People. Interaction. Socialize. Some people fear it, some couldn’t live without it. You’ve most probably gone through it before in the past, or may be going through it at this very moment and am reading this article with the very hopes of escaping it. But one thing’s for sure – you’re most definitely going to have to face it in your upcoming days. May it be casual or formal; family or acquaintances; serious discussion or casual bar talk – it’s part of being human. Like pasta sheets covered in Bolognese sauce, it is what makes the dish worth eating. It might be sticky, it might be messy, and it sure as hell is a hassle to clean once it stains your brand new white shirt – but what pasta dish is worth eating without the sauce?
I’d been through similar difficult situations myself during high school. I bet everyone has a different impression of their high school, and mine was on the shyttier side of the spectrum. For me, I always had trouble in terms of communicating with other people. I was awkward, weird, and couldn’t seem to grasp the conversation at hand. I would lose the very minute an argument starts between someone else and myself, and would just laugh awkwardly at jokes I didn’t understand in a casual conversation.
In a nutshell – it sucks.
Hence, at the age of 14 years old, a quest had begun. A quest to fight this paralyzing fear within me; a quest to conquer the art of exchanging information; a quest to be able to steer a conversation, be funny, be convincing, and be entertaining; a quest to be the confident guy I’d always wanted to become; a quest that took me more than 6 years of constant learning and failing to get a hang of. It was like learning how to ride a bike. In a world where the bicycle is the only mode of transport. Without a guidance manual. And no one’s gonna teach you explicitly. And also everyone is doing backflips with their bikes while holding a box of juice with seemingly zero effort.
And then, 6 years later, it came to me.
GOLDEN RULE 1.
This golden rule was one that I’d come across in the book “How to make friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie, a title that was mentioned over and over again in podcasts and audiobooks that I listen to all the time (a little habit I picked up when I entered university due to the sheer abundance of long, boring walks across the campus and an urging need to occupy my thoughts with human voices along the way, rescuing it from the eternal abyss of silence).
Read the rule again. Recite it over and over again. Think about it a little.
Why do we constantly strive to look “cool”? Why do we seek to manifest ourselves in the latest and trendiest brands? Why do we constantly post highlights of our lives in social media? While some may argue it’s us simply craving a temporary shot at fame, it’s actually more so to something that’s more intrinsic within us. It’s this deep, evolutionary wired desire within each of us; a void to be filled; a thirst to be quenched; a demand to be met:
We want to be
Everyone, may it be the 7-year old in class, or the 20-year old millennial in the office, or even the 40-year old father of three adheres to the rule.
The 7-year old may cause havoc or create seemingly unnecessary noises in class to attract attention, even if it means getting a scolding from the teacher.
The 20-year old millennial in the office might slack or drag at seemingly soul sucking work, not because he/she’s lazy, but because they would prefer more meaningful, impactful work.
The 40-year old father constantly tries to be involved in whatever his children are into, whether if it’s football, makeup, barbie dolls or fidget spinners, to strive to secure a spot in their little hearts.
All of us wants to be the main character of the story. We want to be somebody. We strive so hard for others just to look up to us, to the point where at times, would undermine rational and logical thinking, replacing it with impulsive, short-term thinking emotions. Keeping this in mind, this is something that we could use to leverage ourselves against.
How do we put this into practice?
For this section, I highly recommend you to read the tens if not hundreds of specific, practical examples given in the “How to make friends and influence people” book, but I’m going to highlight a few that really stuck with me (because I’d actually put them into practice and it worked).
Imagine the following situation. You’re the manager of a team, and you’ve got this task that you hope to assign over to someone on your team. How should you go about tackling this? How do you make sure that he/she takes it seriously, doesn’t mess things up, but also, making sure that minimum friction arises between you two and have a good experience along the way?
Applying Golden Rule 1,
First, stand in the other person’s shoes. What would they want?
The deepest urge in human is the desire to be IMPORTANT.
They would probably want to be taken seriously and be trusted properly with this task on hand, with minimum intermediate external interference. Be given realistic deadlines, and have a clear understanding of the impact and gravity of the work they’re doing, and how it fits into the big picture. Once the job is done, like anyone, they’ll promptly crave well-deserved credits and acknowledgment from you, and their peers alike.
- Be trusted 100% upon the task
- Be given the sufficient space and time to complete the work
- Have a grasp on the weight of their work
- Be given proper credits and acknowledgement
Now back to you, manager.
First things first, you’ve gotta let the person know that you’re serious about this task being handled well, and you’ve decided to place this trust onto him. You want them to know that this task depends on them as a pivot, just as much as you do. How do you convey a message in the form of which you’ll have an impression of seriousness? Face-to-face talk of course! Don’t text, don’t email, and don’t call. Schedule a time with that person, and have a good, solid, detailed, no-loose-ends conversation with them. Talk to them, get to know them, and connect with them. Then, once you’ve managed to get things going smoothly, ease your way into the task at hand. Tell them every little detail you wish to have on the end product. What standards it needs to hit, what minimum criteria are there, where and whom he might seek help, how much room he has to play around with, deadlines, the implications of this task being delayed or mishandled etc.
Remember the last time you got screwed by your boss because you didn’t do something well, but in actuality, it’s due to a lack of information from his side? Yup. That’s exactly what you would want to avoid.
