Stop Blaming: Pick up the Mirror, not the Magnifying Glass!

Do you have a client who always blames someone else, who seems to create drama wherever they go or who finds it hard to take responsibility for their role in situations? If so, the simple coaching metaphor of "Pick up the Mirror, not the Magnifying Glass" could help you.

When things go 'wrong' it's very human to want to assign blame - we think this helps us understand what happened and move forwards. And who doesn't feel better 'knowing' the cause - especially if it's someone else!

But in reality, although assigning blame helps us feel better, it also prevents us from seeing where we contributed to the situation. As long as it's someone else's fault, how can we empathise and have compassion for others? How can we prevent the problem arising again in the future? This is why drama always seems to find the same people.

Blaming and judging others leads to "The Magnifying Glass Effect". This is where we get really busy focusing on other people's shortcomings - and the more we look, the more we notice. What a fabulous way to avoid looking at ourselves!

We all know that situations are rarely just one person's fault. Even where one person is 'in the wrong' the 'wronged' person will have done something - perhaps they ignored or allowed behaviours, gave off signals that were misunderstood, or perhaps they themselves misinterpreted or over-reacted to something. It's only as we learn to take responsibility for ourselves, our lives and our feelings that drama is avoided and relationships get simpler and easier.

So, when your clients start blaming or judging others, use this powerful coaching metaphor and ask them to "Pick up the Mirror, not the Magnifying Glass." Then, ask questions like:

  1. How did I contribute to this situation? Where can I see that something I did or did not do made the situation worse for myself?
  2. If I were to relive the situation as someone who takes FULL responsibility for my actions and feelings, what do I notice?
  3. What signals could I have given to others (either explicitly or implicitly) that contributed to the situation?
  4. Where could I be more forgiving and understanding?
  5. What would I do differently next time?

And this isn't about blaming ourselves either - it's about taking an honest look at what actually happened and owning our part in it. Not to then blame or judge ourselves - but to learn and grow.

In life we cannot avoid other people doing things that hurt, endanger or upset us. But when we blame others, we isolate ourselves. We leave no room for empathy, compassion and understanding - and that just reinforces the inner judge inside each of us.

So, this coaching metaphor is a great way to challenge our clients - help them let fate, karma or life mete out the appropriate lessons for others. Because it's by helping our clients focus on themselves that they truly learn from their experiences - and grow in wisdom, kindness and compassion.

PS. Some clients may struggle with letting go of blame. If so you may like our Tool - "What Do You Need to Let Go of?"

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Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>


  1. Leenna Parannjpe

    Great article Emma. It matters when one of the partners take responsibility of their even 1% mistake, the relationship can be saved. This tool is so helpful and I am going to use it with my Millennial clients


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