Sorry, Not Sorry: How to Stop Explaining Yourself and Succeed Anyway
There are certain job skills that we have to develop in order to succeed in our field. One of those skills is learning how to stop explaining yourself, even when you feel like you have to explain why you did things a certain way and it didn’t work out. Saying “sorry,” being solutions-focused, and letting the explanations fall by the wayside are keys to success in many cases, even through failure.
In this blog post, we’ll be talking about why it matters. We’ll also be exploring how to develop this crucial job skill and get better at it.
The Need to Explain Ourselves
We all have a need to be understood and to understand others. This need can cause havoc in work and school when we try to explain ourselves.
We may not take the time to listen to others and understand their perspective, and we may not take the time to clearly explain our own perspective. This can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.
In order to avoid these conflicts, we need to be patient and take the time to listen and understand others. We also need to take the time to explain ourselves clearly.
If we do this, we will be able to build better relationships with our coworkers and classmates, and we will be able to accomplish more in our work and school tasks. Unfortunately, that’s not often something we’re able to do when giving reasons for why we did this or that.
It’s easy to see why people might feel the need to explain themselves. After all, getting defensive is one of the primary motivators for doing so. When you’re trying to explain your decision-making, even if you think that it doesn’t warrant an explanation, it can be difficult to stay calm and rational.
Oftentimes, we get defensive because we’re worried about what others will think of us. We want them to see us in a positive light, and we’re afraid that our decisions might reflect poorly on us.
In some cases, though, it might be worth taking the time to explain yourself. If you’ve made a decision that could have a significant impact on other people, they’ll likely want to know why you made that choice. And if you’re able to provide a reasonable explanation, they’ll likely be more understanding and forgiving.
At the same time, though, you don’t need to explain yourself every time you make a decision. If your classmates or co-workers don’t understand why you did something, they can always ask you for clarification. There’s no need to put yourself through the hassle of explaining yourself if nobody’s actually asking for an explanation.
Justifying Our Actions
Again, the need to justify our actions is a strong motivator. We want to feel like our decisions are the right ones and that we are making a positive contribution. This need can be particularly strong in professional settings, where our decisions can have a direct impact on our career.
However, there are several reasons why justifying our actions can actually reflect poorly on us professionally. First, it can make us seem defensive and unwilling to take ownership of our decisions (see above). This can make us appear unprofessional and unwilling to learn from our mistakes.
Second, it can lead to circular arguments with our colleagues or clients. These arguments can be time-consuming and ultimately unproductive.
Finally, it can damage our credibility and reputation. If we are constantly trying to justify our decisions, people will start to doubt our ability to make good judgments.
Ultimately, it is important to be able to justify our actions, but we should do so in a way that is respectful and professional. We should avoid getting defensive or engaging in circular arguments, and we should always maintain our credibility and reputation.
Now that we know the motivations behind this need, it’s time to look at ways you can train yourself to avoid it. You can avoid falling into the trap by doing the following:
Focus More On Solutions
In order to be successful, we cannot dwell on our past successes nor make excuses for our past failures. Instead, we should focus on finding solutions to our problems. This is not always easy, but it is necessary if we want to move forward.
Dwelling on our failures or making excuses will only hold us back and keep us from reaching our potential. By focusing on solutions, we can learn from our mistakes and move on to achieve even greater things.
Learn How to Apologize Effectively
The ability to apologize effectively is a critical skill for both personal and professional relationships. When done correctly, an apology can smooth over hurt feelings, repair damaged trust, and restore peace in a situation. There are three key steps to apologizing effectively:
- Own your actions. Don’t try to blame someone else or make excuses for what you did. Accept responsibility for your actions and own up to the mistake.
- Acknowledge the hurt that you caused. Be specific about how your actions made the other person feel. Use “I” statements and express your regret for causing that pain.
- Offer a meaningful apology. Say sorry and explain what you will do to make it right. Make sure your apology is genuine and shows that you understand the wrong that you did.
For most people in positions of authority, that’s all they’re looking for. Trying to somehow justify your actions, whether you were right or wrong, will only instigate those aforementioned circular arguments. And with a boss, that’s not an argument you’re usually going to win.
