Tolerance and Acceptance

Several questions people asked me all relate to the issue of how do we have our horses truly accept us as partners rather than tolerate us as an interruption to their day; other things that have happened recently with some horses I am working with have also reminded me of the importance of thehorse truly accepting the relatinship with the human as a positive, rewarding thing.  This has led to a series of thoughts on tolerance vs acceptance — to start this conversation, I thought it would be useful to share a post some of you may recognise from a while ago on my facebook page — let me know what you think of this:


Tolerance vs acceptance 

When I recently asked for ideas on topics to write about, one person put the words “tolerance vs acceptance” in the comments section. 

Harmless words, you might think – but they set me off on a rather personal journey I would like to share with you. I see many parallels with horsemanship and hope you will too.


I was heading off on holiday when I asked for the ideas.  Off to the wilds of British Columbia to visit my friend’s uncle, with her and her family.  Looking forward to two weeks of total relaxation – oh, and building a sheep shed.  More on that in another note perhaps.


I shared the phrase “tolerance vs acceptance” with my friend and said I found it intellectually interesting.  We chatted for a bit and as we chatted about all the different ways I could approach the subject with lots of horse related stories, I realised that I was right in the middle of a very personal example.


You see, I like wine.  I mean I LIKE wine – I like the flavours, the bouquet, the smoothness – and while I am happy to quaff the cheaper stuff, I also enjoy something a bit more special. 


My friend E. likes wine as well. But – she likes to mix it with lemonade.


Now this is fine with white wine – slightly interesting but not at all offensive.  But for some reason, the fact that she puts lemonade in her RED wine really bothered me.  I mean REALLY bothered me.  Since we started spending more time together a few years ago, I always found it jarring to watch her put lemonade in a perfectly nice glass of red wine.  Turning something special and delicious into a sweet confection.


Now I would think some of you are already asking “What’s your problem?  Why should you care how someone else drinks her wine? It’s her choice after all?”


And of course you are absolutely right – why should it matter to me how someone else drinks their wine?  And if she is really my friend, don’t I want her to be happy and enjoy herself? So you would think I would buy wine AND lemonade and happily make the drink for her…


Except I didn’t.


How interesting!


I THOUGHT I accepted my friend. I THOUGHT I accepted her choices – one of the values I live by is that each one of us has the absolute right to choose how we live our lives and it is not my job or right to interfere with those choices.


And yet – and yet….


I would shop to bring the makings for dinner to my friend’s house – and I would deliberately choose a cheaper wine for her and her daughter to share – after all, if they were mixing it with lemonade, how much did it matter?


I would almost always make some jokey comment as they added the lemonade. Well, I say jokey – it was probably in reality a bit snide, a bit snippy.  And I would sip my own glass of unadulterated wine while watching them, with amusement, drink their concoctions.  I say amusement – you might say smugness.


Wow, I don’t sound very nice, do I?


To be honest, I didn’t even realise that I was doing any of this until we had that chat sitting on the front porch of her uncle’s house.  I wasn’t even aware that I was not accepting her choices at ALL – in fact, I was barely tolerating them.


As we sat there, a light bulb went off in my head and I said “oh my goodness, my reaction to you adding lemonade to your red wine is a classic example of this – I don’t accept it at all, I barely tolerate it!”


She laughed and agreed (I will always love her for laughing first LOL) – and we decided to find out what it took to make the journey from tolerance to acceptance of her choice.


Now we had some options in this – I could have explored my own reasons and motivations for caring so much about someone else’s choice.  But one thing I have learned in the past twenty years of coaching, is that usually I learn more by listening than by talking (after all, I already know MY point of view – it’s the other point of view I don’t know yet!).  So I asked her to talk about her choice.


I thought it would be a relatively simple and short discussion – she would say she liked the taste, I would graciously accept her decision and we would move on – job done.


Hmmmm.  It was actually a rather different journey.


