Assuming Personal Responsibility in Relationships

Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families says that responsibility is really the " ability to choose our response." We don't have to respond to stimuli and triggers the same way we have always done. We do have a choice. It may take some practice and a real commitment on our part to let go of old patterns and try something new, but it is worth it in peace of mind, deeper relationships and conversations that don't end in arguments. The kind of communication we seek depends on a number of things; mutual respect and courtesy, a willingness to listen to other points of view and good timing.

If you want to improve communication in relationships find the proper time for a friendly talk. It's usually not a good idea to try talking in the midst of conflict or dispute. At such times, it's best to withdraw from the conflict, maintaining mutual respect. This will make it possible to open discussion at a later time.

By looking at the triangle of conflict resolution below you will see that in order to have harmony in relationships, we must grant equal energy and respect for the three points.

Assume Personal Responsibility

Have I done all I can do to resolve this conflict?
Have I looked for solutions?
Am I willing to compromise?
To forgive?
To let it go?
If the conflict can't be resolved, am I willing to live with it or walk away?

Respect for Myself Respect for the Other Person

I have a right to my feelings
He has a right to his feelings

One of the hardest lessons we have to learn as humans is you can not force others to do as you wish and you must make choices based on this. The only thing we truly have control over is our own inner thoughts and outer actions. We can provide information, influence and suggestions to our loved ones and associates, but the desire to change must be within the individual. Accountability and responsibility involves claiming our own power and using our wisdom to create different results in life.

Accountability occurs either consciously or unconsciously and can be changed the same way.

Some common phrases and actions used to avoid taking responsibility:

* I had no choice. We always have a choice, even though we may not like the consequences.

* I had no control. A good example of this is a couple arguing with harsh and ugly words flying back and forth. The phone rings and it is the Pastor! Notice how the voice tone and facial expression changes as the partner calmly and pleasantly chats. When the conversation ends, the phone slams down and the screaming resumes; they are again "out of control". No, the behavior commands control and anger is used as a power tool.

* I don't know. Frequently people will claim not to know something when in their hearts they either do know or could have found out. This is an excuse to let ourselves off the hook and avoid blame.

* I forgot. You mean you chose not to remember. A variation of this theme involves becoming so busy doing things that we want to do that we "forget" to tend to the matters that are considered important by others and ourselves.

* I'll try. This is a non-accountable response. It creates tension and confusion in relationships and discounts the credibility of the speaker. It is also a blatant lie. We will either be there or do the assignment or we won't. Be authentic to yourself and others.

* If you do..Then I will.. This strategy places conditions and hoops for the other person to jump through It is as if we are drawing an invisible line in the sand and only we will know when and if they have crossed it. How does the other person ever know when they have done enough or the right thing? Typically, people who use this strategy to avoid accountability in their own life just place the bar or hoop higher and higher for the other person.

* It's not my fault, she/ he made me do it. When we blame others we prevent ourselves from learning and growing. We block out important information and give our power away. By becoming a non-blamer, we understand and communicate that there are many sides to every story.

* That's just the way I am. This non-accountable strategy justifies an unwillingness to move off our position and puts the responsibility on others to shift or change. By saying, "I have always been shy or I come from a long line of procrastinators", we reinforce that we are powerless. We always have choices and if the choice you made years ago are not working, then you are free to choose again and change your behavior and thoughts.

* I don't have time to deal with it. Of course you have time. In fact, each of us has exactly the same amount of time. 24 hours a day. How we choose to spend our time is the real issue. Relationships that need healing will not do it without help. There needs to be a catalyst to change. Ignoring a situation and hoping it will improve very seldom works and if it does, it is only on the surface. Which of these common excuses to avoid accountability have you used most often? All of them are roadblocks to harmonious relationships and stifle growth. Here are some suggestions for win-win situations.

* Let me listen to you first. Help me to understand where you are coming from. Truly listen with your heart, ears and eyes. Be present, not planning what your rebuttal will be. This is just practicing the Golden Rule, treating others as you would like to be treated.

* Would you be willing to search for a solution that is better than what either of us is now proposing? Aim for a solution where everybody wins something.

* I apologize for jumping to conclusions. Perhaps you need more information. It takes a strong person to admit a mistake and doing so

* What do you think would be fair? Seek to understand and then be understood.

* Using "I-messages" instead of "you-messages". A you-message lays blame and conveys criticisms. It is a verbal attack and suggests the other person is at fault, which puts them in a defensive position. The I-message simply describes how the behavior or situation makes you feel. This message focuses on you not the other person, nor does it assign blame or belittle the other person. It is easier to remain respectful of the other person's feelings with I-messages.

An easy formula to remember is

1. When (state the behavior)
2. I feel (state the feeling)
3. Because(state the consequence) and
4. I would like (state a solution)

Example: When I see toys all over the floor, I am annoyed and feel cranky because it is not my job to pick them up before lunch.. I feel like if I have to pick them up, I should put them on the shelf for the afternoon. What do you think? Shall I pick them up and put them away for the day or will you do your assignment now?

Good luck and God Bless. You do an important work with your families.

To learn more about the books, articles, workshops and tele-classes available from Judy H. Wright and to receive a FREE newsletter on finding the heart of the story in the journey of life, please go to www.artichokepress.com

©Judy H. Wright, Parent Educator and Family Coach - www.artichokepress.com

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