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Should you give someone an out?

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“Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.” – Edward R. Murrow

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

I have a habit I’m trying to change. It’s not necessarily a bad habit, but it’s something I’ve noticed I do that I don’t think I need to. The habit? Regularly giving people an out.

For me this usually takes the form of following a request up with “if you can’t, no worries.”

There isn’t really anything wrong with this. In the sphere of interpersonal relationships and social constructs, letting someone off the hook in advance is considered a courtesy.

But what if it bleeds over into the expectations you have of yourself?

For me, it can do that very thing. Usually not without some guilt and self berating, but I’ve recognized that I’ve had the habit, for a very long time, of letting myself off the hook.

Now I’m not encouraging that people develop the habit of beating themselves up. That may lead to action, but not to a happy life.

What I’m suggesting is responsible accountability. Guaranteed, the most successful people in the human race do not let themselves off the hook from an idea, a goal, or an obligation.

As I write this. I have a headache. I’ve had it since yesterday, and it’s scaled from annoyance to pretty darn painful (bordering on migraine). But I thought about this concept of letting myself off the hook, of how I use excuses to get out of uncomfortable situations, and challenged myself to see how much I could get done, through the discomfort.

I’ve also been thinking about how the “outs” I give to other people might not be serving them. Often times people need that responsible accountability from others. 

When you offer someone an out, you’re trying to control the situation in advance by people pleasing in advance. Basically you’re saying “hey look! I’m ready to deny myself if any of this is inconvenient for you. Look at what a good person I am. This isn’t about me and my comfort, this is about you and your comfort.”

But in truth, it’s all about you. Offering an out, letting someone off the hook in advance, avoids the possibility of an uncomfortable interaction that YOU don’t want to have. You’ve already established for them that their “no” is OK.

This could steal an opportunity for growth from someone, simply because there could be a moment of discomfort for you. And going once step further, your brain may not think that it truly is OK for them to take the out, and then you end up resentful, even though through your words you let them off the hook.

So, I’m giving up the “outs.” I’m challenging myself to not give those outs to other people, or myself. The worst that’s going to happen is an awkward moment of discomfort. I can handle that. And so can you.


Work with me

Do you struggle with holding yourself accountable? Do you let yourself off the hook more than you like? As a coach, I can help you explore the thoughts (known as thought errors) that are keeping you stuck in this pattern.

Book a complimentary consultation with me to start exploring the possibilities.

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