“There are few things more courageous than being accountable. Stop defending and start being brave.” ~LMB
Recently I wrote a tip about defensiveness and soon after, I received an email asking if I would write about, “some effective ways to accomplish the healing and change our behavior”. What I love about this request is that it shows that the writer is already working on his defensiveness. You can’t be defensive while simultaneously asking how to do things better. So, tip number one is to recognize you have a problem with being defensive or accountable and get clear about how it shows up.
The best way to do this is to observe. Observe defensiveness all around you. Watch your friends, co-workers, politicians, leaders, and even characters on television and in movies. Notice what defensiveness looks and feels like when others do it. Pay attention to how others react to defensiveness and how it impacts the conversation and relationship. Once you’ve watched the world regarding defensiveness, next, observe you. Notice the way you get defensive. Do you explain, deflect, or turn it around on the other person and make them out to be wrong? What do you say to yourself internally? Do you equate being accountable with weakness? If so, begin to change your narrative regarding accountability. Acknowledging your mistakes takes courage, denying them is the antithesis of strength. Defensiveness harms relationships whereas accountability heals. Remind yourself of these truths daily and work to change your narrative.
Finally, work to actively acknowledge your imperfections. Practice owning your mistakes with the safest people first, on everyday issues such as forgetting to pick up the milk. Being accountable requires that you recognize and communicate the impact of your behavior on the other person, take responsibility for your actions, and repair any damage that was done. True accountability would sound like: “I know you asked me to pick up the milk and I forgot. I’m sorry about that. If you’d like me to run out right now and get it, I will.” Each time you’re able to own your part-without explaining, defending, or rationalizing your actions, pat yourself on the back and take in that moment of emotional strength.
Challenge: Commit to being accountable in your life and relationships. Pay attention to all the ways you lead with defensiveness rather than accountability, and do the work necessary to change that pattern.