Choices Conflict Courage Mindset Values


Unacceptable means there are consequences for our behavior.

“The annexation of the four Ukrainian regions by Russia is unacceptable.”

Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs

This is a quote from a Dutch politician from last week.

He addressed the Dutch press before he went ahead and summoned the Russian ambassador to the Netherlands to convey the same message. 

He got the order wrong and should have talked to the ambassador first. 

Not that I think the ambassador is impressed with what a Dutch politician has to say, but just because I think you first address your concerns in private before you make them public.

But this is the way of the world these days. 

Shameless self-promotion and (social) media addiction.

Although everyone will tell you they don’t like the media.

And we all know that’s a lie.

A means to an end.

I’m also sure the politician never even thought his words would have any effect, but if he didn’t do anything, he would look weak.

He’s expected to summon ambassadors of countries who don’t act in the interest of our national interests and values. 

It’s a game.

In this case, a war game.

Sadly, it’s not a game for those who suffer and die in these unnecessary wars.

Unacceptable wars.

Because I do agree this is unacceptable.

But what does that mean?

What does it mean when we tell someone their behavior is unacceptable?

What does unacceptable mean to you? 

Merriam-Webster defines it as • not acceptable • not pleasing or welcome.

For a moment, I thought Merriam-Webster would agree, but even their definition is beyond weak.

Not pleasing or welcome?

Unacceptable, to me, and perhaps I’m wrong, means something has taken place beyond the values, norms, and boundaries we have agreed on.

Unacceptable means there are consequences for our behavior.


Consequences that may cause us to reconsider our actions. 

Please read that again: consequences that may cause us to reconsider our actions.

When was the last time you reconsidered your actions when someone told you what you did was unacceptable?

I know a few circumstances during my life that someone told me what I was doing was unacceptable.

I’ll give you one example, which was a conversation with myself.

I enjoyed student life. 

There was a point I wasn’t sure I would finish my studies. Not because I wasn’t smart enough. But because I was running out of time due to my ‘extra-curricular’ activities.

That was simply unacceptable. 

To those who invested in me, including the Dutch government, but primarily to me. Not finishing what I started was simply not an option.


There were going to be consequences. The biggest one is that I would forever regret not finishing my studies.

So I finished strong and completed it in time.

Finishing strong has been a mantra of mine ever since.

Back to my message.

Unfortunately, unacceptable has lost its power over the years.

It’s an inflated term.

I wrote once about the unacceptable behavior of a senior executive I worked with. He should have been fired for cause. 

But he wasn’t. 

His behavior was not unacceptable enough.

In closing, our politician was right.

What happens in Ukraine is unacceptable. 

But are there any consequences beyond boycotting Russia, which only hurts its citizens?

What are the consequences of unacceptable?

It’s time we put our money where our mouth is. If something is unacceptable, we should be willing to initiate the consequences.

Otherwise, unacceptable is just another word without any meaning.

Your turn: what’s unacceptable to you? Are you willing to initiate the consequences? What if you’re not? 

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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