Making excuses is a bad habit that anyone can slip into. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, and now it’s time to get passed it. Sometimes we make excuses because we are trying to be polite, or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Maybe somebody invites us to do something that we really don’t want to do. So, we politely say, “I would really like to, but I just can’t today.”
Why not just give an honest reply and say, “No thanks”?
The funny thing about making excuses is that we can always come up with excuses for why we do it. That’s pathetic when you think about it. If we want other people to be honest with us, shouldn’t we start by respecting others enough to be tactful but honest with them?
How does it make you feel when you invite someone to do something and you know that instead of an honest reply, they just make up an excuse to cover up the fact that they don’t really want to?
Do you prefer excuses or a tactful rendition of the honest truth?
An honest response is not the same as being rude, although it does require a dash of consideration to avoid hurting other people’s feelings. We can, and should, learn to soften our honesty with a bit of tact. We can also explain to others that we care about them and don’t want to hurt their feelings, but out of respect we want to be totally honest with them.
Beware of the subliminal power of CAN’T
When you use the phrase, “I can’t” as an excuse, you send an negative, limiting message to your own nervous system. In your conscious mind, it may just be an excuse, but to your subconscious it sends a message about your abilities or inabilities. Telling yourself repeatedly that you can’t do this, and can’t do that, will have you believing that you can’t do much of anything after a while.
Saying that we can’t do something, when the truth is we just don’t want to do it, offends our internal sense of honesty. Our conscience recognizes the difference between an honest statement and making excuses that are not quite true. If we are motivated to tell others the truth out of respect for them, doesn’t it make sense to show ourselves the same degree of respect?
Strike excuses from your vocabulary
In most situations, excuses are just a convenient cop-out. Even when they are completely true, we should still avoid using “I Can’t.” Here are a few replacements phrases you might consider.
No, thank you.
I choose not to.
I’m really not interested.
I would rather not.
I could, but I don’t want to.
I will, but not today.
Maybe some other time.
All of these phrases clearly and honestly state our intention without resorting to dishonesty or creating negative internal feedback. Using such phrases will help us avoid sending the wrong message to our nervous system and creating limiting beliefs about our own abilities.
As you can see, we can be honest without being brutal or thoughtless with our responses. To the contrary, being honest and considerate at the same time is really a kinder, more respectful way to respond. Yes, it requires that we think before we speak, but we should learn to do that anyway.
Is there ever a situation where a less than true excuse might be appropriate?
Certainly, it is not up to me to make that decision for you, but here’s one that just might provide the ultimate challenge to your ability to be tactful, honest, and kind:
Honey, do these pants make me look fat?
Okay, now it’s your turn for an honest response
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