I recently worked on a presentation with Betsy Hostetler (HostetlerConsulting.com) entitled Creating Relationship Awareness Through a Systemic Lens. As we worked together, it was interesting to see how we were able to combine our different personalities and unique approaches to ultimately create a synergistic outcome.

It also made me think of how in a relationship, there are lines that serve as guide posts including boundaries, compromises, co-creation and more.

This concept was further highlighted as I facilitated Meeting the Shadow where one topic of conversation focuses on taking responsibility for fundamental aspects of our lives – actions, thoughts, and reactions. When we work on the concept of responsibility in this program, we discuss common relationship dynamics such as when someone takes too little responsibility and deflects and blames others. At the same time, we also discuss situations in which people take responsibility for actions and thoughts that don’t belong to them. This includes making sure the other person is okay before ensuring that we are, and people pleasing.

Personally, I recently experienced two situations that highlighted relationship lines related to taking responsibility.

I recently sent an email campaign about an upcoming event and there was an error found in the content (error was my responsibility). I contacted my virtual assistant and asked her to send an update with oops in the subject line to get recipients’ attention (decision was my responsibility). While I do my best to limit emails to once a week, in this instance it meant two were being sent close together. After the oops email was sent, I received a direct response from someone on my email list. It included three brief phrases in the space of one sentence – a strong request, a name label, and what could be called a mild threat (the choice of words was their responsibility). When considering relationship lines of responsibility in this case, I first took a mental step back and then explored how to manage my response.

My first reaction to the email was astonishment. While I hadn’t spoken with this person for years, my recollection of interactions with them didn’t match the tone of their email. My second reaction was one of bewilderment. This individual had signed up for my mailing list (either by downloading a freebie, signing up for an event, or registering for my newsletter), and had the option to unsubscribe at any time. But while you can’t always read intonation in an email, in this case the directive was clear and I removed them from my email list. I took responsibility for something the other person either didn’t want to do or know how to do. After the resolution was complete, I mentioned it to someone for another perspective and they too were surprised that the person hadn’t simply unsubscribed.

The next morning, my husband broke a glass while unloading the dishwasher. It was fun to watch all the ways that he deflected responsibility including blaming me, the cabinet, the cat, and more. The experience was a perfect way to highlight relationship lines of responsibility – with a much lighter tone.

  • 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. If this resonates for you, please sign up for the waitlist. I will be offering it again in the early part of 2023.

© 2022, Systems of Change, LLC