Explain Yourself! The Reason Why Excuses Sabotage Your Success
Have you ever been in a situation where you were unable to
make good on a promise or commitment? Perhaps you were
late with a report to your manager, unable to take a child to
the playground, or late for dinner with your partner. The
question is, after the realization sets in that you can not
deliver, how do you explain why you were unable to meet
your obligation? Do you stand in the truth, own your actions
and give an honest reason, or do you make excuses
concerned only with freeing yourself from blame?
Is there a difference?
For many of us, we have probably thought of the two as
being one in the same. You may be asking yourself, “Is there
really a difference?” At times, the distinction between the
two can be difficult to see. After all, excuses have the ability
to be disguised as reasons fooling you into thinking, “That
sounds like a valid reason.” In fact, when you tune in and
really listen, the facade of an excuse will quickly give way to
expose the truth of falsehood.
Explanations come in two forms – excuses and reasons.
Remember: you make excuses and you give reasons.
An excuse is an attempt to free oneself from blame by
deflecting attention and responsibility onto someone or
something else. Excuses diminish your power and say “I am
not willing to take responsibility. Instead, I will settle for
whatever path others choose for me as a result of my
actions.” Making excuses will erode others confidence in
you, and destroy your self-respect. The refusal to be
personally accountable is rooted in the fear of failure – to be
known as someone who did not deliver. This defense
mechanism results in a plea to convince others to overlook
your part and to minimize the damage caused by your role in
a given situation.
To say one has a “good excuse” is an oxymoron which
implies there is a difference between good and bad excuses.
All excuses are bad and unacceptable. Here are some
* “I was late to the meeting because the clock in the
lunchroom has been broken for a month.”
* “My report is late because my manager didn’t remind me it
was due today.”
* “I am not ready to give my report to the Board of Directors
tomorrow because I was on vacation the last two weeks and
I didn’t prepare.”
A reason is defined as a legitimate, truthful account of a
situation which includes explanation of your part. Rooted in
good judgment, there exists a willingness to own your
actions and deal with the consequences. Reasons seek to
clarify what happened, who was responsible, and how to
deal with the situation and seek immediate solutions so that
one can do better now and in the future. A reason is not
motivated by fear, but driven by respect and integrity. Here
are some examples:
* “The reason I am late is because I had a flat tire.”
* “Although I was assigned this report last Friday, the
reason my report is late is because the mainframe crashed
Friday afternoon and has been down ever since. I have
attempted to retrieve the information from our satellite
location, but to no avail.”
* “The reason I will not give a Power Point presentation is
because the projector just died. Since it will be at least an
hour before we locate a replacement, I will proceed without it
and ask that you follow along via my handout.”
When you are in the moment of truth, remember the choice is
yours – you can make excuses or you can give valid reasons.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you speak
out to determine if you are about to make excuses or provide
1. What is your intent – is it to release yourself from total
blame or to provide a straightforward, honest account of the
situation and your actions?
2. Are you willing to accept the consequences of your
actions and take steps to improve the situation?
3. Do you willing to honestly acknowledge the degree of
your responsibility, and is there anything you could have
The next time you are faced with the prospect of explaining
your actions, ask yourself “Is this an excuse or a valid
reason?” Always find the courage to behave with integrity
and honor your self-respect. When faced with a choice, the
question is what will you do?