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Techniques > Conversation techniques > Excuses > Explaining

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When accused of some misdeed, explain who was there, what happened, what you did and why you did it.

This often best done in a tone of patient helpfulness, tinged with indignation at being accused. Some situations may work better with more righteous anger, but beware of triggering your accuser into an entrenched position.

If you were not involved, then explain what you were doing at the time. Understand the other person's real reasons for accusing you and add explanation that will help them accept that you were not involved.

If you were involved, seek to reduce your culpability, perhaps showing yourself as a bystander or how you were forced to do what you did. It can help to offer an explanation before you are questioned, although beware of this making you seem guilty.

When explaining, seek to ensure your story is consistent and without internal contradictions.


A person is accused of stealing food. They plead forgiveness by saying that they were hungry and had no money.

A student arrives late for a class and says 'Sorry, the first bus was full and then the next one was late.'


We all have a need to explain and will often offer an explanation when none is requested. This can give the accuser more fuel for challenge than it does provide excuse for your actions. This is worth remembering when you try to explain away something you have done, as you may be able to better get away with it by saying nothing!

On the other hand, offering an early rationale positions you as being honest and open, without the other person having to press you for information.

Explanation can use any of many different types of reasoning. The main test of success is that it makes sense, particularly to the other person.

See also

Distraction, Explain, Cause-and-Effect Reasoning



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