Everyone, even the most confident person in the room, is a little damaged.
Some are just a lot better at hiding it than the rest.
Learning to read people is an essential tool because it allows for better communication and understanding in both our professional and personal relationships.
While the majority of our communication is through body language, there are certain tells in our everyday speech that reveal what kind of person we are.
In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the phrases of people who try to deflect their shortcomings.
Let’s get to it!
1) “It’s not my fault.”
A person’s willingness to take accountability says a lot about their integrity.
The most competent and mature leaders out there don’t often hesitate to take the blame when something goes awry, even though they’re not fully at fault.
Think of the world of team sports.
Sometimes, the best player, or the coach, will take full responsibility for a loss, even when they don’t have to.
The latter speaks volumes about their character.
And the opposite is true. If a person is insecure, pompous, or prideful, chances are, they’ll avoid taking accountability at all costs.
Hence, they’ll almost instinctively blurt out, “It’s not my fault.”
Their gut reaction is to avoid blame–and perhaps deflect it.
Deflection is pretty pervasive in the political arena.
A politician will get heat from the public for their own ineptness or corruption but rather than admit to shortcomings, they’ll just deny accountability altogether.
They’ll even find scapegoats to blame as well. Not cool.
2) “I was just joking.”
Sometimes, when we’re hurting on the inside, we use humor as a coping mechanism.
Sometimes, we’ll even be blatantly mean to undeserving parties, using the guise of ‘humor’ as a cover.
I grew up in a kind of negligent household.
My parents had me when they were young and immature, so for much of my youth, I lacked confidence.
This plagued me up until my twenties. I was considerably more insecure than everyone else–and I was too juvenile to realize it.
So I’d often turn to humor and “joking” as a means of letting my aggression out.
I’d make hurtful, belittling, snide, and inappropriate comments and frame it as just “my sense of humor,” even though it was clear I was making at least a few people around me a little uncomfortable.
At the time, I wasn’t adult enough to realize that what I was doing was wrong or mean-spirited.
I was just acting out unknowingly, accepting that this was just who I was.
I mean, we should be accepting of who we are deep down, but when your personality is negatively impacting others?
Then some fundamental changes need to be made.
3) “That’s just the way I am.”
They say “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” something I’ve found to be categorically untrue.
If we perpetuate this mentality, then everyone will find it justifiable to stay content with their worst behaviors, even though they are self-destructive or hurt others.
This weak resignation is especially prevalent among people of a certain generation.
My grandfather, for instance, has the tendency to say some overtly racist and sexist things every now and then.
Occasionally, we’ll be having lunch and he’ll randomly mutter something extremely bigoted.
Many of us will just roll our eyes, but others will call him out on it.
But rather than apologize or promise change, he’ll just dismiss his own actions, almost as if they’re involuntary, since according to him, “That’s just the way I am.”
Once you start brushing off bad behaviors as a personality quirk, this can set a dangerous precedent.
4) “You’re being too sensitive.”
This one is particularly common with manipulative people.
They’ll be blatantly harsh or out of line, but rather than face the music, they’ll turn to “you’re being too sensitive.”
In other words, they’re deflecting blame, suggesting that your reaction, not theirs, is the root of the issue.
This is them having their cake and eating it too.
They think they have a pass for being hostile, unpleasant, or emotionally abusive since they can use the sensitivity card to wash their hands of any blame or accountability.
This is the oldest trick in the manipulator book; stop falling for it.
5) “I’ve always done it this way.”
This is common in people who are resistant to change.
Let’s say they run a business or have done a certain job for a lengthy period of time.
Perhaps they’ll be outspoken proponents of the “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” philosophy–even when there are, in fact, clearly superior, more efficient ways of doing things.
This initial resistance seems to be the norm though.
People once dismissed the automobile and the internet as passing fads.
As they did with the lightbulb, the laptop, and veganism; even the cheeseburger was dismissed as “typical of California.”
The truth is, new innovations will always be met with stubbornness, opposition, and even a tinge of laziness, as people are unwilling to rewire their brains to learn new things–be it technologies or ways of thinking, even when those ways are objectively better.
This brings to mind my favorite quote by the late great Bruce Lee: “Be water, my friend. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.”
6) “It was just a mistake.”
When I was in high school, I wasn’t the most obedient of pupils.
In fact, I’d generally classify my behavior as socially deviant.
I got suspended a handful of times for reasons ranging from cutting class to showing up to school under the influence.
Time after time, I got in trouble.
It seemed I never learned my lesson and my family’s concern understandably grew.
Whenever I’d get caught, I’d give them my usual spiel: “It was just a mistake. This is a wake-up call.”
Of course, a month or two later I’d be back in the principal’s office saying something similar, i.e. dismissing it as a ‘one-off’.’
Rather than tackle the root of the problem, rather than tackle my own imperfections and flaws, I’d just provide the same cop-out every time.
Fortunately, down the line, I did eventually come to my senses and started learning from my mistakes.
We all have our shortcomings.
This is just the nature of the human condition.
It’s ultimately how we respond to our limitations that will define us.
Once you start owning up to the fact that you’re not as perfect as you think, then you can fully expect positive change to occur.
Remember, as long as you’re doing something about them, there’s no shame in having flaws.