It's Never Their Fault!

One of the areas of Juggling Elephants that sometimes raises the eyebrow of a reader is the chapter on building relationships. In that chapter we suggest (through the parable) that there is much to learn about building relationships from observing various circus acts. One of the acts is that of the animal trainer. "But my people aren't animals," you say. Of course not, but several of their techniques are completely applicable to improving the relationships we have with other humans (or that they have with us).

One key principle employed by many animal trainers is the saying, "It's never the animal's fault" when the animal fails to perform correctly. In general, it forces the animal trainer to reflect on their training of the animal to make sure they haven't forgotten something or encouraged the animal to develop the less than desirable behavior with their tactics.

What if, the next time you are disappointed with a co worker, you stopped and said to yourself, "It's not their fault. What could have caused this to happen?" You would focus on solutions to preventing the same failures again instead of simply blaming them. That would certainly lay the groundwork for a much more successful act the next time.