09/25/2013 03:33 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2013

How to Hold Others Accountable? Don't Bother

"Holding people accountable," an oft-used statement I've heard many times in the past. My work as a coach isn't about holding others accountable. It's holding ourselves accountable and what we say okay to when it comes to others.

In reality, how is it our job to hold others accountable? Meaning, what exactly do we do to enforce it, when we speak that statement?

Punish them for not coming through, by yelling, the silent treatment, ignoring them, complaining... taking one of their toys away? What exactly are we doing by being their parent or punisher?

Many of us think if we speak words of personal conviction it actually means something to the other person. It might for a minute or two, but when we continue to act in ways, which contradict or don't support our own words, the other person thinks we don't mean it.

I'm not talking about threats and following through on them (that's what I call controlling manipulation). I am talking about our making statements about how we need something or how we feel... if our own actions don't honor our words, how can we expect anyone else to?

If we ask our mate to do something or show up in a certain way and they don't, what can we do?

It helps to first gain some clarity. If our mate disappointed us by not following through on something they agreed to, then we need to discuss it with them. We need to listen to what they want to tell us (not what we want to hear, but what they want to say), and then we need to accept it.

At that point, we need to honestly state our truth without beating them up. We share from the focus on exactly how we feel now, not the other 32 times they let us down by not cleaning the litter box. Some people will not want to hear our words. Some may try to tell us our feelings are not valid (and right there is a great place to insert, "I'm sorry you feel that way, but I feel how I feel.") And others may apologize, but yet take no action or make false promises.

If there is true understanding and desire to have the relationship remain healthy, then it is can't be pushed under the rug. There is always an impact on the relationship when disappointment has happened... and it is an opportunity for two people to work together or it can push them further apart.

Communicating all the time, so everyone is clear is great, but again, let's say we have a conversation about being disappointed and our partner continues to let us down, what do we do if we don't punish him or her?

We ask ourselves how we feel. Many of us have a sore feeling of lack, which is why we hold our mates accountable. They need to show us we're worthy and when they don't come through, for many of us it is an indictment to our level of self-worth. Our mate has once again proven how unlovable we are when we stand in lack.

When we gain some clarity, we can ask ourselves deeper questions. Are our needs met in other ways? Is this a significant incident in the overall treatment we receive in the relationship -- is it the standard operating system of our partner to not respect us? Do we feel we're swallowing our honor or our value?

Then we turn the questions inward on ourselves and ask, "Are we meeting our own needs? How do we treat ourselves? Are we respecting our own boundaries? Are we saying what we mean and backing it with action?"

If we're remiss in how we treat us, so are others. We must practice self-care, love and respect. In self-care, we shift the control of ourselves from waiting or wanting someone else to fulfill us, to making sure we are honoring ourselves. We must begin with self-acceptance, which includes where we may judge ourselves harshly too. Often, those who have a huge inner-critic also are home to a badass judge who perceives others with a heavy gavel.

Self-care doesn't mean we do everything on our own. It just means that we're willing to do what we need to make sure we're taken care of and that includes having boundaries for how we want to be treated.

It always comes back to us when we're talking about accountability. If we're serious about a relationship, we need to be clear on those boundaries and what it means to uphold them.

And if we're not treated appropriately by others and we're treating ourselves with respect and love, then it is probably time to re-evaluate our expectations of what the relationship is giving to us. Settling when we really love ourselves is not an option, it's when we don't really love ourselves that we want to hold everything outside of us accountable for that lack.

In conclusion, speak up with love, look within our thoughts and feelings to get clear follow through with action to back up our words, thoughts and feelings.