21st August 2016
Avoiding doing something? Our author Amanda Cullen can help you work out whether there’s a good reason or whether you’re holding yourself back by making excuses
Making excuses starts early: “he did it first” we hear little kids say when asked why they have pushed or pinched a playmate, or taken their pencil / rubber / ruler. As we grow up we become ever more adept at excuse-making, not only to others but also to ourselves.
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…
Some of these may not be excuses but entirely valid reasons. If you are asked at work to do something way beyond your level of experience and skill, it may be absolutely the right thing to do to say no on the basis of “not ready to”. Or if you are juggling career, relationship, family, housework and social life, you may very well be “too busy to” give up your time to make model space rockets, costumes, cakes or whatever else your child’s school demands this week.
The trick is to know when (and how) to say a valid “yes” or “no” – and mean it.
Here’s how to take control:
The way you respond to a request will make all the difference to how your response is received.
Every time you want to make “an excuse”, get really clear on your reason.
If you have a genuinely legitimate 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.
However, 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 these four questions. They may seem very similar but you could surprise yourself and learn from your responses.
1. What you will gain by not doing it?
2. What will you gain by doing it?
3. What will you lose by not doing it?
4. What will you lose by doing it?
If you decide not to go ahead, 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.
If you need help to tackle your excuses, our books can help: