“Hello!” you say to the girl sitting alone at the bar.
“Hi,” she replies with a gentle smile.
“How are you?” you say pleasantly.
“I’m ok. Just waiting for my boyfriend…he’s in the bathroom.”
“Oh ok. So what brings you here tonight?”
“Just a night out. I have to go…nice to meet you!”
Another pleasant conversation that goes nowhere.
Do you ever experience this when going out? It seems like she’s looking for a way out of the conversation before it even began…
Why does this happen?
Because she senses that you’re speaking out of obligation rather than inspiration–that is, you’re saying words to fill the space because you have an intent beyond just enjoying the conversation. You want something from her, and she can feel it.
The way we communicate is like a window, and most of us have dirty windows. Let me explain.
When I was in college, during one of my writing courses, we learned about windows. Our writing is like a window–if we can write clearly, then it’s like having a clean window. People can more easily read and understand our ideas.
Likewise, whenever we talk to someone during our day, that person is looking through our window. Based on how clearly we represent ourselves is analogous to how clean our window is.
If you tend to embellish or tell white lies, then your window is caked with mud and insect guts. If you practice radical honesty, then your window is crystal clear with the drapes pulled all the way open.
However, you might object that radical honesty can sometimes be harmful, like when Louis C.K. inadvertently told his 5-year-old daughter that the sun is going to explode and everyone is eventually going to die. There’s a time and a place for everything.
Furthermore, just because you’re honest doesn’t inherently make you a better person. Even if your window is crystal clear, what’s on the other side of the window matters too.
Having a slightly dirty window with a beautiful landscape behind it might be better than having a crystal clear window with a desolate wasteland of bones and corpses on the other side. Or maybe you’re going for that presentation. So far this is not prescriptive, but, rather, merely descriptive.
However, if you have no idea how best to communicate or present yourself, here is my recommendation:
- Clean your window.
- Create your landscape.
- Adjust the presentation.
Cleaning Your Window
The first step is to clean your window. Basically, learn how to be as transparent with people as possible. This is going to be difficult at first and you might alienate some people, but this will at least give you a realistic picture of who you are and what people truly think of you. Moreover, people will respect you for your honesty, and, if they do like you, then it’s for your authentic self.
So how do you be transparent? Answer: calibrate your ego.
By ego, I mean our self-perception of ourselves.
We often think about how something we are about to say is going to be taken by the other person, or what the other person thinks of us. Thus, we take something the other person says and think about how we can use that to talk about ourselves.
Sometimes this is good, but oftentimes we use it as an excuse to brag.
Furthermore, the moment we store comments in our head instead of letting go, we stop listening. Our ego often disallows us from being present and engaged in a conversation. We often want to micromanage our self-image that we’ll tell white lies about our work and how much money we make in order to preserve that image.
We’re afraid of what people will think if they find out who the “real you” is.
As a dating coach, guys often ask me, “but if I just ‘be myself,’ won’t girls dislike me because I’m a needy loser?”
Honestly, the answer is “yes,” but not permanently.
The next question is, how do you calibrate your ego?
The answer: put yourself into high pressure social situations and navigate your way through them.
By putting yourself into a high pressure situation, you will experience emotional resistance and anxiety. Consequently, if you are able to act in spite of these emotions, you will gradually become more desensitized to social pressure. When this happens, you will feel more at ease in a wider array of social situations.
Furthermore, confidence comes from your trust in your ability to deal with the unknown rather than knowing how to deal with every possible scenario.
Over time, when you calibrate your ego, you will realize that other people’s perceptions of you doesn’t matter as much as you think. You will let go of your need to keep every interaction pleasant and non-confrontational. When this happens, you will become transparent and honest.
So once you practice transparency and honesty, we can move to the next step…
Create Your Landscape
When you get a clear picture of who you actually are once you’ve cleaned your window, you can begin to work on yourself and sculpt who you want to become and the life you want to live. This is easier said than done though.
This is often a long, painstaking but important journey that one must embark on. But once that person comes out the other side, they often find themselves comfortable with their newfound identity.
The truth is that their identity was always there, but they just never really saw it or sorted it out for themselves.
Once this happens, then people will gravitate towards them and they can begin living the life they want.
The way to do this is to work on yourself internally independent of social situations. You can work on yourself physically by working out and spiritually through yoga and meditation.
Nevertheless, they might find that people that they meet often find them overwhelming due to the honesty. This is why it’s important to be empathetic and follow the third step…
Adjust Your Presentation
By adjusting your presentation, you can calibrate the way you present yourself to others at a pace that is comfortable for them.
Do you remember your mom ripping open the drapes to wake you up before school? Sometimes you don’t want to see the glorious radiance of the sun peering through a crystal clear window when you aren’t ready for it.
For example, I’ve seen some guys take the advice of being radically honest to mean that they should talk about their parents’ divorce 20 seconds into the conversation.
I’m not saying this is wrong; in fact, this might even be appropriate in some contexts. Just recognize where the other person is at, understand what their response is most likely to be, and act accordingly.
And I’m not saying to not say something simply because the other person would walk away.
Sometimes you want to alienate certain people because you’re looking to connect with a certain type of person. In fact, I’ve seen some guys use this as a strategy to quickly find the small sliver of the population who they deeply connect with.
But I am discouraging guys from blindly going into social interactions without any sort of awareness of how their words affect the people they’re talking to. Learn to read and react.
A lot of guys I see at a nightclub are shocking or polarizing because they think that that will get a girl’s attention which will somehow translate into attraction. That’s simply not true.
Yes, it’s true that a provocative man who communicates in a polarizing way often does get him to stand out among the average dude at the bar, but he’s not communicating in this way just to get girls to pay attention to him or like him.
Thus, when it comes to dating and communication in general, bear in mind window theory. Remember to be aware of the cleanliness of your window, the beauty of your landscape, and your overall decor and presentation.