Is there a difference between a reason and an excuse, or are they the same thing with a different label?
There has been quite a lot of discussion about this subject, with many differing opinions. Here’s my take on the implications surrounding each word. According to Merriam-Webster the word reason originated from the Latin word reri , meaning to think, implying
reckoning, calculation, explanation. You might say it’s about the what actually happened.
Excuse on the other hand has more to do with the idea of freeing from blame. It’s likely to be more of an invention than an acknowledgement of facts.
Those suggestions make a lot of sense to me.
In my experience, both as a giver and receiver, an excuse tends to be much longer, more convoluted, and often with an over abundance of description. It would be accompanied by many more apologies and much repetition of the events that conspired to cause the situation.
The message it sends is “it’s not my fault”, “please don’t blame me”, “I couldn’t help it”. And you feel bad or guilty that it happened.
A reason, on the other hand, tends to be short and sweet. There is a noticeable absence of any of the following: blaming, defending, justifying, placating. The apology is delivered without fluster and we swiftly move on. We don’t beat ourselves up because we somehow feel we ‘should’ have done things differently.
The excuse tends to linger, with frequent reminders via repeated apologies and exclamations. It rapidly becomes tiresome for the listener but continues to be compelling for the protagonist.
So what’s going on?
I believe that the excuse maker finds it more difficult to be assertive. Indeed they may mistake assertiveness for confrontation.
They are likely to be more self critical and find it difficult to forgive mistakes, both in themselves and others.
They probably have issues with self confidence and, perhaps, self esteem.
If any of this sounds horribly familiar, here are some tips you can try.
- Be brief with your apology. I’m sorry I can’t make that day.
- Keep explanations short. I am fully booked/not available/have already made other plans.
- Turn a ‘sorry’ into a ‘thank you’ : I really appreciate that you included me.
- Offer a compromise: could we meet 1/2 an hour later next time/could we find a different venue?
- Don’t take responsibility for making everything okay. Accept that some people may be disappointed or upset. That’s their business, not yours
- If you could have avoided the problem by doing things differently, ask yourself why you didn’t.
If you need any help or have a totally different take on this subject, I’d love to hear from you.