I am a writer and a scientist. I've read several books about blamers, and I want to share what I've learned.
What Is a Blamer and How to Identify One
They go by many different names: Debbie Downer, Negative Nelly, emo, the-glass-is-half-empty kind of person, crazymaker, pessimist, et cetera, et cetera. They come in many different forms, from the kid that lives in the dorm room down the hall who talks about death all day and complains about not having friends to the over-critical and overbearing mother-in-law.
No matter what name you call them by, or how you know them, this kind of person always sucks the life right out of you. They kill your confidence with a single remark, twist your good news into bad news in seconds, make a happy, healthy person depressed, and they generally just make life miserable. It’s nearly impossible to experience joy in their presence, and their bad mood and biting remarks always seem to spread.
Dealing with a negative person is never pleasant, but blamers can be the worst type. A 'blamer' is a type of narcissist (meaning they have an inflated sense of self) who, in their own eyes, can do no wrong. Everything that happens wrong around or to them, whether their own fault or not, is immediately blamed on the other people in their life.
For example, if they got in a car accident, it’s your fault for distracting them. If they steal your phone and start rooting through it, it’s your fault for leaving the phone out. If they didn’t get the job, had a bad day at work, or burnt dinner, somehow, someway they will make it the fault of the people around them. Blamers are the most difficult type of negative person to deal with, and dealing with them often leaves you stressed, depressed, and feeling guilty for things that are not your fault.
The best thing to do is to ignore or avoid the Negative Nelly in your life or get them out of your life as quickly as possible. Cut the cord, and never look back. That is the advice most self-help books will give you. But for many of us, that just isn’t possible.
Maybe that person is your parent or sibling, maybe that person is your roommate and you can't move, or—even worse—maybe that person is your boss, the guy who never has anything nice to say, and you have to look at pictures of kittens and rainbows just to get through the day.
How one deals with your common, everyday Debbie Downer will not work on a blamer. You need to adopt different techniques. But it can be difficult to even identify a blamer, let alone know when to use these different techniques.
There is no personality type associated with a blamer; they come in all walks of life. However, below are typical traits and common characteristics to help you identify whether or not that negative person in your life is really a blamer, and what you can do about it.
Common Personality Traits of Blamers
This is a fairly comprehensive list of the personality traits that most blamers possess.
1: Will never take responsibility for their mistake
A blamer refuses to admit they have ever done anything wrong. In a blamer's mind, they honestly believe this to be true. They will always consider themselves a victim, and no matter what really happened, if something goes wrong it is always someone else's fault. So they will not apologize, for anything, because they consider themselves blameless in every situation.
If by rare chance they do apologize, it will always be a backhanded apology. Somehow the blamer will turn it around on you and make you feel guilty for their mistake. Ex: I'm sorry you’re mad at me, but it’s your fault for starting it.
This can especially be prominent in the workplace, as a blamer will always take credit when things are going good, and will always blame everyone around them, but themselves, when things are going bad.
Nothing is ever their fault. If you know a blamer, then this probably sounds pretty familiar.
2: Refuses to admit that they are wrong
A blamer will argue a point to death. Even if you provide them with proof that they are wrong, they will argue that your proof or your facts are wrong. They will even use facts that they have made up to argue their point. You will never win, because a blamer is never wrong.
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Even if a blamer knows what they did or said was wrong, they will never admit it. They will keep arguing until you give up so they never have to admit they were wrong.
3: You feel awful after almost all of your interactions with them
Blaming others for their failures makes them feel better about themselves and their failures. So blamers will do everything in their power to make their failure your fault, making you feel guilty for things which you have no control over.
Blamers make you feel fearful of taking risk, especially toward your dream goal, If you fail they’ll be there to say “I told you so." It makes you afraid to take chances, afraid to try for your dream and when you do try, you’re second guessing yourself the entire time. That little voice in your head telling you that you can't make it, that is really the blamer in your life.
Blamers are also constantly criticizing you and other people, and constantly making negative comments about people. Nothing nice ever comes out of their mouth. Ex: You bring your report card home with 5 A's and and 1 B. They'll make a comment, such as "well you didn't get all A's." And then they won't understand why you are upset because they are 'only telling the truth.' Which leads us to our next trait.
4: Unaware of how much their attitude hurts other people
Blamers honestly have no clue just how horrible they really are.
