5 Secrets To Make People Like You

How many times have you wanted to meet somebody but you were convinced that there was no way they’d like you? Or have you ever wished you could find a way to join a group of cool people and fit in like you’ve always belonged? Ever wish you could be one of those people who can just make friends the way other folks breathe? The sort of person who can just sit down with someone and have them feeling like they’ve known you for years, even though you’ve only just met? It’s actually easier than you’d think…

We’ve talked a lot about charm and charisma before, and what it takes to be a more fascinating, magnetic person. The key that underlies it all, to building a rapport and finding that connection, is simple: you have to be able to make people feel good. It’s called “the reward theory of attraction”; simply put, we like people who make us feel gratified and rewarded when we’re around them. If a relationship brings more pleasure than discomfort, then we find ourselves drawn to them and want that relationship to continue.

“Shit, everyone, try to make your save vs. charm…”

So let’s look at some of the secrets to making people like you.

1) Use Positive Non-Verbal Communication

I can’t stress enough how important non-verbal communication is when it comes to making a positive connection with somebody. The vast majority of our communication isn’t conveyed through our words, but through our bodies, our tone of voice, even the speed at which we talk. In fact, when our body language and our words are at odds with each other, it’s entirely possible to make people incredibly uncomfortable with you and want to get away from you. While your words may be positive, your closed off body language will be incongruent with what you’re saying and leave people feeling uneasy and confused. Many men, for example, have been creepy by accident because while they may have had the best of intentions, their body language made them seem intimidating or even threatening and left people feeling uncomfortable.

"Hey, I've got an extra ticket to Miyazaki Madness at the Drafthouse, want to go with me?"

“Hey, I’ve got an extra ticket to Miyazaki Madness at the Drafthouse, want to go with me?”

So the first key is to not give someone – especially women – the full frontal experience; that is, to standing toe to toe with them. Facing a stranger square on can feel intimidating; it can come across as though you’re trying to box them in. Instead, you want to angle yourself slightly away from them, which feels more accommodating and friendly. It sends the message that you don’t want them to feel cornered, as well as opening your body language.

The next key is to watch your head positioning. Yes, I realize that this seems like a nit-picky idea, but the tilt of your head actually communicates more non-verbally than you’d think. Tilting your chin up at someone gives the impression that you’re looking down your nose at them, which will convey a sense of arrogance or even disdain for the person you’re talking to. Tilting your chin down ever so slightly gives a feeling of being equal and approachable. Similarly, a slight tilt to the side communicates friendliness and gives the impression that you like them. Consider practicing these in the mirror; notice how different an innocuous phrase can seem when you’ve tilted your chin up vs. down. Keep in mind: this is a subtle tilt; you don’t want to look like you’ve broken your neck or you’re trying to pull your chin back through your face.

Third: slow your roll. A lot of people speak far too quickly under normal circumstances – myself included. It may be regional – people from Manhattan, the outer boroughs and New Jersey, for example –  it may be an extroverted trait, or it may simply be that your brain runs faster than your mouth and you’re forever playing catch-up as your thoughts rocket along. Speaking for myself: I start talking faster the more excited (or nervous) I get; when I get on a roll, I can give the Micro-Machines guy1 a run for his money.

 

The problem is that when we speak quickly, it feels as though we’re trying to put one over on the person we’re talking to; we can’t dazzle them with our brilliance, so we want to baffle them with our bullshit. Think of a used car-salesman; you’re not sure how, but you just know he’s trying to scam you, so you instinctively don’t trust him. Deliberately slowing down your cadence makes you sound calmer and less anxious – and, more importantly, like you’re not about to sell them on your brilliant get rich quick scheme.

And smile, dammit.

2) Get Them Talking About Themselves

Cold hard truth: we’re all narcissistic to some degree. Even when we may not feel like we’re the hottest thing since World War III, we do like to believe that our inner lives and thoughts are fascinating. Just take a look at our social networks as we fill our days with Facebook status updates, Instagraming everything and tweeting about every aspect of our lives. We’re playing to an audience, even if that audience is just the people from high-school that we’ve reconnected with because we wanted to see if they were still hot and/or single.

Facebook is the high-school reunion that never ends.

Facebook is the high-school reunion that never ends.

But believe it or not, there’s a reason for this beyond everyone being profoundly self-involved: as it turns out, talking about ourselves literally makes us feel good. Scientists have found that talking about ourselves activates the same pleasure centers of the brain that are associated with food and money. So in short: we are our favorite subjects because goddamn it feels good to talk about ourselves. And since this fits in with the reward theory of attraction, getting people to talk about themselves is a valuable part of getting people to like you.

The tricky part is keeping the ball rolling; it’s easy to trail off – or worse, make someone feel uncomfortable about dominating the entire conversation. You have to be an active listener, taking what they say and bouncing it back by asking the right questions. You want to keep them positive; if someone tells you about the wacky mishap that happened on their date, and you mention that this is the sort of thing that would totally turn you off, you’ll have effectively punished them for disclosing a part of themselves. You want to ask questions that encourage them to keep talking about it, especially ones that help illustrate the scene. How did it go down, what did you do, how did you feel, what did they say?… these are questions that encourage your new friend to fill in the details and paint an even more interesting picture of their lives.

Can’t think of any questions besides the standard “Who are you/what do you do for a living?” Try a simple cold read to prompt them. It doesn’t need to be accurate – although most cold-reads are designed to be almost universally applicable – it just needs get them started talking. All it takes is a slight prompt and your new friend will take it from there.

3) Ask For Help

One of the most popular tools in the pick-up artist toolbox is the opinion opener, asking strangers to give their opinions and advice about subjects from jealous girlfriends to 80s songs to whether men or women lie more. Part of the reason why it’s so popular isn’t just because it’s a low-stakes way of starting a conversation but because it almost immediately hooks people’s interest. We love giving advice to people.

The sneaky part is that in asking for their advice, we’re also prompting them to warm up to us.

You see, humans are very bad at understanding why we feel the way we do. We believe that our actions are based on our feelings or beliefs; we don’t like this person, so we won’t have anything to do with them. But more often than not, it’s actually reversed; our behavior actually forms our beliefs. It just feels like we’re in control. In short: free your ass and your mind will follow.

This is known as the Benjamin Franklin effect, after Franklin’s legendary technique for turning his bitterest rivals into his closest friends.

"I am going to destroy you. There will be a greasy stain and people will look at it and say 'that used to be a man'. You will be so ruined that nothing will ever grow where your remains lie.  So... wanna grab a beer later?"

“I am going to destroy you. There will be a greasy stain and people will look at it and say ‘that used to be a man’. You will be so ruined that nothing will ever grow where your remains lie.
So… wanna grab a beer later?”

Franklin would simply ask them for a favor – usually loaning him a book from their library. He would return the book later with a simple thank-you note… and the next time they would meet, his rival’s attitude would have changed so profoundly that they would often be close friends for the rest of their lives. Franklin was taking advantage of an effect known as cognitive dissonance -  the tension between the man’s attitude (“I hate Ben Franklin”) and the fact that he just did a favor for a man he disliked. Our brains don’t like the tension; we prefer to at least feel like we’re being ideologically consistent. And since he couldn’t change the behavior without inventing a time machine and retconning his own existence, he his attitude changed instead.

"Plus, you can't travel within your own time-line. But everyone knows that."

“Plus, you can’t travel within your own time-line. But everyone knows that.”

So by asking a stranger for their help – getting some advice to settle a disagreement, wanting to know where they got those boots, what they think about the brand of phone they’re using – we’re asking them to do something nice for us. Since doing nice things for people usually means we like them, it follows that they must like us because they’re doing us a favor.

This can be an incredibly powerful technique. Use it wisely.

4) Validate Them

Another key psychological component to building rapport with someone is to remember that we instinctively like people who like us. Being liked makes us feel good, after all. So one of the easiest ways to indicate that we like someone is to let them know we think they’re fascinating and that they have a lot to offer. So we help encourage that feeling by validating them as we talk. After all, validation from others can be incredibly powerful. The key isn’t just to flatter then incessantly (which does work, even when people think you’re full of shit, amazingly enough) but to give a subtle boost to the ego, a reward of your approval because they’re awesome.

"Cool story bro. No, seriously, that was really awesome."

“Cool story bro. No, seriously, that was really awesome.”

So imagine that you’ve got your new friend talking about themselves and they tell you about an experience they had while traveling that totally changed their perspective on something. A way of validating them would be to say “Woah, that’s interesting. I never thought about it that way before”.  Or when they’re talking about the lead-up to the trip, saying “You know what, that’s really cool. I’ve always wanted to do something like that.”

Obviously, you don’t want to be a kiss-ass; the feeling that somebody’s brown-nosing you is going to trigger suspicion, which is the last thing you want, so the validation needs to be given sparingly and – and this is important - sincerely. Don’t just bullshit ‘em, let them know you do think that they’re interesting or that you’re impressed by what they’ve done.

Pro tip: validation can be incredibly powerful when you’re bantering with somebody. When you’ve been trading playful shots back and forth, a sincere “No, I legitimately think you’re cool/admire your taste/what-have-you” can rock somebody back on their heels.

5) Have Stories

Want to impress someone and make them think you’re fun to hang around with? Have stories to tell. Storytelling is a primal part of social cohesion, a way of bonding that’s been a part of the human experience since we developed language.

Sharing a little about yourself is a powerful technique, one that inspires trust and reciprocity from the people you’re talking to. When somebody’s been afraid that they’ve been talking about themselves too much, being able to share a little about yourself – especially an amusing or entertaining story – is a way of giving back and letting them know that you’re comfortable with them.

It’s also a way of giving insight into your life, which is crucial when you’re looking for a potential relationship. After all, the idea of what life would be like with you is going to be an important part of what people are looking for in a partner. Plus: telling stories is a way of subtly bragging about yourself without being obnoxious about it. It’s a way of showing, rather than telling; you can tell someone you’re spontaneous and fun-loving, or you can talk about the time you talked your way into the Fitz and the Tantrums concert at SXSW when you didn’t have a badge and there was no way you should’ve been able to get in.

"...and so Hef said 'Well as long as you're here, we may as well get you another drink!"

“…and so Hef said ‘Well as long as you’re here, we may as well get you another drink’!”

Personally, I advise having a couple of stories ready to go – ones that you know well enough that you can drop into the rhythm of conversation at a moment’s notice. This isn’t to say that you should be workshopping your comedy routine on strangers – they will always know when you’re putting on a performance – but simply have some stories that you know well enough that you could tell them in your sleep ready when the time arises.

After all, when you’re with your newfound friends, you’re going to want to entertain them. And then they’ll be sharing some stories of their own, while getting another round in.

And before you know it, that person’s going to look up and realize that they feel like they’ve known you for years… even though you’ve only just met.

  1. HELLO ’80S KIDS! []

Comments

  1. Oh my fucking god your still on abou this mystical telepathic communication bullshit. If that’s the way people really are, it’s no wonder so little gets done, they all spend thier time assigning fictive meanings to head tilts.

    • The point is that it happens totally subconsciously – people aren't aware of it, they just have a good feeling and don't know why. Most people aren't able to articulate this stuff, and in fact designing studies to get this information is surprisingly hard.

      • And it is very real and very powerful. I have worked in many places and in situations where I had no or limited verbal communication due to language barriers and the right body language and demeanor can be the difference between trust and assistance and being shot at a checkpoint. And it is almost impossible to articulate how what you did was cueing off what the other person's body language communicated or even what you did to reduce hostility.

        I do think it is hard to appreciate the power of body language until you are in a situation where it is your only communication tool so I understand the above commenter's skepticism.

    • I know this is a topic that gets to frustration point very quickly, but I think you'd find it really useful if you could understand how other people communicate this way, so I'm going to try and explain more anyway in the hopes that this can be a worthwhile conversation.

      You can tell when someone has a huge smile on their face, they're probably happy, right? You don't go through a process of analysing the particular muscles that they're using or the number of teeth they're showing, you don't have to check out of the conversation while you think about what they're showing on their face – you just know it, without thinking about it, right? For a lot of people, it's the same as that, but for more subtle information. They're not assigning meaning actively, it's just information that's coming through to them by instinct, the same way that you instinctually know that big smile=happy. (If you don't know that instinctually, but it's something you've learned consciously, let me know and I'll try a different metaphor.)

      For example, I'm not sure if you can tell the difference between a fake smile and a real smile? Many people can. There are concrete differences in what muscles a person uses when they're just smiling politely versus when they're really feeling it (and it can be difficult to fake it convincingly!) – but most people don't have to know what muscles or think about the angle of the smile lines, it's just something they register subconsciously without thinking about it – they probably don't even know what it is specifically that's giving them that information (which is one reason it sounds like something mystical), but it's information they're getting the same way as you get big smile=happy. No thinking about it, doesn't take time to do it, it's just part and parcel of the conversation. Can you see what I mean at all?

      • No, I have no idea the difference between a real or a fake smile. And usually when I see someone smiling my first assumption is they are slow, not that they are happy. So generally going along that line, my opinion of people who smile a lot tends to go down when I see them smiling because my assumption is that.. and I have to consciously remind myself that no, they aren't slow, they are just happy about something, or want me to think they are happy. Most of the time I feel like the Terminator when John is trying to teach him how to smile. I can be completely happy about something and not be smiling about it, and if I'm happy about something you'll know when I tell you.. otherwise I find it a little weird to advertise your emotional state.

        I have a naturally downturned mouth, so I've been told I often look like I'm frowning. I have a very intense eye color, so lots of people think I'm angry. I try my best to be completely neutral, lots of people think I'm angry all the time though, or sad all the time, even when I'm actually happy. So what I've learned is, no expression = whatever they want to assign me to be feeling like.. no one stops to consider how I actually feel, and no one asks me, we never get to the "Validation" portion of the communication, where actual words are used, and where I am far more comfortable, because everyone just assigns stuff to things I have no or very little control over. People aren't really good at picking this stuff up unless it's SUPER OBVIOUS, but the problem is I don't pick up on it even if it's super obvious, and I see no reason to do so.. just ask if you want to know how I'm feeling, if you don't ask, I assume you don't care.

        • Okay, if facial expressions are never instinctual to you, let me try a different way. If I write "I have difficulty understanding the nuances of unspoken communication," or if I write "I just don't get body language" or if I write "it makes no sense, who cares what my face is doing, why the hell can't everyone just listen to what I'm saying," they're all saying fundamentally the same thing… but you understand more from what words I've chosen than just the basic point. The level of formality, the exact wording I use, the perspective, the use of emotional or neutral phrasings – those tell you a whole lot about what I'm like, how I feel about the topic and how I feel about having this conversation with you, right?

          To someone who is not very fluent in English, who's looking a bunch of the words up in a dictionary, they'd miss a lot of those nuances or have to think harder about them to get that information. But someone fluent doesn't spend time or thought on it, it just comes through to them. That's what expressions and body language are like to a lot of people.

          • put that way.. it at least finally makes sense.. but damn that must me nice.. not to have to constantly be wondering how or why you just offended or pissed that person off when you didn't say anything objectionable.. and didn't do anything wrong..

            getting blamed for things just because someone assumes ill intent because of something like that is maddening.. like I obviously made someone who was sort of a friend on campus angry but I have no idea what I did or how I did it or even when i did it because I barely saw the person but they blocked me on facebook and won't speak to me when I see them now and I just don't understand why.

          • Oh, I'm glad that made sense! Yeah, it sounds like you tend to convey things that you're not intending to convey – like you're doing the equivalent of writing in all caps. If you're angry a lot of the time, that may actually be coming through more often than you realize, though you might also be that you're giving some misleading cues – just like a person using a word they've pulled from the thesaurus whose nuances they don't fully understand might be conveying something inaccurate about their feelings.

            Of course, just like word choice, it's not 100%, and people will sometimes disagree on the details of what's being conveyed, but if you could learn a little of the basics of this, I think it would make social stuff much easier.

            ETA: of course, there could be other things going on with the person who blocked you – even people who are quite good with non-verbal cues don't always understand everyone else perfectly! Most people have unspoken expectations, even ones they don't realize they have, different standards for how people should treat others, insecurities or mistaken judgements of their own and so forth. Social interaction is complex, and there are a lot of aspects! But non-verbal cues are definitely useful to get the hang of!

          • I have no idea what happened with this person specifically, but you often come off as having ill intent in your words (obviously I don't know what your body language is like). When you say stuff like, "When I see someone smiling my first assumption is they are slow," you sound hostile and judgmental. I would not want to be friends with someone who dislikes it when I'm happy. That is not an attitude I want in my life.

            I dunno, you could always ask this person what the problem is. But only if you're actually interested in avoiding the behavior that caused the problem.

          • What behavior? My normal behavior? I should avoid being me just to suit them? How is that fair? I did nothing wrong.

            I say they look slow because I equate smiling with slow, not because I dislike people being happy. I like being happy, I like it when other people are happy, but big toothy grins just make me think of a shark, or a handicapped person, and that usually depends on the situation I'm in, if it's a guy I'm far more likely to equate it with malice and hostility. It reminds me of the sharks in Nemo.

          • So… when you see a smile, you react to it as either hostility or malice (EDIT: wait, I meant slowness!). But they didn't do anything wrong! It's just the association you have with the language of "smile."

            Similarly, you don't have to have done anything wrong for other people to have reactions to the things you do, the expressive language you use.

            But if most people have the same associations, the same reactions, for the non-verbal "language" you're using, while your associations and reactions are unusual, you're going to have a hard time conveying things without those associations getting in the way, and you'll have an easier time if you can learn to work with their associations instead of against them.

            It's not about fair, it's just about practical. There are situations where it makes sense to work with the dominant culture.

          • When I see a big toothy smile I react as I would to anything else baring its teeth at me, I stay away from it.

            But yes, practicality is important when there is a police officer telling you what to do, or a school administrator who can keep you from graduating then you do what ol' jack burton does in a time like this and say 'Yessir, the check is in the mail".. and comply.

            But for anyone else? nope. Whoever they think they are, that and 3$ will get them a cup of coffee. I'm not interested in practical, but I'll be damned if I'm going to spend all of my effort and energy to make them feel better. I will work even more against them rather than learn them. I've tried working with other people, and it's gotten me a big fat goose egg in terms of progress. So this is my boundary setting and my assertiveness, I'm flatly refusing to conform to their soothsaying and augury.

          • Would you consider that I was doing something reasonable or useful if I decided I was going to use my own meaning for words rather than the ones everyone else used? If I decided that "up yours" was a synonym for "please pass the salt," and used it in that way, would that make sense? Would it work??

            Communication by its very nature operates on a shared agreement about meaning. If you try to use meanings that don't relate to the ones everyone else uses, you're hobbling your ability to communicate, to understand and be understood. You can refuse, sure, but it's only smashing your own tools.

          • no, because words actually have defined meanings. Facial expressions and body movements do not. They vary from culture to culture, even in western culture it is considered weird the way Americans act towards people they don't know.

            In the USA it is not peculiar for people to randomly ask a stranger 'How is your day?' and then not stick around to actually talk about their day.

            in Germany as one example, if you ask someone "Wie gehts?" they expect you to actually stick around and talk to them once you have initiated conversation.

            In the UK they don't say 'have a nice day' after they check you out at the shops, but in the US they do, people from the UK, at least according to my relatives, often consider that to be disingenuous on behalf of the Americans who ask it, since really they don't care.

            but the definition of "How" in the US & the UK are the same as the Definition of "Wie" in Germany. Word's mean things, Actions confer things, but facial expressions are meaningless and could simply be that the person has a twitch or a crick in the neck.

            I'm not talking about excusing people who are breaking real societal taboos and acting in an impolite and uncivil manner.. say blocking your exit or putting their hands on you.. those I understand as bad.. but I think you can see just from our two totally different interpretations of what showing teeth means as to how variable "body language" interpretation can be. I think that people who allow their animal brain to dictate how they react to people based on body language are just that, animals, they are pulling their hand out of the nerve induction box.. but me, even though every part of my instinct is telling me to recoil when someone smiles at me.. I stick it out in order to try and be polite and social.

          • professional_lurking says:

            "No, because words actually have defined meanings. Facial expressions and body movements do not. They vary from culture to culture, even in western culture it is considered weird the way Americans act towards people they don't know."

            The fact that body language can be interpreted differently in different cultures makes it *the same* as spoken language, not different. The meaning of words varies regionally, and even within subgroups (i.e. what my parents mean when they say "nerd" and what I mean are not exactly the same). The specific denotation/connotations individuals associate with a given word will vary across a population, but on average roughly the same meaning will be ascribed to the word. Similarly, individual people will ascribe different motivations, emotions, and intents to a specific facial expression, but on average a particular population will cluster around the same interpretation. All the variation means that miscommunication is possible, but the possibility for error doesn't render the entire task of communication hopeless.

            "Word's mean things, Actions confer things, but facial expressions are meaningless and could simply be that the person has a twitch or a crick in the neck."

            First of all, why don't you consider facial expressions to be actions? If I choose to smile at someone, that's a conscious action I'm making in order to, say, make them feel welcome. If I choose to let my face remain in it's default expression, that's still an action, and that choice is still conveying information to the people around me.

