When you get blamed for things that are not your fault, it can be very frustrating – especially if you didn’t do anything to provoke them.
Here’s how to deal with someone who blames you for everything, as discussed by experts.
Table of Contents
- Critically examine the thought that you are being blamed for everything
- Consult with trusted and objective others about the situation
- Protect yourself from psychological abuse and consider ways to avoid toxic relationships like this in the future
- Take time for introspection
- Take a critical look at the person giving the blame
- Speak with them about your concerns
- Maintain healthy boundaries
- Do not take it personally
- Realize that the other person might have things going on in their own life
- Speak with the colleague who is blaming you for everything
- Get supervisor support
- Ask yourself how long you have known the person and how much effort you’re willing to make
- The best way to deal with this, paradoxically, is having empathy for that person
- Did I do something wrong for which I want to be accountable?”
- Whatever you do, don’t walk around carrying their shame or distress
- Consider their critique for any potential truth
- Consider professional intervention
- Don’t react defensively or take it personally
- Consider “Why?” and remain objective
- Recognize when it’s time to walk away
- There first has to be recognition on the accuser’s part
- Talk to the family member and explain things from your perspective
- Be honest and authentic
- Seek support from a therapist
- Seek assistance from HR or your direct supervisor
- Take a deep breath and pause
Dr. Nathaniel Ivers
Associate Professor and Chairman, Department of Counseling at Wake Forest University
A wide range of emotions can arise when we believe that someone is blaming us for everything. Of course, context matters. Your feelings may differ based on your relationship with this person.
For example, the kinds and intensity of feelings may differ if the blaming person is a close friend, intimate partner, family member, teenage child, colleague, boss, in-law, or acquaintance.
The situation also depends on some of your own personal characteristics, such as your temperament, sense of self-worth, and comfort level with contention. Solutions to this difficult relational problem also may depend on a wide variety of contextual factors.
With those qualifiers in mind, here are some general things to consider when it feels as though you are being blamed for everything.
Critically examine the thought that you are being blamed for everything
In my counseling practice, I have cautioned my clients and couples to be wary of absolutes. The statement, “I am being blamed for everything” is absolute. It may be that someone is oftentimes blaming you for situations, but highly improbable that it is for everything. This may seem like an insignificant distinction, but I don’t think it is.
Cognitive theorists have argued for decades that our thoughts affect to a large degree our feelings about a situation. Exaggerated beliefs, even when they are slight exaggerations, may negatively affect our feelings about the situation, which also can negatively influence our capacity to solve it.
Consult with trusted and objective others about the situation
After being criticized and blamed by someone over a long period of time, it can be difficult to know what’s right and what’s left; who’s right and who’s wrong. Blame can erode our sense of confidence in our own judgments and views of reality. Moreover, as the object of blame in the situation, your perspective is inherently subjective.
Reaching out to a trusted confidant, therapist, or faith leader can help you sort out your thoughts and your feelings about a situation. If it is determined that you are being bullied, harassed, or verbally abused by someone, the confidant, therapist, or faith leader may be able to help you figure out ways to “boundary” and/or assert yourself in a safe way.
Protect yourself from psychological abuse and consider ways to avoid toxic relationships like this in the future
Depending on many variables in the situation, this can take on a number of forms. Here are a few suggestions that may work in some circumstances:
Ignore the attempts by the other person to displace responsibility onto you
In behavioral terms, this is called extinction. If the blaming person is not reinforced by their actions, the actions may go away. Reinforcements can take many forms, such as yelling, arguing, crying, or apologizing.
Consider the worst possible scenarios
In this case, you should consider the worst thing that could happen if the person were to continue to blame you for everything. If you do not buy into their accusations, but they continue to make them anyway, what is the worst thing that can happen? Again, this depends on the context.
However, our fears and worries are oftentimes fueled by semi-conscious, catastrophic, and irrational imaginations about what could happen. If we consider in a concrete way what the worst possible scenario could be, in some instances, we will conclude that it is our own bruised ego.