E did of course say she preferred the taste of almost any wine with lemonade.  In fact, any strongly alcoholic drink tastes better to her when diluted….this brought back a memory.  In a very firm voice she shared how my reaction to her drinks choice surprised her – and took her back to younger days when friends and family would be socialising and drinking…


Here was her model of the world:

–          alcohol affects her very quickly – so just one glass of wine causes her to feel very merry.  Two is not a pleasant feeling.

–          the strong alcoholic  taste of spirits is not enjoyable

–          by having white wine spritzers, the one glass of wine lasts longer and can be enjoyed for longer rather than having a glass of wine then soft drinks

–          red wine tastes lovely but has a very strong effect so that in particular can be enjoyed for longer if diluted or mixed with something

–          if wine is to be diluted, she prefers the taste of lemonade as a mixer rather than water or soda


As we talked, I also found out that in her younger days, when first drinking at college and at family events, she felt under a lot of pressure to NOT dilute her drinks, to just get on with it and drink it – and that if she just tried a bit harder she could enjoy drinking like everyone else.


Here’s my model of the world:

–          I have high alcohol tolerance.  It takes a few glasses of wine for me to be “merry”, and a lot to have a hangover the next day

–          I love the taste of straight spirits

–          I love the taste of wine

–          I generally dislike sweet drinks such as lemonade, coke etc

–          I prefer to have a glass of wine, then a soft drink to manage my alcohol intake rather than mix the wine with anything and “spoil” the taste of it


My experience growing up was that I was never criticised for my choices – if I asked for a soft drink in between alcoholic drinks, I was not teased or picked on.  If I chose not to drink at all of an evening, that was also not an issue.



Two very different models of the world.  No wonder I had difficulty accepting my friend’s choices – when looked at from my model of the world, they were inexplicable, incomprehensible and unreasonable.


When looked at from HER model of the world – they were totally understandable, reasonable and – here is the key – acceptable.


As I listened to her share her model of the world with regards to this choice, I found my own resistance melting.  I literally felt the hardness I had inside me about her choice dissolve, fade away.


Until it was gone.


The other day I visited my friend. I bought a very nice bottle of wine and a large bottle of lemonade. I poured myself a glass of wine. I poured her a glass of wine and lemonade and we smiled as we toasted each other.

No jokes, no remarks, no judgement – explicit or implicit.


I was finally at acceptance.


Now I realise that this is a very personal example of a journey from tolerance to acceptance. The reason I posted it here is that this whole experience surprised me.  After all I am a coach, I focus on having as little ego as possible when working with people, focusing on their journey and my role as supporting that – not influencing it or changing it, but empowering people to travel their road as well as they can.


And yet here I was, not accepting something as basic as a friend’s drink choice.

How interesting.


This has led me to examine other things in my life and in my interactions with friends and family. 


And of course, there are many parallels with our horses.


So here are some questions for you to think about and maybe, if you have time, you will share some of your thoughts with me so we can take this further:


What are you tolerating rather than accepting?

What difference will it make when you accept rather than tolerate?


What are you tolerating in your horse rather than accepting?

What difference will it make to your relationship with your horse when you accept rather than tolerate?


And of course:


What is your HORSE tolerating rather than accepting?


What can you do to change that?


And the last question for today is — 


What does this have to do with your confidence?


yours, in confidence




4 thoughts on “Tolerance and Acceptance

  1. i’m still thinking about the questions, but the last one, about effecting confidence………. well, for months i tried to ‘lie’ to myself, “I’m not scared, I can do this, it’s the horse’s fault” etc, until with the help of a certain trainer, realised you can’t lie to a horse!! If i can now accept that i have fear, be honest and even tell the horse we start off on a more even keel. As soon as you voice the thought with honesty your body language changes from a sneaky liar to an honest, but fearful person. 🙂

    • great observation Julie – -and in my experience one reason that so many horses “tolerate” vs “accept” things is because they can sense some dishonesty in our hearts…..


    • This article is based on a lifechanging moment for me, so glad to hear it has impacted you postively as well – -you are very welcome and hope your enjoy the other articles too!


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