Gretchen Rubin

Why I’m Trying to Explain Less.

Why I’m Trying to Explain Less.

I'm trying to curb a bad tendency in myself--the tendency to explain myself in a tiresome way.

Perhaps it's my status as an Upholder, but I really hate to let people down, to make a mistake, to screw up. Some people can let small slip-ups slide off easily, but they really bother me. And so whenever I have a justification to explain my lapse, I want to tell people. In great detail. Even if they don't care.

I finally realized--somehow--how exhausting and irrelevant people must often find this behavior. They don't want to listen to my long explanation of what happened on the subway, or how I spilled coffee on my laptop, or how I was confused about the address.

Some email exchanges helped me understand this. Whenever this person had to change the time of a meeting, she would provide lengthy explanations about why she needed to make that change. I found this draining and overwhelming. Because so much information was presented, I repeatedly assumed that the information must somehow be significant to me, but it wasn't. It was irrelevant, and I found it confusing and boring to try to sift through it.

I also sat through a presentation by a lawyer who was clearly enjoying showing off his command of information, but because he was including everything he knew, it wasn't clear what was relevant to us in the audience. We needed the answers to a very few questions, and he was telling us everything he knew that was slightly related.  I felt dazed.

This behavior really annoyed me, but then I noticed the same tendency in myself. Oh my goodness, I love to explain and give facts, and to justify and defend. And, as Jung observed,  “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Or in less elegant but catchier terms, "You spot it, you got it." Well, I got it!

Just today, I was ten minutes late for an appointment. I said, "I'm sorry I'm late," and had to bite my tongue not to let forth a torrent of unnecessary and boring explanations.

Now I've resolved to Explain Less--to tell people what they need and want to know, and not to deluge them with information just because I want to justify myself. How about you? Do you ever have a similar urge?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

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