Why Blaming, Scolding and Criticizing don’t work


By David Joel Miller.

Ways to tame the blaming, scolding and criticising.

We all know someone who relies on these techniques and we know that these methods of communicating don’t make us want to do what they are asking. In many families this becomes the primary way in which people communicate even when the person doing the blaming knows they don’t like the feeling of being on the receiving end of this sort of communication.

You can recognize someone doing these behaviors easily, but recognizing when you are doing them and changing to more effective behaviors takes some effort and practice. Responding to a scolder with scolding does not solve the problem. It only further escalates the conflict.

Blaming as communication.

Blaming is one of the tree “communication stances” described by Virginia Satir, one of the founders of family therapy, and others of her colleagues. She describes people as communicating in three basic ways – Blaming, Placating and congruent communications.

Blaming is the looking down on others stance, it includes all sorts of putting the person you are talking to down and making them “less than.”

Placating communication scrambles the message.

Placating might be described as the “victim stance.” We see puppies take this stance when they roll over and expose their bellies. Children will cower when yelled at. Placating says I give in. It says nothing about agreeing.

Congruent communication.

Congruent communication is the preferred mode in which people talk to each other as equals. Congruent communication does not look for whose fault it is that things are out of whack. the goal here is understanding.

Criticizing sabotages communication.

Criticizing has been described as attaching the person not the action you want to change. Scolding includes a range of behaviors, verbal and physical that is designed to make the person being scolded “smaller” and the scolder feel more powerful and in control.

Some authors have suggested there is a difference between “complaining” in which you ask for a change and “criticizing” in which you just run the other person down in an effort to get revenge. One way to become more aware of these behaviors is to actually practice them until you recognize when you are doing them. Ben Furman has described some of these behaviors related to scolding. Done as a group activity the behaviors can be exaggerated until they become down right funny.

Here are the things a good blamer, scolder and criticizer should be able to do automatically.

1. Tower over the person to be upbraided.

Parents have a natural advantage here. They are taller to start with. But if the person you are trying to demean is near your size, wait till they are seated and then pulling yourself up as much as possible and crowd in close so they can’t get up. In a pinch a ladder or standing on a chair might help.

2. Stick your finger in their face.

This gesture, the universal sign of I am right and you are no good works, best if the finger motion includes several wags. Practice the up down pound them into the ground move and the left right “bad dog” move.

3. Leave no doubt that they are totally worthless.

Use plenty of words that leave no room for them to ever make it up to you or redeem themselves. You never, you always and other categorical statements should prove their worthlessness.

4. Demean their intelligence.

Statements like “anyone with half a brain would know” are especially good. Remind them they are dumb, stupid and that they have none of that rare commodity “common sense.” It helps to remind them how much common sense you have.

5. Ask questions for which there are no answers.

Don’t you understand that—?

Why did you do that?

6. Call them names.

Calling the person you are talking to “stupid” or “idiot” is sure to get a dramatic response out of the person you are talking at. Not a positive response necessarily, but a huge response none the less.

7. Be as vague as possible.

Never ask specifically for what you want and if by some chance they should request a clarification fall back on the old standbys “you know what I mean” or “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand anyway.”

8. When all else fails try threatening.

Remind you children that if they don’t start doing as you tell them you will ground them for life. Threatening to take away the cell phone till they turn thirty can be especially ineffective. Make threats as large, outlandish and impossible as you can. No sense in threatening with something you might actually be able to do.

Now should you want to really communicate in a positive way, which may be harder and require more work, then reverse the process and do the opposite of the things described above.

There you have it, 8 suggestions for becoming really good at Blaming, Scolding and Criticizing and one antidote for poor communication.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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