Who has heard this one? "I was only being realistic." or "I was only joking." Neither of those are excuses for their hurtful comments, but for them it means they're faultless. They couldn't possibly have hurt your feelings, or they couldn't possibly be being mean if they were only telling the truth. Or somehow attaching an 'I was only joking' on the end of a nasty comment makes everything okay.
Blamers do not believe there is anything wrong with their conduct and sometimes that is the worst part. They will never know how nasty they really are.
5: Glass is half-empty
Typical of your usual Debbie Downer, blamers will only look at the negatives in every situation. There are no positives, ever, for them.
6: Believes their needs are more important than yours
The most important person to a blamer is themselves. Remember they are narcissists. Their needs and wants are more important than anyone else’s in the family or workplace. Ex: Your parent will expect you to make sacrifices so that they can get dentures, but they will refuse to pay for you to get braces.
They will also expect you to drop everything to focus on them. If they need you to take them shopping, even if you’ve told them you are too busy or have other plans and that they need to find alternative solutions or wait a day, they will still expect you to be there. In fact they will guilt trip you into it if you don't do it.
7: Escalates if you defend yourself or fight back
If you try to defend yourself from their verbal abuse, they will escalate the fight. They will bring up moments in the past that are not relevant to the current argument, make up facts, remind you of that one time they did that one thing for you all those years ago, anything to make you feel bad about yourself and to make themselves feel better by ‘looking good’.
They are also hyper sensitive to criticism, real or imagined. They do not take criticism well at all. If you criticize anything about them, even though you’ve probably listened to them criticize everything about you for the last half hour, they will lash out viciously. If you dare criticize them, you better be prepared for them to blame all of their shortcomings on you.
A blamer is always paranoid that you are talking about them because they believe everything is about them.
Blamers are also an expert at turning the tables, or in other words, distorting your words or putting words in your mouth. They make manipulation look easy. Ex: Your parent is a blamer, and you tell your therapist about the verbal abuse and emotional manipulation they put you through. The blamer then pesters you about what you talk about with your therapist until you tell them. They then make you feel guilty for talking about it with your therapist and for even thinking such things in the first place.
Or they are criticizing you about something, you’re too fat, you have no friends, etc. You make a comment back to them, and then you have to listen to them tell you for the next half hour that you are a horrible person and have no sympathy for criticizing them.
8: Hates change
To be fair, nobody likes change, but a blamer will often freak out if you so much as change one tiny detail of their plans or environment.
9: Their way or the highway
This goes along with the fact that they hate change. Blamers will not change their ways, and they will not compromise. You do it their way, or you don’t do it at all. They either get what they want, or they’ll refuse to participate. They refuse to see anything from anyone else’s pov. Even if your way is better, you cannot reason with a blamer.
10: Exaggerates their success and their problems
That tiny headache is suddenly a 'migraine.' Or they are taking a ton of medicines for problems they dont' really have. I often call this 'crying wolf,' as something is always wrong with them even though it is usually not true. The same goes for their successes, which ends up with them bragging about the smallest accomplishment.
11: Is immature and childish
If you often feel like you are dealing with a child and not an adult, you are probably dealing with a blamer. They will often repeat things over and over and over again, horrible things about you or the people around them. They are extremely selfish and always put their needs first, just like a child, and just like a child they do not accept responsibility for their actions.
12: Never has anything nice to say
Blamers are a disdainful and demeaning person. You often want to believe they can be nice, especially if that person is your spouse or parent, but they are never nice. Do not let yourself fall into the trap into believing they can be nice or a good person.
Every ‘nice comment' they make is really just veiled criticism.
Not every blamer will have all these traits and the blamer in your life may have other characteristics not listed here. But all blamers leave you feeling horrible about yourself after interacting with them.
Here's how to curb those negative thoughts and feelings that interacting with a blamer leaves you with.
How to Deal With Blamers
After scouring the internet, reading a few books on the subject and through my own dealings with the blamer in my life, I have discovered that there really is no good way to deal with blamers.
You are going to have to put your personal feelings aside and be the bigger person, which is really, really hard to do. Their attacks are childish and immature, and it is really easy to get sucked into mimicking their behavior. There is no easy way to deal with them. You can try avoiding them, but then they leave you a text message or voicemail, or make a passing remark at a family outing that sends you into a rage. Cutting them completely out of your life is the best thing to do, but if you can't, these tips might help.
