Think twice before accusing people of excuses.

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Brian Kight

I rarely use the word “excuses” with people regarding their behavior because it immediately triggers their defense mechanisms and puts them in a resistant posture.

If I say, “You’re making excuses!” they will think, “No, I’m not. They are good reasons.” and defend their actions with their reasoning.

When someone accuses you of making excuses, how do you respond?

Do you say, “You’re right. I’m trying to avoid responsibility and have no good reasons, so I’m making excuses to protect myself, my ego, and my social image. Thank you for identifying that and forcing me to admit it.”?

Or do you reject the idea that you make excuses and instead get defensive and resistant and attempt to explain, rationalize, and justify your actions according to your reasoning, which feels accurate to you?

Instead of “excuse,” I use words like reasoning, perspective, thoughts, opinions, or beliefs.
These are what people use to evaluate, decide, and act. The better I acknowledge and understand their reasoning, the better I understand why they approached it the way they did and how I might effectively adjust it if necessary.

Do people make excuses? Of course.

Is someone making excuses going to admit it if I directly call them out on it? Probably not.

Do people sometimes believe their reasons are good, but I think they’re excuses? Yes!

In that situation, if I call their reasons excuses, I lose credibility instantly because, in their eyes, I’m either not intelligent or caring enough to see the truth of their situation. To them, I become the person who doesn’t understand them and, more dangerously, who doesn’t want to understand them. It’s a devastating disconnection.

People make excuses. We know that. Pointing out people’s “excuses” feels like an accusation because it is an accusation. Sometimes it’s a fair accusation, occasionally unfair. Either way, we get defensive when we feel accused. That’s human nature.

If you sense that someone is making excuses, tread lightly in accusation and instead try to uncover and understand their reasoning. You’re more likely to maintain a strong connection, possibly even strengthen it, understand their reasoning, and position yourself to help them bring more discipline to the situation.

The time is now. Do the work.

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