            Second, while it's true that facial expressions could result from a twitch, words can result from a slip of the tongue. I have accidentally apologized to someone by saying "I'm sorry *if* you're upset…" instead of saying "I'm sorry *that* you're upset…" The first is a non-apology, the second an actual apology (depending on how the sentence ends, of course). Now, it would be nice if the person on the receiving end of that sentence gave me a chance to correct myself, but they're under no obligation to stick around to see if I'm apologizing sincerely. And if they do choose to leave, it isn't necessarily because they're thinking with their "animal brain" either. Other people get to do their own risk-benefit analysis for interactions with me, and if they reach a conclusion that doesn't agree with my analysis, that doesn't make them animals. It just makes them different.

          • Actions require conscious thought.

            The first is also a perfectly valid apology for what you are sorry for, them being upset, not that they are upset.

          • FormerlyShyGuy says:

            The various ways people interpret different facial expressions are more akin to different languages than to different individual words. If you learn to "speak American facial expressions" you will be generally understood in America, but just like there are local dialects you might be slightly off region by region.

          • Dude, words mean different things in different languages, just like body language means different things in different cultures. What you've just given is an example, not a counterexample. If you can't use appropriate words and body language for the culture you're in, then you're the one who is making it hard to understand and be understood.

          • Why would I want to use anything that the culture I'm in uses? I hate the culture I'm in.

          • Well, it might help you communicate with people like, oh, say, me.

          • "no, because words actually have defined meanings. Facial expressions and body movements do not. They vary from culture to culture, even in western culture it is considered weird the way Americans act towards people they don't know. "

            In the USA, the word "fanny" means backside. It certainly doesn't mean the same thing in the UK. In the UK, "fanny" means a "woman's private bits" (to be polite).

            Then there's the whole "rubber/eraser" thing.

            The jam/jelly difference.

            Words do not automatically have defined, rigid meanings.

          • So you're only interested in being decent to people if it's of immediate and obvious material benefit to you? You're free to do that, I guess, but you kind of have to accept that most people will not want to be friends with you.

            And you might as well acknowledge to yourself that positive human interaction isn't some mysterious process that's impossible for you to learn; it's something you're actively choosing not to do because it's not worth the effort in your mind. Again, your choice.

          • Delayed gratification is for suckers, you can spend your whole life saving every penny just to get hit by a bus and never get to enjoy it.

            I don't have to acknowledge any such thing, all of you are the ones complicatingly it needlessly by bringing your faux telepathy and augery into it. If you'd just listen to peoples words instead of letting your lizard brain convince you to run away, the world might get a lot more done.

            Funny how when it's an actual dangerous person your lizard brain tells you to not only go up and talk to them, but also to let them convince you to have sex with you.. or convince you to give them money.. but when it's just someone who isn't smiling and tilting their head just so.. wooah now fuck that guy he's probably an axe murderer.

          • The Simple Man says:

            How old are you hobb?

          • old enough to be tired of waiting for my real life to start and all this BS waiting around and starting over to go away and bother someone else.

          • "If you'd just listen to peoples words instead of letting your lizard brain convince you to run away, the world might get a lot more done. "

            I've already told you that your words are part of the problem. You say a lot of things indicating that you do not wish other people well.

          • How can my words be part of the problem when I never speak to anyone? You're putting the cart before the horse, people won't speak to me, so they can't hear my words.

          • You write words here and more often than not your words make you come across dismissive, mean and like you think you are better and smarter than everyone. It also seems like there is no point in ever helping you since you wish for death and believe that you can't change, which makes it seem pointless to respond to you.

            And yet on occasion someone gets through to you, someone says something that makes a good point, and sometimes (very rarely) you peel back that hard surface layer and show a real vulnerability. You reveal that actually you don't want to die, and you do wish things would change, but that you just don't know how to keep going on when life is so hard and how to change when all evidence so far in your life has been that it is impossible. There is a goodness to you that is revealed so infrequently that a casual reader of these threads would never think you had it. Your words make people think you are an unkind ungenerous mean person most of the time. It's only those who spend a ridiculous amount of energy on you with very little reward who finally after a long time get to see that there is more going on than just hate.

            Most people live complex full and difficult lives. They aren't willing to spend that much time getting to know the man behind the words. People will invest time in others, but they need to have a sense that that time is worth it. All you seem to do most of the time is get angry at people for disagreeing with you. You make it very difficult for people to get to know the real you. Your words exhaust people. You might talk to no one in your day to day life, but you write reams here.

            Your words are part of your problem communicating here, so that will lead many to conclude that your words, when you speak them, likely cause communication problems in your real life.

          • People can read the things you type here. You…you know that, right? You know about the Internet?

            And here I thought you were so much smarter than us slow, lizard-brained smilers.

          • And you're choosing to purposefully misinterpret them because there is nothing people love more than to find things to get offended about.

          • Due to odd time differences, I'm watching the latest season of Sherlock now. You remind me of the 'high functioning sociopath' image he presents, and despite what Tumblr might think it's not a pleasant sort of person to be around.

          • Except I am not sociopathic by any means, I may be slow to pick up on signals, but I most definitely do not dismiss people when they are upset, angry, sad, lonely, and I genuinely do care about a lot of people. I just have a problem assigning that to *all* people, since *most* people don't have any thing to do with my life at all.

            Despite what may come across on here, I am always ready to listen when a friend has a problem, or just needs someone to talk to, and then I usually will check up on people I know who are going through bad situations from time to time.. not to offer them help.. just to say 'Hey, how are you doing?" and then if they need anything, just to talk, whatever, they have an opening to do so.

            I actively dislike seeing people who are, obviously even to me, in pain, be it physical or emotional. That is the major difference.

          • Hobbes, I know you're having a bad time lately and that this is a particular hot topic for you, but I'd appreciate it if you could recognize that I'm sincerely trying to explain something to help you, and either try to discuss it civilly or say you're not interested in discussing it. You're getting really insulting.

            What on earth is your evidence that I'm going up to dangerous people and having sex with them or giving them money? In fact, in my life, I've generally been quite good at identifying people who are dangerous, manipulative or otherwise untrustworthy, and avoiding them. One of the things that helps me be good at that is that I don't just listen to the words they use, I also pay attention to things they are communicating non-verbally (and usually unintentionally). It gives me extra information that helps me avoid the things you're talking about

            Incidentally, what you describe about your body language sounds like the kind of non-verbal cues used by people when they're hostile and quick to form negative judgements. And from what you say here, it seems like if we met in person, you would be likely to treat me with hostility and make negative judgements about me. I'm not saying this to pick a fight or be mean, because I do enjoy talking to you here, but it sounds like your non-verbal cues would correctly tell me I'd do better to avoid you, because the way you treat me like an idiot or a horrible person whenever my perspective differs from yours is not something I would put up with in person.

            ETA: Also, should have noted that, just because people sometimes trust someone who turns out to be untrustworthy, it doesn't mean that they're stupid, it just means that there is no perfect way to detect predators and liars. You don't manage it by not paying attention to non-verbal cues; other people can't do it perfectly by using them either – but that doesn't mean it doesn't improve their ability to do so successfully.

          • woah woah, that was a general 'you' not Enail You.

            I'm simply repeating stuff that other people on this very website have said bunches of times, it comes up lots whenever someone is accused of being "creepy"… and then someone always asks well why do so many people still go home with douchey McDategrope (insert verb of your choice) when everyone else can tell they are bad news, Oh well he must have had some redeeming qualities.

          • It doesn't really matter whether it's a general you or not; you're saying that people who use non-verbal cues for information are idiots, particularly if they get it wrong. I'm one of those people.

            No, what everyone explains is that there is no perfect way to tell who is untrustworthy, and people are fallible, so sometimes people get it wrong, no matter what information they're using. But, the more information they're using, the better their chances, and that includes non-verbal cues. And I think you not using them is one of the reasons you seem to have a harder time than average telling who is trustworthy and who isn't.

          • "not using"

            Since I'm nearly 30 and I don't pick up on them I'd say the problem is "Can't use", not "not use"..

            But I see your point, I wasn't trying to say that people are idiots, just that they shouldn't place their utmost trust in millions of year old electrical impulses which are totally incompatible with modern day life.

          • Yes, I agree that you probably have a natural difficulty with reading non-verbal cues, and that makes things harder through no fault of your own. But you're also choosing not to try to understand them to the degree that you can, nor to recognize that other people are using them as a normal, important part of communication and try to adapt to that.

            But my point is that they aren't incompatible with modern day life, any more than language is. They're units of information that are part of our culture, that update and evolve with our current methods of communicating, that people "speak" in, both intentionally and sometimes giving away more than they intend to, just like words.

          • You should take the source into account. It's usually resentful MRA types who are asking that particular question.

            Actually, people manage to avoid interactions with jerks all the time by, as enail points out, using ALL the information available to them. The fact that sometimes people make mistakes, or they are okay with risking jerkitude in order to get something else they want, does not invalidate the point that using all available information to make their judgments is a good idea.

          • Not to jump into a heated conversation but there is one small point that has been overlooked. It is far, far easier for people to lie with words than it is to lie with body language. When the words match or do not match the body language you can gain insight into a situation.

            I think of it as akin to the association between smell and taste. You can taste something if you lack a sense of smell but lack the depth and the breadth to gain the full picture so you can miss some of the pleasure or neglect to taste the poison before eating.

          • So easy, just don't lie.

          • That doesn't help if other people lie.

          • If everyone stopped lying, it wouldn't be a problem.

            But I know.. silly me.. it's far to much to hope that everyone would have an epiphany and wake up and realized 'Shits bad yo" and just stop lying to each other..

          • You're being sarcastic about the idea that it's too much to hope that everyone will one day suddenly become wonderful and trustworthy?? Because, yeah, we all know that's not going to happen, so it makes sense to try to work within the world that does exist.

            By the way, I've been emphasizing the non-verbal stuff as useful for detecting dishonesty, because that's very obviously useful, but it's helpful for getting on with people in all kinds of ways. For example, it allows me to have a better idea of if someone I care about is feeling down, so that I can try to comfort or cheer them without them having to come out and say "I'm sad, be nice to me," (Which can feel really awkward to do, especially if they're feeling depressed and like no one cares about them- it might feel like too much to ask even thoug they'd like it).

            It helps me tell when someone is feeling attacked when I'm having a discussion with them – I can get very intense in even friendly arguments, so I'll know that I need to tone things down for them to not feel like I'm mad at them.

            It helps me tell if someone's getting confused when I'm explaining something and try to change my tactic, without having to wait until they decide they're confused enough to want to interrupt me and ask right out.

            It helps me tell if someone is interested in what I'm talking about and would enjoy if I went into even more depth, or if they feel like I'm rambling on and we'd have a better conversation if I tried to find a different topic.

          • This comment is based on my own peculiar career and experiences but a world without lies might not always be a better world. Specifically I am thinking of those that hide people from persecution and lie to the authorities or the Underground Railroad. Lies can sometimes be selfless acts that place the liar at more risk than telling the truth.

            Not necessarily applicable to the day to day in the US at this moment in history unless you work in specific fields (e.g. intimate partner violence prevention) but something to consider when contemplating a lie free world.

          • Not only that, but daily small lies are part of what allow people to succeed, have confidence, etc. If my friend asks me if a dress looks good on her before we go to a party, I am probably gently going to give her my actual opinion — "Hmm, I think this one is better." If she asks me when we're *already at the party,* however, I'm sure as hell going to lie and tell her she looks good, because to do otherwise would be to make her unhappy and likely ruin her evening or at least reduce her confidence and the amount of fun she's having, and nothing is gained by it. She can't change her dress.

            Similarly, if a child asks me if I think the drawing he just made and presented to me with love and pride is good, even if I don't think he's got much in the way of natural artistic talent, I'm still going to tell him I think it's good. If he were a teenager and asking me if he should be going into a career as an artist, I'd give him an honest opinion, but a 5 or 6-year-old? Yeah, I want him to keep drawing and enjoying it.

          • I don't consider that bottom example to be a lie, if a six year old draws me a picture, I'm going to say the same thing, I'm going to tell the six year old it's a good job, and mentally I'll be tacking on a context note "This is good for a *6* year old" because it generally *is* actually good for a 6 year old.

            No lying, but I also tend to offer praise for kids in different ways, instead of saying "That's a good picture!" I'll say something like "you worked really hard on that, and it shows!"

          • It is more a skill that can be useful to detect the lies or the underlying motives of others as its use does not depend on your own honesty.

            I will provide an example from my life where using my "lizard brain" was beneficial. I was in Pakistan attempting to negotiate some supplies across into Afghanistan for an IDP camp. One of the warlords was saying all the right things (through a translator) but something was just not right. His demeanor was just off. I thanked him for his time and sought an alternate route. My colleague did not. My colleague's convoy was ambushed and looted and some of his people died. Mine made the delivery and no one died.

            This is not to say that everyone needs to understand body language or nonverbal communication. If it has no utility for a person they can develop the skills or not. This is just an example of how using words alone can sometimes cause someone to miss critical information.

          • I wonder if reading "The Gift of Fear" might help hobbesian with this topic (it definitely explains why you were right to trust yourself!). In it, the author really picks apart some really interesting examples to show how what people "sense" and "feel" are actually really fast observations and connections your brain makes without you noticing it, kind of like catching a ball requires a lot of math that you don't do consciously. He also talks a lot about how to do that kind of stuff yourself, and use it to avoid manipulators, predators, etc.

            Just a note though since nobody warned me — the book opens with a somewhat graphic description of a kidnapping/rape situation that has haunted my nightmares for months, and has several other descriptions of violence in it. Use caution about your own triggers when reading.

          • Just an aside, I cannot catch things that are thrown at me either.

          • Just as an aside, this would be an example of you using your words to tell me, sans facial expressions, that you are a rude and inconsiderate person who would rather sit and nurse a lifetime's worth of bitterness rather than think about anything anyone says.

            What are you getting out of arguing with people about how you admit the world actually is? I truly am not sure I understand what you are hoping to convince all of us of.

          • I have no idea how you took a completely neutral statement that I cannot catch things that are thrown at me, ergo my stating that cannot do something, since you just said, "what people "sense" and "feel" are actually really fast observations and connections your brain makes without you noticing it, kind of like catching a ball requires a lot of math that you don't do consciously." either.

            Clearly, it stands to reason, if I cannot catch a ball, or keys, or anything, that is thrown at me, but my instinct is instead to move out of the way because it WILL hit me if I don't get away from it, then perhaps there is a connection to the fact that I also cannot do these same sorts of snap observations of people the same way I cannot make snap observation and trigonometric calculations about catching a flying object?

          • "I have no idea how…."

            Yeah. I know. Is that working for you?

            The reason you have no real-life friends is because you're an asshole, and people can smell assholes a mile away. And you like being an asshole to people who are only trying to help. Does that make you feel big and strong? Is that feeling worth bei alone forever?

          • Lucy Montrose says:

            It's the certitude that bothers me, re: body language and subconscious processing of messages.

            It's like you said– we don't spend time or thought on it, it just comes through to us. But what if the message we're receiving is wrong?
            We don't care. We all become Dubya Bush when it comes to our instincts– making our decisions quickly, never looking back. We tell ourselves how correct our instincts often are… regardless if they are actually correct. Almost as if willing them to be right. In the way that so many romance novels and movies have this tone of: "These two are going to have a great relationship together because I, The Author/Director, have deemed them The Lovers™ and DAMN IT, if I say they're right for each other; THEY ARE BLEEPING RIGHT FOR EACH OTHER. No matter how their circumstances or personalities are actually likely to jell. No matter if it would actually work in a human setting. Because I SAID SO, dammit!!"

            And I have always reacted– well, instinctually negatively to anything that reeks of "because I said so" as much as our learnings about nonverbals tell us. Just pick up the messages and don't question them, don't assign more than one meaning to them, is the subtext I pick up in too much body language advice.

            And I'm sorry– except for alerting myself to creeps and dangerous situations, and the practical concern of just not enough time– I just fail to see how never looking back from an instinct treats those around us in the best possible way.

            Because our instincts love stereotypes. Our instincts love the comfortable and familiar; and therefore the young, white, male, wealthy, privileged, cis and emotionally non-challenging. Our instincts are often pretty lousy at telling the difference between a danger to our body or mind… and a mere "danger" to our preconceived way of being in the world.

            So it's not that I don't understand instinctual learning. It's more like having an active dislike of it. At least the way we apply it, all too often. Instead of using our instincts for good– protecting ourselves and those we love, making judgments that enhance our lives, choosing a unique way of being– WAY too much of the time, we use our instincts to live by stereotypes and treat people like shit. Older, disabled, black and brown people having a hard time getting jobs? … That's just one way in which a subset of us, HR personnel; are just trusting our instincts. And our instincts scream at us to go with the familiar personality, because we're going to find them more likeable.

            This way of using our instincts is something to be overcome, not embraced. And definitely not adopted with an air of unquestioning certainty.
            Do we want our instincts to keep holding us back as a people and perpetuating a toxic culture? Or do we want to use them for the good of ourselves, our loved ones, and humankind?

          • I don't disagree with you that we should pay attention to where our instincts are coming from and not always trust them implicitly; as you point out, they can be wrong, they can be biased, they can be based on false assumptions or experiences that don't hold true in other situations.

            But I think that as long as we try to be aware of those things, and to try and put systems into place to prevent our instincts from overriding fairness and equality, our instincts about body language, tone and other non-verbal cues can tell us useful information that does have a concrete basis (though not always a universal one – another place to be careful!) and is relevant to a great many interpersonal situations.

        • The thing is, hobbes, you're the outlier here. Not everyone else. Most people communicate nonverbally through subtle facial cues. That's just how human society works for the most part. It might not be easy for you, personally, but that's how it is (and it really is useful to be able to tell someone's emotional state just by looking at them. That's why people have that ability).

          I understand where you're coming from. I don't have trouble reading other people's expressions, but I get told often how it doesn't seem like I have any emotions, even though I feel them just as strongly as anyone else (and honestly, if no one pointed it out to me, I'd have no idea I don't express them as much as most people). It's annoying and frustrating, but you have to understand where that comes from. People want to understand you. In fact, most of the people who tell me that are people who generally care about me; it's their way of saying "I want to know how you feel."

          • All fine and dandy, but I'm not going to pick up their slack for them being too lazy to actually investigate. Not my job.

          • Try and think about it with the language metaphor. Would you consider it picking up someone else's slack to choose the words that convey the exact feeling that you're intending rather than just using the most basic and least expressive phrasings? In your first post in this thread, you picked words like mystical bullshit to express your disgust – why did you put that work in there, rather than using any old other word? We didn't need to investigate to have a starting point of what you were feeling about it, because the words you chose told us! Why was that your job, not ours to investigate what you were really feeling?

            To most people, verbal communication has a layer of expression, just like that, over written communication (through tone and cadence of voice), and in-person communication has another layer still (through facial expression and body language). Just like with written language, conveying expression is part of the work the speaker does in communicating, both intentionally and less consciously.

          • Then people won't interact with you. I certainly wouldn't.

            Just don't pretend that this is the universe out to get you. You are responsible for your own actions. This is a choice that you are making.

          • I'm not making any actions, I'm simply existing and people seem to be offended by that, yet when I say I wish I didn't exist, people get offended about that too. It doesn't seem to matter what I do.

          • Hobbes, do you sincerely not know why your comments have been offending people in these last few threads? I'm happy to give a go at explaining if that would be helpful.

          • it would be helpful yes, because it really has begun to feel that if I say or do anything it upsets someone.. and frankly it's getting more than a little bit frustrating to constantly be stepping on peoples toes when I'm not setting out to do so.

            I say something that I authentically feel, or genuinely believe, and everyone freaks out… It's exactly the same thing that happens when I tell people I don't like so and so Show, or I don't care about so and so Sport, or I don't like to eat so and so Food. all i'm doing is making a statement that I don't like to do something, and yet everyone takes offense as if I just kicked their dog.

          • Well, I think a big thing is that the way you phrase your opinions doesn't leave much room for respecting people who don't 100% share them: you seem to go in with the assumption that if someone else's perspective is different from yours, it's undoubtedly because they're either stupid, crazy or a terrible person.

            For example, when you started talking about non-verbal cues in this thread, you opened in a very hostile manner, describing it as mystical bullshit – even though non-verbal communication is a 100% known and accepted facet of human communication that I very much doubt any reputable social scientist would contest, though we've had previous threads where people have linked to multiple scientific studies about the subject, and though you're aware that it's considered to be real and useful by many people whose opinions I think you have some reason to respect.

            That makes it seem like there isn't much point in trying to discuss with you genuinely – you come across as totally unwilling to reconsider anything about your beliefs or to give thought to other peoples' ideas. …Which leaves the impression that you're just making that comment to start an argument and try and shout the other parties down, leaving very little room for anything but hostility, especially in cases when your assertions are factually untrue. (Cont…)

          • (Cont…)I think one of the things that would help you avoid stepping on toes is if you could figure out a way, when you read an opinion that's different from yours, to try and imagine the possibility that they might have a point, that they might be intelligent and sane and a decent human being who just sees things in a different way because they have different information, different experiences, different skills from you. I know you're capable of imagining and putting yourself into different perspectives, because you get something valuable from fiction. Try using that skill when talking to other people.

          • This was actually very insightful and helpful, I'm not sure how to really go about doing it, because to me it just sounds like, usually in real life anyway, that I'm making very neutral statements. I'll admit that I lashed out on this specific issue particularly badly because it is such a hot button topic for me.

