[Note:This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.]
I used to work with a guy who had a gift for breaking up with girls. He was so genuine and kind that afterward the girls would invariably leave feeling affirmed and cared for, like George Clooney had just fallen apart on them, relating how unworthy he was of their affections. Masterful. He was the ultimate “it’s-not-you-it’s-me” guy.
If you’re going to get dumped, that’s the kind of person you want lowering the boom, isn’t it?
But most people can’t pull off that level of empathy. Most people struggle between the poles of blame, between “your fault” and “my fault” — all too aware of the other person’s problems, but also painfully suspicious (if not quite aware) of their own complicity. It’s normal.
Then there are the people at the other end of the spectrum, unencumbered by the decided disadvantage of ever entertaining the possibility that they’re wrong. This is the “it’s-not-me-it’s you” person. These are the folks who believe that no problem is too big or too complicated that — with the application of a little intellectual candlepower — it can’t be successfully blamed on somebody else.
Now this shedding of responsibility can come in two different forms. The first type is what I call “the slippery blame-caster” — able to weasel out taking responsibility for anything that goes wrong by deflecting it onto someone else. This is the person who always seems to be standing behind you when the boss is around, pointing a finger at you when she thinks you’re not looking.