Sunday, August 22, 2010

The unwisdom of taking responsibility for others' behaviour

As mentioned recently, here is the post on unwisdom of taking on responsibility for other people's behaviour.

Do you take on responsibility for others' behaviour? You probably think you don't, but I invite you to think again.

Have you ever:
  • apologised for someone else's behaviour or circumstances? e.g. I'm sorry about my parent/child/partners ill temper, she's rather tired today.
  • apologised to someone for something they did? e.g. a person in a crowd steps on your foot, and you apologise to them as a reflexive action?
  • felt guilty when a loved one fails at something and wondered what you could have done differently?
If so, you may be taking responsibility for their behaviour, and this never ends well.

It is profoundly disrespectful of the other person, as it reduces them to an object. It doesn't feel that way, it feels loving and supportive, which is what is so insidious and difficult to notice in yourself.

We each have sufficient challenge in managing our own behaviour. If we try to control or manage others' we take the focus off where we have real power and authority, and misapply it. Misapplied care and concern and responsibility becomes manipulative (or is seen so) which robs it of its power.

It's like when you're on an aeroplane, and they tell you to fit your own gas mask first, before helping others to fit theirs.In a plane, you wouldn't try to help someone adult and capable to fit a mask because they would (rightly) see it as officious and unhelpful and invasive.

This is post 4 of 365 posts in 365 days. (1% of the way!)

1 comment:

Quatrefoil said...

Hmmm. I tend to think that saying sorry when someone's accidentally trodden on my foot is about saying sorry for being accidentally in the space that they obviously thought was theirs. It's not really an acknowledgement of guilt, just an 'oops', which generally happens at the same time they're saying sorry as well.