Over the past few weeks I’ve had several conversations, both professionally and personally, about accountability and owning our decisions and mistakes. It seems that when people struggle with this, they tend to fall into one of two camps; 1) owning mistakes comes almost too easily. People on this side may take ownership or apologize for something that they didn’t do. They may be quick to apologize in an effort to avoid conflict. On the other side 2) it can be really difficult for people to own their choices and admit their shortcomings. They may look to blame others for their mistakes and instead of confronting or dealing with issues, they tend to avoid.
Either side can be an uncomfortable place to fall as issues may go unresolved and taking ownership of others choices can cause unnecessary stress and hardship. If you find yourself in the first camp, here are two things to keep in mind.
1) If you notice that “I’m sorry” is a regular part of your vocabulary, pay attention to what you are sorry for. Is saying sorry a habit, is it expected, does it come out of your mouth when you have nothing else to say? By all means if we make a mistake or have done something to hurt somebody else, an apology may be in order. Just be sure you know what you are apologizing for and if that seems appropriate.
2) Know that it is okay if people are upset with you. Often we are quick to apologize or make amends because we do not like the idea of someone being upset with us. While it may be uncomfortable if someone is not happy with us, it doesn’t necessarily mean we have anything to apologize for. We are going to take things the wrong way, take things personally when we shouldn’t, and have days we are irritable and take things out on loved ones. We are human! We are also going to have times where we will get on one another’s nerves, say the wrong thing, and hurt others. We are human! As with most things in life, practices makes a huge difference. The more we practice not trying to jump in and apologize for the something we can’t own, the easier it gets and the more comfortable we get with having tension. If we give ourselves some space from the situation and person we can then come back to try and resolve things. Resolve things doesn’t always mean apologize!
I’ll follow this up next week by taking a look at those who fall into the other extreme. Ultimately this is about finding some balance of owning up and taking accountability for mistakes, but also knowing when the mistake isn’t yours.