10 traits of people who don’t take responsibility for their actions

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I don’t care who you are, we all mess up at some point or another.

As the saying goes, to err is human.

So we all make mistakes, we all say things we didn’t mean and we are all capable of acting in ways that hurt others.

What really defines your character is how you deal with it afterward.

Stepping up, saying sorry, admitting fault, and making amends can make all the difference.

But sadly, some people seem incapable of taking responsibility for their actions. Here are some of their most common traits…

1) They’re victims who are always at the mercy of others

This is one of the most frustrating things about dealing with people who fail to take responsibility

They are the perpetrators yet they act like the victim.

Looking from the outside you may be able to plainly see how they have weaved their own web, only to get caught up in it later.

Yet they seem unable to recognize how their actions have consequences.

Rather than empower themselves by taking responsibility, they opt for self-pity.

“It’s not fair”, “Nobody knows what I’ve gone through”, “Why am I always so misunderstood”.

These types of narratives run through their mind as they grasp at stories to make them feel better.

2) They’re delusional and tell stories in the hope of absolving themselves

We’re all hardwired towards confirmation bias. That means we’re prone to look for information that supports our existing beliefs.

But what if your existing beliefs are pretty delusional?

  • You think that you can do no wrong
  • You think that other people have it in for you and are out to get you
  • You think that people need to get off your back and cut you some slack

Then you may well start to tell yourself stories that support these false and self-serving beliefs.

Often people who won’t take responsibility cannot see that they should. They are lacking in the self-awareness to objectively look at their actions and critique them.

I once saw a meme that said:

“Wow, you’re so self-aware!”

“Thanks, it’s ruining my life”

It made me laugh because although self-awareness is a real blessing, it can feel like a curse at times.

For the very reason that it doesn’t allow you to hide from the truth. Your introspection leaves no place to hide.

On the other hand, people who won’t face up to their own actions are still very much running from the truth.

3) They’re cowardly and afraid to admit the buck stops with them 

Whenever someone is stubborn, defensive, and dismissive, so often they are actually just afraid.

That’s not to make excuses or justifications for it. It’s just to say that what can seem like a brazen act, is usually just a cowardly one.

They fear facing up to who they are or how they have behaved.

They are too scared to shoulder full responsibility for their own life.

They prefer to block out reality because they aren’t strong enough to accept they got something wrong. 

4) They’re insecure and can’t handle being wrong

This is the crux of it:

People who don’t take responsibility for their actions are more often than not very insecure.

So often what looks like arrogance is weakness deep down.

It’s too hard to say sorry because their ego cannot take the knock, it is too fragile.

It strips away far too much of their self-esteem if they are to back down and admit fault.

So instead, they seek to push away their responsibility.

5) They’re selfish and only think about their own best interests

A lot of it may come down to an entitled mentality.

They may not feel like the rules apply to them, and believe that they are someone special.

Self-centered people habitually consider their own feelings, needs, and desires above everyone else’s.

This gives them an incredibly one-sided take on events.

They only see and feel things from their side, rather than being able to imagine how others might feel, as we’ll see next.

6) They’re lacking in empathy and struggle to see other people’s side

To a certain extent, we’re naturally inclined towards altruism. It’s this ability to feel for others that allows us to better co-operate.

That’s one of the reasons humans have been so successful.

We’ve relied on our ability to pull together to get things done, and that relies on caring for one another.

But some of us are more empathetic than others. It’s not only a quality, but also a skill — and it lies on a spectrum.

People who cannot put themselves in the shoes of others are less likely to take responsibility for their actions.

They’re less prone to feelings of guilt or shame because they aren’t thinking about how someone else is impacted.

7) They’re stubborn and set in their ways

If you have a fixed, rather than a growth mindset, you are far more likely to dodge responsibility.

Here’s why:

People with a fixed outlook on life believe they are who they are and that’s just the way it is.

In contrast, those with a growth mindset believe they are flexible and capable of changing.

Research has shown that people who believe in change are more likely to own their mistakes.

As the Professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Art Markman explains:

“A big reason why you are able to admit fault is that you recognize that once you admit what you have done wrong, you can work to make it better, and so you are not threatened by admitting mistakes. People who do not believe that they can change are stressed by admitting their mistakes, because they believe that those mistakes say something fundamental about who they are as a person.”

8) They’re irresponsible and don’t think things through

When you never hold yourself to account, sadly you never learn lessons either.

Nobody likes to learn the hard way, but it can be very useful.

Our mistakes and errors of the past can steer us down a better path in the future. But only if we are prepared to take a long hard look at ourselves and our actions.

When we don’t, we are doomed to continue to mess up. We imprison ourselves in a cycle of screw-ups that we’ll never move on from.

This turns you into an irresponsible person, incapable of thinking about the consequences.

Without consequences, we don’t learn to adapt and improve our behavior.

9) They’re manipulative as they try to shift blame elsewhere

“If you hadn’t said X, Y, Z, then I would never have done those things”

“You’re overreacting, why are you so sensitive?”

“You’re being such a nag, you should chill out”

“Yeah technically I cheated, but only because you were neglecting me”

People who fail to take responsibility often have 1001 manipulative phrases up their sleeves to twist things back around onto you.

They may gaslight you, behave in a controlling way, or try to convince you that you’ve got it all wrong.

The aim is to move focus from them, and they’re prepared to use sneaky and toxic tactics to do it.

10) They’re lonely as they often alienate others

People who perpetually refuse to take responsibility for their actions can be destined for a lonely existence.

If they aren’t already, then there’s a good chance that they soon will be.

When we never hold our hands up we only end up pushing others away.

Having healthy relationships is reliant upon consideration and care.

That means being able to recognize the effect your actions have on those around you.

People very quickly get sick and tired of those who refuse to do this.

Ways to take greater responsibility

So there we have it, when it comes to dodging responsibility, it’s not a very flattering picture!

To avoid falling into this trap, here’s a little checklist to ensure you’re always taking responsibility for your actions.

  • If something goes wrong, ask yourself ‘What was my part in it?’
  • If you hurt someone else, try to imagine how they’re feeling
  • Never try to shift blame when you’re in the wrong
  • Don’t make excuses for bad behavior, own it
  • Say sorry and try to make amends when you know you’ve behaved inappropriately
  • Cultivate greater self-awareness to better understand and manage your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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