Personal Responsibility is like a tennis game
We spend so much time worrying about how other people react to things that we do and say, and the more we worry about how other people will react, the more anxious we become. The truth is that we are really only responsible for our own actions. We can’t be responsible for what we say and do as well as how others react to what we say and do. Yet despite this knowledge, many of us worry endlessly about how to behave in order to please and placate others.
Think of personal responsibility the same way as you would imagine a tennis game. When you serve that ball to your opponent, you are responsible for how you serve that ball. You could hit it extra hard (aggressive) or you could hit it really softly (passive) or you could hit it with just the right speed and in the right direction (assertive). A tennis player does not worry about how the player will hit the ball back-all they are concerned about is how they are hitting the ball to their opponent.
Communication can work in the same way. You choose how to communicate with other people (in an aggressive, passive or assertive manner) but you are not responsible for how the other person reacts to what you have said or done. Of course, it is common sense that if you are rude and obnoxious you are more likely to receive an unfavourable response but it is still the other person’s responsibility as to how they react to you.
I use the tennis analogy with my clients as I think it is a good way to illustrate where our personal responsibility begins and ends. Some of my clients admit to hypothetically spending ages worrying about how to ‘serve the ball’ (what to say or do) to the other person so as not to anger them or upset them in any way. Ultimately this leads to unnecessary worrying over something that they really have no control over. When we understand the boundaries of our personal responsibility it leaves us more time to focus on what we can control-our own behaviour. It also deflects responsibility away from how other people perceive things.
So the moral of the story is: be impeccable with your word and behave in a way that you feel proud of. There will be those that agree with you and there will be those that disagree with you. No matter who you are or what you try to be you will never be able to please everyone. Be yourself, accept responsibility for your own actions and be considerate of others.