            Unfortunately though, you would be wrong to assume that I would have a reason to respect someone just because they have a PhD behind their name or published some papers. I actually have a fairly low opinion of a lot of social scientists, and cognitive scientists, (Ironic I know) because they tend to latch onto theories and process which are outdated, and then steadfastly refuse to let go of them when those methods are largely disproven. You can see it with Evo-Psych and Geographical Determinism all throughout the Anthropology field.. Jared Diamond's entire career is basically based on it.. yet his ideas are just about as sensationalist and easily shown to be inaccurate as Graham Hancock. One need only see the extreme staying power of Freud in literary criticism.. even though he's basically been completely superceded.. the new people just don't provide as many pithy phrases.

            You are right though that often I am making statements in order to effectively plant my flag in the hilltop and then defend it to the death, not because I'm looking to be challenged or contested, I think a lot of it is just because on this forum a lot of my ideas are decidedly out of vogue, just like in many geeky circles my opinions are decidedly out of vogue. But in both cases, like in life, I obviously am never going to find an ideal niche that fulfills all my environmental needs.

          • When I was talking about people you have reason to respect, that was separate from the bit about scientific studies, I meant some of the people here who you've had worthwhile discussions with.

            I suspect that a lot of the statements that you think are neutral are actually coming with a lot of implicit or explicit value judgments. Maybe try, when you write something, looking for the hidden value judgements (if you don't think there is one, pretend that there is and there's a prize if you find it) and thinking what someone you respect would feel about them?

            Think about Taran in the Book of Three versus Gwydion, especially how they relate to Gurgi. Taran is quick to form judgments and dismiss people, always leaping to conclusions based on his existing assumptions. Gwydion holds back, starts from a position of respect and the assumption that there is something worthwhile by watching, listening and learning from even the most unlikely-seeming sources of wisdom. He's not a doormat – he'll most certainly stand up for himself when he needs to – and he does form opinions and come to conclusions, but he waits to do it, and is always paying attention to reasons he might want to change his judgements (as he does with Taran) rather than making them once and basing everything else on the assumption that his judgment is correct, eternal and absolute. I think you'd find it easier to get on with people if you channeled Gwydion more.

          • Dr_NerdLove says:

            Think about Taran in the Book of Three versus Gwydion, especially how they relate to Gurgi.

            You're my current favorite commenter. The Prydain Chronicles are what made me a life-long reader.

          • Heh, I'm pretty sure the works of Lloyd Alexander form the entire basis of my value system and moral compass. Okay, maybe also C.S.Lewis, Tolkein and Susan Cooper.

          • C.S. Lewis wrote the first book I ever physically threw away from me (the Last Battle), but <3 <3 <3 Susan Cooper and wish more people had read her. The Grey King still makes me misty when I reread it.

          • Yeah, the Last Battle traumatized me for life! AND it's badly written compared to the others! I choose to pretend it doesn't exist.

          • It wrecked a lot of the other ones for me, too. I'd still recommend The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to people, but after reading TLB, and having my faith in authorial good intentions shaken, it was like, "Whoa, The Horse and His Boy is really mean to people just because of where they were born," and the preaching throughout the series became increasingly intrusive each time I reread them (Caspian and Dawntreader aren't terrible about it, but they're also not as good as Wardrobe).

            I still think Wardrobe is a good story, and worth reading, but in the others I feel like Lewis puts his ideology above telling a good story, and for some reason I can't ignore it like I can, say, the problematic elements in The Blue Sword (another childhood foundation book for me).

          • I like Philip Pullman's Amber Spyglass series which he wrote as a counter to Lewis's anti-sex and Christian Narnia series. I still like Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe but can not stomach the "You can not go to Narnia after puberty because…. well….sex" theme of the series

          • I really liked the first of the His Dark Materials trilogy (Golden Compass), and I definitely liked the theme (children save the world by growing up, instead of by being frozen in pre-pubescence, like Lewis' heroes), but I felt like in the second and especially the third books of the series, Pullman basically had the same flaws as Lewis — sacrificing the good of the story for the point he wanted to make.

          • what I didn't like about Pullman was the exact opposite of what ruined me on Narnia (I was the weird Christian kid who likes fantasy who HATED the whole series but read them out of obligation). In His Dark Materials, the adults are mean. Not just evil. All of them are awful and they all have it in for Lyra. That always kind of bothered me in a children's series. Not all adults are evil, some are actually trustworthy, and to tell a child in the 9-12 age range "trust no one" is kinda damaging. (The alternative NOT being Narnia's Aslan is Always Right- in part because it's an overly simplistic understanding of Christian theology- Christians do not have to think that children dying in a train crash is a "good" thing. Most theologians describe that as just a thing that happens because this is a world where people die, but Lewis doesn't seem content with that. Then again, he's writing against the backdrop of WW2 and there was a LOT of innocent deaths to contend with.)

          • Yeah, the "trust no adults" aesthetic in Pullman is, I think, understandable in a series that is basically a giant middle finger to the concept of both religious and governmental authority, but it also gives the whole series an unfortunate air of immaturity. It's all very well to tell kids to question the accepted norms of society, and to trust their own individuality, but that's got to be balanced with recognition that when it comes to running a society, you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

          • I love how people can have totally different impressions of the same books. I need to reread with your comments in mind. My impression was more that children should be cautious of which adults they trust, so Dr. Malone was trustworthy but Mrs. Coulter was not.

          • I think celette and I are both being a bit hyperbolic in that it's not that *every last adult* is untrustworthy. :-) But most of them are, and the series also engages in the whole children's-movie conceit that the ones that aren't intentionally trustworthy are often well-intentioned but blind to what's really going on, and therefore can't be trusted not to interfere with the child protagonists.

          • I definitely need to give it a reread and see if I see what you do. The time in my life when I read it, although I read it as an adult, was one where I might have been prone to seeing adults as evil because of a project. I wonder if it will read the same now that I am working more with adults?

          • Definitely! It's often worth rereading books you had strong feelings about when you're in different circumstances to see if you get different things out of them.

          • celette482 says:

            Yes. It's been a while since I read them, but there are some who aren't Nefarious, but whose well-intentioned meddling is just as dangerous.

            This is actually a common problem in children's fiction generally. I think HDM was the last book written specifically for children i read for years. And then Harry Potter came out, and as many problems as there are, the relationship between the children and the adults is fantastic in those books. They're not all perfect, some have matured since they were Harry's age, but generally you have some really reliable ones. Professor McGonagall, for example, never stops being a steady source of support. (I think she was the person my mom pointed to when she first brought up the "HDM leaves children without any support at all" problem that I'd seen but couldn't name)

          • If you haven't read the Dark is Rising series, I'd highly recommend it.

            It's about a boy who finds out he's the last born member of a group of immortals that fight against a similar group who's evil … sort of.

            One of the best parts of it, for me, is while it's clear throughout that the Dark side does not have people's best interests in mind, and that it would be Very Bad if they won, as the series progresses it starts pitting human compassion against the absolutism of the Light, and the main character and the other (human) children that he frequently allies with or has to protect often have to deal with clueless adults, but just as you're getting used to that perspective, he has a conversation with one such adult, who ends up being the one who makes the choice that ultimately saves the world, because of lived experience, and mature compassion, and understanding gray areas.

            It's a beautiful moment in which the Chosen One gets gently schooled by a sheep farmer. And neither of them is wrong.

          • I really liked that series…

          • Ooh, seconded. I love how Harry's understanding of adults changes and becomes more nuanced until he can see them as real, complex, fallible human beings and care about and respect them anyway.

          • I say this as someone who is also Christian: the Last Battle is unmentionable. (I knew I was missing the point when I was like "Good for you, Susan. Move on with your life")

          • Oh man, yes. Have you read "Elegant and Fine"? http://ursulav.livejournal.com/1510426.html

            "You shoved me back into this wretched unformed child’s body, lion-god, and made me a thousand years a widow, and now I am too _old_?"

            Each time I read it, my throat aches for her at that line. So then I read this and it makes me happy for her: http://ink-splotch.tumblr.com/post/69470941562/th

          • CS Lewis was really in to that (see: the unnamed human in The Screwtape Letters being killed in the bombing of London). I mean, Christian thought is that life is just phase 1, so it makes sense, but at the same time, it doesn't make sense either. the overall message is basically: you should die young and quickly.

          • Yeah, part of my aversion to Christianity and Islam is the privileging of an afterlife above this one. I mean, don't get me wrong, if you accept that premise (that what you do in a short period of time in this life locks in your fate for eternity in the next), then most of Christian history looks a lot less evil. The Inquisition makes sense, then — if a little bit of torture in this life can save you from an eternity of torture in the next, isn't that a sensible tradeoff? If taking Jewish children from their parents and raising them in Christian households prevents them from suffering in hell for an eternity, isn't it the right thing to do? If a single heretic's teachings might result in hundreds or thousands of people losing their way and spending eternity in excruciating misery, isn't imprisoning or even killing him a better option?

            Once you accept the premise, all sorts of really evil things begin to look like sensible tradeoffs, because surely enduring a little bit of suffering now to prevent a lot of suffering later is a logical thing. (I mean, surgery is painful, too, but we still do it because the benefits outweigh the pain.)

            For for all of us who don't accept the premise, it's a giant DANGER WILL ROBINSON flag, because it ends up meaning: these people will hurt you, and think they're doing it in love and for your benefit.

          • Good Christian theology (I don't know enough about other religions to speak to that) does not actually privilege the afterlife. Lewis actually plays with it a bit, and I don't know where HE comes down on the issue, but if you really thought that the afterlife was more important, you should probably kill yourself once you've accepted salvation. Why risk it? Why waste time down here? Well, clearly that's not what people do nor what Christianity teaches, so there must be some value to life on earth.

            WHILE we're on the subject, that always pissed me off about Tolkein. The Elves man, the Elves are assholes. What, you're long-lived and going off to the Undying Realms so you are too high and mighty to help with this Ring shit? Um… we're human. I personally have lived for 26 years. You're holding the decision of a guy who lived 3000 years before me against us. A decision that you PERSONALLY witnessed. Let's not talk about the weakness of men and maybe talk about how the Elves got us into this mess in the first place. And I've read the Silmarillion, so I know your hands aren't lily-white.

            Clearly my version of Christianity (UMC ftw) would not have fit in very well with Oxford dons in the 30s and 40s.

          • Well, but suicide's a sin, right? So, yes, once you get saved you can safely die (hence martyrdom, yes?), but if you genuinely believe, you may as well spend the time until you go trying to convince other people to get saved as well.

            I mean, don't get me wrong, most Christian thinkers don't put it in terms of privileging the afterlife over this life, but given that the bedrock tenet of Christian doctrine is "accept Jesus or go to hell" it's an underlying theme not just in conservative Christian strains, but almost everything in the mainstream.

            And yes, the elves were assholes. No argument there.

          • celette482 says:

            Only if you're Catholic.

            What I think is interesting is that Lewis does touch on something in the Last Battle that I can get behind: the idea that people are Free Narnians even if they didn't realize it. He lets in that one guy who had been on the wrong side, because he was really doing the right thing with the wrong name.

          • Me too! I haven't read it in forever, and I re-read Narnia on a regular basis.

          • What if, generally speaking, I feel my judgements are correct, eternal, and absolute? What if, I'm not including any value judgements in things I write (See above; with the whole ball catching thing) yet others who are constantly on the lookout for hidden value judgements are finding them where they don't exist. It's like "Subtext" in literature, I do not *ever* find subtext that other people are talking about, because I take the words of the author to be literal and that's it, what is on the page is what you get, yet others find mounds of the stuff.. but try as I might.. if you hand me a copy of Ulyssess, all I see is an extremely verbose story about one mans very boring walk around dublin..

            I'm going to have to re-read the book of three though.. maybe seeing it in action as it were will help me understand what you are saying better..

          • Upon coming home to find that his wife Medea has murdered their children, Jason says:

            "Take your chariot through the vaults of highest heaven, and bear witness, where you ride, that there are no gods."

            Why do you think he said that?

          • no clue, but then again nothing the greeks wrote ever really makes sense anyway..

          • You honestly have no idea?

          • no,he's talking about chariots and heavens, so I assume it's some type of metaphor, but I can't tell you what the point of it is.

          • Interesting. You can't pick up that he's been through something so horrible (his children being murdered by his wife) that it has destroyed his ability to believe that gods (or some sort of force) has the universe under control?

            Huh. In all seriousness, have you explored whether you might be on the autism spectrum? I mean, again, internet diagnoses aren't worth anything, but difficulty understanding nonverbal cues, facial expressions, inference, figurative language, and the symbolism-language relationship, as well as frequent and intense loneliness, are all common in people with high-functioning autism. Whether there's a causal relationship beyond the obvious one of having difficulty expressing oneself in ways that other people get and understanding other people or not, depression and anxiety are common among people on the autism spectrum as well.

            All of which sounds like you. If you are on the autism spectrum, and haven't been diagnosed and your therapist isn't realizing it, it would go a ways to explaining why you don't seem to be getting much out of therapy.

            Is it something you've explored?

          • I mean, I realize he's gone through a horrible ordeal.. and I sympathize for him as a character because of the context of the situation, I just don't really understand the metaphor he is using to mean what you say it means…

            I was diagnosed as a child with something.. I don't know exactly what since this would have been, maybe, 1992 or 93 and they were really only looking for ADD /ADHD not anything else. I think it started with a P, but I'd have to get my paperwork out of storage to check for sure… They of course then promptly gave me a shit ton of ritalin cause I was riding the crest of the that wave.

            But I can't afford to get a new test with any sort of new more advanced diagnoses because the examination is over 900$ (if I get it done through my school, it's over 2200$ from the doctors I got quotes from, and most want to see you for 6 months to a year before giving you the test) I looked into it when I first started back to college because I though having my learning disability documented would be helpful if I ever needed any type of extra time on exams or anything. But the only classes it really came up in where Math and Philosophy and I managed to struggle through them, que shock, I'm not very good with maintaining logical strings of thought or working out equalitys. Also not very good at learning forieng languages with declensions, or tonalities (which is basically all of them).

          • That's a fair reason to wait for an official diagnosis until you've got a job with decent health insurance. However, it might also be something to talk to your therapist about, if you haven't already — even without an official diagnosis, that particular constellation of difficulties is a big hurdle to get over in finding ways to be happier, and would also, I think, affect the therapist's approach.

          • my therapist is aware of the childhood diagnosis but felt that it would not be appropriate for her to take it into account since it was 1) 20 years out of date, 2) wasn't her that made the diagnosis, and 3) felt it would potentially color her therapy approach.

            her diagnoses was that I had dysthemia and a co-morbid social anxiety disorder.

          • Comorbid with *what*, I wonder — the dysthemia? But in any case, both of those two conditions would account for your unhappiness, but they don't really account for your difficulty in reading people (or, especially, your difficulty in reading inferences/figurative language in text).

            And again, standard disclaimer, I am not a doctor. But it seems like, logically, if you can't read nonverbal communication/facial expressions or understand the figurative ways in which people speak, that would give you anxiety about social situations, which would make you feel misunderstood and isolated and helpless in those situations, which would make you unhappy and depressed.

            Now, admittedly, human psychology is complex and depression and other emotional disorders aren't always logical. So maybe I'm completely off-base. But, again, speaking from my non-medical perspective, I'd want to get at the head of that rather than just treating the tail. And given how much of meaning in human interaction is conveyed through things other than the literal meaning of words, if I were missing that half of the equation, it would be hard as hell to be comfortable or happy or not feel lonely.

          • "I feel my judgements are correct, eternal, and absolute"

            Well, for any human being, the moment you start thinking that is probably a good sign that you're wrong. It's like thinking that you're as self-aware as possible — believing that is almost a guarantee that you aren't.

          • good to know that Jeffrey Dahmer isn't really a horrible person and I had just jumped to conclusions about him, poor guy, all he wanted was some Filipino take-away.

          • I didn't say individual judgments can't be correct. But if you believe that all your judgments are "correct, eternal, and absolute" then you're wrong.

          • I think Jeffrey Dahmer was a terrible person. This means every statement I make about anything is objectively correct and you have to agree with me no matter what I say, right?

            Good. Because I also think that when you ask for advice and people give it to you politely and helpfully, you should not respond with angry sarcasm. So now you have to stop doing that.

          • "good to know that Jeffrey Dahmer isn't really a horrible person and I had just jumped to conclusions about him, poor guy, all he wanted was some Filipino take-away."

            I'm not really all that sure that you're not aware that this would come across as combative and hostile – you seem quite good at expressing those feelings when you are angry, so I'm not sure this is really an example of a statement you don't realize is causing problems.

            But just in case, I think this comes across as hostile because you're taking a pretty reasonable suggestion (that no human being is infallible) to a total extreme (that you're therefore totally wrong in even your most clearcut judgement calls). When someone is arguing in good faith, jumping to that kind of extreme makes it seem like you aren't actually considering their position as potentially having some insight, you just want to make it as clear as possible that you think they're stupid. It's almost like exaggerating someone's mannerisms to make fun of them – it's quite often a hostile tactic.

          • Yes, that one was intended to be hostile and sarcastic, the point wasn't that the extreme was untrue, it was that it only seems to be the beliefs that I authentically hold (and the ones most people seem to disagree with) that seem to be problematic, where as the ones that everyone else agrees with aren't problematic.

            I'm sure you can start to see how this looks like social pressure to conform to popular opinion rather than a more benign sort of thing, when it seems to happen just about every single time I say anything. Out of the entire topic, my post saying I liked Susan Cooper's books was the only one that met with positive approval.. but it was in a susan cooper lovefest thread..

          • Have you considered that the reason your posts keep getting downvoted isn't always the content of what you're saying but the manner in which you're saying it?

            If the manner in which you're saying something is louder to people than what you're saying, you are not communicating effectively. And you can rail against that all you like, but it's not going to change. So your choices are either learn to communicate more effectively, or deal with the reactions your current style of communication is getting.

          • No I just wrote it off as people being assholes and simply not wanting to accept what I'm saying because it challanges their experience in their happy go lucky cocoon worlds.

            I mean.. it really does feel like that most of the time for me, everyone else is happy and going about their life and good stuff is happening to them.. sure they might occasionally have a problem.. but they are generally never long without jobs, never long without romantic partners, never without something interesting to do or some vacation to go on or whatever.

            But me? nothing ever happens to me that isn't bad. Nothing ever happens to make my life better, just to deplete my resources another notch, to make me just that little bit more cynical and hopeless.. and then when I try to explain that to people they get angry with me and call me negative.. well i wouldn't be *negative* if good stuff happened occasionally to balance out the never ending flow of bad stuff.

            I cannot communicate any more effectively than I am doing so now, I have, after many years, finally mastered the english language, I cannot control how other people read into it, and I cannot just invent new words. Maybe if I started adding smiley faces and heart wing dings to it..

          • "No I just wrote it off as people being assholes and simply not wanting to accept what I'm saying because it challanges their experience in their happy go lucky cocoon worlds."

            And that right there is an assumption chock full of very nasty value judgments. It assumes, for starters, that people are malicious and that they're somehow out to get you in their reactions, rather than being genuinely hurt, offended, or otherwise put off by what you said or how you said it.

            It also assumes that the reason they disagree with you is either because they're stupid or because they're hostile, rather than that they see flaws in what you're saying.

            It assumes that you're smarter than they are and more realistic than they are, when it's more likely that they simply have different experiences than you that have led them to different viewpoints.

            It also assumes that if anyone is different than you, it's because their lives have been easy and happy, rather than because they have different ways of reacting and viewpoints.

            It's arrogant as hell, and it's also not very smart. As a favorite TV character of mine once put it, "If you're dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you're smart, surround yourself with smart people that disagree with you."

            You have, here, a lot of smart people who are disagreeing with you, and you're refusing to acknowledge that they might have valid reasons for doing so and reducing all of us to small-minded, petty stupid people who can't see outside our cocoons, despite — DESPITE! — acknowledging how limited your experience of the world is. You are *intentionally* cocooning yourself and not only refusing to look outside it, but actively denying that realities outside it even exist.

            And, you've admitted before that you're less about learning anything than you are "planting your flag," so as far as I can tell, this:

            "people being assholes and simply not wanting to accept what I'm saying because it challanges their experience in their happy go lucky cocoon worlds"

            describes *you,* as you behave here, better than anyone else here.

          • sorry, disagree. I don't see the world as an inherently good place filled with inherently noble people who despite their meanness none the less possess some type of innate wisdom. I see the world as an inherently shitty placed filled with malicious people, liars, and thieves who are out to scrounge, con or steal whatever they want that you have be that money, property, or emotional energy.

            I'm becoming more and more convinced of this as my financial situation and my emotional situation continue to deteriorate, I'm noting a direct tracking with how many fewer people get in touch with me, I haven't got anything for them to beg or borrow or con me out of, and I haven't got any emotional energy for them to leach either. So I'm not useful to them, they don't communicate with me.

            We live in a society that only values what you can produce or others can get out of you.. so when you haven't got anything to get, and you aren't producing anything.. it makes perfect sense that no one would want to have anything to do with you.