Stand up for yourself when you know it is not your fault
Conversely, if your go-to has been to absorb the blame and apologize even when you know that it is not your fault, you may consider standing up for yourself by asserting your beliefs that their contentions are unjust and unfair.
Be careful in these instances not to use absolutes. Rather, I would recommend being as objective and specific as possible about the unfair accusations. “You blame me for everything,” for example, may lead to an unproductive argument about how they did not blame you yesterday for something; therefore, your report cannot be trusted.
Related: How to Stand up for Yourself at Work
Limit or cut off your interactions with the person who constantly blames you for things
If a full dissolution of the relationship is not feasible, find places of refuge from them. In this highly connected world, a toxic work colleague, family member, or friend can infiltrate our personal lives through text messages and social media.
You can block these friends, take a hiatus from social media, or change your behavioral routines to reduce your exposure to them.
Make a concerted effort not to give the blaming person too much of your psychological and emotional airtime by ruminating about what they said or what they might say next. Try to stop the perseverations before they gain momentum and create fatigue.
Dr. Tonya Cross-Hansel
Adjunct Professor, Tulane University School of Social Work
Take time for introspection
If the blaming game resonates with you, whether it be a friend, work colleague, or partner it is time for a bit of introspection first.
Reflect on the times it has occurred—is it really everything or are you perceiving it as such perhaps because you are more stressed or sensitive.
Have you taken ownership of areas of the “blame” that you can control? Perhaps there are personal improvements that would benefit you in other areas of your life as well.
Take a critical look at the person giving the blame
Are they under more stress or are they taking negative parts of their life out on you? Do they seem depressed or unhappy? In these cases it may be best to help connect with resources, provide suggestions for stress relief, or give space when it is in your best interest.
Speak with them about your concerns
Keep it focused on you with “I statements.” I feel that I am always being blamed for everything, etc. This is where step 1 helps so that you can provide specific examples of when unfair blaming has occurred.
Maintain healthy boundaries
A healthy relationship does not focus on one’s faults, rather it focuses on collaborative solutions. If you have tried the above three steps and the situation continues or worsens—it is time to evaluate the quality of the relationship.
If any relationship is consistently negative, constantly at fault, or makes you feel unhappy with yourself—is it worth continuing? You do not have control over someone else and where they place blame, but you do have control over your self-worth and that should always be respected.
Dr. Cassandra M. Godzik
Faculty Member, Graduate School of Nursing at Regis College
No matter what line of work you are in, we can all expect to be blamed for something that we might have or not have been part of. This can hold true for nursing, too.
However, it becomes problematic when you encounter a person who continues to place the blame on you for everything – including things that you had nothing to do with – because it can be (1) stressful (i.e., think psychological implications) to work alongside them, (2) difficult to collaborate professionally (i.e., think social implications), and (3) unproductive for the team, as a whole, to have this workplace culture of conflict present (i.e., again social implications). All of this can lead to negative impacts on the services being provided by the team (Parizad et al., 2017).
There can be a number of reasons for blaming behaviors that are exhibited repeatedly by a team member such as personal problems in the home or even self-esteem.
Despite the reason behind the behavior (which is not always in our control to “fix”), there are some ways that you can better equip yourself in managing colleagues who consistently place the blame on you or others on your nursing team.
Do not take it personally
If you know it is not your fault, make it clear to yourself that you do not need to take the blame. It is not your blame to own.
Realize that the other person might have things going on in their own life
It is important to keep in mind that everyone has their own things happening at home – their health concerns, family’s health issues, relationship difficulties, financial issues, children’s schooling, and babysitting issues, etc.
Co-workers do not always make this information known, so you won’t always know what personal problems they are managing.
Speak with the colleague who is blaming you for everything
To understand, from their perspective, what they perceive is ‘not going right.’ Ask questions about what their preferred method of communication is and how best you both can work together to accomplish work projects in the future.
