Before I start anything, No I’m not talking about an app on a smartphone, sounds convenient as all get out though doesn’t it? Just go onto your phone and ask something along the lines of “Phone, I need an excuse to escape the situation I’m in” and boom, you just remembered a test you don’t actually have but totally need to study for right? That’s totally something somebody should do!
Did you know that the human mind has an excuse generator built into it? It’s a concept that I was alerted to in this book called the Tao of Badass, written by the dating coach Josh Pellicer. It describes it as this internal process where your defense system over reacts to the fact the you want to speak to other people, and while he described it in terms of dating, I quickly realized that it’s used as a obstacle in social awkwardness as well!
Basically, what I’ve found, from my own personal experience is that people sometimes go to any lengths to keep themselves locked into their own shell. Because they like to reside in their comfort zones, which is often times admittedly small.
One of the ways your mind tries to keep you safe is by providing your comfort zone; things that you know aren’t going to hurt you. So when you try and change that, it tries to keep in you locked firmly in place is by giving you an out, a safety line to grab onto in times of insecurity.
Let me set you up with an situation here, you’re outside of your comfort zone, in an area where you’re just nervous, and very unsure of what to do. Wheather it’s a bar, the mall, the grocery store, a festival, anything public where some prosper and others falter (always remember that this isn’t their fault, never look down on someone who gets nervous in public).
You look over to your friend, who’s taken to talking up a few people that he’s bumped into. Or maybe someone’s tried to strike up a conversation, or better yet, you look at a couple people who’re laughing and having a good time, and you get the desire to go over an speak to them..1..2..3 seconds go by and suddenly WAIT!
I can’t go over there an interrupt, that’d be rude and they won’t like me. Or my personal favorite (and the lamest excuse I’ve ever given myself to keep myself from talking to people), it’s too cold in here; It doesn’t make sense to go over and talk to them.
What? You sit there, that excuse in your head and your body refusing to move and you can’t go do it…because it’s cold in here. That makes zero sense, I’m not saying that’s exactly what you thought, but it’s similar in its essence. It’s an excuse, and because of the safety line, the surety that it provides, it gives you an out for whatever you just got too busy to do, sound familiar?
That is the excuse generator, and it’s one of the biggest obstacles you have in terms of learning to trust yourself. It kicks in about three seconds after you have a thought about why you want to try something, and often times it comes across as an all-encompassing power in your life.
The big thing that you have to realize about excuse generators is that they are based strictly in the creative side of your brain, the side that makes you emotional, and holds all of the more eccentric aspects of your personality. This is what gives you the excuse, but because you sit outside your comfort zone. and you’re nervous, it disguises itself as being from the logical side your brain.
Giving everything the assurance of being logical. When you have a basis like that, you’ll accept a large variety of reasons, even if it’s something just a little bit ridiculous. But how do we prevent such an occurrence?
In theory it’s simple enough, but in practice, it’s a test of self-assurance (a concept that heavily relates to confidence). You see the person you want to approach, and you just go for it, don’t allow those three seconds to interfere with your approach. Now you see what I mean what I say easy in theory, difficult in practice.
There are several ways to help you ignore those first few seconds. I spoke to several people on the best way to go about this and from what I’ve gathered there are a couple things that can be used to help you ignore those three seconds.
Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, and Reckless Engagement. There were a wide variety of ways, but usually they’ll fall into these three categories, even if it’s only in the broadest sense.
Positive Reinforcement is a series of assurances that you make the instant you see the new individual, or individuals as the case might be. You make a positive assurance and seat it in deep within your brain, and just go and speak with the person under of the basis of a thought like “This is going to be an awesome conversation” or “This person might just make me smile”.
Running into a conversation with such a positive frame of mind, allows for someone to go into a conversation strong, and usually is the thing people use when fighting against the excuse generator in their brain. The issue with this is that often times, the mindset might be there, but often times, there is a distinct lack of motivation that doesn’t drive you forward, so sometimes you’re left there with a day dream, but no desire to see the real thing occur.
The second, and the one that people jump to if positive reinforcement doesn’t help, is called Negative Reinforcement. Just like the first system, you tie in a mindset, albeit a negative one such as “you’ll just be a gigantic wimp if you don’t go do it” or “you’ll never get better at this if you don’t make an effort!”.
You try to force yourself to go over there based on negative motivation, and if you’re a specific type of person, this might just work a little bit better for you, cause you to propel forward in an effort to get away from where you are at the moment. It can work, and I’ve received several testimonials that it does, but personally, I’ve always found myself in a bad position when I try such a tactic.
Basically the issue with the negative reinforcement approach is the fact that if you don’t follow through in the surge of motivation to do it. You’re left with all of this negative energy and these negative thoughts that when it comes right down to it, start to erode away your self-esteem, and that just doesn’t help anybody.
Personally, I don’t recommend this system, it’s too wearing on yourself. Why on earth would you want to do that when the whole reason why you want to speak to the individual is because you want to feel good about yourself and find out what they’re like?
Then you have the third tactic that’s commonly used, called reckless engagement. It’s a little bit similar to the aspect of blind-siding yourself with the quick paced action of immediately approaching an individual without any mindset and motivation. Starting a conversation for the sake of starting a conversation, which can work.
I’ve personally favored this tactic on many occasions, as it helps develop a mindset of approaching those who make you curious. The only issue with this tactic I’ve found is that if you use this, you can quickly run out of topics to talk about. Basically all that steam is incredibly helpful in the short while, but in the long run it can fizzle out easily.
It’s difficult to figure out which tactic to use, as each has its pros and cons. So here, I tend to mix tactics, to blend the concepts from one school of thought with another.
I try to push boundaries to find the most inventive way to answer a problem. I mix elements of both Reckless Engagement and Positive Reinforcement. I align my mindset with that positive reinforcement before the confrontation.
Way before, like before I even go out to be social for the day. Armed with the positive mindset, which has been reinforced by a lot of time in between the moment of conception and the start of the conversation rather than from moments before, whenever you see somebody you wish to approach, you just approach the individual and start a conversation.
While it may sound like you’re speaking just to speak, the positive mindset actually sets you up so that you’re geared towards making a connection with this other person, no matter how small. It’s actually quite wonderful, as it also allows you to feel happier when you exit each interaction, no matter the outcome. I Like to call this Reckless Positivity.
Now the most important aspect of your excuse generator, the thing that we all aim for, is the actual evaporation and disassembly of your excuse generator. I’ve got some bad news for you.
These never fully go away, they become shrunk to the point to where they aren’t really an influence, but if you don’t maintain your vigilance against it, it WILL come back. The Good news is that with practice, you can easily overcome your Excuse Generator, and take control of your actions back!