Excuse or Reason
: Does It Make Any Difference?

by Ashok Grover

If end result is the same, does it really matter whether you hand out an excuse or a reason? How do you differentiate between these two? Go through this article and make your choice!

I didn't know it was so urgent.

I was so much busy, couldn't find time for it.

I thought I had told you.

These things take time.

The customer was unreasonable.

It just slipped out of my mind.

Do you find these statements quite familiar to your ears? How often do you give (or get) such response?

While sometimes we may have compelling reasons for non-accomplishment of certain jobs, most of the time, most of the people are busy trying to find some excuse, which is good enough to sound like reason.  This must have been in the mind of prolific English author and poet, Rudyard Kipling, when he said "We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse." It is because while excuses make us fall short of our achievements, reasons justify the failure.  True, sometimes things are not under your control and you may have valid reasons; but even in most of such cases, deeper investigation will reveal that it was because of your actions.  Take a simple case of paying your water bill.  You miss the date because you had a flat tyre on the way and now will have to pay late fee for having missed the last date.  Really a valid reason. But, could you really not have planned it earlier than the last day?

Now, just think for a while, if the job you promised to someone is not done, does it really make any difference to her whether you have a valid reason or a stupid excuse for not doing it?  It might (or might not) change her views or feelings about you; but will not change the end result. And, over a period of time, people understand how good or bad you are in giving reasons (!).

Let us try to understand the main difference between a reason and excuse.  A reason explains why the things are as they are, accepting the accountability for the same.  An excuse also explains why the things are as they are; but puts blame on someone else, who is not there to explain or defend - be it a person or situational circumstances. Another aspect of the story is that normally, reasons come much earlier than the deadline and move a person to take corrective action, which in most of the cases can be NOW, or else at least for future.  Excuses come after the deadlines have passed and reappear again and again. While reasons force you to make amends and keep you charged, excuses bring in a sense of helplessness.  If you are not able to keep your promise of taking your partner out for dinner due to overstay at work or not able to meet your subordinate because of work pressures, you are simply giving up to circumstances ‘beyond your control'.  You have not been able to manage your time.  If you don't accept this, how can there be any effort to manage your time better?  This is the difference!

While you make excuses, you give reasons. Ask yourself whether you are giving out excuse under the garb of reasoning. Remember, ninety-nine percent, the other party understands howsoever smart you may think you are. It may not come back to you; but it is so much habit forming. Forget about ‘bad' and ‘good' excuses.  All excuses are bad, because giving up accountability always leads to moving yourself into negative spiral of personal growth. An excuse is a reason justified by dishonesty. It is not only being dishonest to others; but to yourself as well.

In the words of HV Adolt, "We are all manufacturers. Making good, making trouble, or making excuses.' Choice is ours. Do remember what Benjamin Franklin said, "He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else."  

This is the time to make your choice, what do you want to be good at.

Ashok Grover, Founder CEO of Ashok Grover Consulting is an expert in people assessment and focused executive / leadership coaching. He is also Director at Skillscape, a company with a vision of Value Creation by enhancing people and organizational competencies.

His last assignment was with the JBM Group as Corporate Chief Human Resource Officer. He has four decades of experience in operations, materials, information technology and people development with Parle Group, Mohan Meakins Group, Hawkins Cookers Limited and JBM Group.