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Our Excuses and Rationalizations Exercise

Brief Description/Purpose

We often make excuses, or rationalize why we don't do the things we say we are going to do, or commit to doing. That creates problems for others, so this exercise fits for a number of contexts -- customer service training, team building, management and leadership discussions, etc.

It helps people understand that a) everyone makes up their excuses for others and themselves, and b) that doing so creates huge problems.  


 Verbal Group Exercise

Age Appropriate

 Teens, Adults

Ideal Group Size

 Any size

Time For Exercise

10-15 minutes


Communication, Team work, commitment, consideration of others, self-awareness

Detailed Instructions If Needed

Write on a flipchart (or use an overhead or handout) the following situations, or make up your own that may be more relevant for that particular group.

  • You are late for work
  • You promised to notify your boss at a particular time, but didn't.
  • You missed a meeting with a client.
  • You said you would return some books to the corporate library, but are now two weeks late.

Form teams (or work in the whole group), and have people jot down plausible and not so plausible excuses one might come up with to explain the reasons for the events above.

Go through the excuses/rationalizations, both reailistic, and humorous.

Discuss the effects of the behaviors and actions, rather than the reasons behind them on other people. Focus on the fact that actions are actions and have an equal effect regardless of whether the "excuse" or explanation makes sense or not.

Use the exercise to broach the subject of self-deception, how we actually can believe our rationalizations so as to keep a positive image of ourselves.