Published: November 23, 2016   Updated: November 23, 2016

In a difficult conversation or training we may have all the good intentions in the world, but how can we hold ourselves accountable to those intentions? Dr. Kathy Obear highlights some strategies for holdingĀ ourselves to our good intentions in challenging and perhaps contentious moments.

Bullet points:

  • State your intentions out loud
  • Ask for their intentions
  • Get help by holding one another accountable

Check out more of Kathy’s work on triggers, social justice, facilitation and more at


Question: How do you hold yourself accountable to your good intentions?

KO: The one tool that I use, is that I actually state my intentions. So let’s say Julie is about to go in and she makes a snide comment about the person I voted for. I say, “you know Julie I would love to have this conversation, why don’t we go for a walk? There is still 30 minutes until dinner.”

So I might take it out. And then I might say, “I want to have it in a way that is respectful to each other. So I know I’m not going to make snide comments about who you voted for, I’m not going to put you down, I’m not going to try to change you or judge you. To be honest Julie I want to understand why you voted that way because I’ll bet you when we talked more we may not be like this [totally together].” But we may find one or two things where we actually agree on and then maybe we spend a year or two together working to try to fix that, I bet we’ll find some common ground.

So if you state your intention out loud, in a way Julie, in this case, can hold you accountable to it and you’re holding yourself accountable to it?

Yep. And I’m setting the expectation that I’ll hold her to it, hopefully. And you just have me think of a new thing I hadn’t thought of before. I could say to Julie, “Well what are your hopes for our conversation? What would you like? At the end of the conversation if it felt productive and useful what would you hope would have happened?”

So I don’t have to tell her what I want, I can ask and then relate in and say, “Oh I agree I don’t want to name call, I don’t want to do sniping, I don’t want to bully. I just want to understand.”


Written by FacilitatingXYZ Team

This is the account that the FacilitatingXYZ team uses. FacXYZ is co-facilitated by Meg and Sam, and brings in expertise, knowledge, and lived experience from facilitators far and wide. Read more about us here.

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