, I like that. I think this is like you said transitional process. Most of us aren't going to go, "All right. From now on, I'm not blaming anybody else." We're going to have that knee-jerk reaction and then we're going to realize, "Oh, this is this non productive thing that I've been doing for 35 years."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:47:42] Yeah. But I also don't know if you really have to make that shift entirely for this work to work. You know? It's not, this process doesn't depend on you becoming Buddha tomorrow.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:47:50] Yeah, good.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:47:51] You know, you don't have to be like, "Oh, done with blaming. That's the old me."
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:47:53] I don't want to shave my head so good.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:47:55] Oh yeah, but you also got to skip the haircut, but like, yeah, you don't, you don't need to be perfect. You don't have to be this perfect non blaming creature to be more productive. You just have to have a little bit of self-awareness and space to be like, "Let me see if there's another way." Because at the end of the day you might discover that the other person does deserve to be blamed and I deserve a little bit of responsibility and that alone is important. And sometimes that is the whole point.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:48:20] And then after that, of course, we take ownership of our part in the situation. We kind of touched on that as well. You know, we want to be in a position where we appreciate all the factors that play, take our piece for what it is, don't then turn that into self-blame entirely. Like, "Oh I had this 10 percent piece of it so I'm a loser and a horrible person and I didn't deserve to work here or whatever. Like everyone hates me." You skip that part, you know, get, get past it and so yeah, that resisting of self-punishment actually might deserve a little bit of a highlight because I think it is tempting to take, "Take on my 20 percent, my 30 percent, my 50 percent responsibility, my 90 percent responsibility," and then just turn that into, "I'm a horrible manager. I'm a horrible person."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:49:03] Yeah. This is tricky because the more self aware you become in this department, the more you discover the power of accountability, the more tempting it can be to take on more and more responsibility in your life.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:49:15] Yes.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:49:15] And this actually happens a lot to top performers.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:49:18] It does. Like the people listening to this are going, "Oh God, that's me."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:49:21] Yeah, they're growing, "It's me." Or they're saying, "I want to become more of the kind of person who can take responsibility," cut to six months later and they are the person who's carrying the burden for the entire company. What starts off as healthy accountability can subtly slip into internalization. Toxic internalization.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:49:38] Yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:49:38] And that's a pitfall that you have to consciously avoid by constantly checking in with yourself in just the same way that we've been talking about this whole time, except instead of doing it with your desire to blame other people, you do it with your desire to blame yourself. The reason high-performance fall victim to this a lot and just people who I guess want to become better in general, is that they're willing to take ownership for problems more than most people are. And then their managers, their companies reward them for that. So if you're the person in the office who says, "Okay, this work stream got messed up over here because of somebody else, but I am not going to blame that person. I'm going to step in, I'm going to help them fix it. I'm going to own my piece of it and I'm going to do the same for three other work streams." That's the kind of behavior that gets you promoted. It gets you a raise, it gets your bonus. You start to climb in a company and you think, "Well, okay, I got here by taking on so much instead of blaming. What if I keep taking on more and more and more?" And so you end up internalizing responsibility that you probably shouldn't be taking on in the first place. So this is where the desire to get better in this department can kind of backfire and you always have to kind of calibrate to make sure that you moving to the middle of the spectrum, moving away from blame towards accountability doesn't keep moving to the other side of the spectrum towards toxic internalization. You always want to kind of be moving back and forth, back and forth, calibrating to make sure that the stuff you're taking ownership over is fair and it's healthy and it's based on an accurate understanding of how much you can and should control and how much other people can and should control.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:51:09] This is great. I think making accountability a habit is sort of like -- it starts off as a burden and turns into a superpower.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:51:16] Yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:51:17] It is a little bit tough to lead by example when it comes to this, but I think that's probably a good first step.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:51:23] Yeah, because at the end of the day, accountability is really most powerful when it's a habit. We want to get to a point where accountability is no longer this thing that we have to stop, take 30 minutes, go through a checklist, move through it. That can be part of the transitional phase, but over time you want to replace the lens of blame with the lens of accountability so that it becomes just as knee jerk as the desire to point the finger.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:51:47] Exactly.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:51:47] It becomes just as easy to say, okay, let me take ownership so you can consciously cultivate it in a way that becomes second nature until the instinct to take ownership of your actions becomes just as strong, hopefully even stronger than the impulse to blame. And to your point, the best way is really to lead by example. Leading by example means committing to accountability in your own life before you expect it from other people. Because when you can model accountability for other people, whether it's colleagues, family members, children, friends, partners, that often inspires them to do the same with us. And sometimes I think a lot of us go around with this idea where it's like, "Yeah, I would totally be accountable if everyone else were accountable."