If you did this part right, sincerely and thoroughly, I can assure you, that person would walk out of that meeting feeling like a million bucks. Not because you’d handed them a million dollar check, but because they felt important – and that, is worth its weight in gold. From then on, just check on him/her once awhile to make sure things are going smooth. Along the way, give honest appreciations, compliments, and encouragements; but also don’t forget to give honest feedbacks, criticism, and guidance. Try not to miss out one or the other. If you miss out the latter part, they may feel like you’re babysitting them just a little too much, or even run the risk of building jealousy and peer judgements in the rest of your teammates; if you miss out the first part, they would probably just brush off whatever you’ve said in the meeting, feel demotivated, and unappreciated – essentially defeating the purpose of the entire thing.
PRO TIP: Strive to pair a one-to-one ratio of compliments and criticism but always, always start off with the compliment. It makes the process of accepting the criticism THAT MUCH MORE smoother and efficient.
Not because they’d actually earned a million bucks, but because they feel important – and that, is worth its weight in gold.
But remember – be sincere. None of this would work if they were merely superficial words strung together with the bare minimum amount of thought put into it. People aren’t stupid. If you could sense insincerity from a thousand miles away, so could everyone else. So dig deep, observe little efforts that people make that are usually brushed off by others, and go out there and start lifting those around you.
GOLDEN RULE 2.
As an extension to the first rule, I find this to be more suited towards normal day-to-day conversations. How do you talk to a friend? How do you talk to your spouse’s parents? How do you converse in a party?
When’s the last time you talked to someone and the only topic they seem to talk about all the time is one about themselves? More specifically, how awesome, successful or cool they are? Nobody likes to be around someone who’s stern, overly strict, or talks about that one single topic that they’re only into all the time. Yes, you might’ve put in hundreds upon hundreds of hours developing your blog; or your PhD is having an interesting breakthrough right now; or your gym lifts might be going really well; or your side business is really taking off – but one thing you’ve gotta keep in mind, no one would ever, ever be able (or be willing) to see things from your perspective. Yes, the other person might pay attention listening to your story of how you got your deadlifts to go from 100kg to 110kg, and they might even enjoy listening to it – but I can assure you, it wouldn’t be as much as them telling you a story of their own.
Now, I’m not implying that every person you know around you is a pretentious douche that only pretends to be interested in what you’re talking about, but what I’m saying is that if you want to be a great conversational partner, if you want people to feel good around you, and if you really want to arouse people around you to have a good impression of you – play it down. Whatever accomplishments you may have, may it be winning the Oscars, or getting the highest mark in your class, play it down. Joke it off. Make it seem like it wasn’t such a big of a deal. The irony is? The lower you could play it down, the louder the result speaks for itself, and vice versa.
The lower you could play it down, the louder the result speaks for itself, and vice versa.
“The ability to make fun of oneself, yet still being able to implicitly take oneself seriously, is perhaps the most important skill to have of all”
I believe I’d come across this sentence somewhere in my life (couldn’t quite recall where tho), and damn was it true. By lowering your extrinsic value, you’ll be able to subsequently make others around you feel better and more valuable. However, you also know you’re not messing around with your life because intrinsically, you’re aware of the hustle that has to be done in order for you to progress forward.
Be made out of real, solid substance on the inside, and fart jokes and cum stains on the outside – not the other way around.
MY 2 CENTS.
Some of you might’ve read come to this point and figure to yourself, “Doesn’t this mean that I’m being fake? Am I not being myself if I were to apply these rules?”
Funny thing about this advice that everyone seems to be throwing around, is that it had never resonated with me. It just made no sense. Ever since I had reached an age where I start caring about my personal image, I’d been this side observer of EVERYONE around me, observing and learning what others get their way around, and through osmosis, subsequently absorbing whatever I could get out of it. In a way, I was like a vacuum that sucked up everything around it, hence the term “be yourself” made absolutely no fcking sense what so ever.
As explained in the video above, the very concept of “your true self”, this personality that God or whatever/whoever made you had granted to you since birth – is flawed. Rather, there are only patterns. Patterns that you’ve adapted from your surroundings, from the people around you, or from the TV shows you’ve watched. We are all constantly adapting and evolving, breaking and developing patterns – and what we perceive as “personality”, are only these sets of patterns that we’ve managed to piece together throughout our lives. Whenever someone says they aren’t being themselves when they’re doing a particular activity or hanging out with a particular group of people, what’s actually happening is the pattern of the particular activity or group of people simply isn’t in coherent with the ones within us. We’re more comfortable clinging onto our own sets of patterns, hence rejecting the newer ones.
Putting things back into the context of this post, to truly feel like being true to yourself, you’ve just gotta adapt these rules with different level of degrees. How much do you weigh the importance of being true to yourself compared to being able to socialize well with others? This is where the answer is different for each individual. Some are just more comfortable being with themselves and staying true with it, hence would probably apply these rules to a lesser degree; while others may put their peers waaaay ahead of themselves, and would put things into overdrive. Whatever it may be, always remember:
There is not right or wrong – only different. The very concept of having a trueself since birth is flawed. We’re all creatures of adaptation.
What if you don’t know what’s for you? What if you’re like me, a hollow vacuum that has no freaking idea what he wants? The only way to find out, is to go out there. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations where you’re either socializing a whole lot, or none at all, and all in between. Only by trial and error (and tons of it), would you be able to come up with an answer for yourself.
Whether you like it or not, human beings are creatures of emotions. And as it turns out, the world is full of human beings. Like it or not, sooner or later, you’re gonna have to sort this out. So go out there, and GLHF.
– Just another dude