I’m a big fan of taking responsibility and personal accountability. I think being accountable is easier than passing the buck. When I’m accountable, I have more power and control. When someone else is accountable, I have neither. But there’s a difference between being accountable and apologizing for yourself.
Last week I vowed to stop saying, “I’m sorry.” And yet, the next words out of my mouth were apologetic. Apologizing for oneself is so natural, it’s pervasive, aka, a hard habit to break.
Below are a few strategies for being accountable but not apologetic:
Establish clear priorities and boundaries. Having clearly established boundaries makes decision making easy.
Only commit to things you know you will do. For personal situations, only commit to things you genuinely want to do.
Tell the truth. If you don’t plan to do something, say so, without apology. “Thank you but no” has a lot of power.
Know your limits and what you need to be healthy and functioning at an optimum level. If you need eight hours of sleep, structure your life to get it. If you need weekends focused on your family, do that. Taking care of yourself enables you to take care of others.
Renegotiate when you need to. If you realize something you agreed to isn’t feasible or in your best interest, renegotiate versus suffer through it. Or, keep your commitment, but don’t agree again the next time a similar opportunity or request comes around.
Be careful where you invest your energy. I love my family and friends, and they will never get a printed party invitation or holiday card from me. I want to do both; I really do. But just thinking about collecting addresses puts me over the edge.
Give yourself a break. You’re doing the best you can. You’re a human like everyone else. We’re all doing the best we can.
Being accountable isn’t being perfect, it’s being human. Be yourself. Take care of yourself. And do your best, unapologetically.
You open an email (or a few hundred) telling yourself you’ll reply later, but never do. Feeling ambitious, you agree to a deadline you can’t meet. Needing a break, you take time off over the holidays but don’t put an out-of-office message on your email.
We’ve all taken too long to reply to an email, missed a deadline, or simply taken too long to provide someone with information. It’s ok to take time to respond, to not have all the answers, and to take time off. We simply need to provide a timely and accurate status update.
When people don’t hear back from us in what they consider a timely way, they start to wonder (at best), and judge us (worse), or tell others we’re non-responsive and unreliable (worst). Don’t make people wonder if you received their message, send a timely status update and tell the truth.
If you’re behind and need more time than usual to respond to emails, tell people that. Respond to each email within 24-hours and tell the person you received their message and it will be (fill in the blank) a week or two before they hear back from you. When you get an email that requires research, respond within 24-hours and tell the person it will take however long it will really take to find the information. If you’re out of the office and don’t plan to read or respond to emails, tell people the dates you’re out.
In the absence of knowledge people make stuff up. And it’s never good. Filling in the blanks isn’t malicious. People simply have a need to know what’s happening. And when we don’t know, we invent stuff. It’s how the brain works. When we don’t hear back from people in what we consider a timely way, we start to wonder. “Did she get my message? I haven’t heard back. She must not like me. Maybe she’s out of the office? Maybe she doesn’t work here anymore?”
It’s ok to need time to respond. It’s ok to be running behind. It’s ok to take time off. Simply let people know the true status. Manage your reputation and business relationships. Don’t make people guess.
“If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at
all.” Most of us grew up hearing these words. Last week I used them with my
four-year-old son, and instantly regretted it. He said something hurtful to me
and I told him to keep those thoughts to himself.
I want him to keep his thoughts to himself if he doesn’t
like a kid at school or doesn’t want to play with someone. Walk away, find
another place to play, is often my guidance. But with me? With me I want him to
be honest, always, even if it hurts.
Every time we talk with people, we train them how to
interact with us. If I tell my son not to tell me the truth, I teach him to
protect my emotions and stifle his. I teach him I’m not strong enough to handle
the truth and that I’m someone who needs protecting. I teach him that he can’t
be honest with me.
Do I want him to be a kind, empathetic person? Yes. Do I
want him to measure himself with others, watching what he says and how he says
it? Yes. Do I want him to do those things with me? No. I’m the mom. He’s the
kid. And that will always be the case, even when he’s 45. I can take whatever
he has to say. And if I want to have a real relationship with him, he needs to
Every time we react to what others say, we train them how to
interact with us. If you want your coworkers, boss, family and friends to be
honest with you, make it easy to tell you the truth. Take in what others say
without visibly reacting. Say “thank you” for whatever feedback and input you
get, even when you want to say everything but. Take the time to ‘get over’ hard
messages and then discuss further, when you’re not angry.
People learn quickly. If we react to suggestions, input, and
feedback negatively, people learn that we can’t take challenging data and they
stop giving it to us. I don’t want to be the person the people I care about are
afraid to talk with because my reaction is just too hard to deal with.
Should you care about everyone’s feedback? No. Should you
ask everyone for feedback? No. Should you be open to everyone’s feedback? No.
Be open to feedback from the people who matter most to you. Open your heart and
your mind. Close your mouth. Even when you want to do everything but.
Strengthen your relationships and train people that you can handle the truth.
Note: I know this blog is not what my weekly tip said it
would be about. I write the weekly tips before the blog and this blog just went
a different direction. Everything I write is inspiration driven. I’ll write
about the courage to speak up in a future week.
It’s the season of gift giving, and you’re bound to get something you don’t like or won’t use. The question is, what to do with gifts you don’t want? What is the proper gift etiquette?
Do you tell your friends and family, and graciously exchange the gift for something else. Or do you suck it up and use it? Or do you hide the gift, bringing it out when the gift giver visits? Or do you re-gift to someone who might enjoy it more, or someone you simply don’t like? It’s good to have so many options.
In my family, my parents ask what I want and then tell me that no, they are not buying me that. Then they buy me whatever they want to. When I don’t like it, they tell me I’m hard to buy for. I’m assuming your family is less crazy.
In your perfect world perhaps your friends and family ask you want you want (ala Santa) and get you what you want. In my perfect world you make agreements when giving gifts that it’s ok (or not ok) to exchange the gift for something else. Either way is ok, but set the expectation in advance so you don’t insult anyone or hurt his feelings.
If you read my blog regularly or read my book, you know I’m all about setting expectations before challenges occur. It’s so much easier to ask for what you want than correct a violated expectation.
Gift Etiquette Advice:
Telling your mom, “Thank you in advance for whatever you buy me for the holiday. You really don’t have to get me anything. But if you do, and I don’t like it, how do you want me to handle it?” is a nice way to prevent hurting your mom’s feelings.
Or having a discussion as a family that sounds something like, “Let’s make a deal. We want everyone to enjoy the gifts they get. If anyone gets something they don’t like, they have permission to tell the person and ask to exchange it. No hurt feelings.”
You know your family better than anyone. If admitting you don’t like a gift will be insulting or land you on the receive-no-gift for life list, hold your tongue and re-gift, or wear the reindeer sweater. Pick your battles. And if you can return gifts on the sly, without having to tell anyone, all the better.
Either way, enjoy your time with family and friends. Eat too much food. Watch bad tv. And have a wonderful holiday! I’ll look forward to seeing you in 2013.
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