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AZG Articles
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Article 1: If the Whole World Were Accountable
Taking Ownership of your Thoughts, Emotions, Needs, and Actions (TENA)
Article 2: Responsible Communication During Conflict
Communicating in Adult Energy vs. Child Energy
Article 3: Relationship Quickie:
7 Basic Rules to Being Responsible in Your Relationships


*These articles may be downloaded and reproduced by anyone as long as they credit AZ GROWTH as follows:

© 2007-2008 by Aimee Zakrewski Clark and AZ GROWTH
Website: www.azgrowth.com Email: az@azgrowth.com


Article 1: If the Whole World Were Accountable
Taking Ownership of your Thoughts, Emotions, Needs, and Actions (TENA)

Jump to Dos and Don'ts

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” ~ Thich Nhat Than

Note to reader: For this article, I would like to interchange the act of being mindful with the act of being accountable, simply because when you are mindful you are accountable – you are present, open, and willing to acknowledge your thoughts, emotions, needs, and actions (TENA). Here we go…

Imagine what it would be like if each person were truly accountable for his or her actions and behaviors…

There would be no blaming, no “poor me” or pity parties…there would be smiles to share versus frowns because people would feel considered and respected…there would be very little ego-induced arguments, and more conflict resolution, as being “wrong” would be socially acceptable. Ahhh, feels peaceful just to write about it.

Ok, back to reality:
The fact is: we live in a country where there is a strong desire for freedom and security. In fact, many negative experiences are often a result of feeling as if that very freedom and security is being threatened. With the American way comes competition, pride, social learning, self-preservation, fear, insecurity, etc – all those normal things that make it quite challenging to create the peaceful imagery above.

This is specifically why it is important for each individual to hold themselves accountable for their actions and behaviors on a daily basis. The big question is: how does one do that?

First: Understand Yourself:

Each person's ability to take accountability is most likely based on what they have learned and know to be true about themselves, other people, and relationships. Usually this is learned as you are growing up through your primary caretakers and personal experiences.

For example: If you have learned in your childhood/adolescence to withdraw, keep your feelings inside, point, blame, deny, etc., most likely you will not be in a place to be conscious of your TENA and take accountability. (Some ways this may present itself: Avoiding conflict, playing the victim, and/or constantly pushing others away from you).

However, if you have learned in your childhood/adolescence to express your feelings, communicate, listen to others, take personal responsibility, etc., you will have a better chance of taking accountability and being mindful of yourself and others.

Take a moment to check in and assess your self. Ask, “What did I learn about taking accountability for my TENA?”

Second: Educate Yourself:

What does it mean to be accountable? Being accountable means taking sole responsibility for your thoughts, emotions, needs, and actions (the wonderful TENA). It enables you to take care of your self, and your needs, without relying on someone else's TENA in order for you to feel comfortable and happy in life.

Accountability supports you in maintaining your sense of empowerment, and self-respect. When you practice self-respect, you acknowledge and nurture your self-worth. And self-worth allows you to accept your mistakes and ultimately take accountability for them.

Overall, it means knowing that you always HAVE CHOICE - and you are able to create what you want in life on a daily basis.

Third: Take Action: How can I practice being more accountable?

Keep it simple: read the Dos and Don'ts below. Pick one to work with each week. Just like with any action or behavior, it is all about Practice and Repetition.

Five Solid “Dos and Don’ts” on How to be Accountable:

1 • One

Spend too much time blaming the other person. It is understandable after any conflict that you may need some time to blow off steam. Take some time out to vent, complain, and throw darts at the other person, but then – as soon as possible – after maybe 15-30 minutes or so…

Make the You-Turn: Always look at your part and take responsibility for it – regardless of what the other person did. The other day my husband and I had an argument. He said something that really hurt my feelings and in return I threw a piece of bread at him (It was small). Even though we both agreed what he said was hurtful, I took accountability for my part and apologized for throwing the bread.

