Excuses for your winter sports holiday

How do I fool my professor?

Your cat died. Your house burned down. It will take a really good excuse to ditch a mandatory class during the winter holidays. But how do you convince your professor? Professor of social psychology Arie Dijkstra advises.
By Puck Swarte / Animation by René Lapoutre / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

‘I have a hernia’

Your lie has to be sound and preferably not verifiable. Lying about a hernia only to show up to class a week later is not a clever move. ‘And if they do end up checking on you, you’d have to tell all your roommates to say that you are indeed deathly ill. It’s a hassle, but it’s doable.’

‘My brother is getting married’

Be careful about faking emotions. Acting really happy – say, because you’re going to your brother’s fake wedding – is risky, says Dijkstra. ‘When you’re truly happy, a little muscle under your eyes twitches when you laugh. So when you fake-laugh, that muscle has to move. Except only about twenty percent of people are actually capable of controlling that muscle. And even if they’re not trained in spotting your fakery, intuition and experience will tell them you’re not being honest.’

If you want use a sad excuse instead, like a bad break-up, Dijkstra says you have to control your face properly: ‘When you’re lying, the facial muscles have to be symmetrical. Research has shown that when people are asked to fake an emotion, these muscles often differentiate from each other. By keeping your face as symmetrical as possible, you’ll stand a better chance of your lie being believed.’

‘My grandma died’

Finding out what kind of teacher you’re dealing with can also help. Are they sensitive, or really strict? ‘Each teacher has their own reasoning. When students come to me saying they haven’t been able to prepare for their exam because their grandma has died, I’m not particularly sympathetic to them, because dying is what grandmothers do. But I’m very understanding if you have a sick dog or if you have to see your GP. I use dogs in my research and have three of my own, so I know what it’s like to be there for them.’

So check your teacher’s Facebook page. ‘Maybe it says your teacher really likes making music. Make sure your excuse uses that somehow. You could say you have an important performance that day that you would have to miss otherwise.’

‘I have a job interview’

According to Dijkstra, the most important part of your lie is preparation. You have to think your lie through, because there’s a good chance your teacher will ask questions. So don’t just say that you have a job interview, but come up with the place you are interviewing with and why the job is so important to you. ‘You also have to consider your compensatory behaviour. You can say how sorry you are, for example. It doesn’t have anything to do with the lie, but it does make it sound more plausible. You have to make it look as though you’re the one who’s suffering. It will minimise your chances of getting caught.’

‘I have a tennis match that day’

Don’t use a lie that makes it seem as though you think you are more important than the class. Saying you have an important tennis match that day will just make you look selfish. According to Dijkstra, you have to ensure that the teacher feels sympathetic towards you.

If all else fails, burst into tears as you explain that all the stress is leading to a burn-out and that you need a break. ‘Crying always leaves an impression. Presenting yourself as the victim, or doing something noble, always works. If your excuse is that you have to go to the hospital with your mother, there’s no harm in saying that this has priority over the class. You have to make sure your teacher thinks your excuse is more important.’


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