Episode 32-Reasons vs. Excuses and Intent vs. Impact

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What is the difference between giving a reason and giving an excuse when you’ve hurt someone? What’s the difference between your intent and impact? How can you use this information to improve your conflict resolution skills?

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In this episode, Nathan and Aaron answer all these questions and more as they share their observations and experiences as therapists.

In This Episode


  • In relationship communication, what’s the difference between a reason and an excuse?
  • What’s the difference between intent and impact?
  • Why it matters

What’s the difference between a reason and an excuse?

  1. Reason: an explanation for what you did or why you did it, to help the other person make sense of your behavior
  2. Excuse: an explanation that might explain your behavior but may inadvertently minimize what you did or invalidate the impact on the other person

What’s the difference between intent and impact?

  • Intent: the reason or motivation behind your actions; what you were intending to do or accomplish when you said/did it
    • This is more about you than the person who was hurt
  • Impact: the damage that was done to the hurt person (emotionally, financially, materially, etc.)
    • This is about them and what they experienced, whether you agree with it (or like it) or not. It’s real to them.
    • Sometimes you also need to acknowledge the impact on yourself rather than overlooking them by excusing others’ behaviors
  • Just because we don’t intend to cause harm, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. We still need to be responsible for the harm caused by our behavior
    • Example: When you rear-end someone in a car accident, you didn’t mean (intend) to cause damage. However, if the car you hit needs a new bumper, you are still responsible to pay for it.

Why it matters

  1. When you acknowledge what happened, you agree with reality and affirm the other person’s experience of getting hurt
  2. Acknowledging the impact without giving excuses also demonstrates your willingness to take responsibility, which makes them feel safer and cared about by you
  3. Your intent cannot be heard until you deal with the impact of your actions on the other person

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Meet Nathan & Aaron

Nathan Hawkins and Aaron Potratz are both licensed therapists and clinical supervisors in the state of Oregon. They each own their own private group counseling practices and co-own a third group practice together. Nathan and Aaron have been in the field since 2004 and 2007, respectively, and have over 100,000 hours of therapy experience each. On their show, they discuss facing fears and common challenges from a therapist’s point of view, imparting wisdom and humanity to their viewers. Along the way, they hope to not only share their insights but bring some light-hearted entertainment to make the journey easier.

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Episode 32