Excuses! How to Build Strong Relationships By NOT Using Them – With Dr. Greg Moody
Life Success With Dr. Greg Moody – Excuses! How To Build Strong Relationships By Not Using Them!
This is the Podcast and transcript of the podcast with Dr. Greg Moody, Chief Master Instructor for parents, teachers, instructors, and all families who want to build a great future for their kids (and it’s great for themselves too!) Go to KarateBuilt.com/Excuses and get more resources for families and parents.
Ch. Master Greg Moody, Ph.D.
Chief Master Greg Moody, Ph.D.:
Hey everybody, this is Greg Moody. This is our success training. We’re going to talk about excuses today and how to build strong relationships without using. If you visit West Point, and I visited West Point a couple times, or Annapolis, the United States Military Academies, one of their slogans is, “Yes, sir. No, sir. No excuses, sir.” That’s one of the things that the cadets say and similar things for the Naval Academy midshipmen. And sometimes that seems like an extreme kind of viewpoint. Well, we’ll talk about today, how you can even think about that concept of excuses versus reasons and what we’re talking about or what they talk about a little bit, not really from the Military Academy, but how you can use this in real life.
So a little bit about me. If you haven’t worked with me before, this is the first time you’ve been to our podcast, here are some of my qualifications or things that you can find out a little bit about me, you can go to amazon.com and find some of my books. Or even better yet, go to drgregmoody.com is another place to find some information about me. But let’s talk about excuses.
One of the things that I hear about the idea of excuses is, and people don’t like it, they say, “Well, don’t make excuses.” They say things like this, and one of the phrases that I hear a lot is that I hear people say, “Well, I’m not making excuses, but” Do you ever hear that? “I’m not making excuses, but” and whatever comes after that, “I’m not making excuses, but this is the reason I was late, because of traffic. There was a lot of traffic on the freeway.” “I’m not making excuses, but it was so-and-so’s fault that we didn’t have the report done on time.” “I’m not making excuses, but this is the reason why my car broke down before. I had a flat tire and that’s why I was late.” “I’m not making excuses, but I wasn’t able to wake up early enough. It was my alarm clock that didn’t go off and that’s why I was late.” I don’t know why I keep using late excuses, but that seems to be a really common phrase. “I’m not making excuses, but,” and then something comes in next, and whatever happens next is always an excuse.
It’s 100% of the time an excuse. And when I say that, you might have in the back of your mind thought about, “Oh, I’ve said that before. I’ve said ‘I’m not making excuses, but,'” and then you fill something in and people say that phrase, “I’m not making excuses, but,” so that the person that you’re talking to kind of doesn’t have a reason to tell you that you’re making an excuse right now. It kind of tries to soften that blow of what comes next. But 100% of the time, whatever comes next is an excuse. So what is an excuse? How do we define an excuse? Well, an excuse is a reason you didn’t accomplish something.
Let me write that better here. Oops. So we have this for a second here. A reason you didn’t accomplish something. That’s it, it’s a reason you didn’t accomplish something. So if you were supposed to be on time or you’re supposed to meet somebody or you woke up late or you’re supposed to finish a book or you’re supposed to… excuse me, I apologize. Supposed to finish a paper, you’re supposed to get a project done, it’s a reason you didn’t accomplish something. Might also be a reason you did something wrong. “Well, I didn’t do that assignment right,” or, “I didn’t do that project right,” or, “I messed up on that software,” or, “I didn’t paint this the right color.” “I didn’t do it correctly.” “I didn’t do it right.” There was some sort of failure or there was some offense that might have happened.
Anytime you have a reason why that didn’t occur, that’s an excuse. Now, those things don’t always have to be your fault. The excuse is when we have to explain it, we have to say something about it. And where people get caught up is they want to try to justify it and have a justification, and that’s what an excuse is, is a justification for something coming up that’s not your fault. Now, there’s a difference between an excuse and a reason. So sometimes people say, “Well, okay, then is every reason an excuse?” Well, every reason isn’t an excuse. The difference between a reason and an excuse, some reasons are excuses, a reason could be an excuse if it’s one of those things, but a reason could also be a positive motivation.
