— 30 July 2003 —

The fine line between and

The fine line between and excuse and an explanation.

I was in a meeting this morning to start planning for a project. One of the people there said to the planner, “I would have brought my list of typical tasks to give you, but my printer went all funky right before the meeting. I’ll send them to you via email.” Okay, not a direct quote, but close.

As he finished speaking I thought, “Who cares?” So he didn’t bring it, so what. It sounded like an excuse, but to him it was probably just an explanation as to why he didn’t have it. Does it depend on if you were supposed to do something? I didn’t get the impression that anyone was counting on him to get this done. It was just a nice to have for the first meeting.

I see people at work all the time riding that line between excuse and explanation. As with all verbal communication, it takes one to speak and one to listen. So it is both the intent and the interpretation that get applied to the words used. But I tells ya, there sure are a lot of people of whom I interpret making excuses.

I didn’t get that deliverable done on time because Tim was out of the office last week.

We don’t have time to do that because you keep changing requirements.

I’m sorry I set you on fire, but the lighter was just sitting there.

Excuses or explanations? How about getting your work done when you say it will be done, or making sure people know you are going to be late and when you expect to be done.

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