Letting Go the Need to Explain Yourself

As I let go explaining I felt lighter and more myself. I noticed how others were trapped by explaining. It had become a cultural expectation. Yet each time we played this game, we gave away our power. Explaining was draining.

Ella Self Portrait PE 10Ever heard the words, “Because I said so, that’s why”?      I did. It was my mother’s parenting style and the best she could do. As a new parent, that phrase was on my hit list. “I’ll never say that to my child,” I’d remark, hopefully.

This mandate crossed into my life in general. My plan was not to leave anyone hanging. I would err on the side of over-communicating. At each juncture, I’d be more than willing to explain myself.

“Allow me to explain…”

When you get into the habit of explaining, everyone comes to expect it. You lose the power to just say, “No”. Oh, I tried. But a demanding stare seemed to trigger me into defensive mode. I would hear myself say, “So that’s my decision…here, let me explain why…”

“I had become the explaining fool.”

Then one day I lucked out. I watched a great interview with Oprah and the spiritual teacher, Byron Katie. They were role-playing Oprah being asked for money by a relative. She wanted Katie to teach her how to say, “No”.

In this case, Oprah played the needy relative, demanding and pleading (like an adolescent) for some of Oprah’s money. Katie took the role of Oprah. What happened next, was magic.

Katie, (as Oprah) listened attentively to the now whining, relative.

“Oh please Oprah. I just need the money. You have it. You have so much. Why can’t you just give me a loan for 40 grand to start my business?”

Katie’s response (as Oprah) sounded like this, “I know. Yes, I do have it (eyes connecting, gentle voice, nodding). I understand you really want it. You really want to start something. (she smiled lovingly) And, no.”

Oprah was flabbergasted. I was too. “And, no”?!

The Revelation of, “No”

Katie’s lesson helped me find the power inside to say, “No”. Minus the drama and angst of explaining. I discovered, “No” was often the most self-loving choice for me. And, there’s nothing to explain when a choice is made from love.

“Never explain a decision that’s right for you…

that it’s right for you, is enough.”

My trajectory of explaining had come to an end.

Free at Last! 

As I practiced listening intensely, I became a better and more empathetic listener. Then, I simply shared what was right for me without explaining. Over time, I learned to do this with increasing love for myself and the other.

“Listen so well and with such an open heart,

that you earn the right to speak.”

And after you do, (earn the right to speak*), please do what’s right for you. No explanation. If this feels hard, practice letting go. This practice will surely release what stands in the way of your best choices. Because here’s the secret, what’s best for you is always related to what’s best for me.

To prove it some of us have to go first. Will you step up and choose what’s in your highest good?

Only you can decide. And after you do, please don’t tell me why.

* To earn the right to speak, means you have listened well and shared your understanding of what the other has said. This can be done by being present while they spoke and paraphrasing what you heard them say. At this point, they’ll likely feel “heard”. Now it’s your turn to speak (you’ve earned it!)


One thought on “Letting Go the Need to Explain Yourself

  1. I just finished reading your article on letting go of explaining yourself. Brilliant. I think overexplaining is very common and indeed it is a hard habit to break. One of the things I do with my friends is try to make it clear to them that I will not be “butthurt” (a new favorite term) if they do not wish to hang out, go for a hike, or whatever I may be inviting them to do. I don’t require them to come up with any excuses, the fact that its not something they feel enthused about at this moment is sufficient. It really sucks when someone says yes when they really mean no, and its clear they are not having a good time hanging out or are maybe pissed they didn’t have the courage to say no. In my experience, when I’ve said yes but meant no, it typically had to do with not wanting to deal with the other person’s disappointment or upset. And to go even deeper, it was concern that my own inner judge would attack me if I felt responsible for the other person being disappointed or upset. I think the reality is that people will handle the “no” in their own particular way, some being completely fine with it, some maybe whining or pouting.

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