Established, since 1997, leading UK based training provider.

Management Communication Skills

Management communication skills

Distinguish between reasons and excuses

Is there a difference between a "reason" and an "excuse" for not doing something?

You bet there is a difference! A reason is true, logical, undeniable and unavoidable.

An excuse is none of these. (i.e. an excuse is untrue, illogical, dishonest or avoidable).

Imagine you give a person some off target feedback, and ask him to make a change in behaviour.
Imagine that he does not make the change. You will want to ask, "why not?"

Here is the point: When you ask the question and that person answers, listen very closely.

You have to classify their answer into one of two categories: either:

  • The reason they cannot change, or
  • The excuse they use to avoid changing

When you listen to others, do you consciously distinguish between reasons and excuses?

It is important that you do, because, as a manager you will need to have a different policy for each.
What would happen to the manager who does not distinguish between reasons and excuses? i.e. one who is willing to accept anything as a "reason"?
Such a manager would be ineffective. They would be unable to sustain progress in another person.
The other person would be able to conjure up any plausible but false excuse and evade the actions necessary for continued progress.
So as a good manager, learn to distinguish between excuses and reasons and then act accordingly.

ho should decide for you what constitutes a reason and what is an excuse in any particular case?

You decide!

This takes a certain amount of courage, to listen to another's story and say: "NO!"
Sometimes you have to say no, and ask the other to give you a reason not an excuse.

One manager once said to me
"Who am I to judge? I do not want to make that kind of judgement. What if I get it wrong?"

The answer was:
"Who are you to judge? You are the manager

You may not want to make that judgement, but it is part of your role.

You may get it wrong, so if in doubt, give the benefit of the doubt to the other person"

What should be your policy for "reasons"?

Negotiate and give concessions.

What should be your policy for "excuses" (non reasons)?

Do not negotiate and do not give concessions.

Distinguish between reasons and excuses and have a different policy for each

Your Comments

Further Reading in Communication - Clear Communication

  • ​3 Part Communication skills Part 2 of 3
    3 Part Communication skills: Part 2 of 3 Effective body language. Everyone in the work place would benefit if they were to develop their communication skills. Why? Because if you have better communication skills, then, as you work with others, you will make more progress with less friction and effort. But...
    Read Article >
  • Six ways to improve your communication skills
    Good Communication Skills Communications skills training is important to you because you don't live on a desert island. You live and work around other people; other people are at the same time: The cause of all your problems The solution to all your problems So you need to get on well...
    Read Article >
  • Clear communication skills
    Clear communication skills You live in a complex society that requires that you express yourself in words, both written and spoken. You succeed only to the degree to which you can clearly express your thoughts both in the written and spoken form. You need to be more clear, accurate, convincing and...
    Read Article >
  • Twelve Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills
    Some people seem to have been born with the gift of the gab. Mastering communication skills is the key to your future success.
    Read Article >
  • Three Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills
    Communication is important because you need to gain the understanding, agreement and active cooperation of others. Without their cooperation your progress will be strictly limited.
    Read Article >