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:52:27] Right. "I'll do it as soon as other people start taking their share of responsibility."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:52:31] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:52:32] Which is just blame 2.0.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:52:33] It's blame built on blame because you're like, "Well, if they stop pointing the finger, then I'll stop pointing the finger."
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:52:37] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:52:37] But it really takes one person to break the pattern by saying, "I'm going to stop doing that in my sphere." And it's incredible to see how that compounds, because once there's a section of a company or part of a family or a piece of a relationship where the blame game isn't happening any longer, the other person could still be doing it all day. But if the other person is doing true accountability, healthy accountability, then the toxic and the toxicity and the dysfunction doesn't manifest as strongly as it would otherwise.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:53:06] Yeah, Jen. Oh wait, I'm doing it wrong. That I love because you can let the -- I don't want to say wind down of the sales, but you can almost detoxify your environment by going, "Look, you might not be taking accountability, but I'm going to, so I'm no longer going to allow you -- all this blame you're putting on me. I'm just going to go and filter that through my purifier of traditional legit accountability so you can dump all the blame on me that you want, but I'm only going to accept the part that actually is mine."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:53:38] Yeah, that's a big part. And there's a discipline to that and what you just described is really important. And that in some ways is harder than just shifting the language of blame. Like that's having a good internal compass of, you know, I could be on the receiving end of a lot of toxicity or a lot of finger pointing, but it's up to me to decide how much of that is going to mean something.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:54:00] Right. Like, "Realistically, no, it isn't my fault that the entire project failed. Yes. I should have done a better job in screening these two vendors or whatever. But legitimately, there were three other managers. Everybody was using these vendors. Nobody had a problem until the end. This is not 100 percent Jordan's fault."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:54:20] Right. "So let's get out of this meeting with a few takeaways. Number one, the next time we go through around a vendor selection, I'm going to be a lot more diligent and I'm going to make sure that we check these boxes before we hire somebody because that's what got us into trouble. That's on me. I'm glad I learned it. That won't happen again."
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:54:36] Right. "But the fact that nobody said anything for six months, even though everybody seems to have been aware of the problem the whole time. That is not all on me."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:54:45] Yeah. "That's not all on me. So can we fix that and can you guys tell me when you see problems with our vendors?" I can't imagine somebody being like, "No, I'm not going to tell you." Someone would be like, "Yeah, that's fair. I saw you take accountability for your piece. You've opened a window for me to take accountability for mine."
