There’s a big difference between accountability and responsibility. We recommend accountability as the more conscious, wise, loving, and effective process for individuals and groups to grow, learn, and evolve.
Accountability is a non-judgmental and non-biased process of assessment, evaluation, and reflection and can lead to gaining awareness, clarity, and understanding. It is productive because it leads to learning information in an objective manner that is not emotionally triggered which therefore supports positive, constructive choices, evolution, and refinement. For example, think about how an accountant goes through the books and takes account of the numbers. That’s a process of accountability, not responsibility. Ideally, the accountant doesn’t judge the numbers, say they’re bad or wrong, and blame and punish themselves or others for the state of things. As a result, the accountant can optimally assess the situation, have clarity and awareness about the status of the business, clearly see potential positive steps, and make optimal choices for moving forward constructively.
When self-reflecting or apologizing, many people often take responsibility instead of accountability, even though accountability is actually more useful, loving, and constructive.
An accountable apology says, “Hey, I recognize that I felt this based on these interpretations that I made, and then I did that. I realize that it affected you in this way. It was not my conscious intention to affect you in this way – I’m really sorry.” This apology is very constructive. It shows
- self-awareness of your internal process that contributed to the painful situation
- vulnerability by sharing that internal process accurately, objectively, and without bias
- sensitivity and caring by recognizing the other person’s pain
- humility and accountability by recognizing that your feelings and actions were based on your own interpretations, not caused by the other person or some external situation
On the other hand, responsibility says, “I was wrong, I was a bad person, I deserve to be judged, blamed, and punished for what I did, it was my fault”. As we hope you can see, accountability is about non-judgmental learning, mutual understanding, evolution and growth, while responsibility keeps you in the judgment cycle which is about judgment, blame, and punishment which doesn’t lead to learning.