You Don't Have to Give Explanations

Nobody is required to give explanations regarding their beliefs, values or relationships. Explanations are only necessary in uncertain or painful situations, and always coming from a place of respect.
You Don't Have to Give Explanations
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Cognitive psychology reminds us that we aren’t required to give explanations to anyone about what we do, think, or choose in our day to day life.

Ahead of this is always “self-interest”, the need to know ourselves and act according to our own principles and values, while respecting those around us.

The act of giving explanations is necessary in certain cases when our decisions affect other people. But taking on responsibilities goes hand in hand with the ability to know how to act and make decisions without having to justify what we do to others.

We know that we spend our lives giving explanations for everything. Therefore, this time we’d like to invite you to reflect on that.

When giving explanations becomes a habit

As with everything in life, there’s a limit and a balance. We can ask for an explanation from our partner if, for example, they haven’t been home in three days. We would do the same with our children if they misbehaved and with our friends if they did something that didn’t meet our expectations.

  • People need to give and receive explanations in uncertain, unusual, or painful situations.
  • Cognitive and positive psychology emphasize the importance of not falling into the habit of “giving explanations”.
Couple riding two bikes

The problem with always explaining yourself lies in the type of communication that you’re establishing. If the dialogue is constructive and empathetic, communication flows freely with understanding.

However, in many cases people may assume they already understand what we want. They may appear to be listening, while the truth is they’re thinking of the response they’re going to give; they’ve already reached their own conclusion, even if it doesn’t coincide with reality.

  • Giving explanations should never become a habit.
  • Explanations are only necessary when a concrete situation requires them to restore the balance in a relationship.
  • When giving explanations, the dialogue should be respectful, open and democratic. Giver and receiver should listen with empathy and dedication to explore the situation and reach an agreement and the harmony that we all need in our communication.

Situations where you should never give explanations

Woman fixing the hair of her friend

We’re sure that in your close social network (friends, family, work, partner) you’re compelled to give more of an explanation about aspects of your life that you may not want to share, let alone have to justify.

Here are some examples that perfectly illustrate situations where you are under no obligation to explain yourself:

You shouldn’t have to explain your priorities in life

What’s important to you concerns only you. If your greatest passion is travel, not everyone will understand when you spend the year saving instead of buying a new washing machine or getting a new car. You don’t have to justify anything, and if you do, do it only once.

You don’t have to explain your relationship status

Why don’t you have a partner? Don’t you have any kids yet? Your boyfriend is a bit on the quiet side, isn’t he? Why don’t you live closer to your family?

We’re sure you’ve heard at least some of these questions before. People often ask out of innocent curiosity, but they may be things that are uncomfortable to have to justify and that, in reality, concern no one else but you.

You don’t need to explain your beliefs or values

Values, beliefs and opinions stand for themselves. They don’t need to be explained or justified. If you practice a religion or feel an affinity for a type of spirituality, you don’t have to explain your beliefs to anyone or what led you to this choice.

  • You are your choices, others need to accept you as you are without asking for an explanation.
  • Living together means respecting each other and therefore accepting each other as we are. Explanations are only necessary, as we pointed out earlier, in cases of disputes or personal problems.

Live your life freely by staying true to your values. Act with respect and be happy about everything you’ve accomplished on your path.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.