How to Stop Blame, Complaining, Procrastination, and Victim Thinking

Written by Dan McCool

Dan is a Speech-Language Pathologist and owner of Second Mile School Therapy. He has been working with school districts for 20 years in Southwest Missouri.

February 10, 2023

Have you heard any of these in the halls or from people in your office recently?

  • It’s not my fault.
  • When is the Administration going to do something?
  • No one told me.
  • Who dropped the ball?
  • Why can’t I get some help?
  • Why can’t we get some better people?
  • Why me?

It is understandable that people feel and talk this way, especially when frustrated.  But these statements and questions reflect victim thinking and shift all responsibility and accountability to someone else.  

John Miller wrote a QBQ: The Question Behind the Question, in which he teaches a method for asking better questions that leads to better answers, increased personal accountability and leads to proactive action to improve circumstances.

Are there any situations at your school that would benefit from an improved culture?  Would your district benefit if the people in your district transitioned from a victim mindset to being proactive problem-solvers?  Of course, they would.  

Here is the essence of Miller’s teaching:

  • We always have a choice, and we are responsible for our choices. Always
  • We make better choices when we discipline our thinking.
    • Our thinking can be influenced by asking better questions.

    Here is how to craft Good Questions that lead to better answers:

    Begin with “What” or “How” (Not “Why,” “When,” or “Who.”)

    When we ask “When…” we are really saying we have no choice but to wait and put off action until later.  This breeds procrastination.  Questions that start with “Who” directs the responsibility away from ourselves.  After all, the only person we can really control is ourselves.  “Why” questions lead to answers that have the “poor me” tone. 

    Contains an “I” (not “they,” them,” “we,” or “you”).

    The only person you can control is you.  “We” don’t change anything, but organizations, teams, and even families are composed of individuals. When individuals in an organization decide to take responsibility, decide to make a change, or decide to change their thinking and perspective, things get done.  This is why QBQ questions contain the word “I”.

    Focus on Action

    Good questions are action-focused.  They contain action verbs like “do,” “get,” “create,” “change,” “lead,” “improve,” “achieve,” and “build.”

    When you combine each of these elements, you get better questions, which leads to better thinking and positive changes. Combine these elements, and you end up with questions like these:

    • How can I facilitate increased parent involvement?
    • How can I help?
    • What can I do today to improve the situation?
    • How could I creatively solve the problem with the resources I already have?
    • How can I improve my organizational skills?
    • What can I do to make my lessons more engaging for students?
    • How can I improve my situation?
    • What could I do this week to improve my relationship with my coworkers?

    Taking action may seem risky, but doing nothing may be a bigger risk.  Even though taking action can be risky, the alternative, inaction, is almost never a better choice.  Miller writes that:

    Action, even when it leads to mistakes, brings learning and growth.  Inaction brings stagnation and atrophy.

    Action leads us toward solutions.  Inaction, at best, does nothing and holds us in the past.

    Action requires courage, Inaction often indicates fear.

    Action builds confidence, inaction leads to doubt.

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