Wednesday, June 10, 2009

To Explain or Not To Explain

I struggle with over-explaining. When a partner/client wants to reschedule a call during a doctor's appointment for Penny or when I am trying to get out of here for bedtime I go back and forth about whether to say I'm "unavailable" or to explain - "Oh, can't, my daughter has a doctor's appointment." If I say nothing maybe the partner/client will think that I have a conflict for another client matter (which does happen). Or maybe he or she will think I'm taking too much advantage of how "flexible" our schedules can be (erratic face time is generally acceptable).

I think women tend to over-explain and frankly seem to feel a need to explain. I often type an e-mail message with a long winded explanation and then delete it. It's an impulse I'm trying to contain because there is no reason to explain myself or my conflicts. Instead I try to offer up an alternate time.

Do you suffer from this affliction? Is this a male-female divider?

9 comments:

jerseygirl77 said...

I don't know if it's a male-female thing, but I've totally been guilty of overexplaining. I retrained myself not to overexplain and found it is actually rather liberating to say, "Sorry, X won't work, but how about Y instead?" No one cares about our excuses anyway :-P

K @ ourboxofrain said...

I actually talked to the head of my department about this earlier this week. He is a man and seems to have gotten over the struggle (but with more time/experience), freely explaining without any real concern about doing so. When he asked how I would handle such things as a lawyer and parent, I admitted that I would probably explain for folks in house but not for clients or courts, keeping it vague for the latter group, though I'm still not 100% convinced that it's the right approach. When he first asked the question, I feared he was asking whether I would bail on the doctor's appointment/family vacation for a work commitment, hoping the answer would be yes. I was glad when that proved not to be the point at all.

Caitlin said...

I over-explain ALWAYS. There is a huge difference between me explaining that there is a conflict and when my husband explains a conflict. He usually says, "I can't. What other time can you do it?" I say, "Oh, well I'm supposed to do such & such and then I have to run an errand and I also have some reading to do" and it can go on for quite awhile. I am trying to stop over-explaining because it ends up sounding like a string of excuses. We should learn to be polite, but firm!

ACW said...

I think it is a gendered issue. I often do the same thing -- type up an email rationalizing my "I can't do a 5 pm call" email only to delete it and send "how about 4:30?" instead.
I'm also all for the cryptic statements about availability -- I prefer to use "I have an appointment" or something along those lines, as (1) it's none of their business and (2) if they require more detail, they can always ask.

Nancy said...

Oh yes. Right there with you. It's taken a LOT of practice, but I have come to terms with the "it's none of their business" approach... especially when it really IS none of their business. (co-workers and bosses may be the exception, but not always ;) )

Although, I'm an over-sharer in general (read: I blog), so sometimes I just don't care who knows what :)

Gretchen said...

I over-explain all the time. I too am trying to curb that impulse, but it's very hard!

Donna said...

I have diarrhea of the mouth sometimes. I wish I would just shut up.

Susan D. said...

I feel the same way. My husband can just say "no", but I have to tell why we can't, what we're doing instead, etc. A trick I learned when I was working in PR full time ... when being interviewed, don't be afraid of the silence. People tend to keep blabbing after they have answered the question because we aren't used to the silence. I have learned to do the same thing in my day to day life. Just shutting my trap! : )

Sotorrific Twins said...

Ya, I think this tends to be a woman thing. My husband will say that some partner cancelled some call and I always ask why and he says, "I don't know, he just 'had a conflict.'" It seemed odd to me that he wouldn't give a reason but my husband would never expect one. Female brain, male brain...and they are right. They don't need to explain and others shouldn't always expect an explanation. It's just not their business.