1: Accept that you cannot change them
They will never take responsibility for their actions. They will never say sorry. They will never change. They will never admit to ever having done anything wrong, because they don’t believe they ever have. A blamer is not going to change, because they do not believe they need to. Blamers believe they are perfect. So stop trying to change them. It is never going to happen.
You also have to give up on trying to live up to their expectations. No matter how hard you try, you will never do anything perfect in their eyes, so trying harder will not make them nicer or say less horrible things to you. You have to let go of the belief that if you just tried harder, if you were just perfect, then they wouldn’t say such awful things anymore, they would accept you. But the truth is, they won’t, they never will. Blamers will always find something to criticize no matter how hard you try.
Often, for some unknown reason, we seek a blamer’s approval. You will never get it. Become confident enough in yourself so that you don’t need their approval.
2: Don’t get defensive
The minute you get defensive is the minute the fight escalates. Instead, listen to what they have to say, and demonstrate that you understand what they are trying to say. If you really are at fault, own up to your responsibility and ask them how to resolve the issue. If the blamer is at fault, make sure you can back up your argument with specific examples, but don’t attack them. Be as emotionless as possible. Do not let your anger get the best of you.
3: Put yourself in their shoes
This hardly, if ever, works for me. It’s not logical. Just because someone had a bad childhood, or a bad experience doesn’t mean they get to be a jerk. You can also put yourself in someone else’s shoes, understand where they are coming from and still hate them. Try to see things from their pov, though, try to understand where they are coming from and see if that helps you become more understanding and less prone to lashing out and getting hurt.
4: Don’t take their comments personally
This one is really hard as well when they are making the comments personal, like ‘you’re too fat’ or ‘you have no sympathy’ or ‘you will never succeed in life.’ These are all actual things I have heard from the blamer in my life. Sounds pretty personal to me. But usually when a blamer says these kinds of things, it is their own faults they are pointing out.
Also, just because one person says something about you doesn’t make it true. This is something I heard from a motivational speaker, whose name I do not know, but I believe the message is important: "Someone’s else’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality. You do not have to go through life being a victim." Realize that you are giving this person much more power over you than they deserve. Their comments don’t matter. What matters is what you believe.
5: Maintain your self-confidence (this is key)
Your self-confidence may be completely shattered because of what a blamer has said or done to you. Building self-confidence so that you do not believe what the blamer says about you is essential to dealing with a blamer. Part of the reason interacting with a blamer leaves you feeling horrible is because their hurtful words have planted a seed of doubt in you. You start thinking ‘maybe I’m not good enough,’ or ‘maybe they are right, maybe I am a horrible person,’ or ‘maybe it is really all my fault.’
Becoming confident in yourself and building your self-esteem will help you from falling into a blamer’s trap. They want you to feel bad about yourself so that they can feel better about themselves. Don’t let them. You need to be confident enough in yourself not to believe their lies, confident enough that their criticisms bounce right off of you. Building confidence is hard, but you can read books on the subject, and work hard at it every day until it happens, until you believe in yourself.
6: Avoid confrontation
Remember when I said blamers are immature? Dealing with a blamer is the same thing as dealing with a child. When has arguing or reasoning with a child ever worked out for you? So pretend you are dealing with a child, because essentially you are, and don’t argue with them. Just agree and walk away.
Don’t use logic or rational arguments. Logic doesn’t work on children, and it certainly does not work on blamers. I’ll give you an example that actually happened. Many of you may have heard of Father Abraham. According to history and the Bible, Abraham is the father of Isaac who is the father of Jacob, who is the father of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Essentially Abraham’s lineage begat the 12 tribes of Israel, not everyone on Earth. However, there is a children’s song that goes: “Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham, I am one of them and so are you…” You get the picture.
The blamer in this scenario based their entire argument, that Abraham was the father of everyone on Earth (i.e. everyone on Earth is a direct descendant of Abraham), on this song. This song was their only proof. Even when provided actual proof from the bible, and from history, and from the internet that Abraham was the father of the 12 Israel tribes and not everyone on Earth, this person refused to believe the proof.
Instead, they kept singing the Father Abraham song over and over again (and I mean that literally, over and over and over again and you can listen for yourself how annoying the song is) as if that somehow made them right. Even though logic and proof was not on their side, to this day that person still thinks they right.
See what I mean? Don’t argue with a blamer. It will only make you upset.
