“I’m not connecting well with this person,” I said to a friend. “I need to get a handle on it because I can tell it is affecting how I show up and interact during meetings and in casual interactions. I am opting for less and less contact and, while I am not being rude, I am also not being particularly friendly.”

My friend listened for a while, allowing me the space to sort out what was at the root of the issue, and then spoke. “You have to talk with this person. You know that, right?”

Not the answer I wanted to hear. Yes, of course, I knew that. I train other people in situations like this. I am also human and sometimes do find myself wanting to just be ‘right’ rather than ‘responsible.’

I sighed. “Yes, I know that. I’m still resisting it though. If I stop making this about how the other person is showing up, I will have to be responsible for doing the work that is mine to do!”

My friend laughed. “Yup. That’s how it works.” I laughed too. After hearing myself speak all this out loud and working through the situation with someone equally trained in effective communication, I began shifting from resistant to responsible.

I take time to do pre-work before I reach out. What stories am I telling myself about this person? In what ways am I blaming the other person for what is not working in our relationship?

If I were to tell the whole truth about this process, I would say the pre-work is the ‘not-so-pretty’ part. It is not easy to look at all the ways that 1) I have been finding fault in someone else and 2) I have been defending, justifying, explaining my own actions. Taking a look at all of this is uncomfortable, albeit necessary.

Being responsible means being brave enough to speak with authenticity and not defend or protect oneself in the process. Being responsible means being ready to listen and receive information without taking it personally or adding new meaning to what is being said. Being responsible calls us to set aside the instinct to say, “I don’t even know what is wrong here; I’m just confused and don’t like what I’m feeling!” Instead, we do our own work until we say, “Ah, I do know what is wrong here and here’s my part in it.”

Being responsible means reaching out with a sincere openness and willingness to connect and create, free of expectation or agenda. What we can experience when we are willing to take this leap is tremendous, but it does require courage.

Like a skydiver packing a parachute, I do my pre-work. I check to see if I am really ready to engage from the place I know has the power to shift everything in this relationship. I climb into the plane, and dial the phone.