Accountability … If It Is To Be, It’s Up To Me!


LIFE IS NEVER a long straight, smooth road, rather we face bumps, pot holes, curves, hills, and valleys. In the end, it how we deal with those obstacles that really matters, that really measures our mettle and ability to deal effectively with our lives. In order to have the strength to face those daily challenges, we need to adopt an attitude of positivity. Every day you have a choice, you can choose to have a good day or you can choose to have a bad day….it is your choice. Whichever choice you make, that will be the sort of day you experience, it is definitely up to you.

Some people go into “victim mode” as soon as a problem occurs. In fact that is actually a pretty normal reaction to a bad situation. Those that recover quickly and go automatically into problem solving mode tend to have more success in their lives.

Now, when we face a problem we only have 3 choices in resolving it…..

  1. Take an action
  2. Change our perception of the situation (manage your attitude)
  3. Leave the situation.

All three of those options are rather difficult to do, however, those are all you have so you must begin. When the problem occurs, you first need to ask yourself two questions:

  1. How did I contribute to this issue?
  2. What can I do now?

If you wake up in the morning, hop into the shower, and only have cold water… know what to do: call a plumber and have him fix the mess. If you hear a funny noise in your car, you know what to do…..take it to your mechanic. If your pet is sick, you know what to do…..take it to your vet.   However, when someone disrespects you and makes you uncomfortable, many of you are reluctant to take the appropriate action……have a “difficult conversation” with that person to let them know you were unhappy with what they did or said to you. The reason you need to do this is because most people are not mind readers and may not realize how their actions affected you unless you tell them. Now, in the telling, you are “criticizing” them so they may not receive this conversation in a very positive way, which means that you must expect the possibility of an unpleasant reaction from them.

As long as you stay honest, respectful, and calm, you can take back control and even if they do not comply with your wishes, you will feel better just for trying. In addition, having this conversation only once, may not solve the issue, so you also need to be prepared to do this two or three times. Even then, you may not get them to alter their behavior as per your request. Nonetheless you will still feel better and more in control.

If you do not address the issue, you will get the behavior that you tolerate. In other words, if you do not tell the person how they made you feel, they will think that what they did is just fine and will continue to treat you in that disrespectful or uncomfortable manner.

If after trying to discuss this several times, the person still refuses to agree to your suggestion, you must realize that you cannot make people do something they truly do not want to do, and then move on to option number 2: change your perception of the situation and manage your attitude.

Here is a story to illustrate the Take an Action Option:

We all have airport stories and here is mine.

Several years ago, I attended a training course in Toronto and then went to visit a friend in London before flying back to Vancouver. The evening I was to return home, she took me to the airport and dropped me off so that I could catch my 7:00p.m. flight.

When I got to the check-in counter, I discovered, sadly, that my flight was cancelled due to damage to the undercarriage of the plane. The woman in front of me was on the same flight and she was screaming at the Air Canada agent as if it were her fault that the plane was damaged and that there were no other flights until 11:30 that night.

When it was my turn to check-in, I told her that I was on the same flight. She looked upset and appeared to be readying herself for another onslaught of emotions raised against her. Instead I took a different approach and told her I understood her position and asked if she could help me in the following ways:

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  1. Could she give me a pass for the executive lounge as I now had five hours to wait for my flight and being able to spend it in comfort and quiet would certainly be preferable to the alternative.
  2. Would it be possible to give me a row of seats in the middle section (all to myself) so that I could flip up the arm rests and lie down for this red-eye?


Because I did not yell at her, she was most helpful and granted both my requests. This way, when I got up into the executive lounge, I was able to call home and let my family know about my “demise” so that alternate pick up arrangements could be made.

That was taking an action!

In truth, I had contributed to my situation as I had not checked the flight status before leaving for the airport and because this was before we all had cell phones, could not contact my friend to come back and get me. She was on her way into Toronto to have dinner somewhere with her mother. At least I could get something to eat, watch TV, and relax while waiting to get on my flight home.

Applying option 2 requires some creativity as you are trying to make this unpleasant situation palatable for you so that you are not continually getting a “stomach ache” over it. This means you have to invent a scenario that allows you to deal with it using humor or a diversion.

Here is my Manage your Attitude Story……

Are you the oldest in your family? Is the youngest a sister or brother and the only one of that gender in your family? Well in mine, that is the situation, I am the oldest of three and the youngest is the boy……he grew up with three mothers….his biological mother and his two older sisters, who did pretty much everything for him. We taught him to believe that he was the most important person and that he did not need to take responsibility for much of anything. We protected him and took care of whatever was needed: birthdays, RSVP’s, presents, etc., etc. This carried on into adulthood, was then continued as now it was expected.

[bctt tweet=”Remember….. You get the behaviour you tolerate.” username=”bizmastersglobal”]

Once again, however, I contributed to the development of this behaviour by perpetuating the coddling.

By a cruel twist of fate, I ended up working for him, he is a dentist and I was a dental hygienist! Now I had to try and separate our professional relationship from our familial one, or I might “kill” him at the office one day!