Let me give you some examples of that. So a reason might be something like, “I wanted to be an engineer, so that was the reason I got a college degree,” or, “I wanted to be a black belt, so that was the reason I worked hard for three years and trained.” It’s the format and the language that we speak that may make the difference. So it might look something like this. Let me clear this off. So again, the language is different.
Nobody would be upset if I said “I wanted to be an engineer, so that’s the reason I went to college,” or, “I wanted to be an engineer, so therefore I went to college.” Nobody’d be mad about that. They’d be, “Oh, that’s interesting, that’s cool, that’s fine.” Or I wanted to, let me give you another example that might be relevant to this a little more, “I wanted to be on time, so I set my alarm clock extra early so I could be on time.” You’d be fine with that if I was supposed to meet you on time. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget about our meeting so I made sure I put it in my calendar and gave myself a reminder the day before.” “Okay, cool. That’s really awesome. I’m really glad you were on time for our meeting.” Nobody’d be upset about that, everybody’d be happy.
An excuse is if I say, “Oh, my alarm clock battery. I forgot to set my alarm yesterday. That’s why it didn’t go off,” or maybe something that you would feel like it wasn’t your fault. “Oh, my spouse didn’t set the alarm and she forgot to put it on my calendar.” Okay, now you’re blaming somebody else, that’s an excuse. So excuses make the other people feel bad. So there’s a reason why we don’t like excuses, it’s a reason why you’re trying to explain why you didn’t accomplish something. And so what’s the language looking? How do you know it’s different? Well, you can tell the difference here. So let me give you some different examples that might help clarify, so if you’re trying to suss out which one is different.
The reasons that are positive look like, so reasons, positive reasons, we should say, positive reasons. I wanted X, means it’s accomplishment, so that, or therefore, I did Y. So there was a reason I wanted X, so I did Y. That’s the reason I did, so therefore, that’s the reason I did Y. Excuse is going to look like X happened, so I couldn’t do Y. Something didn’t happen because of X. So the language is different. Now, you guys know what the difference is, and you guys can come up with the difference. And when we’re working with kids, what we have to be careful of is that we train kids at becoming experts at excuses. There’s a couple ways that this is a little bit insidious. So one of the ways in the book, 1-2-3 Magic, which I recommend, let me write that down here. Well, let me leave this up. I’ll just write 1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan, P-H-E-L-A-N.
I recommend this book a bunch if you watch our other podcast. But one of the things he talks about is when you’re a parent, and let’s say you only have one kid, so you definitely know who did something. If the lamp’s broken, and you don’t have any pets, you don’t have any cats or dogs, the lamp’s broken, and you’re there and you and your spouse didn’t break the lamp, the kid broke the lamp. What a parent tends to do then is, “Well, hey, who broke the lamp?” So what are you doing? You’re training the kid to lie. You’re training the kid to say, well, they have two options, they can say, “I broke the lamp,” and be honest, or you’re training the kid to say, “Well, I don’t know.” Well, you know that the kid broke the lamp, so why are we having a conversation about it?
So that’s one example of training a kid to lie. Now, you can train a kid to make excuses too if you’re asking them obvious things like, “Why were you late?” and now they have to come up with a reason why they’re late. Obviously, whatever they say is going to be an excuse. It doesn’t matter why they were late, really. Why does it matter? What might matter is, “Did you set your alarm clock?” “No.” Or, “Did you set your alarm clock the night before? Did you check things? Did you get your clothes put together on time?” or help them with the things they need to do to be on time. That might be relevant to whether they’re on time. Okay. So maybe they have to finish their homework. “Why didn’t you finish your homework?” Now, whatever they say, next is going to be an excuse.
Okay. Now, asking them if their homework’s done or not is a relevant question because you may need to know if their homework’s done, but why didn’t they finish their homework? Whatever’s comes next is going to be an excuse. Now, sometimes that’s okay. From time to time, that’s fine. But when we do that enough, what we’re doing is building in and training them in ways that are making them experts at excuses. And I know you all know that are listening to podcasts, people that are experts at making excuses. People that every time they’re late and they’re late all the time, they can give you a bunch of reasons why they’re late. “Oh, but I was sick.” “Oh, but my car didn’t start.” “Oh, but there was a lot of traffic.” And they come up with a bunch of different reasons.
