Taking Responsibility for Business Relationships on the Rocks

We have all had stormy relationships. When we find ourselves in difficult situations at work, we have the opportunity to focus on our contribution to the problem. Forsaking responsibility in the face of a problem that is not your making may seem justifiable, but if your ship encounters a storm, you can’t very well say, “I didn’t create this storm, I don’t have to deal with it.” A good captain accepts that everything that happens during his watch is his responsibility. You are the captain of your own life. You must sail as best you can no matter how “unfair” the weather is. Of course you do not get to choose every person you have to work with, but you do have to work with them and make the best of every situation. If you are upset or you are suffering, you have the problem and the power to take steps to correct it even if you feel wronged. You contributed to bringing about your present, and you can contribute to bringing about your future.

An essential step is to change your language from third to first person, toward personal accountability. Using words like “I” and addressing specific actions that you could have taken – and that you can currently take. Examples of responsible statements are, “I should not have ignored your concern,” “I could not establish rapport with the client,” and “I can take the first step.” The specific words are not crucial, but your frame of mind is. Consider how the difference in the following expressions reflects a change in underlying attitude:

“It’s hopeless.” “I haven’t found a solution yet.”
“It’s her fault.” “We are in this problem together.”
“You make me angry.” “When you speak that way, I feel angry.”

The first sentence of every pair states, “It’s not up to me,” while the second claims, “I am making a choice.” Victimhood fosters feelings of resignation and resentment. It’s a virus that can infect every member of your team. A culture of responsibility fosters dignity, peace and joy.

If you have a relationship on the rocks or lost in the storm, consider how you can improve it. Can you raise the “white flag?” In my experience, ignoring it and hoping it will go away is not reality. It takes intention to strengthen and rebuild relationships. The rewards are worth it!

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