Should you explain yourself?

Should you explain yourself?

Should you explain yourself when things don’t go well, or when you make a mistake? Should you explain the decisions you make? The answer to these questions depends on the situation. Do you need to clarify what you’ve said or done? Is it necessary to defend yourself? What do you want to do?

At first thought, the need to explain myself sends shivers down my spine. To me, it means I’ve made a mistake, and I now have to come up with reasons why I made it. Feelings of inferiority and shame come to mind. Low self-esteem is behind these feelings. It’s always bothered me that I feel this way, but sometimes you find inspiration in the most unexpected places.

After the Broncos lost to the Seahawks in the 2014 Super Bowl, Peyton Manning, one of the best quarterbacks of all time, was asked by a reporter if he was embarrassed by his personal performance or that of his team in general. Peyton calmly explained that he and his team had worked hard all year. Indeed they had! They had the best performance statistics in the league during the regular season.

Peyton went on to explain that he wasn’t embarrassed at all, because he knew that everyone on the team had put forth their best effort in practicing and preparing for the game. He mentioned that “disappointed” was a far better word to describe his feelings. He also noted what an amazing accomplishment it was to even make it to the Super Bowl.

I admired Peyton’s response, and it stuck with me. If you put forth all you have to accomplish a goal, and it doesn’t work out, why should you be embarrassed? Why should you have to explain anything? Why not focus on what you did right?

In Peyton’s case, he pointed out his team’s overall performance, the effort they put forth in practices, and the honor of making it to the Super Bowl in the first place. While I have no doubt that he was profoundly disappointed in the end result, I think it takes a lot of self-confidence to take the stance that he took.

I’ve learned that the more confident I become, the less I feel the need to explain myself, or if I do need to explain, then the less guilty I feel. As long as I put forth my best effort and have good intentions, there’s nothing to apologize for.

What about you?  Should you explain yourself when you make a mistake? Should you explain your decisions? Should you feel guilty when you don’t meet the expectations of yourself or others? I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Debra Leigh

    I’ve explained myself to a few people. One was my employer.
    Now she’s using this to defend her poor behaviour I also tried to
    Talk to a male friend about what I was going through. He didn’t understand,
    Or he just didn’t get it. He dumped me Friday night.
    I do have a few good friends who I’m close to They understand,
    And they’re interested in my self improvement and progress.

    1. Cliff Harwin

      Hi Debra,

      I’m sorry to hear about the negative experiences you had when you explained yourself.

      Your employer and your male friend are people that you need to stay away or keep your distance from because they are negative influences. You don’t deserve that!

      I’m glad that you have good friends that understand and support you. Isn’t that the definition of a good friendship? I hope that you seek more positive people in your life.

      1. Debra

        I’ve done a lot of cleaning house. Got rid of a lot of toxic people in my life. Makes for a lonley life, but i’ll meet new people in time hopefully.
        This group helps. I know I’m not alone.

        1. Cliff Harwin

          Hi Debra,

          Good for you for getting rid of toxic people in your life. This takes a lot of courage! You can now focus on meeting new and positive people. You can meet like-minded people through the interests that you have. Is there a hobby that you’re passionate about? Perhaps you can join a group online and offline. You might go to connects people who have specific interests.

  2. Marki

    Cliff, I really liked this article. I’ve definitely done my share of overexplaining to people who can’t hear and really don’t want to know, and also times when I hold back out of stubbornness. But, like you, I’ve also found times when I feel explaining is exactly the right thing to do. I guess it’s a matter of why. Is it from a place of fear and panic? Or is it from a place of knowing and wanting to do the right thing?

    1. Cliff Harwin

      Hi Marki,

      Do you remember the TV show I Love Lucy? Anyway, Lucy’s husband would say….”Lucy, you have some explaining to do” when she did something wrong. I don’t like to be reprimanded. If I made an honest mistake, I’ll explain myself. If the other person wants to give me a hard time, I, like you, will be stubborn. Hopefully I’m evolving from a place of knowing and wanting to do the right thing. I’m moving away from fear and panic. They don’t serve me. The better I feel about myself, the more confident I become to explain or not explain and not feel guilty about it.

  3. HSPTweets

    Here’s a little different take I have on this issue and its implications:

    Sometimes explanations are entirely unnecessary. Example: I’m at a social event and start to feel weary or tired, I just tell people ‘I have to go.’ No further explanation or excuse is required. I am a free agent.

    A lot of us think we have to have an ‘excuse’ to leave or decline an invitation. Not true.

    Just leave when you need to with a polite good bye.

    If you are not ready to instantly accept an invitation, just say ‘No thanks’, or if you are not sure, say ‘I need to check my calendar and will get back to you.’ Then decide ‘Yes’ or ‘No thanks, I’m not interested’, or ‘I have a another commitment’ (which could mean I want to instead spend that time with myself at home, etc., but you don’t need to explain unless you want to do so).

    We do not need to feel guilty for saying no or not giving lengthy explanations. You can improvise and use appropriate language in any given situation.

    On the other hand you will need to give an explanation when your boss (or a traffic cop) asks for one. But there are not many situations where you have to.

    You may also want to give explanations to certain people who are close to you (family, friend, spouse, etc.). Sometimes this can get sticky when the other person thinks you ‘owe’ them an explanation and can be very demanding or controlling about it. We have to handle such on a case by case basis.

    We have a lot of choice how we behave or respond.

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