There is a thin line between reason and excuse. This is why it is important to bridge the gap between reason and excuse. A reason simply refers to a cause or explanation. It explains why someone did something or why something happened. An excuse, on the other hand, is also a type of reason that specifically justifies or defends a fault.

There’s no easy trick to telling an excuse for a reason. They’re not sharply defined, and what’s an excuse in one situation is a solid reason in another. Whenever you are in a situation to distinguish one from the other you can do research. If you don’t understand the first reason you receive, dig deeper. Ask “why” five times.

Always assume in good faith from the other party until it’s necessary to do otherwise. This gives you room to change your mind and leaves them room to change theirs. When you think someone is offering you an excuse think about the “why”. Look for opposing motivations, ones that make the parties disagree on whether a certain demand is reasonable. Look for shared motivations that supersede the opposing ones, and see if you can reframe the situation in terms of those motivations.

At work or in life in general, reasons become excuses when we used them to avoid responsibility. When we make excuses, we are usually focused on everything and everyone else but ourselves. If we are unwilling to take responsibility for our behaviors and our decisions. 

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