Don’t Explain So Much

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Richard said I wasn’t taking responsibility for my actions. I was truly puzzled because I’ve made taking personal responsibility practice for years. Although I have my moments where I consciously refuse to take any responsibility for anything for 10 minutes, generally I own up to my foibles and mistakes pretty quickly — maybe even more quickly than I should sometimes.

I trust this guy even though we haven’t known each other that long really. So I spent some time thinking about what he said. At the Zen center where we both live, we have a shared responsibility for picking up stuff around the campus. Without planning it turned out that I do my stint before 10 om the morning, and often earlier and he does his part in the late afternoon.

On thinking about all this I realized that I had the perception he didn’t think I was holding up my end. And it’s probably true I wasn’t doing it as well as I could, at least some of the time. But I also knew his young eyes spotted problems easier than my older ones. He’s helped me understand what we’re looking for, and that’s working.

I ran through our last couple of conversations and the light dawned. I’d taken to explaining what I was doing and speculating on why he wasn’t sure I was doing enough. I guessed that he heard those explanations as excuses.

I asked him if that was so, and after a moment or two, he allowed as how maybe that was it. After wondering about it all some more, I decided not to explain, but to simply text my success or failure to him each morning. That did the trick. He now knows I’m working at it and no longer feels I’m trying to dodge responsibility.

That got me to observing my explanations in general. It wasn’t pretty— not that my explanations were false, but that they were mostly gratuitous.

I am teachable, and now for me it’s become a policy never to explain — not unlike the notion that we should never apologize. Although I still don’t feel it, perhaps my explanations were an attempt in a way to dodge taking some responsibility.

I can’t tell you my life has suddenly become wonderful… actually it’s pretty good most of the time and sometimes way better than that. But I as I’ve stopped the automatic explanations I’ve found many of my relationships, particularly around work, are notably better.

Maybe automatic explanations come under a rubric like too much information that’s not interesting or fun. I’m not sure, but it seems to be working.

I’m wondering if any of you have had similar experiences?

Live well,

P.S. — I found this image almost instantly after I’d written the first draft, leading me to believe I’m not alone in learning how not to over explain. ;- )

Writer, life and writing coach, book ghostwriter, Grandmother, Buddhist. Liberal who listens to the other side, political

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