Excuses can be frustrating. Working in a school, I hear some of the worst excuses out there, normally just before a PE lesson starts. Excuses, if left unaddressed, can interfere with progress and are an untapped resource in coaching of any kind.
In particular, when it comes to working with people to improve their relationship with food, excuses tell a story. Eliciting the hidden meaning behind these excuses can be a powerful tool in understanding an individual’s values, beliefs, personality and intentions.
3 classics to watch out for are ‘forgetting’ ‘not having time’ and ‘indulgence’. Lets explore these below.
“I just fancied it"
“I didn’t have the time"
This one is one of my favourites, as it can be a real can of worms. Sometimes this can just mean, "I don’t see the purpose in this". The individual is not engaged enough with the idea to put in the effort to behave in a certain way. So they don’t. But instead of telling you this, ‘I didn’t have time’ is much easier to say, its far less personal.
If an issue is really important to someone, then they will be able to make time. They must make time. This type of excuse can be a signal of self-neglect, self-deception or just poor planning. Do they have too many priorities? (I always thought the plural of the word priority was oxymoronic). Do they have poor time-management skills? Or are their assertion skills poor - do they find it difficult to maintain boundaries and say ‘no’?
Forgetting things might seem like a weak excuse, but can be a good example of an unconscious defence. The individual involved might not realise it, but it can sometimes be quite purposeful to forget to do something. To explore this one further, a good follow up question is ‘If you chose to forget, why might that be?'
So while excuses can feel frustrating, inviting them into the conversation and exploring their hidden meaning can help path the way for progress in a variety of contexts. When you know what to look for, there are plenty out there.