Get supervisor support
If the behavior continues despite efforts to work it out with your colleague. You want to share what you are experiencing from this colleague with your direct report so you can best navigate the situation in a professional manner.
Keeping all of this in mind when working with your teammates will ensure that your team has everyone’s best interest as the main priority. In the spirit of knowing “what to do” it is important to also recognize what might be unhelpful strategies when dealing with a colleague who is blaming you for everything.
This would include: (1) spreading false narratives about the colleague you’re in conflict with, and (2) not speaking directly with your colleague about your concerns and speaking to teammates only.
When someone blames you for everything they are living with a common distortion called “All or Nothing Thinking.” The world is seen in black and white and this represents a shortcut that makes life simple, but inflexible, and not reflective of reality.
It’s not that the person is psychotic but, rather, it’s an issue where there’s an attempt to escape responsibility for perceived weakness. It’s much easier to make another blameworthy as it’s a quick escape from responsibility and an easy distraction as the focus gets redirected to someone else.
While this accomplishes a “quick fix,” it leads to rigid and, ultimately, unsatisfying relationships that either go on in a dysfunctional and co-dependent manner or crashes and burns fairly quickly.
It usually ends quickly when the person receiving the blame has a strong enough level of self-esteem to understand that the dynamic of blame is not healthy and that he or she could be happier with a more stable individual. Unfortunately, insecurity ultimately underlies the projection of blame onto others.
The person who blames others for everything should consider the importance of working toward developing a healthy relationship with oneself first and, once achieving a foundation of self-esteem (a process that can take years of effort, often with skilled professionals). Adequate self-esteem allows for the flexibility to explore blame in an honest yet non-judgmental way.
Related: Why is Self Esteem Important?
Ask yourself how long you have known the person and how much effort you’re willing to make
If you are dealing with someone who blames others for everything, it might be wise to ask how long you have known this person and how much time and energy you are willing to put into the relationship.
If it is a new relationship, it might be wise to leave as it is a burden and not your responsibility to engage in truth-telling with a relative stranger. Leave that responsibility to a true friend or family member of theirs that might be willing to undertake challenging themselves, to be honest about the issue.
If the relationship has already started to take shape and you want to make it work in spite of, or maybe because of, the challenges, you can enter into a codependent where each person has a specified role in the relationship dynamic.
For example, in some relationships, one partner must need to be fixed and the other needs to be the fixer. It is a rigid role system where there are comfort and a sense of purpose to be found in the certainty of the roles. On the downside, it creates rigidity in terms of limited available options as to how one can respond (i.e., blame or be blamed) and this dance gets repeated over and over again as if on a merry-go-round.
The goal toward health would be to work toward flexibility in thinking and action where each partner is able to choose to respond in a vulnerable yet authentic manner. As an individual, this way of living in the world can also be helpful in leading others, who are psychologically minded, to break out of their rigid roles into more flexible behaviors and experiences.
This way of relating can lead to the possibility of a healthy relationship with oneself and, therefore, opening the possibility to have more fun, joy, passion, creativity, and wonderful experiences with another.
Psychologist | Success Coach
The simple answer I have for you is that people who blame others aren’t taking responsibility and there is usually a reason behind this. They are quick to be defensive and therefore don’t listen to the other person’s side of the story or exhibit empathy.
This is an Emotional Intelligence skill that they are lacking. And, it’s more common than you might think. When the person becomes defensive or blames others, it is also because they are reading the situation as something negative, which makes them feel angry or fearful.
The best way to deal with this, paradoxically, is having empathy for that person
By not blaming them, you help them feel safe. By taking responsibility for your part, you help model appropriate behavior. When they see that they don’t have to be as reactive, they are likely to calm down and respond more thoughtfully. But it won’t happen overnight.
