Arguing or volunteering can be like blowing smoke:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I was listening to my 18 year old daughter hand me a list of excuses as to why she didn’t clean her room, and getting ready to argue, when I had a profound realization- arguing with her excuses is like trying to grab a wisp of smoke floating through the air. Everything I said would go right through it…because the excuses weren’t the real reason.

My daughter once wanted to go to a Pink concert so badly that nothing would stop her,. She had to find jobs to earn the money, call relatives in another city and ask for overnight lodging, figure out bus schedules, you name it. But she did it all because it mattered. Cleaning her room has no meaning to her at all. So any excuse will stop her.

This realization has caused two changes in me- 1) I didn’t waste time arguing with my daughter, I just told her that if she wanted to go to the mall with her friends this weekend, she’d have to figure out something (which she did; motivation works wonders) and I started seeing the world in a different way. Now, when I hear my friends present me with a list of excuses, I understand immediately that they just aren’t enthused and I back off, rather than trying to help them overcome their obstacles. When I hear myself start to make excuses, I stop. I just say, “Sorry, I love the idea, but it’s just not my thing.” I may not seem as eager to please, but I don’t waste anyone’s time with run arounds or broken promises. I was always afraid people wouldn’t like me if I didn’t at least try to please them- but everyone seems to have more respect for me, not less.

It floors me that this one little realization has changed the way I am thinking about everything. I don’t waste my time trying to fix things for other people. I don’t waste my time or create animosity arguing with my daughter.

I just wanted to share this experience, because I am the kind of person who used to go nuts trying to figure out how to make everyone happy and make everyone work. Is this what therapy is supposed to do for people? And btw- some of the stuff I’ve read in this blog have helped me change my thinking. Thanks, Dr. Brilliant and Granny.

Joy Manana

Dear Joy,

If we could just bottle this realization, call it truth and spray it as a perfume on everyone life would be a lot less crazy. Yes, these epiphanies are what therapy is supposed to encourage and the support in carrying out behavioral changes based on them. Realization without the behavior to follow it up is useless.

My wife sits on a not for profit organizations board. This organization relies on volunteers. She always is frustrated and asking why do people say they will do things, volunteer, when they have no intention of following through. You explained the answer to this question nicely.

Thanks for sharing,

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: I love to hear good news.

Changing the way you see the world is what changes the world. You said it all.

You know, if anyone else has a personal experience to share…write! If you think I’m full of crap you can write in about that too. Sometimes I am. But my understanding of human nature grows with every story I hear.

At Dr. Brilliant and the Granny Doctor, there is nothing more interesting to us than you.


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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2 Responses to Arguing or volunteering can be like blowing smoke:

  1. Makes sense to me Joy.
    People who make excuses either have a lousy self-identity or low self-esteem. Make your communication simple. We were made to think in “gray areas” before we open our mouths. That way no one has to put up with the mental jargon. BTW, don’t wait for others to make you happy. Just ask yourself if that’s one of the top ten things you want to do.

  2. As a therapist, I love, love, love this story!! This is exactly what we hope that our clients will learn through therapy (or on their own, through their life experiences). Congratulations to you, Joy, for arriving at this enlightened state of mind and making the difficult behavioral changes needed to maintain this.

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