Remember that game Hot Potato? We never actually played it with potatoes when we were kids, now that I think of it. But whatever object we had available at the time, we would pretend it was too hot to handle, and throw it up in the air trying to keep it out of our own hands by either keeping it in the air or sending it in the direction of the other guy so he had to catch it.
That's the image that came to me when I was pondering blame this morning. Blame is just like a hot potato -- no one wants to keep it in their own hands, and people don't really appreciate when you throw it in their direction in an attempt to make them catch it so you don't get burned yourself.
When you play this Blame Game, there's no winner. Even if you aren't the one who ends up getting burned, you lose the respect and admiration of the one who did, and the relationship suffers.
This is why, when I provide consultations about relationship issues, I often recommend letting the blame potato cool before initiating a conversation. When blame is hot, all we can think of is getting rid of it. And all the other guy can think of when he sees us coming is running away!
When the potato cools, we can each examine it more closely, and therefore we are more likely to take responsibility for our own contribution to the dynamic.
Next time you want to resolve a conflict, don't approach the other guy with a hot potato in your hand! Let it cool first. Vent emotional steam with a friend who is not involved. Journal or exercise or yell in your car.
When the potato is be cool enough for you to hold in your own hand without pain as you carry it to the table, then you are ready to initiate a productive conversation.