          • Just to ward myself against it, Obviously the fact that people here are still speaking to me, in spite of the fact they aren't getting anything out of it, proves it isn't 100%, even though it very often feels it.

          • In a way, this may be the most basic part of the issue: if you assume that people who are not malicious liars and thieves are that way, and treat them like they are, you will drive those people away, because no one likes to be treated like they're a terrible person when they're just trying to have a decent conversation or be nice to you.

            It will not, however, drive away the people who arejust trying to con you and steal from you (or at least not all of them), because it's not really as insulting to treat people that way when they are acting that way.

            So, by approaching all interactions with the assumption of terribleness, you're ensuring that you're more likely to interact with the terrible people than the ones who don't have those kinds of motives. It's like, your world view needn't agree with mine for us to interact pleasantly, but the way you act on your worldview with respect to the people around you affects me, and when it affects me is when it becomes an issue.

          • Please listen to this, hobbesian, this is wise.

            It's not just that you disproportionately drive away decent people. It's that you don't get offered opportunities or connections that the people in your life have access to, because they can't trust how you'll behave to others and their reputation will be on the line.

            For example, I have a good friend who is job-hunting. I have a ton of connections in the field he's looking in, so I made a bunch of phone calls to see if there was anywhere that I could help him get an interview. I did this because I know that he's a pleasure to be around; if he gets a job because of me, I'll look good every time people remember that I pointed him their way. I would never do the same for someone who treated others badly, even if I wanted to help them, because it would destroy my credibility and make it impossible for me to help others in the future.

            Hell, even when I'm not being proactive about it, I have recruiters contacting me on a regular basis to ask if I know anyone good they can hire. I have to make decisions about who I can recommend all the time – and "will this person act like an asshole and ruin my reputation" is a major factor I have to consider.

            Basically, acting this way makes the costs of helping you extremely high – and that means other people get the help instead, and then it looks like they are pleasant because they (say) got a well-paying job, when in fact they got the well-paying job because someone realized they could be trusted to act like a pleasant human being as well as getting the job done.

          • I have to pop in on this because given my experience you are right, humans are not 100% noble, nor are they 100% malicious. You, me and that person over there —-> are capable of great evil or great good or great indifference. And the messed up thing is people can be all three at once.

            I have known people who killed for what they thought was the right reason and people who were killed by them. Those that thought they were always right and those who they imposed their righteousness upon.

            This is the reason I distrust anyone who claims to have all the answers and who believes themselves infallible or anyone who has an ideology.

          • Really? You know murderers?

          • Yes. I work in refugee and humanitarian crisis services so have spent quite a bit of time in civil war settings working with former child soldiers, refugees turned militants and vice versa. I have also helped collect documentation for war crime trials and truth and reconciliation tribunals.

          • Hobbes. I know it feels like everyone else is having mostly good stuff happen and that people are just trying to protect a shiny world view that everyone is as lucky as them. But that is not actually true.

            Let me be a little more personal than I usually get here. Right now, I cannot walk. I have not been able to walk for about 10 months now. I don't know if I will ever be able to walk again. I have exhausted myself trying to manage going to work every day, I have been forced to stop doing a great number of things I love to do, I have spent an amazing amount of my income on the various extra needs my health problem have caused, and I have finally had to take an extended leave of absence from work. I don't know if or when I will ever be able to return to normal working, income-earning life again. This is just the latest of a series of health problems my immediate family has faced. Offhand, in the last five years, we've also dealt with: cancer, a heart attack, a chronic degenerative bone condition, cripplingly severe migraines, a leg injury that required surgery and is still causing ongoing problems, and a whole host of still-undiagnosed-but-not-for-lack-of-trying, debilitating, terrifying and misery-inducing chronic issues. Believe me, I know how it feels to really need something good to happen to balance things out.

            But you approach other peoples' perspectives with the assumption that if they think differently from you, it can only be that they are too lucky and too stupid to understand that life can be really really hard. It would really help if you could start by assuming that there's a chance that a person who disagrees with you is a whole and reasonable human who has experienced some of the variety of life and is capable of forming intelligent conclusions about it – that there's a chance that you're not the only one taking reality into consideration, that there's a chance they could have a point, even if you don't see it or don't agree with it.

          • Wise again!

            Also, enail: I'm really sorry to hear about what you're struggling with. If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know. I don't know that I have any particularly useful resources, but I do a pretty good "listening ear." I could also hook you up with some people I know doing cutting-edge assistive technology to see if that would help with any of the financial stuff. I'm thinking of you.

          • Hey, thanks, Kleenestar! I'm still at the wait-and-see point of not knowing what things will be in the future or what kinds of resources I might need, but I will definitely keep it in mind if/when I do. I really appreciate it!

          • Ack, enail, I'm sorry to hear that. :( How terrible. I hope you get a breakthrough of some sort soon, or at least an effective way to ameliorate the condition.

          • Thanks, Delafina! :)

          • I'm really sorry you're having to deal with health problems, enail. I hope things improve or become more manageable. Going from working to not working is a rough transition as well, whatever the reason. My experience with it is from a different angle, but let me know if you're ever in the mood for any sanity-maintaining tips.

          • Thanks, Eselle! I'm actually really, really good at entertaining myself, so the sanity-while-not-working bit is one of the few things I'm not too worried about. OTOH, some would say sanity is always a bit of a short commodity for me, so tips are always good :P

          • That sounds rough, and I will be thinking of you! I mostly lurk here and I always find your comments interesting and wise.

          • Thanks! That's really nice to hear!

          • Gentleman Horndog says:

            Yow. So sorry to hear you're dealing with all of that.

          • Hey, thanks! :)

          • Yes. How you say something can be at least as important as what you say.

            Suppose I'm shopping with a friend of mine and she asks what I think of a dress she's tried on and is thinking of buying. I could be tactful and say, "It doesn't seem to be very well made, and the color washes you out; have you tried this one that looks like it would bring out your eyes?" I could be blunt and say, "that's really not a very flattering look for you." Or I could be rude and say, "why on earth would you choose something that emphasizes your love handles and lopsided backside?" In all three cases, I may be expressing an honest opinion, but the first is helpful and kind and the last offensive and unkind.

          • To be honest, I'd say assuming that all your judgments are correct, eternal and absolute is, well, just plain old wrong, and it is something that will pretty inevitably cause problems in interaction. You know you've made mistakes before, right? You've had experiences of learning you didn't have the whole story and your opinion changes with new information? So it makes sense to me to recognize that sometimes you're going to be wrong, or sometimes your side has a point but someone else's does too.

            I know you don't like shades of grey, but they do exist, and I think it's easier to get on with people if you can work on seeing that they have complexity and different sides, and that there are different possible ways to see the truth.

            In regards to value judgments, in some cases, maybe you're not intentionally including them, but overall, a lot of what you say does very explicitly express hostility or dismissal, often enough that if a statement is ambiguous, people will see that your other statements are hostile or dismissive and, based on context, draw a reasonable conclusion that you intend it in that tone. I'll try and go through this thread and point out examples of comments that I think show a value judgment.

          • But whenever anyone points out that you're stepping on their toes, you go into "Oh god there you stupid jerks go again with your imaginary toe problem, I'm obviously standing here because it's my fundamental nature and I couldn't possibly move without violating my entire sense of self, and besides it's unfair that I should have to put effort into moving just because your toes are under my foot, you probably put them there on purpose WHY IS MY LIFE SO HARD AND UNFAIR and hey there's probably some worse guy out there who runs around with an axe cutting people's toes off, so you should thank me for being such a nice guy that I only step on them, but no, you hate me and love the toe-chopping guy and want to have all his babies, you big dumb meanie, anyway I'd rather kill myself than stop stepping on toes, is that what you want, for me to kill myself?" mode.

            It…grows tiring.

          • Stop reading it then?

          • But is that really what you want, hobbesian? Because when you say "I don't care if I'm implying that other people are stupid or crazy, even when I'm doing so based on ideas that are wrong," what you say is, "kleenestar, I really don't care about you, and I don't care how bad I make you feel with the way I talk. You can put as much investment into me as you want, but I won't even make the smallest adjustment to avoid insulting you." There's only so long that it makes sense for me to continue a relationship where that is the dynamic.

          • Then unfortunately the only thing I can think to do is just stop talking to anyone for any reason, because honestly that's going to be the only way I can get along with any of you I think, sure seems to be the only way I can get along with people in real life.

            I mean.. if anything I says is just automatically offensive and hurtful to someone, and it always seems to be, and since I'm not trying to be hurtful or offensive.. the only solution is just to stop talking at all.

          • Or, y'know, you could listen to what enail wrote and spend some time trying to understand *why* you're hurting and offending so many people with your communication style, and use that understanding to calibrate your communication better so you can express your thoughts in ways that convince people to listen and take you seriously.

            But yes, it's far easier to just give up and accept that the way you speak prevents people from giving any credence to what you say.

          • Let me tell you what I am looking for.

            "Hey hobbesian, that sounded sarcastic and rude."

            "Oh, okay. I didn't mean to be. Sorry I sounded that way. Let me try again."

            You don't have to get it right; you just have to be okay with trying something different after someone you care about says "Please stop."

          • This this this!

          • "I mean.. if anything I says is just automatically offensive and hurtful to someone, and it always seems to be, and since I'm not trying to be hurtful or offensive.. the only solution is just to stop talking at all. "

            This is an example of a statement that doesn't exactly have a value judgment, but I think comes across as more hostile than you realize. When you say that anything you say is "just automatically offensive and hurtful," the hyperbole of "anything" implies that people are being unreasonable, and the idea that it's "just automatic" suggests that it isn't actually to do with the content and tone of your writing, but something that has no actual basis – which makes it sound like you're saying that you are emphatically rejecting the idea that your choices might be contributing to the problem.

            "The only solution is just to stop talking at all," is similarly hyperbolic, and has a bit of a feeling of "fine, I'm just going to take my ball and go home, screw you."

            Is this making any sense?

          • not really, Anything seems to be legitimately valid, I explained to someone up thread that I couldn't catch things that were thrown at me, indicating lack of hand eye coordination and fine motor control (my handwriting is also shit, and trip over my own feet, and I suck at driving and playing video games with a controller) yet.. lo' and behold it offended someone enough for them to call me an asshole.

            The bottom though your right, in a way, it's less a "screw you guys I'm going home" than if I'm legitimately not wanted here I will leave rather than continue to cause people hardship, since the last thing I want to do is cause people hardship.

          • I think in that post, it was largely that you had shown so much hostility already in this thread that it made the most sense to assume you were just mentioning that to try and halt conversation/to be contrary. I'm not sure it would have gotten the same response without the context.

          • I agree with this. When you've established a context (e.g. I'm saying things that come off as hostile) then people will read everything you write within that context – until you change it. I think that using explicit context markers would be extremely helpful for you given some of the problems I've seen you have, hobbesian.

            For example, if you had said, "That's interesting – I have trouble catching things that are thrown at me, too" it would have indicated that instead of expressing contempt, you were thinking carefully about what was said to you and offering further information. Signaling phrases like that can be applied using rules until you develop better skills, and I bet we can help you come up with a few to start with if you were interested.

          • Yes to both! I made a good-faith suggestion that I sincerely thought might be of use in explaining that this stuff isn't mystic or unknowable, and I got back what was basically yet another sarcastic and dismissive explanation of why the world is out to get hobbesian. In the context of this thread, it was clear that his response wasn't in good faith, and I concluded that it wasn't worth my time to assume it was. Why would I bother when my sincere effort to help was met with such resistance and dismissal?

            And I stand by my assessment — the reason you have so much trouble, hobbesian, is because you cling so tightly to the idea that you are the only one who is right, quite literally in the face of mountains of evidence that yes, those are Euros and yes, this is Texas. People like that are, yes, typically called assholes.

          • That really isn't the only reason I called you an asshole. I did read the rest of the thread. There is context. I'm sorry if you think each comment you make should be read in a vacuum but that isn't the way the world works.

          • The only asshole here, is you. Bye.

          • Hahahahaha! Omfg.

          • "All fine and dandy, but I'm not going to pick up their slack for them being too lazy to actually investigate. Not my job. "

            You can see that there's a value judgment in this statement, right?

          • nope.

            Other people saying "You're not doing enough on your end of communicating because I'm sending out signals you aren't picking up and therefore you don't understand what I'm saying" and I'm saying that I don't recognize those as signals and I don't accept them as a valid form of communication. It's like if you went into the local gas station and tried to pay with Euros and you were in north Texas. They will just look at you funny. Or what happens you hook a Mac peripheral into a PC.. nothing happens. no communications, "Device driver installation failed" "no device detected".

          • Not accepting them as a valid form of communication is a value judgement. You're judging that that form of communication (which, I think, you've had pretty ample evidence is like paying with standard local currency for most people, and you're the unusual one for not accepting them) is not valid. That's exactly what a value judgment is!

            Using words like "lazy" strengthens the intensity (and the negativity) of the judgment, but even without that, that sentiment is a value judgment. Now, I'm not saying you should never make value judgments – discussions almost always need opinions! – but I think you'll run into less trouble if you can be more conscious of when you're making them and what they're saying.

          • Your analogy is wrong, because you're the one hanging out in Texas trying to pay with Euros. Everyone else understands and uses these signals. You can keep trying to pay with Euros if you want, but you're not going to end up with any gas in your car.

          • that's right, but if I cannot get Dollars out of my ATM then I can't pay them can I? It leaves us at an Impasse.

          • FormerlyShyGuy says:

            But you can get dollars out of that ATM, you might have more trouble operating it than others but what is being advocated for you is that you improve your situation not stay with the status quo.

          • As well as FormerlyShyGuy's point that you likely can learn to do this better (really! people without this ability naturally, like autistic people, can often learn to work with it!), I'd note that it's hardly the rest of the world's fault if you're trying to pay with Euros in Texas, so acting like everyone else is stupid or insane for expecting dollars is not going to encourage them to try and help you out with your Euros – or to put much stock in your interpretations of reality in general.

  2. Lilbobbytables says:

    6. Be a puppy. Guaranteed to work. Because puppies.

  3. When it comes to storytelling. I think it's really interesting what you can pick up about a person from what stories they tell about their lives, especially when they're boasting about it. Obviously, you can't get a complete picture of a person from one story, but you can get what some of their priorities and values are.
    For me, if the story is about "getting one over" on someone, that's a sign to me that this isn't a person I want to hang out with, that this is a person lacking in empathy. A guy once told me about the time he beat up someone else for some 'well deserved' reason (I don't remember what it was, it was too long ago, but I remember thinking that that might be a good reason to beat someone up on TV, but not in real life). So that told me that guy was proud about being violent, which, no. Just no.
    In the same conversation, he told me about how the 7 year old girl he used to babysit came onto him , and that's why he stopped babysitting there (his tone saying 'wow what a crazy chick, right?'), which… wow, guy you didn't wonder how a 7 year old even knows enough about sex to try to initiate it??

    • Bas Kleijweg says:

      That last anecdote isn't so weird, apart from the fact that the dude took it seriously rather than as simple copying behaviour that she didn't understand, which can be easily picked up through osmosis. You only need one kid playing doctor, overhearing crude talk or accidentally stumbling upon something while surfing and before you know it the whole playing ground knows. Adults crack down on it hard, and the taboo factor makes it even funnier and daring.

      • You have a point that it could have just been copying. I hadn't considered that, possibly because he was presenting the situation to me as a serious come-on. However, given that he had apparently taken it as a serious come-on, it was alarming to me that he was using it deride her, rather than considering the possibility that she had learned that it was "appropriate" because she'd been molested (a situation that, obviously, would require compassion and empathy rather than ridicule).

        • raindancing says:

          The other possibility is that he's the kind of guy that interprets any physical affection as a come-on.

          In any case, there is no reading of this that he comes out as a person that you want to know.

    • Storytelling is so important in ALL kinds of interactions, from interviews and networking, to dating and making friends. It really helps you stand out in someone's mind, but I find it also eases people into connecting with you. My job involves an element of oversight and compliance that my coworkers have to follow, and I know that a lot of people who do the same kind of work are treated really with a lot of disdain and suspicion by their coworkers, so I like to tell stories about instances where working on a similar problem led to really great or interesting resolution, someone getting promoted or rewarded, or accomplishing something really important. It often makes people go from "I don't want to do this and in fact, I plan on getting in your way about this" to "that actually sounds really cool and important. I guess I'll give it a shot."

    • A friend of mine once said about a mutual friend, "He's the winner of all his stories." You don't want to be self-deprecating, but neither do you want to turn every anecdote into a brag-fest or a chance to put other people down.

  4. Going off my own observations, I'm really not sure how everything fits together. Because in my experience, doing the things requested above seems to make people like me *less*. For example:

    1) Talking slower. Makes complete sense in the abstract. But when I try to talk more slowly or deliberately, people are likely to talk OVER me. I've noticed in groups of 3 or more, it is very difficult to get people to listen to me in the first place, and the longer I take, the more likely I lose their interest. And I don't mean I go on and on, I mean they break into the conversation inside of a sentence or two. And that's after cutting me off two or three times. Getting people to *hear* me in the first place is very difficult.

    2 & 4) People talking about themselves and being validated. Fantastic! I've found if I turn the conversation into nothing but 20 questions from my side, people DO end up talking to me more. And they do seem to like me more, but only in that moment. The second they turn away from me, they seem to forget I exist. I'm likable, but instantly forgettable, and the best I can figure that is, is because I am unremarkable. I've spent the entire conversation talking almost entirely about them, so now I know them, but they don't know me from Eve. I made them feel good, but I also gave them no reason to identify with me-you could have replaced me with a well-done computer program and they would have had as enjoyable an experience. So how do you balance out getting them to talk about themselves and validating them while also being distinguishable?

    3) People really, really hate when I ask their opinion or help. Like, strangers roll their eyes. Friends help, but sort of begrudgingly. I've stopped asking some people's opinions or help on things all together, but they seemed so freaking put out by my requests. And it didn't seem to matter how infrequently I asked… asking for help seemed to make people think I was weak and incompetent.

    My programming class is a good example. I frequently ask the guys around me for help respectfully and without nagging them, because I am still very new to all this. And they do respond, but it's with an air of "Oh God, this again? Why is she so stupid?" They certainly don't seem to like me more!

    Is maybe all of this very gendered? Is there different behavior expected from women to make people like us? Or am I just a freak that nobody is gonna like, regardless of what I do?

    • I think that it's good to remember that your first interaction with someone is kind of like an investment. You're unlikely to get a full return during the specific interaction. That first interaction is important, because it's going to effect every future interaction you have. This person will remember what a good listener you are and you'll extend their interest for longer by not telling them everything about yourself in the first round. For example, I have a couple "nuggets" about myself that I don't share right away, things about where I grew up, some stories from college, some things about where I work, a few hobbies. I bring those out over several interactions.

      As for the programming class, I've heard that from a number of women complain about that. I think it has to do with how men are taught to view women in traditionally male fields (there was a comp sci prof at my college who said that her first day of grad school, she came into a lab and was the only women, and all the male students asked if she was looking for her boyfriend). I think there is possibly also an element that a lot of techy guys are probably asked by people all the time to help with their computer problems. I wouldn't take it personally, the guys in your class just sound like jerks.

      • Oh sure, not looking for a full return makes sense…. But when you can't even get a tiny amount of your investment back, that's kind of annoying. If I try to talk, they talk over me, and if I spend the entire time asking questions, they forget who I am. And if all you have is the first interaction, because they never follow up on a 2nd interaction, that's the only chance you've got to make an impression.

        • How long are you waiting to see if you get the return? A couple hours? A couple interactions? The fact is, there is such a huge variety when it comes to people, that most of your interactions are not going to lean strongly one way or the other, but if you start out with the upper hand by giving people a pleasant impression of yourself, the decision to not continue is yours. Whether or not it helps you get a date, it is a good skill to have. It will help you professionally, as well as socially. Even if you develop a relationship completely through other interactions, this will still be important when you meet your SO's friends, family, coworkers, etc, or are tossed into new situations.

          • I'm more than happy to build on a few interactions, but when I never GET to have another interaction unless I run the person down and force them to engage with me, it gets really annoying and draining fast.

          • Unfortunately, you really just can't know for sure whether you'll get a second interaction (or when) 100%. Even if you meet someone on the first day of class and assume you'll see them everyday for the rest of the semester, they may drop out, or suddenly get sick, or something. I like to treat the interactions I have as a foundation, if I do get to see a person again, and if I don't I tell myself "oh well, this was a practice run for the next time."

          • Meh. If somebody reacts negatively to perfectly normal interactions like you describe, they're not worth chasing down. They don't want to be your friend, that's fine, and there are plenty of people out there who won't be rude when you try to have a conversation.

    • There can be a difference with the type of advice requested in a social situation, I think. People seem to warm up more when you ask an opinion about an interest more than a "How do I….?" or "What would you do……?" question at the early stage of knowing someone. For example, if someone is talking about a book genre or author a "I have always wanted to read X, what would you recommend?" goes over better than asking someone about something medical if you find out that person is a doctor or asking about something technical or complicated when the person is trying to relax.

      Not that you do any of the above. Those are just situations where I have seen advice seeking go better or worse.

      • I agree with this. If you're asking for a favor to try to be friends with someone, instead of someone you're already friends with, you need to ask for a non-burdonsome favor.