Fix Those Internal Mechanisms
We all have a natural desire to be liked and accepted by others. When we feel like we are being judged, or that our behavior is being called into question, our first instinct is often to explain ourselves.
However, this can often do more harm than good. By trying to justify our actions, we can come across as defensive or even guilty, when in reality we may have done nothing wrong. So how can we overcome this natural tendency?
The first step is to become aware of the times when we are most likely to start explaining ourselves. If we can catch ourselves in the moment, we can stop ourselves before we start down the path of justification.
Another helpful strategy is to practice mindfulness. By remaining present in the moment, and focusing on our own thoughts and feelings, we can learn to trust our own judgment and not worry about what other people think of us.
With a little effort, we can break the habit of always needing to explain ourselves and live with a little more peace of mind. Once you’ve mastered this part of working on yourself, you can start to reap the following benefits of being a solutions-focused person.
1. More Control Over Your Career
In today’s work world, it’s not uncommon to hear people making excuses for why they’re not where they want to be in their careers. Maybe they didn’t have the right education or experience, or they weren’t given the opportunity to prove themselves.
Whatever the reason, making excuses is a common way of deflecting responsibility and avoiding accountability. Interestingly, though, not making excuses actually gives you more control over your career.
By taking responsibility for your own career progression, you are empowered to make the changes you need to achieve your goals. Instead of waiting for someone else to give you a chance, you can create your own opportunities by networking, pursuing continuing education, and taking on new challenges at work.
In short, by not making excuses, you take control of your career destiny. As a result, you are more likely to achieve the success you desire.
2. Stress Reduction
It’s always tempting to make excuses. Maybe you didn’t have time to finish a project, or you made a mistake that you’re embarrassed about. But making excuses doesn’t do anyone any favors – least of all, yourself.
When you make an excuse, you’re trying to shift the blame onto someone or something else. Not only is this dishonest, but it also creates an unnecessary stressor in your life.
The next time something goes wrong, try not to make an excuse. Accept responsibility for your actions, and then take steps to fix the problem. You’ll find that not making excuses reduces the stress that you take with you throughout the day and your career as a whole.
3. Influencing Outside Opinions for the Better
When you make an excuse, you are basically saying that you don’t take responsibility for what happened. You are trying to avoid things, and that makes you seem immature and unreliable to other people, even if it’s not actually true.
People are much more likely to trust and respect someone who owns up to their mistakes, even if they make them occasionally. In time, they’re unlikely to remember the individual mistakes and more likely to respect your integrity as a person.
Those are the types of people who get the benefit of the doubt from their instructors. Those are the people who get hired and promoted.
So next time you mess up, instead of making an excuse, try owning up to what you did. You might be surprised at how much better people treat you when you do.
4. Fixing Mistakes
Owning a mistake empowers you to fix it. It doesn’t feel great to say, you know what, I was wrong. It resonates more.
When you make an excuse for a mistake, you’re more likely to repeat it in the future. But if you take responsibility for your mistakes and work to fix them, you’ll find that they become fewer and further between as time goes on.
In the end, learning how not to make excuses is about becoming a better person. It’s about taking responsibility for your own life and career.
5. Better Ease Dealing With Difficult Personalities
We all have to work with difficult people at some point in our careers. And while it’s not always easy, it is possible to find a way to work together without losing your sanity.
One of the best ways to deal with a difficult person is to avoid making excuses for your actions. This can be hard, especially if you feel like you’re not in the wrong.
But by not making excuses, even when you feel those excuses are justified, it will help you move past the shade someone else is throwing your way. You’re likely not to get the difficult side of them because you’re not feeding the beast.
Instead, you can move on with the things you need to get done. And you can do those things without having to worry about relitigating the past.
Do any of these reasons for why to not make excuses resonate with you? If so, we would love to hear your story. Share in the comments how not making excuses has helped or hindered your career. We would also love to know if there are any other benefits to not making excuses that we didn’t mention here.
[Featured Image by The Blue Diamond Gallery Creative Commons License]