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“That’s me! That’s 


just the way I am!”


Yup! and that’s also a choice — to avoid telling the truth or avoid offering an explanation that feels awkward. 

Do we hear this kind of excuse with regularity, or am I just imagining things? It almost doesn’t matter what the question is that triggers this response. Asking why a person did something, or failed to do something can be equally responsible for getting that shoulder-shrug, palms up answer. Because it’s an easier “out” than admitting an error.

Notice, btw, that the keyword that sets off these (“That’s me,” “That’s just the way I am,” “Hey, whadda I know?”) kinds of retorts is WHY?

“Why” is a terrible word for anyone except a scientist.

All it does is provoke excuses.

“Why were you late to work the last three days?” will get you “My car broke down” or “My dog has been throwing up a lot” or “I had to give my neighbor’s kid a ride to school this week.”

Entrepreneurs don’t spend their energy analyzing.

It wastes too much time.


Better to use “HOW?”

How? forces excuse-makers to deal with reality. It begs the question of process. What specific steps can be taken, in other words. “How can you avoid being late beginning tomorrow?” Effectively followed by: “Please give me a 3-point list of specific steps (HOW?) you will take to be on time/restore the dog’s health/leave earlier for school?” 

“That’s me. That’s just the way I am”

. . . is the classic response from those who are lazy, yes, but more telling than that: from those with low self-esteem. Today’s society is literally plagued with low self-esteem. Children are not taught that they are okay. Parents rarely reinforce what they believe is obvious. Employers have stopped back-patting.

And social media is nothing more than an avalanche of token compliments and empty promises.

Many have come to accept social media exchanges so readily that they convince themselves that their 14,000 Twitter Followers are actual friends, and that their Facebook Friends are far beyond acquaintanceship.

Self-esteem reality is being dwarfed by ego fantasy.


I find this trend disconcerting because I (and many psychologists) believe success in life and in business has more to do with a person’s sense of self-confidence than almost any other factor. Self-confidence is a by-product of self-esteem. When someone feels good about her or himself, he or she becomes confident in her or his pursuits.

Of course there are exceptions to the above, but generally speaking, the best thing we can do for our loved ones (especially for the malleable minds of our children and grandchildren), and for our employees and associates, is to plant and nurture as many seeds of esteem-building words and actions as possible, as often as possible.

The return on investment can be enormous, and there is nothing more self-satisfying you can give to others than your sincere compliments and encouragement. Try looking for opportunities to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative” (a song my father used to sing). The more it works, so will your business, and your life. 


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Hal@Businessworks.US 302.933.0116

Open Minds Open Doors

Many thanks for your visit and God Bless You.

 Make today a GREAT day for someone!

2 comments so far


  1. Meredith Bellon 02 Oct 2011 at 2:39 pm

    You’ve addressed two important points in the post, Hal.

    First is the difference between asking Why and How questions. Why… can cause someone to feel criticized and judged, whereas How… does not (unless tone of voice sounds judgmental). How… questions also serve the purpose of getting the other person to THINK and far too little of that goes on these days.

    Second, I applaud your stressing the importance of helping people develop strong self-confidence and self-esteem. Too few parents and leaders truly understand the impact their words have on those who look up to them for affirmation. Developing the habit of looking for things to praise (that are truly praise-worthy) and then SAYING positive words is one of the most powerful ways to build another person’s belief in himself/herself.

    Thanks again for your blog and life wisdom.

  2. Hal Alpiaron 02 Oct 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Thank YOU, Meredith. I so much appreciate and value your visits and input — and especially on the subject of the universal need for self-esteem development among young people as the channel for life and career success, which has long been a focal point in my writings and teachings. You are such a joy to have as a supporter and it always makes me smile to see your great comments both here and on Twitter. Thanks for being you! Best – Hal

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