        The issue with your programming class, Marty, may be gender-related, but it isn't necessarily. From my experience as someone who was successful in school, I really disliked students who were frequently asking me for help. And you did say you *frequently* ask them. I always felt overly burdened by it. As in, I have my own work to do to keep my grades up, and I didn't sign up to be a tutor, so I'm not yours. People who frequently asked for school help were people I started avoiding. That is very different from people I was already friends with who'd say, "Let's study together." Let's study together is also a give-take, not a take take.

        So, I think the issue may be more a) the favor you're asking for, and b) the frequency of the request.

        • Definitely true. I think a lot of us have a person in their lives that it seems has not heard of google. When you ask for a favor you could easily accomplish on your own, it makes you look needy and lazy. I have a wonderful friend, but she is incapable of looking at a map and figuring out a simple route by herself. I have to give her super specific directions anywhere I meet her because it seems she can't look up a location on her smartphone. I still love her, but it's just frustrating to me that she can never figure that out on her own.

          • Well, I wasn't even talking about people who could just google something. I get that people asking for help in classes usually do need help. However, I don't think they should expect more successful classmates to give it to them if those classmates didn't volunteer to do so. It is very much like reboot's example of asking a doctor friend for medical advice all the time. And it takes away from the time they can spend on their own work.

          • Agreed. I think the takeaway is that at some point, your learning needs to be your own responsibility, whether that is seeing your own doctor or going to your professor's office hours. It goes from being cute to being really burdensome fairly quickly.

      • Well ain't that a kick in the teeth. If that's true, that the favor you're asking for and frequency matters, then the Ben Franklin hypothesis isn't true. People doing nice things for you DOESN'T lead them to liking you more. It's still completely dependent on other variables. Unless asking for someone's opinion is somehow them doing something nice for you?…

        • Franklin's advice placed his enemies in the position of being learned experts (by them possessing books he did not have) and were likely the sort that enjoyed that position (since they owned many books in a time when most people only owned a Bible if that). Some people would feel very good about being seen as knowledgeable and have a warm impression of the book borrower. Others would worry that they would never see their book again and be annoyed that he asked to borrow it. The key is being attuned to the person you are interacting with.

          • Makes sense, but then the advice itself is kind of useless, because it's still about something deeper: being able to read and understand people. So just going through the mechanics of it isn't enough.

            That was kind of my original point: I act in the exact way I'm "supposed" to, and yet still don't see results, because I lack any kind of understanding of humans. The behavior is not enough, because there's something deeper, harder to articulate, about human socializing.

            This is also what I think Hobbes was trying to get at when he said "mind-reading." I don't necessarily agree, and of course I really enjoy any kind of discussion on these things (because it's fun and interesting to think about), but clearly following this advice is not enough. There's something more that needs to happen.

          • I think it's a broad strokes suggestion – a general concept to work with – but depending on ones' social understanding, might need more specifics and details to get right. Most advice that comes in the form of 'five ways to X' is that sort.

            Oh, and I think Hobbesian was referring to the bits about body language. That's something that he's brought up in those terms before.

        • Oh yes, unfortunately there is a lot more to asking for advice and help than just, you know, asking for advice and help. That's what I think the very cynical post Hobbes made above is getting into. The fact is, human interaction is a nuanced complicated thing that involves individuals who are all different from each other. For someone who is not naturally adept at communicating effortlessly it is a pretty daunting challenge.

          When it comes to asking for advice/help in order to hopefully convince others to like you (if that's the goal), what I think one needs to remember is why the advice/help asking results in people liking you in the first place. And that, quite frankly, is an ego boost. The kinds of questions that make people feel good about themselves are the kinds that are both relatively quick and easy to answer (thus making the person feel instantly smart), and also fun and interesting for the person to answer.

          If you are asking for help in class, that can be a much trickier situation because it can come across like you want others to do all the work for you. Their train of thought could be something like: They are in class too, they are learning too, but THEY don't get the luxury of just asking others to help them. They might be struggling too in their own way, but here you are coming along asking AGAIN for their help, when they have their own projects to work on. Now, this is only one attitude that you could encounter. It's quite different if you have a good relationship with someone and/or they seem keen to help. I'm the kind of person who likes to teach, who comes from a long line of teachers, so I am very happy to help if I can. But that's my personality. Not everyone shares this. Some feel extremely put upon and can get bitter.

          So if you are instead asking for help/advice in order to boost the other person's ego and make them like you (as opposed to because you really need advice and help), you need to ask for things that . . . well don't really matter as much. You don't want to ask for anything that will put a pressure on the other person. Like: "Can you help me fill out my citizenship form that's due tomorrow??" That's a lot of pressure to put on a person you've just met. You want to ask more flighty things like: "Oh you like reading Steampunk. Any good books you could recommend?" Or, "We both like costuming, is there a trick you use to give your costume that finished look?" Or, "Hey guys! I'm so sorry, can anyone help me carry the beer out of my trunk??" Small, inconsequential, and easy to answer/do in the moment without too much sacrifice on the part of the other person. It's about making the other person feel smart and useful. But not used.

          Oh! Here's another performative tip I've learned that works really well. If you can make it sound like you and the person you are talking to are conspiring together, that makes people feel special. It makes it seem like of all the people at this party, this person is the only one who will have the answer you are looking for. If you lean in like you want to whisper, look around a bit to make sure no one is listening, and kind of in a sneaky voice say, "Okay, am I crazy or is Joe totally into Joanna???" it makes the other person feel special that you chose to talk with them. I know, Marty, you don't really like doing anything that feels performative, so I'm not saying you personally need to do this, but if anyone else wants to give it a try, it works really well. The only problem is you have to still carefully make sure you aren't taking up anyone's personal space. So don't corner them when you do this, and don't press your body up against theirs. Lean your face in, but not your body. Anyway, no need to do it, but it can be an excellent technique. And it's fun! (also I recommend doing this only when you sincerely think something truly is cool or neat and want to share, you don't want to pretend like you care about things, that can often be detected and is just not cool)

          • "Small, inconsequential, and easy to answer/do in the moment without too much sacrifice on the part of the other person. It's about making the other person feel smart and useful. But not used."

            I-get it and I don't. I get that the point is to make people feel all smart and useful because I'm asking them for something easy and inconsequential. But my thought process is-I could just freaking do those things myself, I don't really need your help.

            I dunno, there's something kind of gross to me about the idea that I'm subjugating myself (asking for help on something easy/inconsequential) JUST because it would boost someone's ego. Ya know how some girls were taught to appeal to boys by seeming like damsels in distress? I never naturally did that, because it just never occurred to me to ask for help on something unless I *literally* can't do it myself. I ask for help as a point of desperation. Asking for help from someone when I don't really need it, JUST because it'd make them feel better…. Ugggghhh.

            I think I have an aversion to "social trickery." I value authenticity above everything else, and so much of social skills seemed to be built on deceit. Like, asking for help when you really could do it yourself.

            Is there any way to be authentic* and yet still charming and likable?? Is it really necessary to put on such a mask JUST to get people to like you? And if you have to go through all of these structured and artificial behaviors JUST to get someone to like you, is it even someone you want? Don't you want someone who likes you as you are?

            Maybe I'd just rather be hated for who I am than liked for whom I'm not. And someone I'm not is a person who needs help with inconsequential things just to give an ego boost. Is there really no middle ground?

            *If you are not authentically charming and likable already, I suppose.

          • Remember when I asked you for help looking at neighborhoods in Minneapolis? (STILL waiting to hear back about that job, btws. *headdesk*) That is the kind of thing Guest is talking about. Did it form social bonds? Who knows. But it was fairly easy, something you could do but no one else I knew could, and it opened up a discussion on restaurants and parking. And it was honest on my part. Sure, I *could* have used the internet, but I'd rather ask for an actual human's thoughts on neighborhoods.

          • I see that as different. Asking me was far more efficient, saved time, and just made more sense. (You don't know anyone from the area, searching the Internet for such specific information is actually kind of challenging, etc.) I see that as different than asking someone to help carry your beer or something.

            I see it as a difference between asking for information, between doing a favor. Asking for information or recommendations makes sense for social bonding, but that isn't what the Ben Franklin theory is, is it? Isn't it about favors and obligations- did I just misread it?

          • I don't know that it's the Franklin theory (that I should create cognitive dissonance in you to make you like me- which is how I read the Franklin theory), but it is the "ego boost" idea. You might not be proud of the fact that you know Minneapolis (after all, I could give you the exact same sort of information about Nashville), but it still means that I needed you, just for a bit, and needed your opinion and advice and valued that more than I valued what I could have found on my own. It's an admittedly subtle distinction, but I think that's the point. Go too far and ask for too much (like me saying "Hey, can I live on your couch for 3 months?") and you feel burdened. Asking for too little ("Hey, can I borrow your pencil?"/ "Could you carry my beer?") doesn't make for much of a connection. Asking for something just for show (Had I not been applying to jobs in Minneapolis, my request could have fallen into this category) makes it feel proforma and fake.

            Everyone you meet knows something you don't, and they could know things that you'd like to know. If you are interested in exploring this way of connecting to people (and it's one of many, so I don't think this is a "You must do this or suffer the social consequences" by a long shot), information is a good way to go about it.

            It also helps that it opens up conversation and tells you something about the person.

          • Oh, um, I actually didn't read it as you needing me, I read it as you being efficient and I was all that was on hand. Part of that is that people almost never ask me for things, so I always figure, if they are asking, it's because I'm all that's available. Not exactly ego-gratifying. :-P

            I get that other people don't function or see the world the same way but it's difficult to act in a way that reads a certain way to other people when I am never on the receiving end/don't understand it myself.

          • celette482 says:

            It's definitely a subtle difference, and things aren't always taken as they are meant. And like i said, it's not the only way to forge social connections, and really it is something that only works if it comes up organically (so can be hard to shoehorn in to every interaction). It's just a tool among many.

          • Totally! That works! But I do think you need to have social calibration on this one. We know that Marty can be awfully helpful and offer great pragmatic advice, and clearly enjoys it considering she spends her time here to advise others when she could do other things. So we know that asking her for this kind of help would be something she would be absolutely happy to do. Others, depending on their personality, might have found that quite an imposition. This is why it's so tricky, and why people like Hobbes and Marty find this frustrating, and I don't want to deny their personal experience. For some, gauging different personality types and needs and wants etc is not so tricky. For others it is. It's why Hobbes has said in the past that he is very "if you aren't with me, you're against me" because it's easier for him. The idea of assessing behaviour on a case by case basis is exhausting. Quite frankly, if I wasn't lucky enough to have an ease with reading people, I would be just as frustrated as them with all this. It's hard. It is. I think it can be worth the effort, but again, I'm lucky, I don't have to do the same amount of effort as others might have to (in this, other things I find impossible that other people find easy of course).

            At any rate, yes that's a good example. But it's also still a loaded example. Because people are complex and why should any of this ever be easy :P .

          • I think asking for stuff/ information is more of a strengthening bonds than a forging bonds tool. If some rando on the street asked me what I thought of neighborhoods in Minneapolis, I would be A. Hella confused and B. Somewhat weirded out. But, if you already know the person's name and you have some connection (live in the same building, work together, class together, have the same laundromat schedule) and you wanted to get to know them better, it is a good way of going about it. But definitely not for a true cold approach or the first thing you ever say to a person.

          • Odd, I don't even see it as a strengthening bonding tool. Like, it CAN be, but I see it more as "I need information, and Person A is the best person to give me the information." I very rarely ask for information when I want to pave the way to friendship.

            So I think you're probably right, it needs to be organic and carefully selected IF used in the interest of building rapport/friendship. Which means it's probably a Varsity Level interaction, and thus probably not useful to Novices like me.

          • Not all requests for help or advice are subjugation. For example, I am trying to get back into visual media and games again so am always asking people who seem to have similar interests and tastes what they recommend. It usually kicks off some fun discussions and later topics if I see or play their recommendation. It is not fake if you would really like to learn something new and intend to try it.

          • Yeah, I think the part that makes people like you is not the putting yourself in a position of supplication but the showing that you think their thoughts are valuable, that you are asking them because you think they have something to offer. Not in need of rescue, but wanting to hear from someone you respect.

          • Yes! This! Totally!

            I know when people ask me for advice on something or for help, I'm flattered. I don't feel superior, I feel, "Wow, this amazing person is coming to ME for advice??" I feel . . . honoured I guess.

          • Ah but that's an interesting note. "This AMAZING person…"

            But if you're an inferior person, it comes across very differently. I'm seen as inferior in a lot of ways, which means asking for help or advice is usually kind of seen as me pandering to the superior. Like, if I ask another writer for advice, it almost always comes across as brown-nosing, because I am not an equal.

            How a person regards you is, I think, really important when it comes to requesting favors and advice. If they view you as stupid/pathetic/annoying, anything you ask of them is going to come across as sniveling and burdensome.

          • I agree, it can absolutely. Especially if we feel ahead of time like we are going to annoy someone, it often becomes a self fulfilling prophecy (at least it has in the past for me).

            That being said, this is again where we fundamentally differ and why I really sincerely am not offering advice so much as insight into how others might be thinking. You have decided that for you it is important you have a hierarchy, that you rate people. It helps you in many ways, it gives you a map as it were for social interaction. I, as you know (or as you may suspect that maybe Guest is the same Guest that's been communicating with you for a while :) ), don't like hierarchies for my own personal needs and reasons. So for me, "inferior" and "superior" just don't exist. There are people who are better at some things, but I don't see them as being better in general. Just as there are people who are weaker at somethings, but I don't see them as weaker in general. I have never pragmatically considered myself inferior to anyone nor superior. Pragmatically. Emotionally though, yes, I am human. And I am fallible. Which is why nonetheless I can empathise with feeling inferior in situations. The difference is, when I look back on the moment I chastise myself for having felt that way and I try to correct that action the next time. I say to myself, "I'm just as good as any of these people" and then I make my approach.

            Anyway . . . my point is, I do empathise. I really do. But it is, once again, your particular perception of the world that colours these interactions. And I think since you claim that having hierarchies is important to you and necessary, that this means you will have to either fight the feeling of being inferior and just push through it. Or, like I said before, this particular way of interacting isn't the right one for you.

            Btw, as a writer who is also fond of teaching and is so grateful she is able to make a living writing and knows how hard it is to get to this point – if someone who is just starting out asks me for advice I get giddy with excitement because I love sharing everything I learned in my journey, especially if I feel it can result in someone else getting to experience what I have experienced. I love it. I love it more than when I'm talking writing with other published authors. I would never see you as sucking up, and I certainly would never see you as inferior. And quite frankly, none of my author friends would either (that isn't to say their aren't smug superior acting authors out there, I've met them, I'm just saying the kinds of people I hang out with aren't those kinds of people). I know this likely won't help much, because we have such fundamentally different outlooks (again, nothing wrong with that, it just makes it harder for us to empathise with each other – though I do hope we keep working on it :) ), but I dunno. Maybe you could keep that way back in the back of your mind for next time you meet an author :) .

          • I should add, if there are people treating you as an inferior (like those smug authors I alluded to but will not name despite great temptation), these are not people I would advise you seek out friendships with and do the ask for help/advice thing with. These are people who need to put others down in order to feel better about themselves, and thus not exactly worthy people in my mind.

          • *Raise eyebrow*

            I think you make my worldview a little too literal and color over some of the inconsistencies in yours. If you absolutely never view people in hierarchies, then you wouldn't be saying "This AWESOME person wants MY advice!" like you do. That statement alone suggests a hierarchical nature, that this person is superior or desirable in some way, which is why you're honored that they're approaching you.

            Not saying it's a hard and fast rule for you, but I think it's a little disingenuous to lay out your argument as if MY world view is so black and white (it is not; I could mean inferior and superior in a very specific area or way) while not recognizing when you have similar though processes.

            And you have already admitted you love teaching. But that doesn't mean someone else would relish being a teacher. They could easily see it as an inferior writer trying to siphon off their talent or "bugging" them.

          • I don't think people who have desirable qualities that I admire are better than me. I think they are cool people that I want to get to know. They might have qualities that are better than my qualities, they might be a better dancer or singer or whatever. But I don't feel inherently inferior to them. As such, I am flattered not because their attention to me elevates me, but rather it's really great to learn that someone I respect respects me back. I'm also flattered when someone who isn't at my particular point in my career, so a new writer for example, chooses to ask me for advice because that means that person thinks I have good advice to give.

            Now, if someone who is an excellent singer complements my singing, yeah their superior skills are definitely something I consider in the interaction because they have more knowledge than I do and are saying I'm doing something well. That's awesome! When an expert on something complements how you manifested that something? That's a big deal. But, again, I don't think they are fundamentally better people than me. I think they are better at singing than me. Now, maybe you fundamentally feel the same way and we are talking a bit cross purposes, but I was under the impression you thought that people existed on an actual hierarchy. That some people fundamentally were better than others. If what you are saying is that some people are better at some things than others, well yes, I will agree with that. Absolutely.

            As to your last point, I know that. My point was simply that while there are smug assholes out there there are people like me who like to teach, so you needn't think that every time you ask someone for writing advice they are looking down at you. If you ask advice from the douchebag authors, yeah, they probably are in their stupid way. But if you ask advice from me, I'm not.

            But I must admit, I'm kind of stunned by the nature of your response to me. I thought I was being understanding of your perspective and honouring it. I wasn't dismissing it in the least, nor was I trying to manipulate the situation so that I could hide inconsistencies in my world view. It really is shocking to me that you would think that my attempts to frame things so that they might work for you, or simply my empathy that I understood this wouldn't work for you and that that was okay is somehow all a trick to make me look better. That was utterly not my intention.

            Anyway, I'm really sorry. I really truly completely was trying to work within your framework while also showing you a bit of how I thought so you in turn could empathise with me. I was not trying to put you down in order to build myself up. Not in the least.

          • I've never thought that people are necessarily better or worse than anyone else.

            But I think people can be *perceived* that way. I think there's a difference between truth and perception. The truth is none of us are really better or worse, generally speaking, than others, but socially, we can be placed higher or lower, depending on socially valuable traits.

            I'd also hesitate to say someone who looks down on me is a douchebag. That's a little too extreme. It's more, I acknowledge that there are lots of reasons someone would be annoyed or upset at being asked advice. Wondering mentioned up-thread she didn't like being asked by classmates for help with homework, because it feels like they're trying to have her do their work for them.

            I don't think I implied it was a trick to make you look better. I was just pointing out that in stating my worldview so resolutely (for example, saying that I view things hierarchical, when I don't think I've actually ever said it) you didn't seem to recognize similarities in the way you were talking about your own world view. I didn't think you were attacking or dismissing or anything. I just wanted to point out something I found ironic.

          • I do think you accidentally implied it but I appreciate that you've now made it clear that that wasn't your intent. Thank you.

            And thank you for clearing up the hierarchical thing. I have read other statements of yours about judging looks on a scale and people trading up for better partners, and you have used the word hierarchy in the past. So that's where the conclusions stemmed from. But I think I now understand better that for you even though you don't think there is a fundamental difference between people, you don't really think that that matters since society forces such a hierarchy on us. And since we live in society we have to function as best we can within society's constructs.

            I know you think that by my saying "An awesome person wants my advice and that makes me feel good" that that means I think that person is above me on a social tier, even despite my explanation above. So I guess there isn't much more I can say on that subject except to insist that I don't, and hope that instead of you assuming you know me better than I know me (just as you hate when people claim to know you better than you know you) you can trust that despite you not understanding my point (which quite frankly maybe I"m not articulating well, maybe it's an issue of poor word choice as opposed to being a hypocrite) you can believe that this is how I live my life and that that's cool and that we're different and that that's also cool.

            And yeah, I dunno, maybe douchebag is harsh, but I have real issues with people who assign positions to people as being better or worse. I think another difference between us is that you are more accepting of the social perception of hierarchies. I am positive there are people who think I am below them. And I actually know there are people who think I think I'm above them (it's usually down to my voice and facial expressions – they can read snobby even though I am quite the opposite). But regardless of what others think, I don't think this way about myself. I have met superior acting authors, and I have never felt inferior to them, just bad for them that they had to act superior in order to feel awesome about themselves.

            Anyway, I think I get what you are saying even more now, thank you. And I think perception absolutely influences behaviour and that truth is often pushed to the side in favour of it. And I do agree some people create their own hierarchies and then that can have a direct impact on us based on where they place us unfortunately (especially if that person has a power position, is our boss or something). I'm not denying there aren't tangible results based on others creating hierarchies. I guess what I'm saying is that they can place me where they like, and I will deal with it as I need to, but I will never think that just because someone else needs me to be inferior for whatever reason that I actually AM inferior.

          • As I was writing I was thinking about the types of advice I enjoy being asked. People ask me about travel all the time because I have traveled a lot. I enjoy giving information about travel logistics and activities but feel imposed upon if people ask me to find them unpaid local connections (paid is no problem because my friends need money and are good interpreters, drivers, fixers). It is not that the people asking me for advice can not do it on their own but more that they value my judgment in the logistic advice. In the unpaid local assistance, I feel exploited and like the person will exploit my local contacts.

            It is somewhat nuanced, is it not?

