What do we mean when we ask each other to be accountable?
To be accountable, or to be held accountable.
I mean the former, developing a self discipline that is initiated and reinforced internally as much as in relationships or by environments.
A taking back of motivation, and naming that I care enough about the impact I have to want to be more deliberate and conscious.
To say to ourselves, especially when we’re alone, I long to be accountable to myself and others.
And to believe you can be.
These lyrics came to mind by Sara Bareilles as I stewed over that distinction this morning, between being accountable versus being held accountable.
Car is parked, bags are packed.
What kind of heart doesn’t look back, at the comfortable glow from the porch.
Facing the the ghosts inside that decide if the fire inside still burns.
Open up, next to you, and my secrets become your truth.
And the distance between that was sheltering me comes in full view.
It hurts to be here.
In this imagery, there is a cost to us when we take seriously the harm we cause that we ignored, felt in our bodies and relationships.
And yet, there is a temperament that is rooted in self inventory to lean on.
There is an awareness that when we make ourselves exposed, there is more to see and say.
I think about accountability a lot, it’s on my heart all the time.
I think about how to translate my values through my behavior, and how to stretch my self awareness to include how other people experience me.
I think about how to re-channel our understanding that accountability is a punishment, or a last ditch response to problematic behaviors.
I think about how to encompass a variety of skills and scenarios in our choice of language, to help us all to be more thorough in our explanations, while also more raw in our reactions to how we’re treated.
I was at a conference a week ago where a participant asked for the microphone to be brought to him.
He stood up and shared, “Yesterday I referred to a female participant as sweetheart, and it was brought to my attention that that was offensive and inappropriate.” He continued to share that he wanted to take accountability for his negative effect on that person, as well as maybe others he didn’t know about. What got my attention was this next part that he ended with. “It’s important that I take accountability on the same stage where my actions were experienced, and that’s why I’m sharing this apology here.”
In an otherwise unaccountable gathering, this individual modeled a form of accountability that was not being imposed on him, but instead was driven by his sincere regret and follow up.
With this on my mind, I offer ten aspects of accountability that I am oriented to, with the knowledge that how we approach accountability has implications for how we practice it.
1) To be reverential
How can I communicate that I value people, that I place value on their safety, autonomy and health.
2) To be responsive
How can I react to the signals someone is giving me about their boundaries and needs, and look to self correct when I exceed or cross them.
3) To be proactive
How can I invest in understanding someone else’s needs and experiences, taking initiative.
4) To be introspective
How can I grow my interest and ability to reflect on my thinking, feelings, experiences and actions, and to seek to use this information.
5) To be visible
How can I draw attention to my values, missteps, and commitments so they are known clearly and transparently.
6) To be teachable
How can I foster a desire to receive information with an open mind, distilling my resistance so that I can work through it.
7) To integrate new lessons
How can I build in my experiences and knowledge through practice and additional skill building. How can I focus on continuing to engage and refine my understandings.
8) To be gracious
How can I avoid shutting down or getting defensive when someone shares feedback with me, so that I can listen and reflect honestly.
9) To center the practical
How can I be bringing my values into my day to day behaviors through my various relationships.
10) To mean it
How can I cultivate sincerity and personal investment for wanting to increase my perception of myself, and related impacts.
The most loving and vulnerable words we could learn to say to each other would be this simple and short.
I am accountable to you.
I am learning every day how to mean that more.
Sincerely, and constantly.
I take your experiences seriously.
I care about your well-being.
I care how I impact you.
I care how I respond to you.
I hope we can partner in this.