You rush into the meeting 5 minutes late in a gust of frenetic energy, cheeks flushed, forehead beaded with sweat. Your winter coat is still half-on, unstapled handouts are dangerously close to either falling into a haphazard pile or being drenched in coffee as you precariously balance the latter two with your left arm. You suddenly remember that your laptop hasn’t even been turned on so you set it down with a thud, push the power button, and start trying to organize your belongings while making awkward chit-chat.
“I’m so sorry I’m late. I missed the bus.” You start logging into your computer and try opening applications but everything seems to be trudging along in slow motion because you’re rushed.
“Ugh,” you proclaim in exasperation before frantically attacking the keyboard with hard, angry clicking. You strike the keys harder and harder as your frustrations begin to mount.
“Technology,” you spit in venomous disgust before making the people who arrived on time to your meeting wait a few extra minutes for you to get everything all sorted out. After several more painful moments, you FINALLY reach over to plug the laptop into the overhead projector and begin your meeting.
Now I have a question for you: Is being late to the meeting because of missing the bus a reason or is it an excuse?
According to Merriam-Webster:
noun rea·son \ˈrē-zən\
- a: a statement offered in explanation or justification <gave reasons that were quite satisfactory>
- b: a rational ground or motive <a good reason to act soon>
Ok, that sounds great. Missing the bus justifies and/or explains why you were late. It provided rational grounds for your tardiness to the meeting. You didn’t intend to miss the bus, so you’re good, right?
Not so fast, let's look at the other word, which has considerably more negative connotations:
verb ex·cuse \ik-ˈskyüz, imperatively often ˈskyüz\
- a: to make an apology for
- b: to try to remove blame from
To make this a little more understandable, let’s just break this down into examples:
Excuse: “I’m sorry I’m late. I missed the bus."
Reason: “I’m sorry I’m late. The bus broke down."
The difference is that one was avoidable (missing the bus) and the other was completely outside of your direct control (the bus broke down).
We are so conditioned to shift the blame and not own up to our mistakes that it’s become increasingly more and more difficult to tell the difference between an excuse and a reason. Justifying something doesn’t necessarily make you blameless. Learn how to apologize, own up to it, learn from it, and move on.
*Not the entire definition. Only applicable usage used.
If you'd like to learn more about how to find a job that brings you joy and fulfillment why not schedule a no-risk, no-obligation Strategy Session. (Don't worry, first one's on the house.)
Join the Facebook group #LevelUp Your Career for support from others looking to achieve career success.