How to stop fiddling (+ other habits that make us look nervous)

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This puzzled me for a long time:

I tried not fiddling, having more eye contact, having a better posture, and so on.

But it didn’t work!

As soon as I didn’t pay attention, I started fiddling again or I forgot about eye contact and posture.

One day, a friend told me about a principle Toyota uses to make cars. It’s called Genchi Genbutsu, and it helped me understand why I couldn’t stop fiddling.

So I’m probably missing some details here but the story of Genchi Genbutsu goes something like this:

At Toyota, they found oil on the floor in one of their factories. It turned out that one of the cars had a faulty oil plug. But instead of just changing the plug, they decided to go deeper.

They wanted to know WHY the plug was faulty.

They found out that the purchasing department had ordered the wrong model. Instead of just correcting that, they wanted to know WHY they had ordered the wrong model.

They finally figured out that they had to change their incentive system for their purchase department.

So they call this Genchi Genbutsu which kinda means “Go and see”.


When you fiddle, just trying to not do it is like wiping oil under a leaking car.

Genchi Genbutsu is about always asking WHY.

WHY do I fiddle? I asked myself.

The answer: I was feeling anxious.

THAT’s what we want to deal with. (I talk about how to stop feeling anxious here)

Whenever I do something I don’t like, like fiddling, or not keeping eye contact, or having a bad posture, I ask myself WHY. Then I focus on solving the problem rather than trying to treat the symptom.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’m extra interested to hear about your nervous habits that you have or have had.

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David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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