I was speaking with someone recently and they were telling me about a situation where there was a misunderstanding and hurt feelings. As we discussed it, the person looked at aspects where they could take responsibility and at one point appeared to take responsibility for the entire experience.

My first thought at that moment was – “it’s not that simple”.

Yes, as the events played out, there were times when this person was responsible for aspects of the interactions. However, in any exchange that involves more than one person, there are lines of responsibility where each party plays a role in the outcome.

Here are some nuances I heard within the experience, along with a learning opportunity each can present:

  • Lack of clarity in a text – If you aren’t fully clear, it is a great opportunity to ask questions
  • Hidden motivation – When you have a secret motivation, it blocks true communications.
  • Absence of clear expectations – When expectations are unclear, we can begin to “mind read” and make assumptions.
  • Shoulding – When you look back and think “if I had done that”, you are shoulding on yourself
  • Hurt feelings – It is important to consider another person’s feelings; however, each person has a different emotional response, and that is their responsibility to manage.

The bullet points above represent a subset of the nuances and layers within the situation. Within those layers, are opportunities to look at how we take ownership for our interactions and the influence our actions have on others.

The conversation itself was a good reminder that when it comes to taking ownership and responsibility within a situation, we need to be conscious of what part belongs to us, and what part belongs to another person – where we draw the lines of responsibility.

Each experience can bring an opportunity for learning, ownership, and acceptance – if all the parties involved are willing to go deeper to examine their part. Yet, some individuals prefer to deflect and blame rather than take ownership for their role. There are others who are overly responsible, blaming and criticizing themselves even in situations where they have no ownership.

Where would you place yourself on the continuum of responsibility?  I’ve included some questions from a previous blog (https://systemsofchange.com/relationship-lines-boundaries-of-responsibility/) about the lines of responsibility to start your self-reflection.

  • Can you recall times in your life where someone took an action that created a strong reaction in you? When this happens, do you take responsibility for how you react or blame the other person?
  • Do you see situations in which a person responds in a way that you find surprising and you try to understand further or let it go?
  • When someone asks you to do something you know that they could easily do, do you return responsibility back to them or take on more yourself?
  • Are you comfortable owning what is your responsibility or do you tend to find creative ways to deflect and blame everyone else?

Playing the victim, deflecting blame, or taking on ownership for what doesn’t belong to you are all signs that the relationship lines of responsibility in your life are in need of some adjustment. A great opportunity to look at this further is through the Meeting the Shadow program which I will be offering again starting on March 14, 2023.

© 2023, Systems of Change, LCC