          • I think that's a good distinction. In networking, for example, it's the difference between someone contacting you to say "I see you're working in the field I'd like to work in, do you mind grabbing coffee and talking about the state of the field" vs. "I see you're in the field I'd like to be in. Can you get me a job?" I have had people reach out to me for advice or information on something because they are writing a paper or doing some research (and credit or cite me in their work) and that was fine. I have also had people reach out to me and just fucking ask me to do the job I am paid to do for them, for free. That's not cool. If you want someone to provide you with a service they are paid to do, particularly on a consistent basis, you need to pay them.

            Personally, I love asking for and giving advice on films, books, stores, traveling, etc, in part because it gives you something to talk about. If you're going to ask someone to actually do something for you that you can do yourself, like moving, at least do it with them. And then offer a reward afterwards.

          • I understand all this. And I am the same way. I refused to play the game in highschool, and I still do. But I also learned that there was a way to be myself AND make others feel better about themselves, and that as Guest part of who I am is trying to make others feel good. So maybe I ask a question that isn't that important to me, it's not like I'm not interested in the answer (I'd be sincerely interested in those small finishing techniques in costume making), and it makes the other person feel good. There's nothing about that that isn't still me. What wouldn't be me would be suddenly acting like I was conservative politically, or that I didn't support gay rights, or that I judged people by their clothes. None of that is me. And I wouldn't pretend if someone was bashing gay rights say that I agreed with them just to be their friend. That just icks me out.

            For you, I really don't know if the asking for help/advice in order for people to like you is the right course of action because it does seem that you aren't fond of small talk. You don't tend to find things interesting outside of your personal sphere of interest (no judgment, it's totally cool to feel that way). Thus you would only want to ask questions about things that were important to you and really mattered. I, on the other hand, really like to learn about new people and new activities. I pretty much find everything interesting (which makes me sound a little obnoxious I think, but I swear it's true! :) ). So asking a question of someone about something that doesn't matter to me, is still a question I want answered because I want to know about other things. I'm not being untrue to myself asking something that had I not asked it my life would pretty much be the same.

            Anyway, for you, this article might not be the right advice. And it might be not worth the effort to focus on these elements and focus on others more. Not every one of the Doctor's articles are suited for everyone.

          • " You don't tend to find things interesting outside of your personal sphere of interest."

            I think it's probably more I don't find them interesting initially. I seem to go ass-backwards in social interactions, in that I want us to focus on commonalities first. Then once I've gotten to know them and established a solid rapport, I'd want to know about things that are outside my usual spheres, because I'm more confident and comfortable that we'll eventually go back to common, equal ground.

            Essentially, I care about strangers in a respectful-all-humans-are-worthy sort of way, but don't particularly have any investment in them, and am trying to find reasons TO invest in them. There are just so, so many people in the world that I am incompatible with, so if I invested a lot of energy and effort into them (and "small talk"/asking them about things outside my sphere IS a lot of energy and effort for me), I'd burn out so very quickly.

            Yeah, not all advice suits everyone. Maybe I'd just like one of Doc's articles to be relevant to me someday. :-P

          • Hmm, that is interesting. And makes a lot of sense to me. You want to make sure this person is worth getting to know basically because getting to know someone takes a lot of work for you. Is this investment going to be worth getting exhausted. I can get that.

            So, using that, I wonder if maybe if you changed the focus of your interactions onto not outwards things you have in common, but inwards things (like values, sense of humour etc), you might find it less weary to talk about things you don't have in common with others. Like if you are looking for someone who is really passionate, it doesn't matter really if they are passionate about comics or swimming, that passion is still there. Ditto if you are looking for someone with an open heart. I think a lot of people assume geeks must be open people because they weren't the cool kids who kept people out of the cool group, but I find many geeks can be just as ostracising now that they have found their own group. So just because someone is a geek doesn't make them a good person. You could find a geek who just goes on and on about Fake Geek Girls, and a jock who coaches for inner city kids, and even though sports aren't your thing, the generosity of that person is.

            Does that make sense? I'm not sure it is something that would work for you, but it's a little thought. Maybe. I dunno :) .

            And boo-urns to the last sentence! I don't believe it, I've seen you find kernels of wisdom here and there, I just think maybe there isn't an entire solid article that will work for you. And that's okay! You're you. Maybe you are a kernel person. As long as you get something out of stuff sometimes, that's a positive.

          • Ehhh I don't really dig the Shared Values things. If for no other reason, then I see myself as void of Values that are good.

            This requires a little explanation. I don't think I'm a good person. I'm not a BAD person. I am just devoid of qualities that others would qualify as "good." I do not really have an open heart. I'm not generous or gregarious or passionate or particularly caring or kind-hearted. I have all of those in some small quantities, but not big or noticeable enough that you could be like," That Marty, she sure is generous!"

            My values, such as they are, are extremely internal. For example, I value authenticity and internal consistency (my behavior matches my intent, and I am aware of my intent.) But that's something you would NEVER notice I valued unless we talked very specifically about it.

            I'm just…. not really unique enough to have distinguishable "values." So looking for someone who shares values would be kind of futile, since I have no values with which to share.

          • Well, I don't think those are not values. I was just using obvious examples, but I think authenticity is a great value, as is consistency. And I think you could seek out authenticity in others. But, now that I say that, I kind of think you already do in your own way using your own framework. So really there might not be anything more on top of that you could do to seek it out.

            More and more I'm just thinking that this asking for help/advice thing is just totally wrong for you. And that's okay! We all have things that work and don't for us.

          • I don't think of that as "social trickery" rather as the difference between saying "Pick up some wine on your way here" and "could you grab a bottle of wine when you come over? It would help me out so much." It's just a nicer way of asking for the same thing. On the other end of it, if you are sitting at the movies and someone asks very nicely if you don't mind moving because they'd like to sit next to their friend, you can say "No, I'm sorry. I'm particular about my seat and I got here early to get this one but you are welcome to sit on either side of us." or you can say "Fuck no. I'm not moving, asshole." You are perfectly within your right to say either of those, but option 1 makes you a nice polite person and option 2 makes you an ass. Maybe you actually feel like saying #2. Maybe you think that person deserves to go to hell for even asking you to move. It doesn't matter. Pulling back your feelings and giving someone a polite answer doesn't make you disingenuous. It just makes you not an ass.

            Does that mean you have to fake being bad at math so you can ask that cute guy for help, a la Mean Girls? No. I think it's just looking for "access points" where you could get someone's interest. Did that guy say he worked at a comic book store? Ask him if he has any recommendations for new comics. Did that girl say she was from LA? Ask her if she knows of any good Mexican places in the area. Did that guy say he just read the new book about LBJ? Could you borrow it sometime? The assumption here is those are all things you are interested in doing. I don't really see it as such a mask, it's more like just a step further than maybe you would normally go. It's like putting on a nice shirt to go to a party, rather than your pajamas which would be more comfortable. Is that disingenuous because it is not 100% what you would be doing if it was up to you? I would like to never wear pants, but that doesn't mean I'm tricking people about who I am because I wear pants almost every day.

            This is kind of a weird trick my boyfriend uses when he networks, and I'm sure there is some non-creepy way to apply it to dating: before meeting with someone he looks them up on LinkedIn, and asks a question he knows the answer based on their profile in an attempt to get them to talk more about themselves. Something like, he might see a person works in finance but majored in art history, so he might ask "did you always know you wanted to be in finance?" or "did you study finance when you were in college?" He knows the answer is no, but most people don't just answer "no" and then look at you blankly. They will usually say "no, I actually majored in art history, but then I did this internship blah blah blah" and it leads into a conversation or a story. I guess there is an element of trickery there, but that person isn't being hurt or misled in some hurtful way. It's just some active leading of the conversation.

          • celette482 says:

            I'm plus one-ing you because pants suck.

          • I think it's a good way to think about things because we almost never do things when he have to go out into the world that are 100% what we would be doing when we are by ourselves. That is why we value our alone time, because we can sit in our underwear eating chicken wings and onion dip with a spoon while watching terrible TV. The fact that we clean ourselves up, both physically and metaphorically, to go interact with people doesn't mean we're not being ourselves, it just means we're being a better version of ourselves.

          • I think my confusion comes in when social nicieties and "trickery" is used to pursue friendship.

            Strangers don't need me to be genuine. Me being authentic to strangers makes absolutely no moral sense. I smile and say my day is good to the cashier, even if it's shit, because there is no reason to "impose" my need for authenticity on her. My desire for authenticity is not related to every human being, so I have no problems with social niceties or trickery to strangers, mere acquaintances, or people who are distantly socially related (parents of my partner, friends of friends.)

            Where social nicety confuses me is when I'm trying to establish friendships or relationships. Yes, social niceties smooth things over…. but I have a very hard time reconciling my Public Nice with my Private Bitch, and eventually, the Private Bitch is going to make an appearance. No reason for strangers or acquaintances to ever know, because they're never going to see me in public, but I would expect friends would. So when can I finally be authentic? When can I knock off the social niceties to be myself, if social niceties are not who I am?

            Your examples of asking for recommendations, for example. I would use that with strangers or acquaintances and see no problem with it-I am making conversation and putting the other person at ease, it's the nice thing to do. But if I'm hunting for a new friend, recommendations don't make sense to me because…. well, I kind of don't *care.* I'll probably never actually follow up on your recommendation because I wasn't *genuinely* looking for a comic/Mexican place, I was just making conversation; what are the odds you'd be able to nail down my kind of bizarre taste?

            I don't make friends based on their recommendations for completely inauthentic things. So I really fail to see how recommendations -> friendship, because pretending to care what you recommend is an inauthentic thing to me.

            And here's the weird thing about me…. the more inauthentic I am around you, the LESS I want to be your friend. So ironically, by asking for recommendations and doing the whole Social Nice thing, it LOWERS my interest in that person. I don't see the person as bad or anything, I just start associating them with me being "Public Nice," and being Public Nice when I'm really Private Bitch 24/7 is exhausting. I start to feel as if I *never* get to wear Pajamas, and that's the only Nice Shirt I own, and dear God, now I have to wear it every single day, and I have to spend all night washing it/ironing it.

            Maybe I'm just too selfish because so much advice seems to be focused on making OTHERS feel better, when I feel as if so much of my life is already dedicated to that. I want to feel comfortable and better about myself for a change. I'm a little exhausted always thinking of others…

          • Maybe the key is when you use the advice or recommendation method to build a connection use it for only things you are actually interested in? That sincerity will show and then if you read the book or see the show or try the restaurant you can pick up the conversational strings (easiest to do if you liked the recommendation a bit harder if you did not…but a good clue to compatibility in taste). If you genuinely do not want to know anything you do not already know or never intend to try the suggestion then I would avoid this method.

          • I agree with Reboot. I think for you the key is finding the ways you can do this stuff sincerely, whether that means trying to push the boundaries of what you're interested in hearing, or just being really selective about when you try out stuff like this so that you only do it when you do really mean it. Your sincerity is a big strength, but it means that you're not going to be able to throw this stuff around as much as someone who has less of a division between Private Bitch and Public Nice.

            In general, it seems to me like what you need is sort of to chart a path within Public Nice where Private Bitch can walk without running people over, or figure out how to put cushioning bumpers on Private Bitch so that you can let it out without cutting people on the sharp edges. Because, yeah, for a lot of people Private Bitch is the one with the authenticity, the energy, the spark. But without a little social nicety and warmth to give people a friendly side to connect to, it can feel abrasive, mean or difficult.

          • I get what you're getting at. I did say in my examples that I was assuming those were genuine interests for you. For example, when I first talked to my boyfriend, he said he was a hobby photographer and I asked if I could see his photos. Now, I am actually interested in photographs but not like on the level that he is, but I would still want to see them even I wasn't interested in him. Likewise, on our first date, I was reading Fun Home by Alison Bechdel as I was waiting for him and when he saw it he said he loved graphic novels, so I asked him if he had recommendations. I read graphic novels, but I don't have a good sense of what's out there. He started talking about the books he liked, I said how they reminded me of some other books, he ended up lending me some books, I ended up lending him some of mine. Then we would talk about it. I showed him the local comic book store (he was never in the city so he hadn't heard about it), but on the first date it just prompted more discussion, stuff about the series he liked, why he liked it, other books we liked, what we liked, etc. It's just kind of about keeping your eyes and ears open for those moments of genuine overlapping interest.
            One guy I briefly dated, when we met (literally in the first 5 minutes), he told me he was a comedian and we talked about Louis CK and why we both liked his jokes. It's not like I go around asking people about comic books or Louis CK, it's just that I noticed that connection and a little light bulb went on.
            So here's the thing about friend hunting. You can't go in and be like "This is me, I do me, and Me feels like being a bitch right now. Hey it was going to happen eventually." Social nice builds a foundation for the private bitch trust fall.
            There is a quote I sometimes write down on pieces of paper and leave around my house when I'm depressed or angry: It is easy to heavy, hard to be light. There is NO ONE on earth who loves being social nice 24/7. It is exhausting for everyone. It just looks easy for some people because they have worked really fucking hard at it. They have gradually increased their threshold for being public nice. I'm an extrovert and even I have a hard being public nice when I need to be. One of the reasons people pay for therapy is that you pay someone you can be private bitch with every single time. That is honestly one of major values of talk therapy. Another quote, this from a Dar William's song: Oh how I learned to love everybody else when I finally got a chance to talk so much about myself.
            When you build a connection with someone based on your listening and your interest in them, when you private bitch to them, they can see that you're not just a selfish person who expects them to listen to your bitching 24/7. You will return the favor if they need it. I actually feel like the point where you let yourself bitch in front of a new person or partner is an important step in a relationship, but it can't be the first step. In the same way where you wouldn't wear jeans to a job interview, even if it was a casual office, but you might wear jeans after a couple days on the job, you wouldn't start out being 100% you with a new person.
            Ideally a person will return the favor of letting you talk about yourself and want to connect with you, and if they don't fuck em. And that's bound to happen. But that's also how you eventually get connections. Luckily, you're not completely alone in the world, you're not desperate for friendship. You have the benefit of picking and choosing.

          • I think it's best to kick this to Harris, because he does this for a living and has almost certainly seen it with clients.

            With you (and Hobbes), the sense I'm getting is that it's like everybody else is carrying on half the conversation in a pitch outside your range of hearing, and you're trying to make sense of things when you're not aware half of what's being said or what you might be saying on those frequencies. I totally get the frustrating.

            Unfortunately, while I'm sure people can suggest beginner sources to get the student level stuff down, the best way to mastery involves immersion training. (Go back to articles about Harris' earliest PUA days, and how he was making himself miserable while he was refining his skillset.) I totally sympathize with how painful that must sound to an introvert.

          • I don't know about immersion training. I do really seem to do okay in truly superficial venues. I can talk to strangers and I can be polite and even friendly, so long as I have no stakes in the game whatsoever. The less I care about the person, the better I do, socially.

            But not caring about someone is obviously not conducive to building friendships or relationships. My friendships always seem to end in burned bridges and Drama. My relationships are craters from which a piece of my soul never escapes. Trying to turn an acquaintance into a friend seems to be impossible.

            I think I get the very low, beginner stuff. It's the intermediate that I'm like "How in the world do you even go about starting that?"

        • Is that surprising? Asking someone to help you pick out a restaurant for lunch might make someone feel more positively than asking them to hold a heavy box for you? In one situation you're asking them to share something about themselves and identifying that information as valuable, in the other scenario you're asking them to do something unpleasant. Ideally, the favor should be a conversation starter or something you connect over.

    • In response to your comment about #2 & 4, I think that a way to balance between getting people to talk about themselves and letting them get to actually know you is to not ask ONLY questions, but to alternate between asking questions and making statements. In other words, instead of having a Q-A-Q-A-Q-A dynamic, you would respond to the first answer not with another question, but with a statement related to that person's answer that also reveals something about yourself. For example: "Oh, that's so cool that you play the violin. I tried to learn to play the flute, but never had the patience to really stick with it. I do like to listen to orchestral music, though." This tells the other person a little about yourself and could be a jumping off point for further conversation (or not, and then you could just move on to a different topic). Or you could make a statement, but then immediately ask another question as a follow-up to keep the conversation moving. For instance, "I like to play video games too. I'm a fan of RPGs mostly. What kind do you like to play?" Again, you're still volunteering some information about yourself that lets the other person know something about you. They might even use that info to think of some questions they'll want to ask you in return, and then the conversation isn't so one-sided anymore.

      • Yeah, that's usually the pattern I follow. What I've noticed is that people just don't pay attention to the statement part, or cut me off. People just don't seem interested in anything I have to say, and only seem engaged when I make the interaction entirely about them. Which makes me wonder how it could possibly help them like me more, when I'm already erasing so much of myself I might as well not be there to begin with.

        • I see, that would definitely make it very difficult to engage with someone if that's the case. However, I feel like if someone is ignoring what you have to say and making the conversation only about them, then they're not being fair to you and/or aren't socially calibrated enough to realize that conversations shouldn't be so one-sided (or they don't even realize just how one-sided they have made the conversation). It may not be a reflection on you, personally. I've definitely known people who are like this; they will periodically interrupt and talk over me, ignore my contributions to the conversation, and rarely ask me questions. And I've never been able to become good friends with those people because we almost never actually have a "real" conversation. So I would tend to argue that if people are doing this to you, they SHOULDN'T be, and that's their fault, not yours.

        • I'm just speculating, since I don't know how you "vibe" when you approach someone, but I've found that people are a lot more pleasant and interested in what I have to say about my experience when I ask for advice in a relaxed and positive way. Less a furrowed brow and "I'm moving and I have NO IDEA where is a good place to live! Any ideas?" and more a smile and "I'm moving to Minneapolis, which is very exciting, but I'm not quite sure of the lay of the land looking for housing. What neighborhoods do you enjoy?" Again, I don't know that you don't do that, but I noticed that informational interviews (job search woooooo) started going much better when I practiced the second method.
          (BTW, this is ccmc. Hi again! It's been so long I forgot my login.)

  5. OMG, I can't stress the validation thing highly enough. I have seen so many of my nerdy guy friends lose their crush's interest within the first damn conversation because the girl, normally after some prompting, will trot out an anecdote or a fact about themselves, or they might even go so far as to share a frustration they've had that day, and my friend, rather than saying 'gosh, that sucks' or 'I understand what you mean' or even 'Hey, I had that too!' what do they come out with instead?

    'Why didn't you do [X]?'

    WTF. People, hint – women already get criticised for just about everything they do by society in general _anyway_. Generally, they don't need that in a partner as well. You aren't being clever or standing out from the crowd by using that line, you're showing you're just like everyone else in that you're standing ready to tell them you know better than they do about their decisions. If they've asked for (and actually asked for, not just the subject has come up) advice, then that's one thing, but if they haven't, shut up about it.

    The best thing would be to empathise with their position if you can. Or if you can't, then for the love of god (or the god of love, depending on your aim!) validate!

    • This is something my boyfriend does all the time – drives me crazy on occasions when I'm already stressed out! (The rest of the time, I'm so used to dealing with it, that it doesn't bother me). I wish I could explain to him as clearly as this that when I complain to him about X, it's not because I need him to solve X for me(/tell me how to solve X). I'm asking him to validate my feelings about X.

      • Oh, man, in my relationship I am the person who does this. I have to learn that trying to fix someone's problems, unsolicited, just makes me sound like a patronizing asshole. I actually have code words that my husband uses to redirect me when I forget to validate and go straight to fixing!

        • "Patronizing asshole" Not to pile on you since you're recognizing yourself here, but that is precisely why fixing is a boner/ladyboner killer. No one wants to be in a relationship with a patronizing asshole.

          Of course, sometimes fixing needs to happen. Like last night, when I yelled to my fiance that the toilet was running again, I didn't need to hear that my feelings were valid, I needed him to fetch something to fix it with. (duct tape, stupid chain keeps falling off the hook).

          • Ergh, I had the same toilet issue last week. Used a paper clip :D

          • I don't understand why this chain is designed to come off. It is, by the way. Instead of being welded, it's just lying on top of a hook. A guaranteed "fall off" position.

          • FormerlyShyGuy says:

            While your feelings are valid lol, you could use some pliers to squeeze the hook shut.

          • celette482 says:

            Thank you for validating me.

            and it worked, so, also good advice!

          • Oh, yeah, no piling, just truth. :P

            I think everyone has a different failure mode. Mine is "accidentally patronizing," unless you really piss me off in which case it's "deliberately patronizing."

        • Yeah I do it too, but I've been trying to cut it back. I've also noticed that sometimes, no matter how insane people are acting during the venting, if you just give them time to let it out, a few hours later they will be much more reasonable. I think it's super hard, when someone's in the process of dumping on you, to not be overcome with the urge to help or fix things. I don't think listening and saying "that sucks. Totally sucks." is a natural reaction. I have to actively remind myself to be in that place.

      • Another thing for those of us who are knee jerk advice givers to be conscious of is how we react when our advice is not accepted or (if the person is seeking validation or understanding) not acknowledged. We need to avoid fixating on it like a terrier on a rat and not bring it up again. Just leaving it on the table for the other person to pick up at a later date is enough. No need to keep harping on it.

        This is a personal failing of mine which is why I mention it

    • Just because they're your decisions doesn't mean that they're right by default…..

      Everyone is entitled to their opinions but no one is entitled to their opinions being right.

      It's also not mutually exclusive either btw, one can both empathize/validate and then give advice without being asked for it because maybe they'd gone through the same thing before.

