I was having a conversation with a young woman who’d made a bad decision. Her manager and I tried several times to get her to acknowledge the mistake, but each time she moved the focus of the conversation somewhere else. She said the problem was with the customer who never called her back, the co-worker who was over-reacting, and the computer program that should have alerted her to the issue.
As she saw it, the problem was everywhere but in the in the room with us.
Sound familiar? You may have had a similar conversation with a team member, friend or loved one. Whether the topic is personal or work related, it can be very challenging to help someone who deflects feedback and avoids accepting responsibility for their behavior.
Some people seem to default to “victim mode” when confronted with a problem or mistake. They offer excuses rather than solutions and look outward for the cause of their troubles rather than inward. Without an acknowledgement of ownership, there is rarely a change in behavior and you can expect to see the issue come up over and over again.
When I’m challenged by someone who is refusing to take responsibility for their behavior in a situation, I use what I call “The 1% Solution.”
I say to them, “Let’s put aside for a moment 99% of the feedback I’ve given you that you say is inaccurate and focus on just 1% of it being true. Given that 1%, tell me what you could do starting today that would improve the situation?”
I’ve never had anyone who I couldn’t get to accept at least 1% of an issue. Once they accept it, they easily move into problem-solving mode and talk about the specific actions they can take to improve the situation if it happens again. Praise them for any ownership they accept and work throughout the conversation to further increase that percentage.
You may never get them to 100% ownership in one conversation, but what they do accept can be built on and used as a foundation for change going forward.