I had to devise a strategy that allowed me to let go of the unimportant issues, pick my battles, and deal with him without having so many “stomach aches” because, in all fairness, he did not likely realize he made me so crazy!!

Here is what I did: First of all, I lowered the expectation bar on to the floor as my brother does not view the world as I do and that is not going to change any time soon. As long as I expect him to react to issues as I do, I will continue to be disappointed and resentful. Next, I decided to choose my battles. By selecting the most important issues to deal with I eliminated most of the problems before they arose. And when one was chosen, I then pretended to be him so that I could get his likely perspective on the issue. Then I tried to predict what he would do.

Of course this would not likely be the way I would react, but if I could correctly predict his behaviour, I would “win” and besides, it made the situation funny instead of annoying and aggravating. In the end, I got so good at predicting what he would do that I would “win” about 95-98% of the time. He of course had no idea what I was doing. I will not tell you that I never get mad at him anymore, but honestly it is rare. Mostly I just find him benignly amusing, so no more stomach aches!

Finally, if the previous two options have been tried and are not working for you, the only other options is to Leave the Situation and save yourself! This is true in a relationship, a friendship, or a job situation.

Here is my example story for this approach…..

I worked in an office with a difficult boss for a few years. I tried taking an action several times to address his rude and unprofessional behaviour at work, however that only worked for a very short period of time or sometimes, not at all.

Next, I tried to come up with a workable strategy to deflect the behaviour outcomes and not let them bother me so much. That really did not work at all, as he continually repeated his anger directed behaviours at all of us no matter what we did.

Finally, as things got even worse, I actually consulted a labour lawyer and he urged me to quit, immediately. Although it was very hard to leave a practice that I had associated with for a very long time and where I felt loyal to the clients, I did it! I instantly felt relief.

Sometimes you just have to save yourself!

As I mentioned, when facing problems you have only three options to become accountable, stuff happens, it is what you do about that stuff that really matters. None of those three choices are easy.   They are all actually pretty hard to do, however, if you are to have a happy life, you do need to solve those difficulties and take back control!!

Remember, no one else is going to take care of your problems, you must do it for yourself, so exercise those options and enjoy a happy, positive, creative, and successful life!


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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  1. Thank You Sandy, for this wonderful narration related to accountability. We all have our own experiences in life. Some of them go on to dictate our own lifestyle while others find their place in the ‘not-worth-a-care’ bin (or walking away from, as you put it.)

    In my own experience, we all have a certain degree of tolerance that varies from situation to situation. However, we also carry within us the rebel waiting to come out with a vengeance and sette the scores.

    Our intellect helps us differentiate between the possible outcomes of the two opposite approaches that of calm and poise on the one hand and aggressive response on the other.

    How we hold others accountable for their acts, deeds, thoughts and verbiage reflects on our own control of our wisdom. Patience may be a virtue but a good doctor never shies away from giving the bitter pill to cure an ailment.

    Warm Regards

    • Hi Bharat,
      Excellent analysis of Accountability. It is hard for humans to stay calm, measured and respectful in difficult situations which is why I caution that one must prepare before embarking upon such an exchange. Sadly, it seems that few people today seem to use their common sense and emotional intelligence any more, rather they just react and so rarely get what they want. By the same token, not addressing those issues does not make them go away and one has to decide that if they want to be happy, they need to take back control in an honest and respectful manner….not easy to do!
      Thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom on this very important topic….I can see you and I are going to find that we have lots in common!

    • Hi Larry, So glad you found the information beneficial. Yes, sometimes, after we have tried everything we can think of and nothing seems to work, it is necessary to just leave the situation. Again, all 3 of the accountability options are difficult to do, however, that is all we have and if we have exercised the first two to no avail, we just have to pick ourselves up and move on. Personally I had to do that with one job I had….it was not easy, but I did honestly feel much better once I finally did it! I wish you success in your personal & professional endeavours.

  2. Sandy, what an article with perfect insight into taking back control of what happens to us or how we handle what happens to us. I agree that we have to make up our minds to find joy in our circumstances (be positive) because it sure isn’t going to come find us. One key to deciding for ourselves how we react to treatment is to first realize that “most people are not mind readers and may not realize how their actions affected you ” That is so true and if everyone would check in with the offender before assuming behavior was intentional, the world would have a lot less grudge carriers running around wild. OK – maybe not running and maybe not wild – but I am completely blown away by people who take offense and it becomes a fence against their relationships for years. I, too, came from a very difficult work situation and while it took me 8 years to decide all the positivity in the world wasn’t going to change anything, the experiences made me a lot more compassionate and understanding of people who are targeted for bullying.

    • Great summary, Jane, glad you pulled yourself away from the difficult situation….as I mentioned, none of those options are easy but they are the only ones we have so we have to have a little chat with ourselves and then move forward.
      I am delighted you enjoyed the article, hope you are having a great weekend!