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  • Writer's pictureBrigitte Granger

This Is What Makes an AMAZING Accountability Partner

two friends in fitnesswear leaning against a wall post-workout

You’ve heard about the benefits of having an accountability partner to keep you motivated to work towards your goal. It’s time for you to give it a try.

The next step is finding the right person to be your accountability partner.

Naturally, you start considering the people closest to you: your spouse, friends, family, or coworkers. Or maybe you try to find someone with the same goal.

It's intuitive, but is it the best strategy? Maybe not.

In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned through

  • pairing people together during Supporti's early pilot tests

  • having had several accountability partners myself

  • our findings from asking nearly 200 people about their accountabilibuddy experiences.

What qualities make a good accountability partner?

I’ve seen partnerships where buddies support each other consistently for weeks on end, and others that don’t even make it to the starting line. I wondered why this might be.

a list of top qualities in an accountability partner, including care about your progress, trustworthiness, positive encouragement, nonjudgmental, gave good advice, dependable

We conducted a survey to find out. Of the nearly 200 people who said they used a friend, family member, or coach for motivation, I asked them which qualities were the most important.

The result? Choosing a buddy who cares about your progress was the number one quality in an accountabilibuddy, with 80% of participants rating this quality as "very important" or "extremely important". By comparison, less than 17% of people considered similarity in age or gender to be very or extremely important.

How do you know someone cares about your progress towards your goal? They show genuine interest in your goal and your progress by asking you about it. They celebrate in your wins and support you through your failures. The protégé effect has even found that people can be more motivated for someone else than they are for themselves.

Other important qualities in an accountability partner are that they are trustworthy (79.6%), give positive reinforcement (77.8%), and are nonjudgmental (66.5%). Giving of good advice (64.2%) and being dependable (48.9%) were also considered key partner traits among the people we asked.

Surprisingly, having a similar goal or similar personality to you were not considered to be very important qualities for an accountabilibuddy.

Essentially, the qualities that make a good accountability partner have more to do with a person's spirit and behavior than their surface similarities to you.

In pairing buddies together, I’ve noticed that the most engaged buddies—the ones that check in, participate, are empathetic listeners—have the most successful accountability partnerships. They achieve their goals and form a bond with their buddy in the process.

Get Supporti's Accountability Partner Worksheet, a 3 page printable for everything you need to get motivated

What this means for choosing an accountabilibuddy

Don't know someone with the same goal? It probably doesn't matter that much. It's more important to have someone with the right interest and attitude.

On the other hand, just because someone has the same goal as you, it doesn’t guarantee that they’re going to be a good buddy for you. If they need a lot of convincing to be your buddy, it’s probably going to be a rough road.

Take an honest look at your accountability partner candidates.

If you have a dear friend who flakes out on plans all the time, are they really going to remember to check in on you?

If you have a judgmental family member who can’t empathize with your challenges, are they going to give you good advice?

Let's dive deeper into the pros and cons of a partnership with someone close to you.

Choosing someone close to you as an accountability partner

The benefits of having a spouse, friend, or family member as your accountabilibuddy are:

  • You probably see or talk to each other regularly, which is helpful logistically

  • They know your strengths and blind spots, providing insightful feedback from the get-go

  • They might know what to say to inspire you

  • They may know your history with the goal, so they can recommend new things

  • Holding you accountable is a nice reason to stay in touch

  • There’s established trust between you

Be aware, though, of some of the downsides of choosing someone close to you to be your accountability partner.

I hear anecdotes all the time of someone asking their significant other to hold them accountable to their diet plan. Imagine your spouse asking you, “Are you really going to eat that cookie?” Shockingly, this doesn’t go over too well.

The downsides of asking someone close to you to be your accountabilibuddy are:

  • They go too easy on you because they don't want to hurt your feelings. As a result, you don't get the tough love you need.

  • There’s a chance feedback could be taken personally, based on your history. It could cause tension between you.