7: Limit your interaction
Avoid them when possible. If you can’t, don’t talk to them alone, always have someone with you, especially if they have been singling you out for attack. If you find yourself alone with a blamer, keep your conversations brief, but informative, friendly and firm, but ultimately emotionless and opinion-less and then cut the conversation short as soon as possible.
8. Show no emotion
Be a ninja, show absolutely no emotions when talking to them. If they hurt you, they will use that to manipulate you later. If you express joy, they will also use that information to manipulate you with later. They suck the life out of you, so don’t show them your happiness either or they will pounce on it like a lioness on their prey.
Don’t let them bait you. Blamers are master manipulators, remember, so they will know how to get you to react, they know your emotional triggers. Don’t rise to the bait, remain calm and detached. Take a step back and think before you react emotionally. Getting emotional will only hurt you in the end. Don’t get angry and don’t play into their games. Say what you have to, be as polite as possible, and then hightail it out of there. Never give away what you really feel.
9: Always have a Plan B
Blamers are not dependable. If you asked them to pick you up from the airport, make sure you have an alternate way home, such as a bus or train, or another friend you can call. Because remember, in their minds their needs are more important than yours so they may not show up for something completely trivial.
Take everything they say with a grain of salt. Remember that Father Abraham argument the individual in the previous example used? They obviously believe it to be true, even though they were completely wrong. So don’t take what they say as fact, always double check and find out for yourself if it is really true.
That goes for what they say to you or about you as well. Treat it with a grain of salt because what they say is rarely true.
10: Put a barrier between yourself and them
Whether physical (a chair or table) or mental (an invisible wall in your brain), put some sort of barrier between you and the blamer. Pretend that barrier is blocking the things that they say so they cannot affect you.
Maintain your boundaries and do not let them cross your boundaries no matter what.
11: Don’t let them change you
Do not let them make you feel guilty for anything, it is not your fault nor are their problems your problems. Know what you want, or know what you believe, before going into the conversation so that they cannot change your opinion, or make you question any of your beliefs.
Make good life choices, and make good decisions that are healthy for you and that make you happy. Leave them out of your decision making as much as you can. Be positive and don’t let them change that.
This quote is from a favorite book of mine, because it is spot on in my opinion: “Part of the reason blamers are so destructive to their victims is they trigger intense emotions within the victims. Emotions including believing that you’re not good enough, or that nothing ever works out for you, or that you should never make mistakes, or it’s your responsibility to make sure that no one ever feels distressed or upset, or that when you’re criticized you’re supposed to feel bad or ashamed of yourself. Also, that you should always have respect and hold people like your boss or your significant other or your parent as being superior to you.
Realize that it’s not always your fault and it’s not always your responsibility to solve every issue that comes up. “ (From Blamers: Stopping the Anguish and Taking Back Control of Your Life by Catherine Pratt.) So make choices that are right for you and don't worry about what they will think about it.
12: Don’t give them advice
If you are at work and a blamer blames you for a bad decision because you gave them bad advice, then don’t give them advice anymore. Tell them they had the freedom to make their own decisions and did not have to follow your advice. Next time they come to you for advice, remind them of the incident and don’t fall into their trap again. Don’t let them bait you into giving advice,, and don’t let them make you feel guilty for not giving them advice.
The point of these tips is not to teach you how to beat a blamer at their own game. That’ll never happen. It’s just like that quote by Greg King: “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” The same principle applies here. The only real way to deal with a blamer is to change your reaction to them. Choose not to react. Be the bigger person. Change your life.
If you’ve read all of this and you are now thinking 'I shouldn’t have to change because they are a bad person,' you are probably holding on to a lot of anger. You may be justified in your anger, but in the end that anger will only hurt you. The only option for you, then, is cutting that person out of your life gently so you don’t have to deal with them anymore.
|Common Problems||Potential Solutions|
Blame their bad decision on your advice
Refrain from giving them advice again
Make you feel guilty and/or feel bad about yourself
Build your self-confidence
Make you react childishly or with anger
Show no emotion when speaking to them, and end conversations quickly
Never stick to their promises
Always have a Plan B or don't rely on them to begin with
Attack you personally
Avoid confrontation, never talk to them alone
Hurt by their comments
Try not to take their comments personally
If you wish to read up more on how to deal with a blamer try these two books:
It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything by Bill Eddy
Blamers: Stopping the Anguish and Taking Back Control of Your Life by Catherine Pratt, ebook sold here.)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.