“Sometimes you are the problem.” That’s how are a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education begins its look at interpersonal conflict: It’s Your Fault. We’d like to blame someone else, and we usually do. But, the simple truth is that sometimes we are our own worst enemy.
As the author points out, we live in a context where “blame shifting” is an art form.
Of course it’s hard to resist blaming someone else. Admitting that a personal or personnel dispute is your fault is difficult—and near impossible for some people.
We live in a world where it is standard political discourse to lay 100 percent of the blame for any crisis or problem on the opposing party. Or, as a recent popular psychology book put it: “Mistakes were made, but not by me.”
But, the author goes on to point out that there is real virtue in recognizing that you are often part of the problem. When the problem is entirely on their side, you’re stuck. You can’t do much to change others. But, if you’re contributing to the problem, you have an opportunity. You just have to get out of your own way.
So, the author goes on to identify five things you might be doing to create your own “people problems.” Given the source of the article, it should come as no surprise that it focuses on academic conflict: the tensions and complications that arise between faculty, students, and (shockingly) administration. But, the ideas really apply anywhere conflict can arise between people (i.e. everywhere).
You’ll have to read the whole article for good comments on each of these. But, here are the five things you might be doing to contribute to the problem.
You have not paid your dues but act like you have.
You are overly suspicious.
You are acting selfish.
You complain too much.
You are a jerk.
Personally, I love the last one. Sometimes recognizing that you are a jerk is an important first step toward getting along better with others.
And, the author concludes with:
Admitting to ourselves that we are—at least in part—to blame for a difficulty we face is hard, but it is necessary for getting on with life and careers. It is also a sign that you have developed two key components of the tenure-worthy: maturity and responsibility.
It’s a good article and is well worth a few minutes of your time.