It might even be the same reason every single time, even though they could do something to account for that, they could account for the traffic or they could account for their car being bad or they could account for their kids being late to get up for school or whatever it is. Even though they’re late all the time, they could account for this, and they could figure out a way to do it. Or if they know that they’re always going to be late, they could plan for their workday to start later. You know people like this that are always giving you those little excuses, and little excuses start to add up in terms of communication and relationships ’cause our title here is Excuses! How To Build Strong Relationships By Not Using Them. And people that use excuses all the time build weak relationships because just like the boy who cried wolf, you don’t trust them after a while.
So let’s talk about a couple other things and we’ll wrap up today. So why do we really care? I mean, if everybody uses excuses and we train our kids to use excuses and it’s just kind of a normal thing, why do we care? Well, we care for a couple reasons that are really important. I’ll tell you the main big things of why we care. First of all, one is most of the time it doesn’t matter. The consequence of using excuses a lot is we get in the habit of, “Well, why were you late?” I keep using late as an example, so bear with me on that one. “Why were you late?” “Well, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” So now they tell us whatever the reason is they’re late.
Does it matter why they’re late, or does it matter that we don’t waste more time talking about their excuse and then get to work? Maybe it does, but I think if you look back at the times where we spent a lot of time dealing with people’s excuses on the other side, we end up spending a lot of time with people’s excuses, and a lot of times it doesn’t matter. So one of the other things that we talk about in management training is less talk and less emotion.
If the topic doesn’t matter, they know they were late, they know they didn’t finish the project, they know they didn’t do something. The only thing that really matters is there’s something to do to mitigate the issue? Okay, so that’s what we’ll talk about next. Does the excuse matter, or is there no reason to really manage it? Does somebody that’s showing up late all the time, do we need to get a reason from them or does it make any difference? So a lot of times it doesn’t matter too, is people end up using excuses out of order.
So out of order, what do I mean by that? Well, when somebody comes in and they have a reason that they didn’t accomplish something, a reason they harmed you, it might have been a reason of offense. So something’s wrong whether it’s they didn’t accomplish something, whether there’s an offense, they did something wrong to you personally, they hurt your feelings, they didn’t complete a project, they didn’t do the thing they were supposed to do, they did something wrong, there was some sort of failure, so any of those things, the first reaction is what their excuse is, their reason why they did that.
If somebody’s feelings are hurt, a lot of times feelings are hurt in addition to this failure. It’s not all about that. They betrayed the group, they didn’t keep their word to the group, they didn’t manage their relationship with the group. So what has to happen first is there has to be a repair. Well, let me put it in this order. When there is an excuse and you have to do something about it, when it matters, number one, well, let’s do A, repair first. So think about it this way, when there’s a failure, a problem, you offend somebody, something’s wrong, it’s like you’ve broken a bridge. You’ve pulled the strands off the bridge, the bridge is sort of hanging, and you can’t have a connection between the two parties. So you’re here… like my stick figures? And there’s now there was a bridge, but now the bridge is broken.
The first thing that has to happen is there has to be some sort of repair of the bridge. Well, how do you do that? Well, you repair the bridge by saying, “I’m really sorry. I’m sorry. I apologize that I was late,” and make some sort of repair. “I’m sorry I did not finish the project on time,” B is, did you have an intention or not to do that? Now, intention doesn’t fix the problem, but is there some repair? “I’m really sorry I was late. I didn’t intend to be late.” The intention doesn’t really matter at this point, but it’s okay to say that.
And then C, with the repair, the sorry, the apologies, that’s the most important thing ’cause you’ve got to rebuild the bridge ’cause this person should be like they were hurt, they got hosed. And even if it’s a professional work environment, this is important. This is important. And this is what people skip, just go right to, “Well, it was the traffic. I’m going to blame somebody else. It was Bob, he didn’t finish his work on time. It was Sally, they were supposed to get the delivery done first,” and then C, what are we going to do to fix it?