2 • Two

DON’T: Use “victim” language. Examples: “She makes me so angry”, “He makes me feel worthless”, or “I had no choice.” All three of these represent you putting accountability for your mental and emotional health in someone else’s hands.

DO: Turn the accountability back to you. How can you take care of your anger? How can you support yourself to feel you are worthy? How can you always find a way to have choice?

3 • Three

Play the “I did this because you did that” game, or the “You made me do it” game.
This is another form of victim language. Not only does it make for a childish argument – but it completely takes away your power!

Stay in your own integrity. Regardless of another person’s actions, choose to respond in a way that you can look at your TENA at the end of the day, and feel a sense of peace inside.

4 • Four

DON’T: Avoid conflict and/or communication. DO: Communicate and Resolve.
Perhaps you learned to keep your feelings inside or avoid conflicts. Know this: lack of communication is a breeder of resentment – and resentment is a relationship killer! Even if it is scary or difficult, take accountability to resolve your conflicts, and communicate your needs (see article below on Responsible Communication).

5 • Five

DON’T: Say “whatever” or “I don’t know” to your personal issues
. Each time you say a variation of those two phrases, you move away from getting to know how to take care of your self and personal issues.

DO: Take the time to get to know your personal issues – and take care of them. The only way for you to grow is to get to know your issues, and take care of them. Anytime you avoid your challenges, you move farther away from taking accountability for your happiness. Most likely if you don’t take the time to work out your issues, the same movie will play over and over again until you do. It may be challenging – but the discomfort can be a great opportunity for you to learn and grow.

Exercise: For one week: At the end of each day look in the "mirror" and ask yourself, “How do I feel about myself today?” Write down your answer. Then brainstorm about ways that you can take accountability for your TENA.


© 2007-2008 Aimee Zakrewski Clark: Excerpts taken from Aimee Zakrewski Clark’s book entitled, “YOU” – not yet published: www.azgrowth.com

Article 2: Responsible Communication During Conflict
Staying in your Adult Energy vs. Child Energy

Jump to: Child EnergyTips to stay in Adult

One of the most challenging interactions that two people can have is trying to communicate effectively during conflict. Usually, a conflict can bring out your worst qualities: stubbornness, criticism, pride, and various other forms of antagonistic behavior. Essentially…you begin to act like children!

When this happens, look out for flying sand and jabs below the belt! Because usually, when we are in our child energy – we are not very responsible communicators and it can get down right silly (and ugly!). Undoubtedly, one or both end up feeling hurt or not listened to and the conflict goes unresolved. And when there’s lack of resolution, you can say hello to one brick placed in the Wall of Resentment. Each time a brick gets placed, the wall gets higher – and pretty soon, you just cannot see the other person anymore.

But here’s the good news: each time you resolve a conflict a brick gets removed (sometimes several bricks at once!) and you can begin to see each other again.

Normally what leads to conflict resolution is Responsible Communication. Responsible Communication goes hand in hand with taking accountability for your self and your actions. It involves having the awareness of what you are communicating, and how you are doing it. Essentially...you begin to act more like adults!

The “How” vs. The “What”

Most of the time when there is conflict, it ends up being about “how” you are communicating, versus “what” you are communicating about. This can happen when you are both in Child versus Adult energy. Have you ever watched two people have an argument? They seem to shrink as the conflict goes on and it ends up being two children arguing rather than two adults!

When you are arguing in Child Energy, there is a tendency to act more from emotions than logic. There is also a tendency to be more irrational. When you are communicating in Adult Energy, there is opportunity for logical and rational thinking, which is most effective when resolving conflict and problem solving.

Below are examples of Child Energy and how you can stay more in your Adult Energy during conflicts...


