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Finding fault

mea culpa

Is someone at fault?

Are you at fault?

Is there anyone to blame?

Is there evil in the world?

Are there any reasons to be defensive?

Do you blame others for blaming you?

Are you at fault for thinking someone must be at fault?

Defensive Dwight

Although, in general, I am much less blaming or defensive than others and I have gotten better at this over the years, recently I encountered a situation that spotlighted my own vulnerability to being pulled back into the HOGAB (the House of Good and Bad).

I found an assistant (let's all him Juan) just a few days after arriving on April 22nd in Medellin. Very smart. Super fast in finding information on his mobile phone. Flexible. I was quite happy working with Juan. 

Around the middle of May, I started to notice an uncomfortable pattern with Juan. Sometimes I would ask him to ask someone else a question (interpreting for me). He would not ask them but instead would tell me what he thought their answer would be. I still wanted him to ask the question and Juan would get upset with me for "not believing him" and also, sometimes for making him uncomfortable by insisting that he ask a question which he judged to be rude to the other person. 

One example was when we were waiting for a Didi (Uber) driver. I noticed on the Didi app it jumped from a one-minute wait to a six-minute wait. I asked Juan about it. He said it was probably because the driver made a wrong turn. Made some sense.

Once we were in the car, I asked Juan to ask the driver if he knew why the app jumped from one minute to six minutes. Juan very irritably refused to ask the driver the question, seemingly both upset that I didn't believe what Juan told me and that asking the driver such a question would be rude.

Initiating a Partnership Conversation

On Friday, May 20th I explained the idea of a Partnership Conversation to Juan, inviting him to work with me so that we could find some ways to both be happy when circumstances like these arose since they were occurring at least once a day.


He awkwardly refused to consider such a conversation, saying that I was a rude person and, as his boss, he just had to accept that as part of the condition for working for me. When I tried to indicate that I was open to trying to understand how my behavior might be considered rude and it was important to me for him to enjoy the process of working with me, he retorted with, "It's not my job to teach you good manners." It also seemed like he really wasn't concerned about whether or not he enjoyed working with me since he was just "doing it for the money."

I found out that he thought he needed only two more weeks of pay and then he would not "need" to work for me anymore. So we agreed to "do out best" to work together for two weeks while I found another assistant. I found another assistant rather quickly so that two weeks turned out to be just one week and I agreed to pay Juan his regular wage for the last week even though he wouldn't be working with me that week. 

I paid him for the week ending Friday, May 27th and told him I would pay him for the next week (when he would not be working) at the end of the next week.

But then on Monday he sent me a message asking when I could pay him for the week. Carefully, I replied with, "I am okay with changing what I remember saying which seems to be different than what you remember me saying.  I am unavailable to do that today... I think we could plan for tomorrow."

He responded with, "Seems like you really need to work more on your memory."

When he arrived the next day to pick up the last payment, we both were civil but guarded, happy our "relationship" was over.

What is the point of me recounting this whole story?

Even though I set for myself another purpose in sharing this with you, that is to illustrate the addictiveness of fault finding even for someone like me who is well aware of its costs, I noticed that I was indulging in one of the benefits of fault finding as I was sharing the above story with you. I was thinking to myself that the people who read this are going to think, "Of course, Dwight, you did your best. Obviously Juan was not open to reason or to creating any generosity in your relationship with him. I think you did great." I was imagining you were going to take my side and even feel indignant about how Juan treated me.

If I imagined coaching someone else when they felt hurt by another, I might say, "What they said or did means nothing about you. Can you see that there is nothing to defend?" Conceptually, I can see that regarding what Juan did and said to me and yet the machinery of my mind still reacts with feeling hurt and defensive when I think about my story of our relationship.

Fortunately, I did have enough self-awareness and perspective to not overtly react and make things worse when Juan said some things that simulated my defensiveness. For example, when he said, "Seems like you really need to work more on your memory." instead of wanting to point out to him that he might have a problem with his memory too (he could not know for sure that he doesn't) or that if I did say "at the end of next week," he heard instead, "anytime next week," I kept my mouth shut. If I had tried to reason with him, It's likely to have made things worse, rather than just keeping my mouth shut or saying, "Yes, you could be right." 

In summary

Having consistent access to living and operating outside the HOGAB may be simply something we can get better and better at, not something we completely master, even if that were possible. In the process, it's important to recognize the powerful forces that sometime pull us back into the HOGAB, having compassion for ourselves and for others when this happens. 

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