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Accountability in Communication: A personal problem-solving approach

accountability in communication

In life, when you are faced with a problem, you have three difficult choices:

1. Take an action to try and rectify the situation. Ask yourself these questions: How did I contribute to this and What can I do now?
2. Change your perception of the situation so that it no longer upsets you so much by changing your attitude about it or coming up with some sort of strategy that makes it more tolerable to you.
3. Leave the situation so that you can save yourself and no longer feel victimized by the person, as you have tried the other two options and neither worked.

So what do those three choices entail?

If you have a funny noise in your car, a leak in your roof, or a sick pet, you know what has to be done to fix those problems. However if you feel you have been “victimized” in some way, by the actions or words of an individual, it means you need to have a “difficult conversation” with this person so that they are aware of how you feel. Nonetheless, most of us are not comfortable having those exchanges, and choose instead to “let the person get away with that behavior”.

What needs to be done is this… you need to screw up your courage, prepare how you will approach this person, and have the conversation. Otherwise, you are the one walking around with the stomach ache and the other person has no idea that you are offended, or they do not care. In any event, you get the behavior you tolerate and if nothing is said, it will be repeated. Yes some people make us feel timid, and if you honestly feel that by speaking to the person about the situation, it will make it worse, then go to option #2 and find a way to make it not matter so much or, if you can, distance yourself from this person. If you do not stand up for yourself, no one else will do it for you. In addition, people who run their “victim tape” over and over, complaining about a problem but not doing anything to solve it, only alienate others as no one wants to listen to someone who is always whining.

There is no question that having a difficult conversation, or taking an assertive approach, is a very hard thing to do. However if you wish to resolve the issue in some way that makes you feel more in control, you do need to figure out how, when, and where to broach it with this troublesome person. Even if you do not get what you want following the conversation, and realize that you may have to do this a few times, and still may not get satisfaction from them, I guarantee that you will feel better just for trying. In any event, that individual will view you differently once you have ‘stood up to them’. And, you may even get them to change their behavior and respect you for bringing it to their attention. Just remember this, we cannot make people do things that they do not want to do… in other words we cannot make them change their behavior, but you will not know that unless you try!

Here is an airport story that happened to me many years ago

I was visiting a friend who lives outside of Toronto and at the end of the weekend was flying home. We were so engrossed in our visit that I neglected to check on the status of my flight before she drove me to the Toronto airport. This was before we had cell phones, so I could not contact her when this incident arose.

being-niceWhen I lined up to check in, there was a woman ahead of me who was very agitated and shouting at the ticketing agent. Apparently her flight was cancelled and it turned out that I was on the same flight. Seeing how upset she had made the agent, I decided to try a different tack. I told the agent that I was on the same flight, but knew it was not her fault that it was cancelled, and wondered what my options were. She told me the only direct flight still available that evening would not be leaving until about 1:00 am, unless I wanted to go through Calgary, but even that flight would not leave until about 11:30pm and then I would have a layover in Calgary and would still get home around 4:00 am. So I decided to take the direct. I then asked her if she could help me with two requests: 1. would it be possible to get a pass to the VIP lounge? And 2. would it be possible to give me the 4 middle seats so I could put up the armrests and actually lie down and sleep.

She checked and agreed to both requests. I thanked her profusely and set off to the VIP lounge where I could have some dinner, watch TV, read, and call home to let them know what had happened. I called home and spoke to my son… his remark was: “How come you don’t sound all mad and upset?” I told him that there was no point in that as there was nothing I could do and part of the situation was my fault for not checking the flight status before leaving my friend’s house. If I had done that, we could have straightened it out over the phone, she and I could have gone for dinner, and then she could have dropped me off much later. In any event, I had made the best of a bad situation and was prepared to live with it. I was assertive, asked for some help and in doing so, took back control of the situation and made myself as comfortable as I could under the circumstances. I certainly ended up better off than the woman who just yelled at the check in agent!

So, if you tried being assertive a few times to resolve an issue and to no avail… you did not get what you wanted and they continue to disrespect you. Step no. 2 now needs to be employed. You need to adjust your attitude and try to figure out why this offends you so much and what you can do so that you are not feeling this way when you are around that person. Or, you can try to come up with some sort of strategy of how you will deal with this person when you must have contact with them.

Here is a story that came up in one of my workshops for option no.2

A woman told us that her brother always criticized what she and her husband did, so it made them reluctant to share their plans and activities with him. Recently they had renovated their kitchen and all their friends who had seen it told them they had done a wonderful job on every aspect of the room. She was excited to share this with her brother however her husband was not so happy to do that. So she suggested to her husband that they try this approach:

I think he will like most of what we did, I think he will not like the bar stools at the counter and will tell us they are uncomfortable. So let’s invite him over and see if that is what happens. Let’s view it like a game!

Her husband agreed to the try this approach. So they invited the brother over and he remarked on the lovely woodwork of the millwork, the very attractive flooring and the up to date and energy efficient appliances. Then he sat on a stool and looked unhappy, squirming around on it, and finally asked why they bought such uncomfortable stools. His sister and her husband started to laugh… which of course surprised him. Then the sister told him that she had recently attended a workshop on accountability and that she was actually reluctant to invite him over to see their new kitchen because he always criticized everything they did. He of course denied that! She then continued, so we looked around and tried to figure out what you would criticize about the renovation that everyone else thought was terrific. And, in fact, we did come up with what you would choose to remark on negatively… it was the stools… so that was why we laughed!

As you can imagine the brother was rather shocked and of course again denied that he always criticized the things they did. However, the sister and her husband had now created a strategy to deal with his criticism, they would try to decide ahead of time what he would find wrong with whatever they had done and now it could be funny instead of annoying or upsetting.

Finally, if you have been brave and assertive, and that did not work. Then you devised a strategy that worked for a while but then no longer did the trick, the only option you have left is to leave the situation so you can save yourself. Life is too short to be feeling miserable a lot of the time… it is better to be happy! So sometimes, even though it is hard, you have to just end a relationship, be it a friendship or a marriage, a job or any situation, especially when it is making you so unhappy that you are perhaps not sleeping or eating well, performing poorly at work, etc.

Again, as I mentioned initially, none of these options are easy, they are all very difficult to execute; however, they are truly the only options you have, so no matter how difficult it is, you must try them.

Staying a victim is not a pleasant place to be, you need to take back control of your situation and resolve the problem to suit you… you must become accountable!

Remember: If it is to be, it is up to me!!

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