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:54:59] Exactly.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:54:59] So that's kind of how it can go in practice. The other big way to institutionalize accountability is to create a practice, and we've sort of been touching on it. But turning accountability into a practice means returning to the framework in this article when negative situations arise. So when an instance of blaming comes up and you know you haven't been able to stop it in the moment when it arises, you can always fall back on like the policy and the procedure that we've been talking about here. You can take a step back and notice the externalization taking place and you can choose to walk through the steps that we've covered and find a more productive way through the conflict. Honestly, you can even make this a daily or weekly practice, which I know a lot of --
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:55:36] Yeah, I like that.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:55:36] -- a lot of leaders do. You can do it in your own life and you can do it with your team and that could be just a 20 minute conversation where you guys get together and take stock of all of the instances of blaming that came up that week.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:55:48] Yeah. So blaming inventory.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:55:52] Yeah, sure.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:55:53] Interesting.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:55:54] I mean you could do that and say like, "Hey, remember when we missed that deadline on that competition, that architecture competition." I'm now totally pulling from my friend's life right now because he works at an architecture firm where they have to submit these architectural proposals on these really tight timelines for these competitions. It's really intense and there's so many work streams, so there's constant miscommunication and people are getting pieces in late or early or you know, they're still figuring out how to make it all work, and so it's a perfect environment for blame because there are so many moving pieces you could easily point your finger at.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:56:26] Yeah, one of them until five o'clock in the morning.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:56:27] Totally regularly, a couple of times a week. I think they're doing that. So like, you know, that's a moment where you could say, "Okay, on Tuesday I got really mad at Jake for not turning in the work stream. But I also didn't check in with him and I just want to call out. I totally could've done that. I'm going to be better about that next time. And also, Jake, I need you to get me this." You know what I mean? Like, you guys can kind of parse this situation after the fact and next week when the same situation arises, you've put yourself in a situation to make sure that that doesn't happen exactly the same way again. So that can be a really powerful practice on your own. It can be with your family or with your team at work because that's how you institutionalize accountability and make it a culture as opposed to just, oh yeah, I think I remember this like vague checklist that I can do in my own head from time to time. It can be a way of doing business.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:57:14] As a final thought, what I really love is that accountability tends to be in a way infectious because just as we can decide, we're only going to accept the portion of blame that is ours when we're being accountable, other people will often follow that example. Because I think once we see one or two people doing it, we decide, or at least in my case we decide this is healthier. Everyone's sharing the burden, it lightens the load for everyone. And even all of the most ardent blamer are going to kind of go, "Oh, this is actually solving the problem. So we feel crappy less often. Why don't we all adopt this strategy?" So anybody but the most pathological toxic blamer will probably follow suit. And that's kind of a big deal because that means that you are actually in charge of this because you can decide to take accountability and other people mostly will follow you.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 00:58:07] Totally. I mean, when we blame other people, we make it much easier for them to point the finger back at us. And when we internalize too much, we also signal that we're willing to put up with that externalization. Like we signal that other people should internalize their reactions too. So we model either way, we model the behavior that is going to continue to perpetuate in the office or in the family. So when you stop blaming and you start owning, you set a tone and a standard for how to navigate those situations. That becomes a template and that template is an example, but it's also a way to show people how you want to interact with them. You say, "I'm not going to approach you like the enemy even if there was a mistake that you made. I'm not going to approach myself as the enemy even when there's a mistake that I made. I want us both to just take ownership of the pieces that are ours." When you do the work of stepping up and accepting your part, you give people the safety and that's what it is. It's safety. They feel safer stepping up and taking ownership of their part of it. That's why it's infectious because there's something about this model that makes it possible for people to interact in a whole new way.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:59:10] There's a lot to this. It's simpler than it sounds probably because taking accountability is actually not that hard in. It can just be kind of a tough bump to get over or a tough hurdle to get over initially. There's a lot more in the article that we created about this. Again, that's linked in the show notes, but the ultimate impact of this is accountability breeds accountability. It just kind of takes one brave soul to kick things off at first and when you end up in a place where the impulse to blame is gone, instead the impulse to take accountability is what's present. You'll find your team, your business, your family is much more productive, enjoyable frankly. And you'll also be able to quickly identify those who are the toxic blamers because they will kind of refuse to engage in this process entirely. They will just go, "Well, normally I would, but it's still all Jen's fault. This one's a hundred percent your fault." They just can't do it. They require therapy. What's the expression? You can lead a horse to water but can't force him to drink, but at least then you've identified the person who is a toxic blamer because when we have a culture of blame, everyone looks like that. And then as soon as one or two people take accountability and the rest follow suit and then there's one sort of outlier who just won't do it. They really out themselves as the person who is the problem.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 01:00:31] Yeah, that's interesting. It's easier to see that behavior when it's rare in the workplace, when it's, when it's part of the culture, then it's impossible to see it or it's everyone's doing it. So why call out one person, but you know you're right. I didn't mean to paint such a sentimental picture of how it could be. It's like one person becomes accountable and the whole office changes, of course not. But then if there is one or two people who don't want to take ownership of their piece of stuff while everybody else's and they just refuse to change, then now you have some, some real political capital, social capital to address the problem. Because you're not saying, "Listen, everyone else in this office is taking ownership of what they can and you're not." And they're like, "Yeah, but you're not either." It's like, "Well no, I am now."
