by Niall Doherty

Here’s something I’ve been trying recently that you might find useful. It’s helping me grow more comfortable and competent in social situations.

Basically, whenever I have a poor interaction with another person, I sit down and rewrite what happened. I try to pinpoint what I could have said or done better, then write it out as if I had actually spoken and acted in that way.

I’d tried similar in the past, but only in my head. I’d lie in bed at night and think back through the day, editing out the parts I didn’t like and replacing them with ideals. That helped, but I’ve now found that taking the extra step and actually writing everything out forces me to visualize those ideals in greater detail. The edits feel more real.

Why bother doing this?

Because your brain has a hard time telling the difference between imagination and reality. Imagine yourself being a well-oiled, socially-adept machine often enough, and your brain will accept it as truth. As a result, you’ll feel more comfortable and competent in social situations, and you’ll act accordingly.

Also, it’s therapeutic. Until we get this time travel thing invented, rewriting a bad interaction is as close as we can get to a do-over.

Instead of dwelling on that awkward moment where you nervously tried to strike up a conversation with the cute girl in the coffee shop, only to have her think you were some kind of weirdo and give you the stink eye… you get proactive and crank out a rewrite. It’s there that you approach her confidently, ease into a friendly conversation, make her laugh, flirt a little bit, and leave with her phone number.

Dwell on that imagined version of events instead. You’ll be better for it.

A few tips

For those of you who want to give this a try, I’ll leave you with some pointers:

  1. Focus first and foremost on rewriting your own words and actions. If that cashier at the supermarket was rude to you for no apparent reason, don’t rewrite him as some dude with a super-friendly default state. Instead, imagine what you could have said or done to turn the interaction into a positive one. You don’t want to remove the challenges; you want to envision yourself handling them better.
  2. Combine this practice with free writing so it doesn’t take forever.
  3. Keep it realistic. Don’t imagine yourself a foot taller or thirty pounds lighter in a situation that just happened. Focus on words and actions. What could you have said or done differently to trigger a better response?
  4. Experiment with rewriting other parts of your life, not just social situations. For example, if you’re struggling to build self-discipline, rewrite your day as it would have been if you were highly self-disciplined. Get into the details as much as you can.

Let me know how it works for you.