  • If they have no need to be held accountable by you in return, then they're just doing it as a favor to you. It's oddly one-sided.

  • If you live with your buddy and they notice you haven't done your task yet, it could feel like nagging.

  • Conversations can get off-topic during your check-ins (it can be tempting to catch up).

  • Maybe you’re embarrassed to be vulnerable with them about your struggles, especially if it involves them.

If you do decide to ask a friend or family member to be your accountability partner, there are a few things you can do to mitigate the risks.

Managing expectations of someone close to you

Explain your goals and why having accountability matters to you.

Be very clear about your needs. Get specific:

  • What does support look like to you? Tough love? Advice? Motivational quotes?

  • How frequently will you check in? Via phone, text, etc?

  • Do you want them to enforce consequences? How?

Set boundaries. Think through any situations that can cause discomfort for you and your accountability partner. Then, set boundaries to avoid these situations. For example, limit accountability discussions to scheduled check-in times only.

Whether or not a close friend or family member can be a good accountability partner really depends on your relationship. One respondent from our survey found success saying, “I usually tell my best friend and he would be the one to always check on me to see if I'm still doing it.” It's worth trying!

Choosing an acquaintance as an accountability partner

Alternatively, you can find someone you don’t know very well (or at all) to be your accountability partner.

This worked out well for one of our first pilot participants. We matched him randomly with a buddy and he told us, “He might not really care, but he made me believe he does, and he asked me to be honest with him and myself. [That’s] holding me more accountable for my actions than [I’ve] ever felt before.”

The benefits of working with someone you don’t already know well are:

  • You’re both less likely to take things personally because there’s no history between you

  • You’ll probably keep the conversations on track during your check-ins since the relationship is grounded in the accountability partnership

  • You can grow and learn together as your relationship grows alongside your goals (my accountabilibuddies eventually became some of my closest friends)

  • There’s enough emotional distance that you may feel more comfortable being vulnerable with them than someone who you already know

  • When you're forced to articulate your goals to someone new, you may better understand some of the challenges you’ve faced

  • Someone brand new and different from you can offer a fresh perspective

That said, choosing someone that you don’t know well can also have its downsides, such as:

  • It can feel a bit like dating in the beginning as you get to know and trust each other, which takes time and effort

  • You might not know how to best motivate each other if you don’t know each other well enough

  • You may come to realize you don’t have shared values or vision, or just aren’t each other’s cup of tea

  • You're less likely to care about a stranger’s progress compared to someone you know

  • You may feel less bad about cancelling or skipping your goal or check-ins with someone you hardly know

The challenge with choosing someone you hardly know is finding them in the first place!

Finding a new accountability partner

Supporti finds an accountability partner for you, plus our app provides a framework to set your goals and a platform to track your progress and message your buddy.

You can also find accountability partners on social media. Just blast out a message to your network asking for intros. Try Reddit's GetMotivatedBuddies forum or specific forums related to your goal. Attend in-person events in your area where you can meet people with similar interests.

Once you have some prospects, ask if they’ve ever had an accountability partner before. If they have and it went well, it's a good sign. You can even share this article with them and ask what they think.

Three truths about accountability partners

No matter who you decide to ask to be your accountability partner, here are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Nothing lasts forever. Your partner or your circumstances may change over time. So many people have told me about the tremendous success they were having with an accountabilibuddy, but then when they or their buddy moved, they got completely off track. Think about a long-term buddy strategy.

  2. Various goals may call for various buddies. You can work on a variety of goals with the same buddy, or “hire” different partners for each goal.

  3. Focus on what matters most. When choosing an accountability partner, remember that the person’s age, gender, goal, and your relationship to them matter less than how committed they are to being a supportive buddy.

I’ll leave you with this thought, from another participant in our survey. He writes, “Basically all you need is someone helping you out that believes in your journey, but you have [to] be the main person [to] believe all your hard work will pay off.”


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