Jordan Harbinger: [ 01:01:14] Literally everyone else.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 01:01:15] Literally everyone else. So now like that conversation can come from a more honest and an authoritative place because you were actually modeling the behavior that you expect in the other person. So everything I think becomes less dysfunctional. Everything becomes more productive. You're absolutely right. And by the way, this isn't just about workplaces or families, this is about relationships in every regard. It's like how do you treat the person in traffic? How do you treat your best friend? How do you treat your parents? Like all of it depends on taking ownership of the right stuff and giving them the invitation to take ownership of their stuff.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 01:01:48] That's right. I hope you're listening, Jen. Poor Jen is over there like, "Yeah, I'm not the problem."
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 01:01:55] Stop blaming.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 01:01:56] That's funny, Jordan. Cute. Thank you very much. This has been super informative. I think it's really useful because again, I lived in a blame culture for a while in my old business and it was massively toxic that people go, "Wow, you've rebuilt the whole Jordan Harbinger Show in one year and like, what's your secret?" Yes, there's an element of, well, we knew all these mistakes we didn't have to make again. Yes, we had a lot of connections, a lot of it was figuring out that if you take accountability, you make a mistake once, not 400 times and that turns out saves you a lot of time and effort.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 01:02:29] Yup, isn't it crazy?
Jordan Harbinger: [ 01:02:30] It is crazy.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 01:02:31] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 01:02:31] Thank you very much, Gabe.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [ 01:02:32] My pleasure.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 01:02:35] Great big thank you to Gabe Mizrahi. As always making me sound smarter than I am. I always appreciate that. If you want to know how I managed to keep all these amazing folks in my network, well, I've got a huge personal and professional network and they often overlap. It's made me a very happy and successful person and I would love for you to learn the same skills. I'm teaching you how to do this for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. That's our course, Six-Minute Networking. And don't do it later, do it now. I know you think you're going to do it later. Dig the well before you're thirsty, people. Come on. You can't leverage those relationships. If you don't have them and the drills take just a few minutes per day. You can find all that at jordanharbinger.com/course. Speaking of building relationships, tell me your number one takeaway here from this episode on blame. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram and there's a video of this show on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 01:03:25] This show is produced in association with PodcastOne. And this episode is co-produced by Jason "Don't Blame Me" DeFillippo and Jen harbinger. Show notes and worksheets are by Robert Fogarty. And I'm your host Jordan harbinger. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this episode is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 01:03:55] A lot of people ask me what podcasts I listen to and I've got one in my regular rotation called the Art of Manliness. I'm sure you all have heard of it. I've got Brett McKay here with me today. And Brett, you actually had a guy on recently who talked about The Warrior's Manifesto and it sounded kind of grandiose so I gave it a listen, but tell me about this episode.
Brett McKay: [ 01:04:14] So yeah, this was a guy named Daniel Modell. He is an interesting guy. He's a 20-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, but he also has his bachelor's degree in philosophy. And so what he did in this book, The Warrior's Manifesto, was sort of combined both worlds of philosophy and his work as a New York City Detective to explore what does it mean to be a warrior. And he's talking about first responders, police officers, a military, and he goes to history to extract the lessons. So he looks at Spartacus, right? The guy who led the slave revolt in Rome. And then he also explores why violence is necessary for peace. People are uncomfortable with that idea but it's true. And then, he gets into leadership how bureaucracy can kill leadership and why you don't need to have a title of leader to be a leader. So if you are interested in law enforcement, military stuff, a lot of great ideas there. But also, if you're just in leadership, you're going to find a lot of insight there too.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 01:05:07] And that's episode 452 and we'll link to that in the show notes. Thanks a lot, Brett.
Brett McKay: [ 01:05:12] Thank you.
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