The perfect excuse that gets you out of promises without losing people’s respect

LONDON — Looking for a way to get out of your New Year’s resolutions already? A new study has discovered the perfect excuse that will even keep people from losing respect for you! Just tell them you’re broke!

A researcher from the City University of London found that people who blame circumstances outside of their control — like not having enough money to carry out a goal — retained more respect from others in comparison to someone who blamed factors like not having enough time. Simply put, saying “I’m poor” instead of “I’m too busy” turned out to be a better excuse for people who often give up on their New Year’s goals or promises.

When a group of volunteers had to judge these excuses, people claiming they didn’t have the time to lose weight or eat healthier were seen as having less self-control. Meanwhile, the group believed people had more self-control if they claimed they simply didn’t have the cash to pay for a gym membership or buy more nutritious foods.

“Many resolutions or commitments involve either time or money so the lack of one or the other seems to provide a good excuse for breaking it without adversely affecting how others see us. However, these two excuses are not equally effective. My six experiments involving around 1,200 people found that pleading a lack of money leads to better outcomes – in terms of perceptions about the individual – than citing lack of time,” says Dr. Janina Steinmetz from the Bayes Business School in a university release.

Person with empty pockets

In one experiment, 200 online participants read about the excuses made by people who failed to keep their promises to eat healthier. While some blamed the cost of cooking good meals, others claimed they lacked the time to commit to a healthy lifestyle. Participants were more likely to choose people who blamed their problems on money woes as better potential gym partners.

“These results are surprising because people like to use lack of time as an excuse when they can’t do something. They equate lack of time with high status. However, the studies suggest we tend to think others could find the time to exercise or cook healthy meals if they were sufficiently motivated. That is why citing factors many of us have less control over, such as lack of money, can produce perceptions of having better self-control even when we abandon our New Year’s resolution or break a commitment,” Dr. Steinmetz explains.

Interestingly, the researcher also believes that blaming your troubles on uncontrollable hardships could even help you land a new job — or even a date!

“In job interviews and on dating website questionnaires people are often invited to talk about a failure they’ve had in life. Obviously, we’ve all had them but when explaining why, whether you’re looking for a job or for romance, blaming uncontrollable factors might help you convey a positive image. Although my research didn’t look at those contexts, it might be wise to avoid the temptation to blame lack of time,” Dr. Steinmetz concludes.

The findings are published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

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  1. Maybe your “good friends” don’t make a big deal over that excuse because they don’t want you begging them to loan you money

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