“Things are difficult, almost unbearable when you subscribe to the expectations of others. It is a self-torture, a resistance to care for your soul, to stand with a ruthless conviction of your happiness, to not take on the choices of others, but to hold them and yourself accountable for each’s own.” -Amy Larson, amyjalapeño.com
No relationship can make healthy progress or build trust when there is blame. If it is wrought with expectations and if accountability from all parties cannot be achieved, a sort of sickness takes over. A soul-virus lays dormant, waiting to be triggered into resurgence when expectations are not met and feelings are hurt.
How do you get to a place of accountability when there is conflict in a relationship?
1. Get used to self-soothing.
If you are overwhelmed and cannot do this while engaged in the conflict, find a place where you can be alone. It might be your bedroom, outside, or a closet if need be.
2. Think of everything you could have done to prevent the conflict (maybe while you are in that closet).
There are things that will be out of your hands, decisions made by others you cannot control.
What about the situation is in your control?
It could be as simple as your thoughts or that you allowed another to cause you to feel less about who you are and now you are taking on all the blame. You can control how you feel about yourself. And if you are a good person and just made a mistake, own your goodness. Be kind to you.
3. Share your accountable portion of the conflict with the other party.
Muster up some serious courage and simply state your accountable part, your willingness to improve and to do better next time. That’s it. (psst… if you think you know what they should be accountable for, do not share it with them.)
4. Avoid making the other party accountable.
When you reach #3, be silent. If they decide to be accountable for their contribution to the conflict, then wonderful, now you both can move forward.
If they do not, however, do not push them to it. When you try to make someone accountable, you treat them like they are not capable of coming to that point themselves. You put yourself above them. And it not only takes from the self-realized power you just achieved, but what they could have realized had you let it alone.
If they use your accountability to jump back on the blame bandwagon, if they start using what you shared to magnify your mistakes and weakness in order to manipulate or abuse you, do not engage.
What is happening here is they do not recognize accountability. They have no clue what it is.
Their identity is so overwhelmed by their ego and pain body (a concept introduced by Eckhart Tolle in THE POWER OF NOW) that they only see weakness and a chance to pounce when you come to them with courage and vulnerability. If you are in a relationship with a person like this, you may want to consider cutting this person out of your life for a while, until they recognize their tendency for abuse and get help for it, maybe even permanently if they do not.
5. Give yourself and them time.
After initiating #4 + time, the other party can process your fabulously accountable words. They now have the freedom to reflect on their actions, because you have already put yours out on the table.
(They no longer have to defend their position, because you dissolved the defensive wall of conflict with your accountability.)
By giving them time and by being silent about what you think their accountable portion is, you give them an extraordinary gift – the freedom of self-reflection and (gentle) self-criticism without your influence or expectations.
If you blow #5, all of your hard work goes out the window and you have to start all over again. Sorry, but it’s true.
Learning the power of accountability takes practice. You will mess up. (I have plenty of times.) But you will also have golden moments when you calmly move in and through #1-5, when you no longer have to defend yourself, when you realize how much power you actually have in your relationships.