Do you know what an “excuse” is?
An “excuse” is a reason that you give to explain careless or bad behavior.
For example, if you are the manager of a middle-sized factory of pencils, but you couldn’t meet the order that a customer has placed (5, 000 pencils in 2 days), you need an excuse.
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You need to “have an excuse.” And if you don’t have one, you need to “make an excuse” fast.
Here’s an example dialogue about excuses:
A: Hmm, the shipment of pencils is not enough. What excuse did they give this time?
B: They made some excuse about not having enough raw materials.
A: As always, they have an excuse. I’m tired of listening to their excuses. We’d better change suppliers.
As you can feel from our dialogue above, the word “excuse” doesn’t exactly have a positive meaning.
Excuse vs. Explanation
If you compare the word “excuse” with another word, “explanation.” You will notice a difference:
- Explanation = the reason you give for why something happened or why you did something
Ex. I guess I owe you an explanation. (=I should explain to you)
Ex. I expect an explanation from her.
On the other hand,
- Excuse = a reason that you give for a mistake, bad behavior etc.
Ex. She’s always making excuses for her awful son.
Ex. Don’t you have a better excuse?
Of course it depends on the person and their opinion of what is an explanation and what is an excuse. Sometimes when a person is angry, no matter what you say, every explanation is the same as an excuse, and that person won’t accept or believe anything.
Different Kinds of Excuses
Like I said, if you don’t have any excuse for a bad thing that you’ve done, you’d better make one fast. But you must also remember that any kind of excuse isn’t enough. It should be the “right” kind of excuse.
Here are different kinds of excuse according to merit:
All the excuses in orange are good excuses. All the excuses in red are bad and risky.
For example, Person A is late for work…
A: I’m sorry I’m late. I overslept. (=I slept too long)
B: That’s a lame excuse.
What Makes a Good Excuse?
As you might realize, if you do decide to make an excuse, it had better be a good one. Making good excuses is very practical and crucial in your everyday life. There are many times that people try to use it to get out of a tight spot.
For example, if you’re late for a meeting with a potential business partner, if you forgot to pick your girlfriend up from work, if you made a big mistake at the office, etc.
Now the question is: What makes a good excuse?
The most important thing about a good excuse is it should be believable.
Of course the best option is always the 100% truth.
Ex. I’m sorry I’m late. I had to take my sister to the hospital.
This reason would be perfect if it was true.
However, in many cases, it’s really our fault. But for some reason, it’s difficult or inconvenient for us to admit the truth. Especially if the consequence (negative result) is something that we aren’t ready to face.
This is the reason why excuses often come together with white lies*.
*white lies = small lies
Because sometimes we can’t give the 100% truth, we have to choose the excuse that is the most believable.
10 Tips on How to Make a Good Excuse
# 1. Honesty is always the best policy.
Most people will appreciate honesty even though they did not like your action or its effect.
Make your explanation simple and short. Say something like “I totally forgot. I am very sorry.”
The sincere apology is a big part of it. You can say: “Sorry I messed up. How can I make it up to you?” or “Next time I’ll try to do better” or “It won’t happen again.”
Then move on.
If you really can’t tell the truth, please try # 2.
# 2. Ask yourself: Why don’t I want to tell the truth? What am I afraid of?
Often the consequence (negative result) of telling the truth, what we are afraid of, is actually very small – smaller than we expect.
So, just face the consequence of the mistake that you made.
If you don’t, soon you will feel that your excuse is in fact true. In other words, you will start to feel comfortable with your excuse and start to believe your own story. You might even feel that you’re a clever person because of your excuse. This kind of thinking is just another result of your protecting yourself.
If, for some reason, you still can’t face the consequence of your action, please try # 3.
# 3. Aim to make an explanation, not an excuse.
The main difference between an excuse and an explanation is that an excuse is an attempt to free you from blame. On the other hand, an explanation simply tries to give the reason or fact behind the situation. It doesn’t try to escape but instead accepts responsibility.
Everybody makes mistakes. Be mature and humble enough to admit it.
Excuse: I’m sorry I’m late. I was stuck in traffic.
Explanation: I’m sorry I’m late. I left the house late so I got here late. I could’ve avoided the traffic and, in fact, it wasn’t so heavy.
If # 3 is still not enough, then please proceed to # 4.
# 4. Make a good excuse, not a lame one.
If you’re really determined to go through with it, if you've decided to make an excuse, then be sure to make a good one.
Like George Washington once said:
It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.
A bad excuse is one that you didn’t spend much time thinking of. It’s easy to see through and it’s kind of empty inside. It was all done in a rush.
And like what we mentioned earlier, the quality of a good excuse is its being somewhat believable.
For example, here are some lame excuses that people make when they don’t answer phone calls:
Sorry. I turned my phone off.
Sorry. My phone had been shut off for non-payment.
Sorry. I was busy with my friends.
Sorry. I was helping my baby sister with her homework.
Sorry. My dog is sick.
# 5. Use your imagination; but not too much.
Often, in the process of coming up with a good excuse, we have to exercise our imagination. This is part of avoiding lame excuses.
Nobody likes lame excuses. Listening to somebody who (you know) is just making an excuse is annoying enough, but listening to a lame excuse is twice annoying.
Still, don't go overboard. Here are examples of over-imaginative excuses:
Sorry. My cat hid my phone.
Sorry. Someone stole my car.
Sorry. I broke my bra.
The sink fell down on my foot!
I got robbed. They took my cellphone too.
Although it’s a good idea to be imaginative, you shouldn’t do it in excess. Don’t make your excuse too complicated. Why?
Consider this phone call:
A: Hello babe. Are you sure you don’t wanna go out with me tonight?
B: I’m afraid so, babe. Am really tired. Just going to sleep now. And you?
A: I’m in the club standing behind you.
# 6. Don’t take it easy after making an excuse.
Many people in most situations know an excuse when they hear one. So, even though your partner seems to have believed you completely (especially girls), they most probably just don’t want to listen to your lies or have an argument. For now. So, think of the best way you can make up for your mistake. Go try and fix it fast.
Maybe buy some flowers?
# 7. Don’t recycle an excuse.
People have a very good memory for excuses. Have you ever heard of a “book of excuses”?
The person making an excuse thinks the Book of Excuses is so thick, but the person listening to the excuse knows it’s actually thin.
In relation to this, please see # 8.
# 8. Don’t make a habit of making excuses.
If you ever avoid getting caught one time, you’ll definitely get caught next time. Making excuses is addictive. One excuse piles up on top of another till you can’t handle them anymore.
Remember: Nobody likes to listen to someone making an excuse. Worse, nobody likes a person who has a habit of making excuses. You lose credibility. And most of the time that you’re making an excuse, you’re already caught, you just don’t realize it yet.
# 9. Avoid putting yourself in a situation where you are forced to make an excuse .
Make an effort to change your habits. For example, if you find yourself constantly late for your dates or appointments, leave your house earlier. (Or set your alarm clock right.)
After you’ve already apologized for the same mistake more than a couple of times, make this rule for yourself next time: No excuses, no explanations.
# 10. Do not make promises that you can’t keep.
The best way to avoid disappointing somebody is to not make that person expect too much from you. This may sound like the coward way out but it’s the truth. A lot of people overexert themselves by promising to do things that they can’t. In the end, they disappoint not only themselves but their partners (or friends) as well.
It’s better to be a person of action, not words.
Hope You Learned Something!