In the past couple weeks, excuses (and how useless and annoying they are) have come up several times with different groups of friends in different conversations. And the moral of the story? Most people are just looking for a little accountability. That’s right, good-old -fashioned taking responsibility for your own actions will placate even the most annoyed person in most situations. Because excuses? They don’t really get you anything except a bunch of unnecessary information.
It’s a key part of crossing over the border from child to adult. In elementary school, you might have gotten away with looking cute and saying your dog ate your homework. In college, you might have gained a gullible professor’s sympathy for missing class (again) from that nasty stomach bug that was going around. But take note of what these little explanations are doing. They’re deflecting the responsibility away from the person who messed up, and blaming some external force, outside of their control. The funny thing about them is that usually they serve to make the person using them feel better (when they know they’re not acting/doing/performing the way they’re supposed to), and serve to make the person hearing them more annoyed. And in the real world-well, that’s just not going to cut it.
One friend put it this way, “Excuses are like assholes: everybody’s got one, and nobody wants to hear about it.” When I hear someone giving me a lame excuse for why they didn’t do what they were supposed to, well, I hear the favorite quote from Wedding Crashers saying, “No excuses. Play like a champion.” And I wish it was appropriate to respond so simply.
When I find myself itching to make an excuse, I try to remind myself of that. If you’re calling out sick because you stayed up too late watching football, while it’s tempting to say you’ve come down with terrible food poisoning, the easier route is to just say you need to use a personal day, and that you will put in the extra time to complete missed tasks. When you screw up on an assignment, or have no idea what you’re doing, people are likely to be more willing to help if you try really hard, present your action plan to fix it, and then ask questions than if you point a finger at someone for not telling you enough.