How To Break Free From Four Common Failure Narratives: Part 2

Posted on August 10, 2016 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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In Part One of this article I introduced two of Kahler’s Failure Patterns, life narratives he discovered that undermine success and work against intimacy in relationships. Here are the other two.


AlwaysFailurePatternThis failure pattern promotes the narrative that no matter what happens, it’s always someone else’s fault. Imagine a child who’s procrastinated on tomorrow’s homework until bedtime and is now faced with a dilemma of her own making. Not wanting to take responsibility for the problem, she says, “If I stay up and do my homework now, then I will be so tired tomorrow. But if I go to bed now I’ll get a zero on my assignment. What am I supposed to do? This always happens to me.”

The essence of this narrative is avoiding the difficult feelings of responsibility that go with making mistakes, letting someone down, or failing to plan ahead. If I can convince myself that the world is out to get me and it’s always their fault, then I don’t have to take responsibility. If I can turn the tables on others who seek to hold me accountable, then it can always be someone else who takes the fall.

When the Always failure pattern gets out of control, these people resort to blaming, sarcasm, manipulation, and emotional volatility to deflect responsibility and keep negative attention on others. This pattern may correlate with what William Eddy has called High Conflict Personalities (HCPS). He’s written a couple great books on the topic, including his most recent, Trump Bubbles: The Dramatic Rise And Fall of High Conflict Politicians.

If this is your narrative, you might also experience:

  • Great discomfort when someone holds you accountable for your behavior
  • Trouble with intimacy
  • Difficulty taking responsibility
  • A desire to act out or blame someone if things get too boring
  • Taking unhealthy risks

Two of Kahler’s six personality types struggle with this failure pattern; the Rebel and Promoter. Rebels act out the Always failure pattern by blaming and acting blameless. Promoters act it out by manipulating and turning the tables on others.

Try these tips to break free:

  • Recognize that taking responsibility and making it right doesn’t have to deprive you of spontaneity and fun. As crazy as it sounds, you can take responsibility without being responsible.
  • You can apologize and still maintain your dignity. Try this template.
  • Finding healthy ways to have fun and get excitement is a double-win; life is full of surprises and you stay out of the principle’s office!
  • You are great at rallying people around you and keeping things lively and upbeat. Using those gifts in positive ways will get you a lot of sweet rewards.

Replace ALWAYS with this success narrative

I need healthy fun and excitement to be my best. When I use my creativity and charisma to make a positive difference I can succeed.


This failure pattern revolves around the false belief that I can never get what I really want in life. “It’s not worth trying because it will be taken away from me anyways,” or “I don’t know what to do, it doesn’t matter,” are phrases you might hear yourself saying if this is your narrative.

The essence of this narrative is to shut down when faced with decisions that require independent decision-making. Shying away from taking initiative, this person may isolate and spin their wheels, losing track of time and even their own bodily needs. I know someone who struggles with this failure pattern. He is an artist and can sometimes forget to eat, drink, or use the toilet. This behavior is self-defeating and self-reinforcing because lack of initiative usually results in not getting what you want. If this is your failure narrative, you might also experience:

  • Depression and loneliness
  • Feeling like you are different from others
  • Avoiding taking the initiative to ask for what you want or get direction
  • Resolving that nobody wants you around and it doesn’t matter what you do

Try these tips to break free:

  • Let others into your world; tell someone what you are experiencing
  • Ask someone you trust to help you organize and direct your decisions
  • You have a gift for imagination; asking others to help you build structure will give you a safe place to let that imagination fly!
  • It’s OK to be alone as long as you arrange with someone to come get you once in a while

Replace NEVER with this success narrative

I need alone time to let my imagination fly. When I enlist others to help me create structure and direction, I can succeed.

Recognizing and replacing failure patterns with positive narratives can help you leverage your unique character strengths and find satisfaction being who you were meant to be! Leaders who learn to recognize these narratives and offer positive alternatives can unlock tremendous potential in themselves and their teams.

If this way of looking at behavior and communication intrigues you, ask us about the Process Communication Model (PCM), a complete leadership communication training program based on Dr. Kahler’s groundbreaking work. Next Element is a PCM distributor for the United States. We train, certify, and support PCM trainers across the country.

Copyright 2016, Next Element Consulting, LLC

CWC + Discussion GuideGet our latest book Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading With Compassionate Accountability. This book is the foundation for our Leading Out of Drama program, a comprehensive system for building cultures of compassionate accountability.

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