“We can be just as free as we are responsible.”
— Fred Rogers, The Cosmic Shed
These are not just words of wisdom to speak by, they are a practice to learn how to live by. The next step in learning the dance of Collabortive Relationships, we feature:
Accepting personal & social responsibility.
We know the “blame game” all too well: “you did this… you did that…you started it.” We spiral down into a hole of tit-for-tat exchange. Truth be told—this is verbal abuse and this is how many are communicating through conflict with each other. We are hitting, smacking, kicking, and beating each other down with our words. This is why we feel so hurt when we walk away from arguments that are based on a reactionary social model. I call it verbal violence.
I remember when I realized my responsibility in participating in verbally abusive interactions, even if I didn’t intend to, or was unaware. I found myself in screaming matches with my partner at the time and one accusation led to another. All the while, I was a self-acclaimed peace activist. Something wasn’t adding up. If I wasn’t finding a way to resolve a conflict peacefully with someone so intimate, I couldn’t claim to be a peace advocate. I went searching for answers.
Non-Violent Communication (NVC) developed by Marshall Rosenberg has shined the light on our socialized communication tactics that we (often unconsciously) use with each other. Culturally, through media, social norms, and relationship examples around us, we are constantly witnessing unhealthy communication styles rooted in reaction and violence. NVC was a wake up call to accepting my responsibility with how I interacted with my partner. It was hard to face the truth of how my intention (peacefulness) didn’t line up with my behavior (unhealthy communication). As an activist for peace, I was actually doing so much to help the “other side” so to speak—literally. I would be a phony if I didn’t pay tribute to Rosenberg’s NVC work and how it has contributed to my own education in unlearning a violent communication style (which is a constant work in progress).
In my own work, I found that the violence perpetuated by our cultural communication model exists due to the inability to accept personal responsibility i.e. the unwillingness to admit to a weakness, confront a truth, or apologize for one’s actions. I have found that when people accept personal responsibility, it
» removes the roles of a villain vs. victim dynamic.
» allows us to be truly honest with ourselves and speak from that place.
» builds trustworthiness and integrity.
» strengthens our vulnerability muscle.
» engages conscious participation in the creation of our lives.
» opens the doors to thinking about creative solutions, rather than re-living destructive problems.
» invites people to be accountable in the creation of a situation or conflict.
» creates openness to hear, respect, and understand one another.
» engages learning how to navigate healthy conflict.
» creates a feeling of deeper connection and being known unto each other.
When we admit to our personal responsibility in interactions and find resolve by doing so, we are taken out of the confines and cages that blame, dishonesty, verbal violence, assumption, and unconsciousness create. We stand strong in owning-up to who we are with grace. We speak our personal truths. We claim our self-respect. We expand our ability to understand. But most importantly, we open-up and we let each other in. Responsibility is part of how we find the freedom to love and be loved as we truly are.