      • They can give advice. But they should realize how giving unsolicited advice comes off, and that it will probably kill any attraction the person has for them early on.

        • I see no reason why it should, sounds like a petty kind of pride to me. Not that I would admonish people for being prideful per se, but this seems over the top.

          • Because no one wants to date someone who is constantly correcting them or telling them to do something different. Right or wrong, we all get to decide how to live our lives, and we want partners who support that right, not insist on tearing it down because they think they could do better.

          • I feel that your projecting your experiences on the matter without being suitably objective enough to consider other possibilities.

          • And… you're not? You are somehow Master of Objective Analysis, and everyone who disagrees with you is just projecting their own experiences? What exactly are your credentials that you can claim this?

            And yes, it is my experience and perspective. So if someone is hitting on me, and want to be successful, they should *probably take that into account.*

          • The difference between the two of us is that I'm considering other possibilities besides thinking that the person giving advice to me is trying to control me and you are not.

          • At the very beginning of a relationship, I don't see why I SHOULD be considering other possibilities. Engaging with strangers takes a lot of energy and effort without any guarantee of pay-out, so I'm going to be on the look out for things that suggest I will get energy/effort back, or if I'm just sinking energy into a black hole.

            If I have to consider *other possibilities* that ignore my own feelings and experiences in my first very encounter with a person, I'm going to consider them way too much work and move on.

          • yeah. It's kind of a preview for the relationship to come. "Oh for heaven's sake, every time I want to come home and cry in the bathtub with a glass of wine and some Delta Rae, he just lectures me on how I should have handled a problem that really has no solution. Great." And then you decide to pass.

          • If your goto feeling is that 'they're trying to control me! fuck this guy!' something is seriously wrong. it could be with the person you're interacting with, but you should also consider that it could be something wrong with you.

          • I wouldn't say that it goes as far as, "They're trying to control me! Fuck this guy!" I think my emotional response would be more along the lines of, "Ugh. Right off the bat he's looking for something in my behavior to criticize," with a side of, "We don't even know each other very well, and he's trying to tell me what's best for me?" Intellectually, I'll take it as a warning sign for a future relationship, and emotionally, my attraction level to the guy is going to take a big hit.

            The dynamic changes once people have known each other for awhile. The person offering advice has more of a basis to give it and the person receiving it has seen enough of the advice giver to know they're not always on the attack. But I think it's often better to play it a little safe when first getting to know people, because unsolicited advice is very frequently taken the wrong way.

          • A lot of women vent because they want to vent, not because they want advice or a solution (because often they already know the solution). They truly just want someone to listen and say "That sucks". It makes them feel better. A lot of guys don't understand this. They think figuring out a solution is the way to make the person feel better instead. So they override what the woman wants and offer them what they would want if they were in that situation. The problem is, it doesn't end up helping. Any good advice that you might offer will be overshadowed by the fact that in that moment the woman doesn't want advice. She can often feel belittled, and quite frankly when people vent often they are doing it because in the moment they just want to get all the emotions out, they don't want to be pragmatic at that time. So it is just exhausting when people offer advice in that scenario.

            You might not understand this or like this. And that's cool, don't hang out with people who do this. But it isn't pride and it isn't over the top, it's personal and it's what A LOT of people want to do. It's a bit like vomiting :) . Some people need to get all the emotions out before they can start to solve the problem. They need to expel the toxins out of their system. Once they are cleared of the emotion, THEN they can get to work. In a way it can be very healthy. Some people who bottle up all their emotion can suddenly explode at very inappropriate moments in a professional setting. Had they just taken a moment to vent that frustration by taking a walk, or venting to a friend over lunch, then they would have saved themselves a lot of embarrassment. (though I will acknowledge some people who vent only rile themselves up more)

            I do however understand your perspective. Personally I'm actually a problem solver (I am a woman), and when I hear someone vent the first thing I want to do is offer advice. But I have learned that more often than not what my friends want is an ear and a shoulder. And I know that's what they need. And my desire to help them doesn't override what they need in the moment to feel better. In this moment it simply isn't about my wants. So I tell them "It'll be okay" and "that sucks". And THEN, when eventually (maybe a few days later) they actually ask me for advice, I offer it. It's about caring about your friends and caring about their wants and needs. And one hopes, that when it's your turn to seek out their comfort, they will comfort you in the way you need to be comforted.

          • fakely_mctest says:

            All this is reminding me uncomfortably of the last dude I dated. What little venting I would do when something frustrating/shitty happened was most often met with a) stony silence or b) "that sounds really tough but that's kinda just…life." As if sympathy is only possible if it's the absolute worst version of a unique situation.

            My theory: he'd read "The Myth of Sisyphus" too many times.

          • The idea that you should only extend sympathy to people who have somehow proven that they have it The Worst drives me absolutely freaking crazy. I've always believed that we all have crosses to carry, and regardless of what form someone else's cross may take, it can just as heavy as my own… It's a form of maddening superiority to deny someone their own emotions or experiences because it doesn't live up to some arbitrary Suffering standard set up inside someone else's own head.

          • It's not so much a woman thing as a people thing in general. When a guy is upset, he usually wants emotional validation before he wants criticism and advice, same as a lady. But women are taught to provide validation, so fewer heterosexual men have the experience of venting to a partner about a rough day and getting, "Wow, you really screwed up there. Why didn't you do A and B and C? Go fix it now so I don't have to listen to you complain."

          • I'm not so sure about this Shaenon. I think in general guys are taught to repress emotions rather than vent them(with the possible exception of when they are angry).

            Personally I very rarely vent, and if I do I'd appreciate advice more than kind words. Words are cheap, but well thought out advice shows that they've at least care enough to put some thought into your problem. Obviously I'm not going to be as thrilled about poor advice or if the issue is definitely unsolvable
            (E.g. Bereavement) then I'd be less thrilled. However this rarely happens as I don't raise my problems with people I don't know well.

            I don't think either approach is wrong, and it is a good skill to learn what it is other people want. In my experience people usually give out what they'd like. Sure we all have theories of minds but we tend to believe that everyone is fundamentally like our selves.

          • vintagelydia says:

            I gotta do the same with my BFF. She comes to me constantly with issues, but she just needs to vent about them. About half the time she'll come a day or two later for actual advice. I used to give advice right off, but all that did was discourage her from coming to me at all. When I started to just be the sounding board, our friendship got a lot stronger. She started asking me for actual advice even more often because she knows that 1) I'm respectful of her and how we do things differently (I often advise her to do things differently than I'd do them because we are very different people and what works for me will almost never work for her) and 2) letting her vent at me gives me better context over all to give that advice. How the hell can i tell her how I think she should handle a situation when I don't let her properly vent about it? Because in the venting she gives me so much information that changes my opinion a dozen times by the time she's done. That's what makes those immediate advice givers (including me before I figured this out) so patronizing. They don't know the whole story. They don't know the other people involved and their influence. But they would likely know them if they let their friend vent at them about it first.

          • It's not an intentional thing. It's not like "Oh, he gave me advice when I wanted support. Boyfriend test failed! I guess I'll stop being attracted to him now."

            It's just a response people have. Yeah, you don't have to accept it, and you can refuse to offer anything other than advice. And other people are free to respond negatively to it, which will happen.

      • If you have advice to give because you've gone through it before, you should totally offer it up. WITH the valdiation. You say "Hey, I know how you feel, it sucks, it happened to me. If you want advice, here's what I did…"

        "If you want advice" Those are 4 magic words. Those 4 magic words turn unsolicited advice into an offer. It's amazing how much it changes the dynamic. So if you're struggling with keeping your advice-giving under control, or if you actually do have some advice because you DID go through with it, qualify it with an offer of advice rather than just announcing the advice. By offering, you're giving the person a chance to think "Actually, no, I don't want advice" and more importantly, you're *acknowledging that they might not want your advice* which is a type of validation right there.

        • Well I think we're thinking of two different scenarios here.

          I relate to unwanted advice in situations like say in the gym where random person A watches random person B do an exercise in a fashion they deem to be wrong and offer their 'advice' without any offers/warnings/etc.

          Yeah that's annoying, but that isn't what's really being discussed here, we seem to be talking about a conversation between two people where one is talking to the other about situation x and the person is offering a thought on what could've been done about it. This implies that they've been an active listener and have considered the situation being described by the other person.

          Correct me if I'm wrong but the situation described in my second paragraph isn't very much like the one in my first paragraph.

          • Yes, your examples are different, but my suggestion still stands for the second scenario. (in the first scenario, I doubt there's much you could say to soften the blow tbh).

            Your verb tenses in the second scenario are very important, and feel free to tell me that you weren't meaning it quite this way, but it sounds like your advice-giver is offering "Well, you could have done X"- that's not even fixing. that's condescending. Yeah, if advice receiver had a time machine, he or she could have done X. If advice giver wants to prove that she or he is an active listener, advice on what to do going forward (how to remedy the situation) or how to avoid it in the future is probably better received, but again, only if you make sure that advice receiver is actually receptive to advice.

          • I agree it's a good idea to consider the receptiveness of the person in question, but I think it's wrong to say " well, you could've done x" is condescending by default without considering the tone the sentence was being said in. It might not fix that particular scenario but it might help similar ones in the future.

          • You're right that advice in every single scenario is not condescending, but remember, we're talking unsolicited. If my coworker validated my feelings on a work project rather than, you know.. giving me advice, I would find it strange. But, our relationship is one where advice is the assumption, not validation. Same if I went to a hardware store and asked an associate for help with my stupid toilet. In relationships that are impersonal, if I come up to you with a problem, I'm really soliciting advice, just perhaps without the words "please advise me." But, in a personal relationship, advice isn't the assumption.

          • "I relate to unwanted advice in situations like say in the gym where random person A watches random person B do an exercise in a fashion they deem to be wrong and offer their 'advice' without any offers/warnings/etc.

            Yeah that's annoying"

            There's one thing I feel the need to add here, is that this scenario isn't just annoying. It's disrespectful and potentially dangerous, because person B does not know person A's situation better than person A does.
            (I don't think this is what you were saying Chucky, but I think I need to make the point anyway).
            For example, a woman at the gym my parents go to decided that my father (who, like a lot of people, tends to accept anyone who speaks confidently as an authority figure) was doing the aqua fitness exercises in a less-than-most-efficient manner, and advised him that he should be standing in deeper water (up to mid chest).
            I have no doubt that she is well meaning. However, at best, she's being condescending towards the instructor's (an excellent one, btw) ability to run the class.
            At worst (and this was the case), she put his life in danger, because my father is quite tall, and to stand in water up to his chest put him /on/ the ledge where the "shallow" area slopes down into the "deep' area. What this woman couldn't have known, is that father can't swim. If he gets out of water he can't stand in, he sinks.
            However well-intentioned, this woman put my father's life in danger, because frankly, he's old and took her at her word without thinking about the consequences (or perhaps, followed her advice anyway, because god forbid a man refuse to do something that could kill him).

            So yeah, unwanted advice from a stranger can be much more than just annoying.

          • OtherRoooToo says:

            "I relate to unwanted advice in situations like say in the gym where random person A watches random person B do an exercise in a fashion they deem to be wrong and offer their 'advice' without any offers/warnings/etc.

            Yeah that's annoying, but that isn't what's really being discussed here,"

            It absolutely can be.

            I am sure I'm not the only woman in the gym who's been approached by a man who did that and thought it was a great way to introduce himself.

            (No. No, it is not. Especially if I know perfectly well what I'm doing, working through a superset, and especially if I can tell by your body's lack of symmetry, either vertical or horizontal, that you probably don't have the first clue about the "advice" you're giving — and furthermore, you're interrupting my workout. Please wait till we are both at the protein shake bar.)

            I think the central pattern that repeats itself here – whether people are just meeting or whether they're in an ongoing relationship – is that the advice is unsolicited.
            If the advice were a tangible thing, it would be like throwing it at a person when they were in no mood to play catch.

            I would add further that personally, I'm not one of those women who just vents and is not looking for a solution, but it irritates me beyond reason when a man interrupts me with his "advice" when he doesn't even have all the facts yet.
            Dude, you cut me off before I even gave you enough facts about the situation for you to form a considered opinion foundation from which to give me "advice"!

      • raindancing says:

        But the whole point of this is how to get people to like you. In that case, empathizing and validating is more useful than giving advice.

      • This article is about how to be liked. Giving advice doesn't have to be a turnoff, but realistically speaking, some people will appreciate it and some people will not. Almost everyone likes empathy and validation.

        I tend to be an advice-giver myself, but I do notice that people enjoy my company more when I try to turn it down a notch or clarify beforehand whether someone wants to vent or wants suggestions.

    • It's hard, and I do it all the time (possibly why I have very few friends) but someone just wants to vent, they don't want me to fix things, except in the case they do want me to fix things, which is far less often. MUST. REMEMBER. THIS.

      • OtherRoooToo says:

        It seems like men seem to forget — you can always ask.

        You can say "Are you looking for advice?"

        You can say "Are you looking for a solution, or are you just looking to vent?"

        And then, two more things:

        1) Give her time to answer.

        2) Take her seriously, please. Take her at her word. As someone else here said, words mean things — I would add emphatically that they mean things regardless of whether it is a man or a woman speaking (which seems to slip some mens' minds at times).

    • Yeah, allowing someone to vent to you does in fact make them feel better. And yes, it does take extra effort to do for us "problem-solver" folks. However, one thing to bear in mind: part of the social contract is that when they're done with venting, they need to then go and deal with the problem. They need to acknowledge that the venting in and of itself is not a fix. It's also a 2-way street; a person who vents to you and then repeatedly stonewalls you when you attempt similar is not a healthy relationship. You want to validate to make others feel good, but it's also important to draw boundaries so its not ALWAYS about making ONLY the other person feel good.

      People who do not honor this are the emotional vampires who come whining to you over and over again with the same issues. They want you to be able to drain away their feel-bads, but refuse to get rid of the situation that caused them in the first place because they want some other benefit of it. One example might be the guy/gal who always complains about how awful their partner is, but won't take the obvious actions like talking it out with their partner, because they don't want to do the work required for a healthy relationship, or breaking up with him/her because they don't want to give up the free sex/gifts/whatever.

      Bottom line, if you get the feeling that venting is for them, but not for you, that you're NEVER allowed to give advice (but they are), or that they're using you as an emotional dumping ground as a substitute for doing something about the original problem…avoid that person like the plague. Because all of those behaviors violate social boundaries, and are a clear sign they don't respect yours.

      • What about situations where there might not be a fix, or the person's advice seems really off? I fully admit I whine to friends about certain problems or situations, but sometimes their advice is not always relevant/misses something/is completely counter to who I am.

        For example, let's say I'm complaining to a friend about how guys I see only want sex without commitment, and how this is frustrating, because if I sleep with them, I become emotionally attached and set up unrealistic expectations. What if my friend's advice is to sleep with them anyway, and "just don't have expectations"? It isn't very realistic advice. Their advice, from my perspective, would just make the situation first. But I also can't come up with a "fix" on my own, so am compelled to keep whining.

        I find that in my own whining, I sometimes whine about things that seem to have no easy answers or advice. In those cases, should I just never discuss them with friends? Should I just bury everything? Should I follow advice that I secretly disagree with, or might even find repugnant?

        • celette482 says:

          I'd drop them as friends, personally, because anyone who gave me that advice (or who gave you that advice, based on what I've seen of your personality) is clearly not paying very close attention/any attention at all to who I am/who you re.

          I don't exactly agree with what Colleen is saying, or at least with how she's worded it. Her point about being an emotional vampire is well-taken. A good friendship involves both parties venting or the equivalent emotional dumping/ support (whatever you and your friend's styles are). If it gets one-sided, it can be very draining to the receiver of the vent.

          But you don't have to take any advice you don't want to.

          And you bring up a really going point about things that have no answers. Most of my venting actually comes after I've personally thought about the problem, explored the potential solutions, and rejected them. Chances are, your advice? I've already considered it and dismissed it, because it wouldn't work. So yeah, when I vent, it's real venting. There are problems in the world that have no solution.

          • You know, my boyfriend has a bad habit of giving me advice I've already considered and dismissed and sometimes I find it's easier to just say "Ok, I will definitely think about that." Depending on how important/persistent that person is, I will actually try their advice (assuming it is not detrimental) just to get it out of the way. I am weird and actually love getting advice from people will usually try almost everyone's advice. The only advice I will get angry at is when someone who CLEARLY has no idea what they are talking about continues to push their advice on (like my dad trying to give me advice on shaving my legs in high school. True story.). For the most part I will just say I will try whatever they're offering.

            Sometimes, on the other end of it, when someone is venting I will ask questions about the situation ("has HR said anything about that?") vs. giving direct advice ("have you considered talking to your HR?").

            The emotional vampires thing is right on, but I would just say that generally, this should not be the case for normally functioning people. You should not have so much crap that you can constantly dump it on your friends. It just shouldn't be possible for you to need to vent about the same crap over and over and all the time. If your friend does this, they need professional help. It is incredibly stressful to be vented at over and over. I have a friend who is a therapist and she literally cannot handle her friends venting at her after a day of basically taking that from other people. If you are in a place where you find yourself constantly venting, you need to pay someone to listen to your problems.

        • I think in those situations, there are a couple of options. One would be to preface the venting with an acknowledgement that the two of you have talked about it in the past, don't necessarily see eye to eye, but that you'd like to blow off a little steam. Another would be to not about that specific problem with that specific friend. I feel there's a lot of space where you can do that without repressing everything – those friends might still be people who you can talk about work problems with, and there might be a different group of people who are better listeners for your romantic problems (are there people in your social circle who share your values, by the way? it seems like a lot of your friends have very different attitudes toward both sex and committed relationships).

        • I would just not discuss those issues with your friends anymore. On the other hand, it seems very unlikely that you ask a bunch of people for their advice, they all say the same thing, but it is inherently bad advice. On the few occasions when I have asked 5 people for advice and all of their advice has been the same, it was good advice. Perhaps it's advice you're not ready to take, which is fine too. But it's pretty clear that their advice isn't going to change and neither are your feelings, so you either have to take their advice and give them an I Told You So when it doesn't work, not talk to them about this particular issue, or ask some new people about this issue. Sometimes in those situations, there is the "thing you want to do" and the "thing everyone else thinks you should do." You ask for advice hoping someone will confirm your thing, but it doesn't happen. Sometimes, you just need to do the thing you want to do even when no one else thinks you should. Whether it works out or not may be irrelevant. It may be the step or the process of doing it that is important.

          • The talking to new people is a pretty big challenge if you're fairly unsociable. I really struggle to make good friends-I'm lucky if I have a handful throughout the year. So finding a new person who hasn't heard me vent previously isn't really feasible.

            I could also not talk about it, I guess. But I find when I can't talk about something, the thing boils and mutates inside me. The less I talk about something, the more I think about it, and the more it builds and grows and eats away at me. If I can't talk, I rot from the inside. I also find I start to grow really resentful of those same friends. I mentioned above that if I can't be authentic around someone, if I have to be Public Nice, I start wanting to be their friend less and less. The more I suppress my issue, the less I want to be around that person.

            On Scrubs, Elliot once joked that by trying to hide the crazy, she felt like it was going to erupt at any moment and bury the guy in a Volcano of Insane. That's how I feel about the issues I want to whine about, that if I don't whine about it frequently then it's all going to grow and then explode in an avalanche of bitterness.

            So… I dunno. Maybe there is no way for me to socialize well with people.

          • Talking about something every once in a while is fine. If every single interaction you have with a person, you're just talking and venting about the same problem (or if you'd rather be talking and venting about the same problem, but aren't because you're trying to put in the require Public Nice time), you have a problem. You should not want to be Private Bitch 24/7. What does frequently mean here? Every time you see a person? Every couple of months? Your authentic self should not be a bitch 100% of the time. It just shouldn't.

            I have a number of mental health issues. I am happy to share the details if you're interested, but my point is, when you're in the midst of an episode (anxiety, depression, etc) you feel like you're the perfectly normal one and everyone else has the wool over their eyes. You feel like this is just who you are and who would be if you changed that? You wouldn't be real without this. That is a trick your brain is playing on you because it is easier than dealing with the problem. When you are not plagued by the bullshit inside your own head, you can calmly include friends and loved ones in your problems and decisions when you want without making them feel overwhelmed.

            IMO, Elliot on Scrubs is a fucking psycho that dragged a bunch of people through the mud with her because she refused to get the help she needed. You don't have a Mt. Vesuvius of insanity when you approach it for what it is: an active volcano that needs to be monitored and have experts involved in what's going on (side note: is Mt. Vesuvius still active?).

            There is probably not a problem here. My guess is you are a bit self-conscious, but you don't really overwhelm your friends with your problems and venting. It's okay to vent to people. It's okay to complain. It's not okay to do so frequently enough that it is a majority of your interactions. I absolutely think you can learn to socialize successfully with people.

          • I'd say it's probably the majority of my interactions, not because I want to vent, but because I want to discuss. My problems usually end up spinning out into discussions of socialization, how different personalities approach experiences, truth vs. reality, dating norms, all that stuff. I find that sort of stuff fascinating and use my own issues as kind of a focal point. So I do vent about my problems every time, but in a sort of back-and-forth way? And I am always happy and open to hearing other's issues… they just never seem to have any. I often probe and poke at my friends, constantly being like "How are ya? Everything cool? Absolutely everything?" It's not like my friends don't have occasional problems, but they never seem to WANT to vent, so it always feels very lop-sided even when I don't want it to be.

