*Written for Voice At The Table by Amanda Cullen
Do you ever make an excuse? Of course! We all do.
Perhaps our boss wants information that we don’t have to hand, so we invent a reason why the data isn’t available. Or a colleague wants help on a project that we don’t rate, so we blame lack of time for failing to engage. Or at home our partner asks us to do something we don’t want to, so we invent an excuse for why it’s not possible.
Why do we make excuses?
Here are some reasons we make excuses:
Laziness – can’t be bothered to….
Fear – too scared to…
Preparation needed – not ready to…
Anger or irritation – don’t want to…
Time – too busy to…
Wrong demand – not right to…
Now some of these may be entirely valid. For example if you are asked at work to do something beyond your level of experience and skill, it may be absolutely right to say no, on the basis of “not ready to”. Or if you are juggling career, relationship, family, housework and social life, and then your son or daughter’s school demands that you give up your time to make model space rockets, costumes, cakes or whatever else is “critical” this week, you may very well be “too busy to” do it.
The trick is to know when (and how) to say a valid “yes” or “no” – and mean it.
If you feel that from time to time you make excuses that disappoint others (and maybe yourself), what can you do?
Every time you want to make “an excuse”, get really clear on your reason.
If you have a genuine reason to decline a request then say so. Don’t beat about the bush and don’t be apologetic.
If you are under-equipped to do something, say so. If you are too busy, say so. If you think it is wrong, say so.
If you are making an excuse to avoid something because you can’t be bothered, ask yourself why?
Are you tired and need a rest or a break? If so, be honest.
Are you just disinterested in the issue at hand and that’s why you don’t want to make the effort? If so would it make someone you care about happy for you to be involved, and does that make it worth the effort? What’s the consequence of not doing it?
Make your decision in the full knowledge of why you are making it, and then be clear about communicating it.
If you are avoiding something through fear, then this is a tough one. Ask yourself what you will gain by not doing it. And what will you gain by doing it? And what will you lose by not doing it? And lose by doing it?
If you decide not to do it, then don’t make an excuse. Explain that you don’t feel able to do it and if possible why not. Perhaps offer to do something else instead, or suggest someone else who might be better suited.
So next time an excuse is on the tip of your tongue, STOP! Take a moment to ask yourself whether the right answer for you is YES. If not, be clear why you are saying NO. People may not like it, but they will respect you for it.