Who’s To Blame For Miscommunication?


Who’s to blame for miscommunication patterns? Empathizer (E-type) communicators are interpersonally wired to take on blame and search for reasons why they have or haven’t done something to negatively impact a relationship. Ergo, the muse, “You are too sensitive for your own good!” Instigator (I-type) communicators are interpersonally wired to avoid blame or to blame the situation as the problem. Hence, the belief, “It’s not my fault and feeling bad won’t accomplish anything good!” Conflict results when energy is focused on affixing blame instead of fixing the problem of faulty communication.


Confusing communication causes conflict. Empathizers keep secret how Instigators aren’t being helpful for fear of hurting their talk partners’ feelings. Nonetheless, an E-type talker in conflict with an I-type talker perceives and views these stances as unhelpful:

1. Playing the role of the noble victim. E-types don’t respect anyone who feigns a one-down position to grab the upper hand of power.

Confusing I-Type Message: “I’ve done a lot to try to make this relationship work, and this situation is very hard on me, too.”

(Implication: If anyone’s to blame, it’s obviously not me! I deserve some sympathy.)

2. Putting me in a situation where I feel pressured to play the role of a quasi-authority figure. E-types don’t like being cornered to make suggestions that will be rebutted and not used.

Confusing I-Type Message: “Then you tell me what to do! Lay out a very clear course for us to follow. Give me a plan. What would you like for me to do for you?”

(Implication: If you make the plan, then I can’t be held responsible if it fails.)

3. Stirring the pot by bringing drama into the situation. E-types like peace and quiet and feel distressed when their relationships are stressed.

Confusing I-Type Message: “When I try to be helpful, you get resentful. You’re over-reacting and getting too emotional. I don’t want to upset the apple cart or stir the pot, but I’m not going to put a big smile on a pile of stinky crap, either.”

(Implication: Whenever I play the part of a good guy or gal, you can’t help but see things my way.)

4. Creating issues to face or fear. E-types intensely dislike issues, created out of thin air, which make them feel vulnerable or fearful.

Confusing I-Type Message: I’m not making up this issue. This is a legitimate issue, and it really is a big deal whether you agree with me or not.

(Implication: This relationship is in serious trouble! Somehow, we must not be right for each other.)

5. Spinning their ideas around in my mind. E-types feel many things are their fault and are ultimately theirs to change.

Confusing I-Type Message: “If only you had _______(fill in the blank), or if you hadn’t ________ (fill in the blank), then things would have gone so much better. We wouldn’t be having these problems.”

(Implication: These problems are really your fault, not mine — even if I didn’t ask you to do, or not do, these things, you should have known! Didn’t you pass Mind Reading 101 in school?)

6. Making accusations like “Why don’t you care?” E-types pride themselves on being caring and compassionate people. This tends to make the E-type feel pressured to do what was asked, even when uncomfortable doing it, to demonstrate devotion…despite that doing so is taxing physically, emotionally, or financially.

Confusing I-Type Message: “If you do not ___________, (fill in the blank — usually something very difficult to do), then you must not really care about me.” (Or you’re not right for me, or this relationship is doomed, etc.)

(Implication: If this relationship doesn’t end up working out, then it’s going to be your fault because you didn’t — or you did — ___________ (whatever was asked to be done.).

7. Running away from feelings. E-types view I-types as prone to running away from solving emotional problems.

Confusing I-Type Message: “You don’t understand. I’m not cold or heartless because I’m in this for the long haul and I don’t drop out of sight when the going gets tough.

(Implication: If the E-type is in this for the long haul, s/he’d better be ready to do a lot of compromising…and endurance training.)

8. Switching talk lanes abruptly. The E-type communicator can point out that the I-type is actually exhibiting one of the above patterns, and that it’s not a good way to communicate and resolve problems, only to have the I-type very subtly and quickly change topics to bring up another issue that is blamed on the E-type.

Confusing I-Type Message: “I’m not being defensive. I’m just being logical and factual. You’re just taking this out of context again.”

(Implication: It’s actually somehow the E-type’s fault if the I-type exhibits these patterns, again putting the E-type on the defensive.)

When you understand how you’re viewed by your opposite communicator type, you have a greater ability to communicate clearly in ways that bring about change and which don’t sow discord and conflict.


Dr. Dennis O’Grady is the innovative researcher and teacher of the Talk to Me© innovative communication system. You can obtain Dr. O’Grady’s self-empowering textbook of results-driven communication strategies, Talk to Me: Communication Moves To Get Along with Anyone, at drogrady.com or Amazon. Dennis provides relationship communication coaching, corporate training and event keynotes on effective relationship communication, using his powerful model of adopting the strengths of Empathizer-type and Instigator-type communicators.

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