“Explaining your actions does not negate the impact of those actions. Don’t confuse an explanation with accountability and repair.” ~ LMB
Explaining why you did what you did is not taking responsibility for what you did. When your actions upset someone, your job is to repair their upset. They don’t care why you did what you did; they care that you understand that what you did was upsetting to them. They want to know that you get the impact of your behavior on them. You cannot relay that understanding by giving them a list of things going on for you that led you to act the way you did.
- “I was tired after being up all night with our son, by the way.”
- “I was trying to be nice by not telling you. I had already fixed it, and I knew you would be upset, so I was trying to save you from that.”
- “I’m under a lot of stress right now and don’t have a lot of extra bandwidth, so I’m sorry if that’s hard for you. It’s hard for me too.”
- “That’s how my family does things. They’ve always been that way and always will.”
The explanations can be endless, and the bottom line is your answers are about protecting you and leaving the other person alone in their upset. If you must explain, that explanation should be for the benefit of the person in upset, not to help you feel or look better.
Working through conflict can be a super tricky process for many people, primarily because they get caught focusing too much on themselves and not enough on the injured party. Explanations are a great example of this harmful pattern. If you often explain your actions, chances are, you find working through conflict difficult, annoying, or something to be avoided. When done well, though, conflict can not only leave you feeling healthier and more confident, but it can also bring you closer to your loved ones. Mastering conflict is a life-changing, relationship-enhancing skill; however, to master it, you have to stop the excuses.
Challenge: Pay attention to your excuses when others are upset by your actions. Notice how those excuses help or hurt your relationships at work and in your home. When you have a clearer idea of this pattern, try to slow those excuses down: take a breath, ask for space to think about what was said before you respond, and practice removing explanations from your conflict arsenal.