You’ve probably had a friend or two show up late and never acknowledge their lateness. It’s frustrating, but few people have developed the habit of accountability. Most people grow up in fear of doing something wrong and avoid drawing attention to their mistakes. They hope nobody else will point out their mistakes, either.
Nobody wants to feel bad, but avoiding accountability erodes the trust in a relationship. People who avoid being responsible are generally unreliable. If you let people get away with broken promises, they’ll take advantage of you.
Accountability is for all promises no matter how small
A promise is anything you say you’ll do, including an agreement to meet someone for dinner at a certain time. Someone who says they’ll do something but doesn’t follow through has broken a promise. When someone won’t acknowledge a broken promise that affects you, it’s your duty to hold them to account.
Ignoring a broken promise gives the other person the impression that you don’t expect them to be their word. Holding someone to account keeps your relationship with them (and yourself) healthy. Here’s why:
- You’ll avoid drama and stress (most of the time)
Holding someone to account for breaking their word avoids explosive, dramatic situations. There might be some drama in the moment, but you won’t have a chance to collect injustices until you explode. Making someone aware of a broken promise in the moment ensures you won’t have to de-stress from the situation later on.
Holding another person to account also avoids petty arguments by resolving the situation in the moment. For example, phrases like, “you always do X” and “you never do Y” usually come from a series of unresolved broken promises. These phrases seem to pop up at random times at the slightest irritation.
Mutual accountability agreements are powerful
The best way to avoid drama and stress all together is to create an agreement for mutual accountability between you and your friends. When everyone in your group agrees to hold each other to account and be accountable, resolution is the natural outcome. For example, with an agreement in place, when someone is late, they’ll acknowledge their tardiness without projecting fear and getting shamed by the group. If they don’t acknowledge it, the group can gently remind them.
When holding each other to account is mutually agreed on practice, people will be less likely to react to being called out in a dramatic way.
As a side note, when you meet new people, be aware that not making excuses is one of many signs of accountability. Notice the way people interact with you. When they reschedule or cancel, do they always have a long story to go with it? People who don’t elaborate are usually the most reliable. If they’re late, they’re late.
- People need to a reason to be responsible
Some people won’t be accountable for their actions unless they’re called out and forced to account for the damage they’ve caused.
This is common when someone gets injured due to another person’s negligence. Negligence is expensive, and a lack of accountability makes it worse. Check out Lipsig.com for examples of million-dollar personal injury verdicts.
- You’ll be respected if you start the relationship off right
Direct communicators are well-respected for a reason. By holding someone to account right from the start of your relationship, you will earn their respect. They’ll see you as professional and they’ll know you value your promises. Given enough time, they might start to value their promises, too.
- You won’t have a reason to feel resentful
Handling issues in the moment is the only way to prevent feelings of resent from piling up. Anything you don’t handle in the moment will fester in your mind, cause you stress, and build resentment.
- Your expectations will be made clear
Believe it or not, some people don’t know others expect them to show up on time or meet their promises. When someone borrows $20 and says they’ll pay you back in a week, you expect them to pay you back in a week. However, some people aren’t aware they’ve created an expectation and need to be reminded that their word is their bond.
By holding someone to account for their word, you’re demonstrating to them that you were paying attention to the promise they made and they created an expectation. Once someone knows you expect them to follow through, they’ll be selective with what they offer to do for you.
Keep your mind healthy
Broken promises are a disappointment. By holding people to account in the moment, you give them the opportunity to recommit to something new. If they can’t keep their word in any form, let them off the hook. It’s not worth stressing over. Just make sure you communicate and don’t let feelings of resent take root.