How Child Energy can show up (1): TOP
[Note from the author: There are many positive aspects of being in your Child Energy. This article focuses only on being in Child vs. Adult Energy when in conflict]

Rate yourself as you go using the following scale:

1 = Never do this behavior during conflict
2 = Rarely
3 = Sometimes
4 = Most of the time
5 = Always

____ 1. Being Critical or Irrational: Using critical or judgmental language:

Using “always” or “never”
“You never listen to me,” “I am always doing everything around the house.”, “Things are never going to change.”, or “I’m always going to be disappointed by you for the rest of my life!”

Using “Why?”, “How come?”, “You should…”
“Why did you go that way to the store? I don’t understand how come you just don’t listen to me, you really should follow my directions all of the time. Sheesh!”

____ 2. Being Contemptuous: Name-calling, eye-rolling, sarcasm, mockery:

“Whatever – you’re so stupid”, or “Oh, poor you, your life is so hard and your husband is so mean.”

____ 3. Being Defensive: Playing the “I did this because you did that game.”

This can show up in the form of blaming and/or deflection, “If you wouldn’t have raised your voice, then I wouldn’t have called you stupid!”, or going into the past, “The only reason why I called you stupid is because you called me a jerk in that fight at your parent’s house Christmas of last year!”

Nothing gets resolved, because both are too busy placing blame and deflecting the responsibility onto the other.

____ 4. Closing off and Shutting Down: Silent but Deadly (S.B.D)!

Abruptly leaving the room, giving the silent treatment, and ignoring. This has the potential to trigger any abandonment and/or rejection issues and leave a strong sense of lack of resolution. I now refer to this as the S.B.D because it is a very subtle, yet extremely debilitating form of Child energy.

Take a moment to score your self. If you scored higher than a two in any of these areas, it’s a perfect time to take some accountability. Overall, you want these types of childish interactions to happen rarely, which means you may want to practice staying in your Adult Energy when you are in conflict. Here’s how you can do just that:

Simple and logical ways to stay in your Adult Energy:

Rate yourself as you go using the following scale:

1 = Never do this behavior during conflict
2 = Rarely
3 = Sometimes
4 = Most of the time
5 = Always

____ 1. BREATHE. Slow the interaction down. Sometimes when you are upset, you tend to hold your breath. Allowing yourself to breathe will slow down your mind and help you to stay more rational and reasonable (See #7).

____ 2. Take as long as you need (2). This can mean:

a) Taking as much time and space as you need to calm down, collect your thoughts and then come back and communicate, or

b) Once you are ready to communicate, breathe while you talk, and take as long as you need to say what you want to say.

____ 3. “I” statements vs. “You” statements (2):
When you use “I” statements, you own your thoughts and feelings. When you use “you” statements – you place the responsibility onto the other person. An example:

YOU: “You never listen to me about the chores and you are hurting me over and over again!”

I: “I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed about the amount of house chores I do, and I feel hurt and not listened to when I talk about this.”

____ 4. Make Specific Requests: Ask for what you need.
Many times, the couples I see will tell their partner what is wrong and what they don’t like – and they will do so relentlessly – but they forget to say what they do like: what they want. The next step is to Make a Request – ask for what you need.

Let’s use the example above:

“I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed about the amount of house chores I do, and I feel hurt and not listened to when I talk about this. What I would like is if we could set a time to sit down, make a list of the chores, and see how we can both feel considered. Will you please do that with me?”

____ 5. Don’t convince or Fix. Relate (2). When a person expresses their feelings, there is a desire to feel heard and related to. When you convince, it leads the other person to feel discounted. Here is an example:

Partner 1 says: “I feel hurt because I thought we were going to spend some time together this morning.”

Convincing/Fixing response:
“Well, don’t – we have plenty of time to spend together for the rest of our lives!”

Relating response:
“I’m sorry you feel hurt. I misunderstood our plans and I bet that was disappointing to wait for me all morning.”

Relating versus convincing is key to a successful listening/hearing transaction. RELATE versus FIX: Sometimes a person just wants to feel listened to. This is the essential goal when we are relating. The goal is not for the person to think the way that you think or for you to find solutions to solve their problem. Relating helps your job to be much easier - rather than feeling responsible to have to fix the person, all you need to do is hold the space and listen!