            As for getting help… Wellllll, yes, but this goes back to there are some problems that are unsolvable. My therapist can help me with self-validation, but she has not a clue why people dislike me so much. Anti-depressants can help me deal with anxiety and depression better, but they do nothing to solve why I'm so unattractive to 99% of men. THOSE are the sorts of issues I complain about… my inability to understand people, and how alienated I feel amongst them. That's the Private Bitch-someone who just *does not get* people, it seems. I want to! I'd love nothing better than to wake up tomorrow, with the ability to read and understand behavior and how to navigate sticky social situations. But no matter what I do, I always seem to fuck it up, and I don't know WHY, and none of my therapists can ever tell me WHY.

            There was a particularly low period my freshman year where literally everyone I came into regular contact with hated me. Like, legitimately loathed me. I was in therapy at the time, and I'd go into every appointment crying. My therapist *helped*, but she could never explain or prevent the hate-she said I appeared to her an intelligent, thoughtful and empathetic person. All she could do was damage control. But I'd like to not be broken in the first place.

            So I try to search for answers from the few people who see me "in my natural habitat," hoping and praying someday someone can hit on the thing that makes me so damn unlikable to folks. But for now, it's an issue without solutions or even an idea of HOW to fix it…. so venting is all I've got.

          • Can I ask, how do you know people dislike you or find you unattractive? We don't have a researcher hand out a survey to rate satisfaction after someone meets you for the first time, so all we really have to go on is our own perception, which is often flawed. The people who see you in your natural habitat aren't free of bias either. Some things, we just HAVE to believe about ourselves to move forward and be successful. I think it would be more helpful to frame your interactions in "it feels like people dislike me" or "I feel like I am disliked," rather than "people don't like me." Unless literally people walk up to you and say "Marty, I don't know what it is, but I don't like you." By the way, people are hard to get. There is an entire discipline that studies them! It comes a little easier to some people than others, but it is not universally easy. Even people who work with people for a living (like my therapist friend), have a hard time understanding people and even themselves sometimes.

            In the situation you describe with your friends, I don't understand why their advice bothers you if you are just theoretically discussing dating and socialization. If it's really just a discussion that is springing from a particular experience you had, then their advice should be along the lines of "well, I would do blah…." If it's a discussion, you need to take their contribution with respect, even if it sounds like advice. Some people just don't like discussing their issues, so that can make for a difficult back and forth. If you are actually engaging in a discussion, then your friends aren't giving you advice, they're contributing to the discussion. If you are definitely getting advice from them, then you're not phrasing the question right. Say something like "I'm not really interested in talking about what I should do, I just want to hear your opinion on this situation and what it means?"

            Don't think of it as being broken, think of it as a skill you haven't mastered. Understanding and interacting successfully with people isn't a math formula you figure out and it's not a gene you're born with. It is a skill that you work on continuously, like an athlete. Like an athlete, you might have a coach, but the coach isn't going to run the marathon for you, or perform your figure skating routine. They are probably not even a better athlete than you, but they're going to see places to challenge you and show you where you need to work on your improvements, but the work is still going to be yours. Even your coach isn't going to magically stumble on the right exercises and techniques for your problem, they'll just have you do things they think might work and analyze the results. When you look at a situation as "well, I'm just born without the capacity for this (broken)" you take away your incentive to do anything. Why should you work on something when you don't have the capability to get better? But when you look at something as a skill, you DO have the potential to master it, but not without hard work and frustration. You may never become Michael Phelps, but you can learn how to swim. You may never become Bruce Springstein, but you can learn to play guitar. Building a skill involves years of focused work and constant practice, including many uncomfortable situations.

            Venting, in the sense of just getting shit off your chest without a desire for improvement, should be kept to a minimum. Airing your frustration overs immediate relief, but it does not fix the problem. It's like having a drink or smoking a cigarette or taking some drugs. It will offer you some relief now, but it won't fix anything and it's probably not great for you in the long run. You can still drink or smoke for relief, but you shouldn't be doing it to the extent that you're not dealing with what's really bothering you.

        • It's ok if your friend doesn't have advice that magically fixes it for you or otherwise improves the situation. Most of the time they won't. You're also under no obligation to act on any particular bit of advice you're given. Now, I can understand why you might feel "compelled to keep whining" in order to cope with some kind of chronic issue. But doing so repeatedly to the same person is essentially just an attempt to transfer the entirety of the emotional stress of *your* problems onto them, and trying to force that on someone without their consent, and without "giving back" in some way is obviously selfish asshole behavior.

          If you REALLY must vent about something repeatedly, you should at least give the other person some warning about it – "I know I talked about my boyfriend the other day, but something came up AGAIN…" It also helps if it's clear you're making some effort to solve the problem in question. So if it's one of those "no easy way" issues, you can at least talk about what you're doing about it, and frame it in the context of "Progress is really slow and it gets me down sometimes" (which most people can understand). You just need to be aware of the potential implications of what you're doing, and make it clear to the other person that you don't expect them to be an emotional stand-in so that you can get out of doing any work needed to resolve the issue.

          If you clearly communicate your expectations, give them the opportunity to establish clear boundaries, and then respect those boundaries, then you should be fine. It's when you plow through and don't stop to have any consideration for the other person that you get yourself into trouble.

          • I will often call a friend if I feel like I just REALLY need to vent and be like "I know I'm being crazy right now (or whatever), but I just feel like I need to get all these emotions off my chest at the moment, is that okay?" I think expectations are key ("I just need to get this off my chest" "I'm just so frustrated right now and needed to talk to someone") and the option for an out ("do you have time?" "Is it okay if I talk for a while?"). The other part of it is you can't expect the other person to just sit there silently without reaction until you finish. That is also selfish. This will probably be a moment where they want to connect with you, often by sharing how they feel, how your story makes them feel, similar experiences they had. I think often this is interpreted as advice, but it isn't (at least I don't think it is). I think it's an attempt to connect and to make you feel like you're not alone in this problem (even if how they handled their similar situation is different from your handling of the situation). Venting about your problem shouldn't be about you marking all the feelings territory in the conversation for yourself.

      • Lucy Montrose says:

        And yes, it does take extra effort to do for us "problem-solver" folks

        OMG, yes. Solving problems and "fixing" things, for those of us so inclined (even if only sometimes) is not just about a need to be a "rescuer". It's something that makes us feel good and gives our lives meaning.

        If it's important to us to feel like an active participant in life, or if we feel we must make up for lost time because we're frittered away too much of it procrastinating, or even if we're just a "carpe diem" type who believes in living every day as if its our last… it can feel like a kick in the gut to have to hold back and listen. It feels like in order to have a good relationship, we can't be active, without first waiting for the other person's permission. It's the ultimate in frustration, feeling like we must put our lives on hold for the sake of boundaries, and for the sake of enthusiastic consent. Even as we know those are absolute requirements– it feels like having to make a choice between making the most of our lives, and respecting someone else's. As if the two things are oppositional to each other.

        I guess a real-world definition of a charismatic person is someone inspires enthusiastic consent from others, without having to expend undue energy to get it.

    • This is so true. I am fostering a new friendship with a girl I hope to get to know better right now, and one day her and I, along with another girlfriend, were email back and forth when she shared a frustration about that day at work. I wanted so bad to be like "man, you think that's bad? You realize you were totally wrong in that situation right?" but instead I just said "I know how you feel, it totally sucks when your supervisor acts like that. I've had that happen to me." She wrote back and was like "YES, thank you so much for understanding!" It makes a big difference, even if you don't agree, to just at least emphasize with the feelings in the situation.

  6. Bas Kleijweg says:

    What makes this way easier is if you treat it as a filter to fish out interesting folks. Being entertaining and accomodating 24/7 is exhausting and makes this feel like a chore. You can't get to know anyone well if you stick to work-the-room broad strokes.

  7. I find the whole body language thing very frustrating and overwhelming. I can only concentrate on so many things when I'm trying to have a conversation.

    Things like a "subtle head tilt but not too much" is vague to me. What might be helpful is if perhaps Dr. Nerdlove and a female friend of his posed for a series of body language pictures, showing things you should and shouldn't do.

    • Lucy Montrose says:

      Exactly. Understanding body language is only the first step. You then have to actively deploy it in social settings; and then it has to work. And you don't know if it works until/unless you get a positive reaction from others.

      This is why I get so weary at the certitude of self-proclaimed body language experts. How can anyone be so certain about something so complex and so out of your control?
      Even the title of this post makes me sigh– you can't "make" anyone like you; they have to choose to like you out of their own free will. (And yes, I wish that others didn't find the Tony Robbins/Katie Couric personality type so attractive that it sets the standard for all unspoken rules of social engagement.)

    • I think the secret is not to overthink it. It's not "tilt head 10 degrees, smile 90%, open eyes, initiate eye contact, stand up straight, etc." It's more like you have to decide to "act friendly." Your body knows this stuff instinctually, it's just that some people don't turn it on automatically or are too subtle about it. Just think to yourself "I know I come off as a little cold normally, so right now I am going to take extra effort to act happy and friendly."

      Also, for me at least, smiling helps a lot. I think just by smiling your body will automatically follow with more open, friendly body language.

  8. rammspieler says:

    I'm in a fairly good mood today so I find this particular article to be quite informative (for once)! However I am kind of worried about the whole storytelling part. Maybe I just can't think of anything worth telling about my life at the moment right now, but to say the truth, I don't think that until I moved out here a couple of months ago, that my life has had any stories worth telling. Unless you want to hear about how I got so depressed that I ended up quitting college and lived a hermit-like existence for the past 5 years afterwards. So far the only story I can tell that I've managed to get a woman bursting in laughter was when I was telling her about my accident. I just tailored it to make it seem kind of humorous (i.e. "Of course the car applied brakes by the time it hit me. I was the break!)

    • The story that gets people cracking up with me was the time I was under house arrest by the Chinese for associating with known Tibetians and the time the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) almost shot us at a checkpoint. There is something about a tale of averted death or worse told in a laughing fashion that catches people every time. Same with any story of disaster or mishap averted.

    • Stories don't necessarily have to be dramatic to be interesting, and they don't need to be recent, either (a lot of stories people enjoy bonding over most are ones from childhood). I think this might be an area where doing some observation first and seeing what kinds of stories other people tell you and what your reaction is to them might be helpful.

      • Agreed. I get a lot of mileage out a few different travel related stories, but you don't have to have traveled to have stories. I also can tell some good stories about holidays at grandma's, some funny, some just warm and nostalgic. My husband has a great story about a childhood Halloween costume, another about the family cat, and another about the family dog. Stories don't have to be exotic to be interesting. A lot of it is just in how you tell it.

        • celette482 says:

          One of our friend-group's favorite stories has lead to the euphemism "petting his dog" for… well just about anything you could imagine. It's turned into the "That's what she said" of our friends. The story itself wasn't anything special, just a friend was the DD and came inside to pet 2 male roommates' dog and some 3rd party heard her say that she was petting so-and-so's dog and interpreted it to mean that they were hooking up. The way my friend told the story was hilarious though

          Also "petting his dog"

    • celette482 says:

      I get a lot of mileage out of my "The time I fell in a ditch in a Belgian cow pasture" story. It's embarrassing more than painful.

      • One of my friend's gets a lot of laughs with his adventures with a Japanese toilet (hit the wrong button and made a fountain. Panicked and sat on it with his pants up. It is especially funny because he is one of those cool and collected James Bond types). The embarrassing story told with humor and not shame is often another winner especially if it is a mistake or embarrassment that seems out of character.

      • Hah! :-)

        The things that are worst (or at least most inconvenient and embarrassing) to live through at the time often make the best stories later. I try to remind myself of that when living through them.

    • Stories don't have to be funny. I fell in love with my boyfriend when he told me a story about overcoming a really difficult, but not particularly unusual, point in his life. While you're waiting for things to happen to you, I recommend you read some stories other people wrote about themselves. I recommend "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feyman" by Richard Feyman, and anything by David Sedaris ("Naked" is my favorite). Not autobiographical, but "The Last Girlfriend on Earth" by Simon Rich is also excellent.

      There is a story I always tell about how my college boyfriend and I were staying with friends in another city over a break and woke up to find a half naked stranger in our room. About a year or so after we broke, my ex was visiting the city I lived in and I brought him to hang out with some of my friends. I told that story and my ex said "Man, I haven't thought about that incident since college." I was like "what? I tell that story all the time." It just didn't stand out as a story-worthy thing to him. I'm sure you have stories you just haven't been thinking about in that way.

    • fakely_mctest says:

      If there's an amateur storytelling group in your area that does events, it might be beneficial to check it out purely as an audience member. Personally, I find the events in my area really entertaining and there's always a wide variety of stories.

      There are also a lot of really narrative-based standups out there and ones who deal with super heavy stuff. Tig Notaro did a now famous set following her mother's death and her own cancer diagnosis: http://splitsider.com/2012/08/tig-notaro-has-brea

      • I'd also recommend listening into The Moth, which is one of the better established story-telling groups, and it has its own podcast and radio show. I learned a lot about story-telling from those folks.

      • Oh god, I love Tig Notaro. Mike Birbiglia is also a great storyteller comedian.

        • fakely_mctest says:

          I'm going to see Mike Birbiglia in Philly at the end of this month! So exciiiiited.

          I'd also recommend Kumail Nanjiani. His Call of Duty bit is especially funny/thought provoking.

    • TV, Film, or sports anecdotes can be used as stories.

      "Did you see Family Guy last night? Remember when X happened?"

      I had a friendship all through middle and high school that was founded on us both quoting the Simpsons to each other.

  9. Having stories is my biggest hurdle. I really don't like talking about myself, ever, so the idea of telling people a story is somewhat mortifying. Hell, even friends I've known for years would have trouble saying much about me other than some generic stuff and personality tendencies, which is pretty much how I like it.

    • "Having stories is my biggest hurdle. I really don't like talking about myself, ever, so the idea of telling people a story is somewhat mortifying. Hell, even friends I've known for years would have trouble saying much about me other than some generic stuff and personality tendencies, which is pretty much how I like it. "

      Not sure if you realize you just told a story about yourself.

    • You don't need to always tell stories about yourself. You could tell stories about an event or something you observed but weren't a part of. It's also possible to tell other people's stories, especially if they're family members. As examples, my husband and I have a great story about something we observed while we were waiting in line at a Tim Horton's once. Also, my husband has a great story about something that happened to his grandfather in WWII, and I had a friend who used to tell stories all the time about things his uncles had done.

      You want to make sure you're not telling mean stories, of course, or stories other people wouldn't want told, but it's possible to make this sort of thing work. This doesn't necessarily fulfill the goal of having someone learn something personal about you, but it can still work as an ice breaker. And you could possibly become the guy who has all those fascinating stories about his uncles.

  10. There's a joke amongst my friends that you can tell when I like a woman because out come my "make me look good" stories. Stories I can do. I've got extensive training as a performer/actor. We had to do that kind of thing all the time. Telling people stories was kinda the point of us.

    Body language I found a little bit difficult sometimes but that was often because I'd have a nervous energy inside my body and it's hard to do body language right when anxiety is messing you about. I've often been told I need to smile more and I have started doing so recently.

    Speaking too fast has been a problem. My mind goes at a hundred miles an hour to the point where I forget what I was talking to myself about.

    And..well…somethings a bit different at the moment. Friends tell me I seem different somehow. And there's more attention from the ladies in various ways. Not entirely sure what's happening but we'll see how it develops.

  11. Related question: What do you when you arrange a date with somebody and than something unexpected happens during the day that tires you out? You don't want to cancel on the last minute and because its arranged online, last minute cancellation is kind of hard to pull off, you don't know if somebody is going to check their messages on OkCupid and kind of dicky. How do you go through a date when you just want to collapse?

    • That's a tough one, but unfortunately, I think the best option is to push through it. I have that happen sometimes. I try to give myself a little pep talk beforehand and remind myself that the point of the date is to have fun and that it shouldn't be taxing (or at least not taxing in the same way as work was). If something really extraordinary happened, sometimes I'll mention it to the other person – I don't know if it helps, but I think people sometimes give each other a bit of a break if they know what's going on.

    • If you know this is possible for you, it's probably a good idea to plan ahead for it and not have OkCupid be your only way of reaching the person.

      For example, I'm a novice driver. I'm going out with friends tomorrow night, but I know I won't feel comfortable driving at night if it's snowing. I emailed them and made a plan B (they pick me up from work) so that we can follow through even if the weather doesn't cooperate.

      • I think that's a good idea in any case, but I'm not sure cancelling even by text or phone is a good idea in this sort of situation. It's one thing to cancel on a friend last minute, since they presumably have a lot of knowledge about your behavior and will know this isn't something you do frequently or lightly. A person who's never met you before doesn't have that information, and they also don't have the sort of established connection that makes people more likely to tolerate minor inconveniences. I think a lot of people wouldn't be up for a rescheduled date under these circumstances, especially not busier people who only have one or two days available per week for dating.

    • Dude, the only reason to cancel a date (or anything really) the day of is an emergency. "I'm tired" is not an emergency. It is rude because you don't know if your date may have felt the same thing and powered through to see you, or if they moved something around to meet you. Just don't, okay? Be a grown up. You are perfectly welcome to get there and be like "hey, I've had a long day, I hope you're not offended if I peace out early." Other options may be to suggest changing the venue when you get there to somewhere you can get coffee, or a place that may up your energy a bit. Seriously, if we were supposed to go on a date and you canceled on me because you were tired, we wouldn't reschedule. Your first date should be the time you give it your all and try to impress a person. You're not going to push through being tired to even meet me for the first time, why should I believe you'll push through for my friend's wedding or my sister's graduation party? To me, this would pretty much be an indication of all your future behavior.

    • Lemminkainen says:

      Have you tried caffeine? I'm not being flippant here– in general, I've found that a nice, hot cup of coffee in my hands helps me power through tiredness or nervousness on first dates, and renders me quite a bit more lively or animated than I might be otherwise.

  12. I'm not so sure about the "getting people to talk about themselves" thing. I have heard that over and over, and I am a really good listener, but I don't really make friends. People are happy to talk to me, but I'm just a warm body to talk to, not a person they want to become friends with.

    In my experience, the most charismatic, well-liked people are always talking about themselves or their opinions or their stories. Now, they do it in a socially calibrated, often funny way, but nonetheless they aren't exactly listeners.

    • You have a point there. If someone only listens and rarely talks, people don't get to know them very well and aren't as likely to feel connected to them. Maybe listening and telling stories are tandem skills, and it's important to have some amount of both of them? I imagine it depends somewhat on the personalities of the people involved. If you're paired up with a talker, being more of a listener (but still telling some stories and offering some opinions) might be more appreciated. If you're speaking with someone who's quieter themselves, they might appreciate you taking on more of the work of carrying on the conversation by talking more.

    • It seems to me like there are two sides to it – expressing yourself and showing your personality can make people interested, can make people want to know you, but then being good at making people feel listened to and appreciated can make people get the feeling of closeness, warmth, a connection with you. I think you need a bit of both to really be good at making good friends.

    • I think you have a really good point, but the two things maybe aren't as exclusive as you think. When I think about the most charismatic and likable people I've known, they do spend a lot of time talking about themselves or their stories, but interaction with them isn't just them talking and everyone else listening — it's a back-and-forth. Charismatic storytellers often *are* really good listeners; it's just that the listening isn't happening in long stretches. They are constantly recalibrating what they're telling and how they're telling it based on the reactions of their audience, they listen to their audience to find out what they care about and find interesting, and it's often a story-swapping dynamic as a way to connect — that is, someone tells you about a thing that happened to them, and you tell a similar or contrasting story as a response ("Oh my goodness, yes, something similar happened to me!" or "heh, here's what happened when I was in that situation…"). There actually is a lot of active listening going on, but it's happening in short stretches and as part of a back-and-forth, rather than in long stretches where one person does nothing but talk, and the other person does nothing but listen and occasionally make supportive comments or prompts.

  13. randomnickname says:

    The story one is a bit tricky, because you have to have good stories, you have to know when to tell them, and you have to have good delivery. Being quiet and listening will get you liked much faster than being a bad storyteller, even if you think you're riveting.

    One thing I've noticed about the most genuinely likeable people I've met is that their behaviour is warm and friendly not just to the people they want to impress, but to everyone. They'll show the same warmth and interest chatting with an undergraduate as with the head of NASA (to use examples in my experience) You can do everything right talking to the person you're targetting, and spoil it by being snotty to the waiter.

  14. Actually, we don't feel connected to someone based on how much we know about them. We feel connected to someone based on how much we think they know about us. That's why one secrets is to get someone to tell you things that they usually wouldn't tell someone else. You know, stuff beyond small talk.

  15. I'm a big fan of the "Ask for Help" one. When I was in high school cross country, I would ask my teammates for rides home after practice and those people became my closest friends on the team. And then there was the one time my friend forgot I wasn't in the backseat, went home, went back to school to pick me up, and when he drove me home, I had a bag of fresh spring rolls for him.

    Of course, there is a point where asking for help constantly makes you look like a helpless mooch.

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