My tip is for the person on the receiving end to work on their own thinking so that they don’t become just as reactive. Just see the situation for what it is – your friend, colleague, partner, or family member is not able to manage their thoughts and feelings. It’s not personal, so don’t make it about you.
Author | Psychotherapist
People who regularly blame others for their unhappiness are perpetual victims who view their entire lives through the lens of victimhood. These people were generally true victims in childhood when they had little control over life and they carry this “poor me” attitude through life without realizing it. They believe it’s less painful to blame others than take responsibility for themselves because they feel overwhelmed with shame.
Did I do something wrong for which I want to be accountable?”
When someone blames you for anything, the first question to ask is “Did I do something wrong for which I want to be accountable?” Be honest without judgment, as we all make mistakes. If the answer is that you’ve done nothing wrong, then you’re being blamed without reason and it won’t help you or the blamer for you to take responsibility.
If you are not to blame, stand firm in your position, but feel free to say you feel “badly” that someone is unhappy, etc. (not “sorry” which implies wrongdoing on your part) and offer them compassion.
Usually providing ways to fix a situation with a perpetual victim changes nothing, as they’ll “yes, but” you to do but change nothing. Depending on your relationship, you might suggest that therapy could help them improve their lives, but if they’re stuck in a victim script, they may reject your ideas.
Whatever you do, don’t walk around carrying their shame or distress
If you didn’t cause it, you can’t fix it. Often the only thing you can do around perpetual victims to remain healthy and sane is to steer clear of and emotionally distance from them. If you don’t, they will drain your emotional energy and ruin your life.
Heather Z. Lyons, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist | Couples Counselor | Owner, Baltimore Therapy Group
How you proceed will depend on the importance of this relationship to you and the role this person plays in your life. If this relationship is with a significant other, coworker, or family member who you have an otherwise healthy relationship with, then it’s likely worth investing some time in untangling the blame game.
Consider their critique for any potential truth
The temptation might be to start by sharing how much this behavior hurts you. However, if you’re speaking to someone who spends a lot of time looking outward for blame, they might be too defensive to take that feedback in at the beginning. This is a goal to work up to. For that reason, as difficult as it might be, the first step is to consider their critique for any potential truth.
More often than not, a fault in a relationship is bidirectional. This means our friend or coworker or family member likely did something that triggered a reaction in us, which then triggered a reaction in them. It’s possible that each of you is just considering the portion of the cycle where you each feel wronged.
In reality, difficult interactions are often feedback loops. As discouraging as this sounds, there’s hope in this idea because this means two different people have the opportunity to break this loop.
Accepting some of the blame rather than responding with defensiveness helps you find your way out of an argument rather than getting further locked in. Once the person who’s hurting you feels heard, they might let down their guard so that they can take in some feedback about the way that their behavior has been hurting you.
Consider professional intervention
However, if at the end of the day, you feel as though the relentless finger is still pointed at you, it might be time for professional intervention. A couple or family therapist can speak to both sides of the concern in a way that facilitates understanding and softening of the criticism directed your way.
By allowing space to exist where your partner can rethink their perspective, self reflect on, and take accountability for their actions, you will be able to help your partner untangle deep-rooted issues, giving your relationship a fighting chance.
Dr. Steven Rosenberg
Psychotherapist | Behavioral Specialist, Quit It Now
Blame is narcissistic behavior. The people doing the blaming are extremely self-absorbed. This is very evident when you see a coach being fired by a professional sports team or a general manager being fired. The fans want someone to take the blame for the team having a poor season. Fans are also self-absorbed. They cry, “How can you do this to me”?” It’s almost personal! They need to blame someone. They want a pound of flesh.
As the team psychotherapist for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Team, I have seen this blame over and over again. I have helped those who have been blamed get over the psychological hurdles involved.
Blame gives people a target to focus on when things go wrong. The person being blamed needs to figure out how to deal with those emotions. You need to understand the kind of impact that this blame can have on your life.