____ 6. Listen with Empathy: Keep in mind, just because it does not bother you – does not mean it is not valid. “Your” way is not “The” way.

____ 7. Stay Rational and Reasonable. Children have a tendency to go into extremes and irrational thoughts when they are upset. “We NEVER have any fun!” or “You ALWAYS are too busy to play with me!” As adults, you want to stay in your rational thinking, which will allow you to stay in the present and resolve the conflict.

____ 8. Stay in the Present Conflict. Focus on the conflict at hand. It is very easy to try to deflect or defend by bringing in old fights. This just adds to the unreasonable behavior.

____ 9. Take Turns!
Too may times people end up talking over each other – wanting to make sure that their thoughts and feelings get heard. Follow #1 and then make an adult decision over who gets to go first.

And here’s the go to tip if all the above seems to go down the tubes: Always, always, always take accountability and ownership for what you have said and done. Give yourself and your partner permission to discuss anything that was particularly hurtful, and clarify, comfort, and reassure each other. This will allow you to ensure that absolutely no bricks were placed in your potential Wall of Resentment.

Take a moment to score your self. For this self-assessment, you want to score high in each area. The higher your score, the more you are able to stay in your Adult Energy during conflict. Overall, what’s needed is practice and repetition. Pick one or two to focus on and keep practicing until it becomes a natural part of your behaviors.

© 2007-2008 Aimee Zakrewski Clark: Excerpts taken from Aimee Zakrewski Clark’s book entitled, “US” – not yet published: www.azgrowth.com

(1) Gottman, John. 1994. Adapted from the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse teachings in Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last
(2 ) Dr. Barry Green’s teachings of Three Principles of Communication

Article 3: Relationship Quickie:
7 Basic Rules to Being Responsible in Your Relationships
(in no particular order)

1. Know what you want and need.
A person cannot give you what you need until you know what you need. In order to clearly state what you need, you must know what your needs are. And then…

2. Ask for what you want and need.
Contrary to how much we wish this were true: a person cannot read your mind so don’t expect them to. If there is something that you want, need, and/or desire – ask for it. Most people will not know exactly what you want and the best way to get your needs met is to directly ask for it. As long as the need is reasonable, most people will be happy to support you. And the ones that don’t, you might want to decide if that person belongs in your life.

3. Check out assumptions.
Too many times we get upset based on assumptions. Don’t feel hurt or angry based on what “might” happen or what you “assume” has happened. When you feel doubt – ask questions. Allow yourself to live in what’s factual and move as far away from making assumptions as possible.

4. Be responsible in your communication.
Expressing hurt and anger does not have to be an argument, it can happen through responsible communication. Watching what you say and how you say it. Even if the other person is being contemptuous, you have the choice in how you respond.

5. Be Empathetic. Don’t Discount.
As per Encarta’s World English Dictionary: empathy is “the ability to identify with and understand another person’s feelings or difficulties”. Honor the person’s feelings. It’s real for them, even if it’s not real for you. Even if you don’t understand it, try.

6. Your way is not “the” way. Get more acquainted with the phrase "teamwork".
As long as you are attempting to mesh your life with another person’s, life is very rarely black and white. Always consider and respect that both of you have come from different upbringings, which means different learning. This will help you to live in the gray and move from “MY” way to “OUR” way.

7. Breathe. Slow down and think about what you are doing and saying.


Keep checking out the Relationship Quickies for tips and information about all types of relationships. Next month: Relationship Killers.

© 2007-2008 Aimee Zakrewski Clark: Excerpts taken from Aimee Zakrewski Clark’s book entitled, “US” – not yet published: www.azgrowth.com


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Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist MFC43736 . Growth Oriented Healing © Aimee Zakrewski 2003 - 2010. All Rights Reserved