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Refuting Excuses


Techniques Willpower > Desisting > Refuting Excuses

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Do you have a tendency to make excuses to yourself when you do things you know that you should not? A way of handling this is to have a logical argument with yourself, finding fallacies in the excuses and so refuting the excuse.

The first step in this is to notice that you are making excuses to yourself. Then pick apart the excuses and show that they are unworthy and just that: an excuse.

The inner voice that is arguing the case for refuting should be calm and authoritative. The voice that is making the excuse could sound childish and stupid. This alone may be enough to show you that excuses will not work and that you really have to do what you know you should do, and refrain from what you know is wrong.


A person who wants to stop spending excessively thinks about what they say to themselves as they are deciding to buy. They hear excuses including 'I deserve it' and 'I need to cheer myself up'. They then consider arguments that show they deserve more to have savings and that they are actually happy enough already.

When I wanted to stop playing as many games, I would often use the excuse 'Just one more go won't harm.' I then developed an argument that showed the harm of every single game. Before long, I would play one and say 'that's enough'.


In conversations with others and also with ourselves, we have a deep need to explain ourselves and show that we are rational people. This is a reason why we tend to make excuses for when we do things that we know we should not do.

Excuses are often used with justification for breaking rules. We say 'this is a special case' or 'just this time'. All we have to do is to remove the validity of the excuse and we are now again forced to consider that the proposed action is not really a good idea at all.

The discipline of argumentation was developed by the ancient Greeks and refined by the Romans as a logical form of persuasion. This is a splendid way of dismantling excuses. A useful framework for doing this was devised by Toulmin.

See also

Toulmin's argument model, Excusing



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