Explanations: How much is too much?

So often I catch myself explaining in great detail why I am running late.  I feel a sense of guilt and want to be able to justify why I am keeping someone waiting.  What I have learned is that the more we elaborate on why something is out of our control, the less competent we appear.  If we continue to expand on excuses for something that is clearly our responsibility (like managing our time and keeping our commitments), the bigger the whole we dig.

What we actually believe we are doing is providing more details that justify why we have not managed our time and that it could not be helped.  We think that by providing explanations, the other person will have sympathy for how out of control our lives appear.  The opposite actually happens… The result is a double whammy:  1) we plant seeds of doubt in the other person’s mind as to whether we respect them and their time; 2) the other person loses trust in our ability to keep all our commitments (not just as it relates to time).

What I notice in clients and friends is that when they call before the scheduled meeting time to let me know they are running late, I admire them for their ownership, their consideration, and their judgment.  I do not need to know why they are running late, to know could have me create an impression about them that may not be true.  I would rather just hear that they are running late but they are on their way and give me the option of rescheduling if the timing no longer works.  This creates a win-win scenario for both of us:   They do not have to take on feelings of guilt and inadequacy of not managing their time properly (life happens, things get in the way) and I feel good about knowing they are still coming and can continue on with an upbeat attitude when they arrive!

So next time you are running late, take responsibility for it, take a minute to make the phone call and let them know you are on the way, period.  No further explanation is required.