When my wife heard the loud, sharp ear-piercing noise, she immediately turned and said, “What was that!?”
Answering Karen literally, I responded, “A plate broke.”
The moment those words exited my mouth, I remembered what she and I teach in our Raising Accountable Kids book. An excerpt for your reading pleasure:
Here’s a quick test to see if your child is beginning to think and act accountably. We call it the “spilled milk” test. When the milk glass is lying on its side and its former contents are flowing down the table legs to the floor, does the child say, “The milk spilled!” or “I spilled the milk”? Clearly, one statement is personal accountability with a No Excuses underpinning—and the other isn’t. As you work to teach your kids the QBQ, listen to their language as it’ll tell you a lot about where they are when it comes to absorbing and practicing the message of personal accountability.
Yep, that’s what we believe parents must teach children. However, something we’ve always known is whatever kids need, adults need, too.
Like Personal Accountability. So …
Back to the plate debacle. When I said, “A plate broke,” I heard my own unaccountable utterance. Quickly, I swallowed my pride and said to Karen, “Actually, Dear, I broke a plate.”
Which I had.
Clearly, a shattered plate isn’t a big deal, except for this fact:
The moment was a strong reminder and an excellent lesson for me to use what is taught in the QBQ! book. Equally important, is discovering once again how remarkably easy it is to … “backslide.”
Being Human Is Hard
If you know the book of Genesis, you know all about Adam blaming Eve as Eve blamed that poor snake … so very long ago.
Has anything changed in our world? Not really. Blame still abounds.
Whether it’s the project at work that didn’t go well, a relational problem at home, or a pandemic affecting 180+ countries around the globe, finger-pointing, 20/20 hindsight, and recrimination are the order of the day.
It’s just what humans do—and it couldn’t be easier. Even the 1996 country song “Walkin’ Away” by Diamond Rio, shows how to do it wrong right in the first line:
Sometimes a careless word just rolls right off of my tongue
That is so like saying, “a plate broke” or “the milk spilled.” How much better would it be for me as a husband, dad, professional, and friend to say it straight:
Way too often, I speak dumb, hurtful stuff and I will stop today!
There Is Hope
The learning process for humans is comprised of several stages. The first is “Awareness.”
By reading this blog, we are now aware of the need to utter more truth. Words that are spoken straight and true such as “I did it” help both the hearer of these words and the speaker. The advantage of practicing Personal Accountability at this level is relationships are healed, problems are solved, and improvements are made—in me. The real value, though, is simply less stress, reduced anxiety, and greater joy.
And more fun. ??
Want more fun in your life? Then say, “I broke the plate.” It’s just not that complicated.
What “plate” have you broken? Who needs to hear you admit it today?
Thanks, for the good perspective.
I would have found it difficult to not say in response to the question:
Other person: “What was that!?” Me: “Gravity.”
It’s got nothing to do with accountability, I simply like to see how things unfold. This approach should not be tried if you don’t know what you are doing – or if things are tense and someone has been having a bad day. But seriously, I have no issue with how you handled the situation.
Lots of humor there, Ron. “Gravity”! Thanks!
Thanks for sharing how easy it is to avoid taking personal accountability.
Thanks also for humility in doing so.
A good friend explained that “Humility is the Cornerstone of Leadership”
Ha! Look at you quoting that QBQ! book. Thanks, Phil.
While I agree “I broke the plate” is more accountable than “the plate broke”, I feel like judging someone based on what they say in the moment is border-line unfair. Perhaps this is showing a need for improvement in my own mind, but trying to think about how I would react in that situation – the only reason I’d immediately definitively think to say “I broke the plate” vs “A plate fell and broke” would be because I’m feeling self-conscious about it or thinking someone else would be mad at me and thinking I’ll try to make an excuse for it. After the fact (maybe even a few minutes) if you don’t expand on your story claiming responsibility – then yes, I feel that’s a different story. However, in the moment, if you don’t say “I did it” – I hardly think that makes you unaccountable for the event.
Perhaps I’m misinterpreting your message – but first reading the post that was the message I took away.
Hey, Joe. Thanks for sharing. When I say, “A plate broke,” it’s like blaming some unseen forces. When I say, “I broke a plate” it’s clear personal accountability on my part. Not judging anyone here, it’s just the latter approach to speaking – and living – is best for me!