Trying to put yourself in the shoes of that person who is blaming you gives you an understanding as to how they feel. They can only see the results of disappointment. They feel like someone let them down. This may be very incorrect. However, you can see how they are thinking.
With respect to a coach or general manager, he/she can have the chance to get back at the blamers by going to another team and doing well. Thus, you have separated your feelings from the blame. This allows you to move on.
You may want to reassess why you are being blamed. This understanding will point you in the direction you may want to go. Should you just cut off all ties if it is a toxic situation? Or, try to reconcile if you want to be a part of the organization.
The goal here is to come to an understanding. Will blame follow you? If the answer is yes, then you must sever those ties. If you cannot salvage the situation, then move on. You will mourn what you thought you had. However, it may be better to just let go and be free of this blame.
This process can be used to work on any situation that arises when you are the target of blame. Dealing with blame is emotionally exhausting. This is why you must work on putting the blame behind you.
Psychotherapist | Self-Care Coach
When someone blames or criticizes you, it’s typically not about you at all. It has everything to do with them and their internal belief system. Somewhere along their journey, they’ve learned that it’s easier and even rewarding to place blame externally instead of accepting personal responsibility.
They deflect and go on the offensive instead of risking vulnerability which may trigger past traumas or fears. So, instead…they blame you. It’s a form of self-preservation, “emotional avoidance”, and a defense mechanism.
Here are three tips on how to deal with someone who blames you for everything:
Don’t react defensively or take it personally
I know it’s difficult not to take it personally and jump to the defensive. And, this may mean summoning some inner-strength but the key is to remember…they want you to react. They need you to react. This reinforces their reward and deflects their responsibility.
Consider where their blame may be stemming from before accepting it at face value. Try and view them with compassion.
Related: How to Not Take Things Personally
Consider “Why?” and remain objective
If at first, you don’t react, they may raise the intensity of their blaming, even attempting to “gaslight” you. By remaining objective, you can adopt a bird-eye view, imagining why it is this person who feels so reluctant to take any responsibility in the first place.
Do they deep down inside feel “not good enough”, “unworthy” or “insecure about their abilities”? Would accepting responsibility reinforce their negative internal beliefs?
Recognize when it’s time to walk away
If you find that it’s elevating into a personal assault on your character or worse, it’s time to walk away. You’re not going to be able to rationalize someone “out of” blaming you who carries this type of deep-rooted belief system.
If it’s someone you care about, view it as an opportunity to encourage their growth by not engaging and therefore not reinforcing/supporting their negative behavior. Let them know that you’re not okay with their constant blaming.
The hope is that over time, receiving a response from you that doesn’t fulfill their expectations will allow them to experience greater self-awareness.
Remember that you can’t control how others are going to behave and it’s not your responsibility to “fix” them. And, if it becomes a toxic situation you may need to consider distancing yourself permanently.
Matrimonial Attorney | Relationship Expert
There first has to be recognition on the accuser’s part
Keep in mind that this behavior does not make your significant other a bad person; in fact, they most likely have a huge heart. Regrettably, serious underlying issues that they don’t even recognize or understand can make them, without thought, blame others for everything that does not go their way.
More often than not, assigning fault to others, especially a significant other, is the accuser’s coping mechanism. If not corrected or resolved, this behavior becomes emotionally abusive and ultimately undermines the very relationship they seek to have.
To navigate this type of relationship, there first has to be recognition on the accuser’s part. An acknowledgment that they need to work on themselves to mend the unresolved underlying feelings they have about who they are as a person and why they behave how they do.
Perhaps it is a circumstance from childhood (i.e., never feeling good enough or told they could always do better) that they have carried around for years and are not equipped with the emotional tools to let it go and put it behind them.
Marriage and Family Therapist, Aligned Life Therapy, LLC
Why do people blame? To deflect personal responsibility and avoid experiencing guilt or shame. Blame at its core is rarely about you. Everyone is ultimately responsible for doing their own work and speaking up respectfully if something is wrong.
