When I meet people suffering from acute 'brick wall' syndrome, I like to play the 'brick removal game'. Just like in my imaginary conversation with Arthur, I attempt to remove their bricks one by one and see how good at brick-laying they are!
Some people are expert bricklayers. They're so quick that you can't take bricks out of their wall fast enough to cause a noticeable hole before they have closed up the damage with new bricks.
Other people are a little slower, and you can get quite a few bricks out. These people usually get angry or into a huff; then they'll run away to repair the damaged wall at their leisure!
Here's an example of a conversation with a slow bricklayer:
ME: "You've just said that you can hardly make ends meet; but it doesn't have to be like that. You can earn as much money as you like if you start believing in yourself."
BL: "What are you talking about? I'm unskilled. The most I can earn is £200 a week. You have to be a supervisor to earn more."
ME: "Why aren't you a supervisor then?"
BL: "Why? I'll tell you why, since your asking. You need to pass your exams to be promoted to that grade. I left school at thirteen so I didn't have much of a chance, did I?"
ME: "O.k. so get your exams at night school."
BL: "At my age? You must be joking! Anyway, I can't study, I'm no good at it, I never was."
ME: "Actually, you'll find that most of the people at the classes will be older than you."
BL: "Anyway, what's the point? My boss hates me so I'd never get promoted."
ME: "Then change jobs."
BL: "You think its easy don't you?"
ME: "No, but if you really want to improve your standard of
living, then you'll find a way of getting a better job."
BL: "It's all right for you. I expect jobs are ten a penny where you live. Your sort make me sick trying to tell people how to run their lives!"
At which point he stomps off as he is not used to having his excuses attacked so relentlessly!
Why are people so rarely challenged when they make an excuse?
There are two main reasons for this:
Reason one: It is considered 'impolite' to contradict or challenge someone, particularly if you don't know them well. For example, this type of conversation would be unlikely to win you many friends:
JANE: "I'm hopeless at dancing. I've always had two left feet but I'd give anything to learn to dance properly. There's not a chance of doing that because of my responsibilities and lack of money."
YOU: "I disagree. If you really wanted to learn to dance properly then you would find the time and the money."
Whilst what you said was true, Jane would almost certainly be slightly offended by your reply . The "polite" response would have been:
YOU: "Yes, it is difficult to find time when you have a growing family."
This reply subtly re-enforces Jane's negative position.
Reason two: By AGREEING with the excuse-maker, you find a 'partner in crime' who will help you re-enforce your OWN lack of I-Can; for example:
DAVE: "This weather is awful. My wife wants us to take a holiday but I can only enjoy myself when it's sunny so there's no point is there?"
MARY: "None at all. I would love to have a nicer garden but with the weather we've had, when would I enjoy it?"
DAVE: "Exactly. Speaking of gardens, I've always wanted a swimming pool in the garden, but there's no point if you can only use it for two weeks every year. Anyway, the price of them! I'd buy one on credit but I can't budget; I'm useless with money."
MARY: "I know! Everything's so expensive nowadays. I went to the travel agent the other day to see if we could get away for a week, but when I saw the prices I just turned around and came right out! I can never seem to save for things like that, money just slips through my fingers."
DAVE: "If you think holidays are expensive, have you seen the price of new cars recently? I'm sick of driving my old banger so I thought I'd trade it in. I soon forgot that idea when I saw that the CHEAPEST car was..."
And on and on. This secret complicity is absolutely RIFE within our society. In fact, so normal is it to play this game that people think you are REALLY STRANGE, and even get offended if you refuse to play the game with them. If you don't believe me, see if you find either of the following conversations a little strange or off-key: Two strangers are talking at a party:
JILL: "I love ballet but I never go; it's impossible to get tickets, they're sold out months in advance."
DONNA: "That's not true. I often go to the ballet, it's easy to get tickets, you just have to book months in advance."
JOHN: "I'd love to trade my old car in for a new one, but there's absolutely no way I could afford it."
DAVE: "I thought that, but then I knew that I deserved a new car so I went ahead and bought one anyway!"
Jill would probably deduce that Donna was a know-it-all, whilst John would figure that Dave was a narcissistic big-head!
In our society it is considered impolite to be positive!
It's amazing isn't it? People tend to think that you're either showing off, or gloating over your own good fortune at their expense. Being negative is far more socially acceptable because it piles the blame onto external events which are out of your control, then everyone can join in and have a good moan.
They can all go away feeling happy because their lack of action has not been criticised - rather, it has been praised.