Sunday, May 25, 2014

Excuses & Reasons - How They Differ

The next time someone offers you an excuse for doing or not doing something, contemplate whether they are offering you an excuse or a reason. They (and you) may be unaware of the difference.

Excuses (which free people from responsibility), and reasons (which are used to justify actions or inactions) are different in origin and use.

Merriam Webster offers this definition for 'excuse' :

1a: to make apology for b: to try to remove blame from 2: to forgive entirely or disregard as of trivial import: regard as excusable: 3a: to grant exemption or release to: 4: to serve as excuse for: justify.

And this definition for 'reason' :

1 a: a statement offered in explanation or justification b: a rational ground or motive c: a sufficient ground of explanation or of logical defense; especially: something (as a principle or law) that supports a conclusion or explains a fact d: the thing that makes some fact intelligible.

Anyone in a supervisory or managerial role can distinguish between an excuse and a reason. They hear both on a daily basis. Employees are late on occasion, and they have reasons. Employees, who are habitually late, have excuses.

There are two other areas in which the distinctions between excuses and reasons are even more obvious: sports and relationships.

Coaches are accustomed to giving press conferences after every game. Win or lose, they are required to take the podium to talk to the media about what occurred on the field, and provide us with insights that correlate with the outcome.

Over the years I've noticed that coaches who are good at diagnosing their team's problems, but not fixing them, have short-lived careers. Owners simply interpret the eloquent reasoning - especially when done consistently over a period of time - as making excuses. They can understand the reasons for an occasional loss, but they can't justify loosing repeatedly. No reason can explain that fact, nor can it be excused. They soon get fired.

Relationships operate under the same premise. Conflict resolution skills, which are usually overlooked and undervalued, come into play when problems arise. Without proper cognitive skills and maturity, problems can't be worked on. In fact, problems can't even be identified and agreed upon. Reasons are made for why actions/inactions, decisions, or behaviors where undertaken, and after a while, they are interpreted as excuses.

We come to resent excuses and those who make them.

Recognizing the difference between excuses and reasons, and why they are used, will enable you to better evaluate character - yours and that of others.

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