Which of the following "explanations" have you heard (or used!) in the past few weeks?
WHAT IF THE EXCUSE IS REASONABLE?
Next look at the following. They almost seem like PLAUSIBLE explanations:
RECOGNIZING AN EXCUSE
If you examine the above statements more closely, you will find that they are not entirely explanatory, and are easily CHALLENGED. For example:
KNOWING THE DIFFERENCE
A true explanation shows a cause-and-effect RELATIONSHIP: situation X caused consequence Y. Excuses masquerade as explanations, but are really distortions of the truth. Excuses include following elements:
WHY WE MAKE EXCUSES
It's very tempting to make excuses. In fact it is one of your inner brat's favorite strategies. Excuses serve to protect you from facing your own SHORTCOMINGS. They also try to keep other people from noticing your limitations. Excuses are a way of saying, "I'm really a good person, but..."
WHY THEY DON'T WORK
At the same time, however, excuses are only a temporary, quick fix. You may feel better for the moment, but in the long run you are DISSATISFIED with yourself. No one has ever felt uplifted by making an excuse. Facing the truth is sometimes difficult, but it gives you the opportunity to take CHARGE, to make positive decisions and to gradually eliminate the need for excuses. Here are some tips:
DEAL WITH IT
Face the fact that you screwed up. For minor transgressions, it's not the end of the world. For major problems, your excuse isn't going to REVERSE the situation anyway. Things are what they are, and you can only move FORWARD from there.
Acknowledge that it was your own FAULT. Keep it simple; e.g., "I'm sorry I'm late. I didn't allow enough time for traffic problems." Notice how this example starts with the word "I" in the explanation.
FIX THE PROBLEM
Offer to make AMENDS; e.g., "I won't let it happen again," or "Is there some way I can make this up to you?"
BE SMARTER NEXT TIME
LEARN from the experience. Make a decision about how you will handle this or similar situations in the future.
GETTING ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Write down your decision and treat it as a PROMISE to yourself. This is especially useful for excuses you make to yourself, such as when you rationalize procrastination or abandoning your exercise program. You'll be amazed at how much harder it is to back out of a promise once you put it in writing and commit to it!
Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and life coach in Camp Hill, PA, and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior". Visit her website at www.innerbrat.com for more information, and subscribe to her free, monthly Inner Brat Newsletter.
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