If you’re being 100% honest with yourself, when was the last time you made an excuse for not doing something? In my opinion we’re all guilty of it, although the frequency varies. It’s something I’ve personally been focusing heavily on since losing my wife – that was the wake-up call I needed. Not that I was quick to avoid ownership when I messed up, but I could certainly have done a better job acknowledging my role.
It’s tough, admitting our fallibility – and it’s very uncomfortable (to me at least). There is a flip side, there are those who seem to take a perverse pleasure taking ownership of everything – almost martyr-like. This isn’t what I’m advocating, I just want more of us to acknowledge the influence we exert (consciously and unconsciously).
It seems like “it’s not my fault” or “it wasn’t me” has become almost a reflex – something I think most of us learned as children. When called on it we may even dig our heels in, becoming more defensive – so unwilling to lose face (if we’re at fault). With this in mind, what can be done?
I think there are (2) things all of us can do. First, knowing people’s propensity to go on the defensive, approach others understanding they likely didn’t do whatever it was maliciously. Try to understand where they were or what they were thinking. This doesn’t mean letting them get away with it, they need to be held accountable; but use an approach where they are more likely to be open and receptive (not an approach I was very successful with while on Active Duty).
The other thing is we need to be receptive to feedback. We’re not perfect, we’re going to make mistakes. We may be lazy, and need a push from time to time – understand we all have flaws and things to improve upon. If you don’t feel the feedback is relevant, after considering it, then don’t act on it. This is more constructive than arguing or being defiant. Stand up for yourself, but stick to the facts. Reacting emotionally will often escalate the situation, and seldom helps your cause (speaking from personal experience).
Like anything else this takes time and self-awareness. I believe you’ll be happier for it, and can incorporate this into all aspects of your life – from spending habits to being a partner in an intimate relationship.