F-U-T-U-R-E, future interactions, fix the future situations. Now, sometimes the future situations can’t be fixed. So you might have been late one time, I mean, and we’ll keep using the late example, it was some kind of crazy traffic situation where a truck spilled on the freeway and something was a massive spill and you were four hours late. That happened to me once, and it was completely unpredictable. It was not possible to get anywhere on the freeway, and it was hours and hours and hours of stuck traffic. Once in 10 years that would happen on the freeway. That might not be something you need to fix. So that occasionally will happen.
But you know the people that this isn’t the way it is. If they’re late all the time, they can certainly account for that lateness, and they can certainly fix something or plan for that somehow. So fixing what the future things and repairing first though has to do with letting the other person know they are sorry about that, they know that they did something wrong. ‘Cause if you don’t do that first, the bridge is still broken, so it doesn’t matter what you say to the other person, the bridge is still going to be broken. Okay, so first, let’s review what we talked about.
First of all, excuses are any reasons, hopefully, that covers everything, and of course, you can always email us or send us a notification or something, a message, and I can cover this all individually with anybody as well. So first of all, excuses are any reason we didn’t accomplish something. How do we want to fix the…? Instead of using excuses, what we want to do is use either just try to move forward. Now, this is mostly for the person who was offended or didn’t get their thing accomplished or was affected by this not accomplishing something. Just move forward and don’t expect excuses. And again, for parents, that really goes for you.
If your kid did something wrong, did it matter? Do we want to work on what we’re going to do to move forward? What do they need to do to be on time? What do they need to do to make their bed? What do they need to do to clean up? What do they need to do, and how do we train them to do things properly? Rather than, “Why didn’t you do it right? Why didn’t you do it right? Why didn’t you do it right?” and then train them to make excuses. So be very wary of training them to make excuses. This is a very important skill to not teach. Don’t teach them to make excuses.
Second piece is how do we fix it When something does go wrong? When something does go wrong, instead of an excuse, the alternative is know that it’s okay, you’re human, you’re going to make excuses, and then repair your bridge. Say, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry that went wrong.” Let them know your intention. “That wasn’t my intention to be late.” If you’re always late, be careful with that because you must have had some intention. If you’re always late, then this is not going to land very well. But it matters because this wasn’t meant to be an insult to you. This wasn’t meant to betray. This wasn’t meant to let the whole team down. This wasn’t meant to mess anybody up. And then fix how it’s going to be, fix whatever’s going to happen in the future, so there’s going to be some new thing in the future, unless that’s a one-time unusual case.
So that’s what you do as an antidote. Antidote. Your antidote for excuses is repair by saying, “I’m sorry,” or some form of apologizing. “Hey, I’m sorry this happened. I didn’t mean to be late. I want to make sure I leave earlier next time so that I don’t ever have that problem again,” and then do it. Okay, so that’s your antidote for excuses. Don’t use them. Let’s not have this happen again, and you’re going to build stronger relationships when you don’t use them. All right, I hope this was helpful for everybody. I hope you can use this in your life and use it for more success as you move forward and keep on getting more and more and more success in your life. Hope everybody has a great day.
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KarateBuilt L.L.C. was founded in 1995 by Dr. Greg Moody, an 8th degree Black Belt and Chief Master Instructor, KarateBuilt Martial Arts and Karate for Kids offers lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need – specialized for their age group – for school excellence and later success in life.
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About Dr. Greg Moody: Dr. Moody is an eighth-degree black belt and chief master instructor. He has a Ph.D. in Special Education from Arizona State University (along with a Master’s Degree in Counseling and a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering – he actually is a rocket scientist). He has been teaching martial arts for over 25 years and has owned eight martial arts schools in Arizona and California. Chief Master Moody is a motivational speaker and educator and teaches seminars in bullying, business, and martial arts training, around the world. See more at DrGregMoody.com.
Dr. Moody is also a licensed psychotherapist and maintains a practice at Integrated Mental Health Associates (IntegratedMHA.com) where he specializes in couples therapy and mens issues.
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P.S. From a parent:
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