Talk to the family member and explain things from your perspective
Don’t go back and forth on whose version of events is accurate. Focus on explaining how their behavior makes you feel. “When you said _ I felt __”.
Be honest and authentic
Your family member may not be aware of the impact they are having and ultimately be glad that you told them. If they react poorly, it may be important for you to set boundaries around the things you are being blamed for.
Clearly state what you are able to do and where the line is to prevent being blamed for things that are not your responsibility or in your control.
Seek support from a therapist
If they are chronically blaming you, this could enter into gaslighting or intimate partner abuse territory.
Seek support from people who know the situation, or seek support from a therapist to determine if this is something you’d like to work on or something you need support getting out of safely.
Seek assistance from HR or your direct supervisor
If you are getting blamed for things you didn’t do at work, this is not okay. The power dynamics at work can make this a difficult situation. Are they your boss? You might have to go to HR. If they are a co-worker, you can privately raise your concerns with a supervisor you trust.
If you notice that you get blamed a lot, it may be possible that you are taking on more responsibility than you should. You could be what therapists call “over-functioning”.
It’s worth looking at and seeing how you can take on appropriate levels of responsibility and leave the excess where it should be: with the other person. You may also feel blamed in minor situations.
Oftentimes we internalize shame over the course of our lives, especially if we have experienced trauma or abuse. Healing underlying patterns may help you de-personalize feedback and criticism and help make a healthier, more balanced approach to relationships.
Qualified Psychotherapist | Creator, The Angry Tent
Being blamed for everything can feel pretty demoralising whether it’s a parent, a partner or your boss doing the blaming. Sure enough, over time it can knock your confidence and self-esteem, it leaves you feeling defensive, helpless and angry.
Human instinct often leads us to get sucked into playing the “blame game” – where we start taking turns in “blaming the other” when someone starts by blaming us. It’s a kinda normal defensive reaction.
Well, what if I tell you – this is usually exactly what the “blamer” (the one starting the blame game) wants from you? They have won once they have sucked you in.
Blame is a sneaky distraction technique to throw you off the scent of what the real problem is. You end up getting sucked in defending yourself …. and before you know it, it turns into an argument and you don’t even really know what you are arguing about.
Just to tighten the screws in further, the original blamer usually ends up being “really hurt and upset” at what you’ve blamed them about in defense. And to top it all off, you end up having to apologize to the original blamer whilst coming out of this blame game as the “baddie”.
If you can relate to this and don’t want to get sucked into blame game insanity, here’s my 5 step plan to keep you out of the blame game.
- As tempting as it may be, don’t launch into a verbal tirade of the blame game. This is what they want. Stay calm. Think before you speak.
- Take a deep breath, gulp, scrunch your hands, fingers crossed behind your back if you have to, and compose yourself. Stay silent.
- Reply calmly (deep breaths) and say something like “I hear what you are saying but I will have to disagree on this one. When you are calmer, I would like to have an opportunity to discuss this so we can come to an amicable solution”. Obviously, pick your own words.
- If the blamer keeps coming for you, say something along the lines of (in a calm voice) “I’m going to walk away now. Perhaps, we can talk when you are calmer?” And yes walk away!
- Be prepared. The blamers will try drawing you in. It will be a battle of wills.
When someone blames us a lot for things, a common reaction might be to feel defensive or to get angry.
Take a deep breath and pause
One thing we can do is to take deep breaths intentionally to reduce our stress reaction, to pull back and get perspective, before letting ourselves react. Sometimes, just pausing, breathing through your emotions, or sometimes, leaving the room until you calm down, can help you reset faster.
Once you’ve brought your stress level down, it’s easier to analyze things, and to think, is there any truth to what they’re telling me that I need to learn from? If there isn’t, you can decide what thoughts you want to think about the situation from a calmer state of mind. Calming down before you react is a helpful coping skill, no matter how the other person is acting.