Shaming and Blaming Isn’t Working

Creating change requires something different

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Last week I attended a field trip with my daughter’s class–24 three and four year olds at a farm, learning about animals and going for pony rides.

Besides the smiles and giggles of the children, one thing stood out–how the adults talked to the children when they “misbehaved.”

There were several occasions when various children were running around, as children do, and, inevitably, one would fall down and start crying. Rather than ask the children if they were hurt, the first response was often, “I told you not to run and look what happened?”

When I got home and shared my observation with my husband he wasn’t surprised. He essentially said, “That’s French culture for you.”

But I don’t think it is just a French thing, because I experienced it myself as a child, witness it quite regularly with my clients, and also employ the same technique.

I think that most of us come from a culture in which shame and blame were used as a tactic to “educate” us to fall in line and follow the rules. We were good children who followed the rules or bad children who didn’t. It was black and white.

Now as adults we employ the same tactics when we encounter others who also don’t follow OUR rules or do it OUR WAY. Instead of trying to see or hear what is going on underneath, we try to punish out the “bad behavior” with our harsh words, our criticism, and our judgments (even if just in our head.)

Going back to the example of the children above, the adults were shaming the children to get them to stop running, and I was then judging the adults for shaming the kids. (I said that I shared the observation with my husband, but what I really shared was my OPINION and EVALUATION of their actions.) 

I do it, and you do it too. It’s how we were conditioned.

Unfortunately, what we don’t realize is that the blaming and shaming that we engage in completely disconnects us from the other person, even if silent. I am not denying that it can be useful tactic to change behavior, but there is a cost to both people as individuals, and a greater cost to the relationship.

And, if you are in the habit of shaming and blaming yourself so that you will eventually “do it better”, it can be devastating for your sense of self and your sense of self-worth.

Everyday, I work hard to be mindful of what is going on inside my head. What am I saying about the people I interact with, the people I see on the street, and even the people I read about? What am I saying about myself? Am I judging, shaming, or blaming? What is in it for me when I do so?

If you are open to it, I invite you to do the same because the only way to turn around a relationship, is to break the cycle of shame and blame, and fulfill your need in another way.

You might also like...


Can a Pop Song Change the World?

by Frank Fitzpatrick

Best Esalen Workshop Exercises

by Ira Israel

Age Inappropriate

by Amy Goldberg
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.