Improving your social calibration demands that you become a more observant person. You need to become more in tune with other people’s reactions and signals; the better you can read them, the better you can respond to them.
When it comes to dating, being able to read the body language and tonality of the person you’re flirting with means that you’re better able to tailor your interactions with them. It’s entirely too easy to put all of our attention on what people are saying and end up ignoring all of the cues and messages that they’re sending with their behavior that completely changes the meaning. Women -as I have said before – are socialized to be polite and deferential to others, even when it’s an inconvenience to them; they will stay in a conversation, for example, for far longer than they would want to simply because they don’t want to appear rude and can’t find a socially acceptable way of exiting the situation.
It’s these subtle cues that shape the interaction; the better you become at picking them up, the better your calibration.
For example, you’re having a conversation with a woman you’re attracted to. How is she reacting? Is she keeping her attention focused on you, or are her eyes starting to flit around the room? Is she relaxed or starting to shift her weight from one foot to the other? These little signs let you know whether she’s interested in what you have to say or whether she’s getting ready to walk away. If she’s laughing, is it a full-throated laugh or polite and brittle? If she’s smiling at you, is it a polite smile or does it reach up to her eyes?
If you touch her, does she tense up or does she relax into your touch? When you take your hand away, does she respond by touching you in turn?
Being able to notice these little signs and tells are not only how we tell whether the person you’re talking to is into you, but also part of how to avoid being creepy by accident; people will let you know through their body language that you’re toeing the line far before you cross them.
Congruence is the property of being suitable or in harmony with the circumstance or situation. When it comes to social situations, congruence is important; being incongruent will be distracting at best. At the worst, it’ll actively make people uncomfortable.
Congruence is part of why understanding context is so important; if you’re coming up to someone at Whole Foods with the same bouncy energy that you might have if you were at a club to hear your favorite band, you’re going to seem incredibly off. You’ll be incongruent with the location and the unspoken rules that govern the location and your interaction.
Similarly, you may be telling her about all the fun you had at ACL, but your body-language is all off. Your story about how you bluffed your way backstage says you’re trying to show her that you’re an outgoing, adventurous person with oodles of confidence but your hunched-over, shifty body language is saying that you’re nervous and have low self-esteem. It may have actually happened, but your mouth is saying completely different things from your body.
For that matter, dressing like a banker and talking about how you love restoring Harley-Davidson panheads will cause people to scratch their heads; you may be telling the truth, but what you’re saying is completely at odds at the way you’re presenting yourself.
Being incongruent is a sign of poor calibration. It tells people that you aren’t attuned to the social dynamics of the situation, whether it be the situation or your identity.
Trial And Error
Improving your social calibration means playing a lot of trial and error.
Too many folks who lack in social experience are terrified of making mistakes; they are so afraid of the potential consequences of a screw-up (i.e. coming off as creepy, getting rejected) that they’d rather not do anything unless they’re 100% sure that they won’t blow it. Which is, ultimately the exact wrong thing to do.
Straight talk: there is no way of getting better calibrated socially that doesn’t involve being willing to go out, take risks and make mistakes. Just as you can’t get good at playing guitar without practice, you can’t get more adept at reading and negotiating social situations without going out and taking part in those situations. You have to give yourself permission to screw up… because that’s the only way you’re going to learn. If you end up accidentally crossing a line you didn’t know was there or committing some social faux pas, you now know not to do it again. Screwing up in practice is how you avoid screwing up in the future when it counts.
Take dates, relationships and sex out of the equation; accept that you’re going out specifically to practice being more social. It can feel a little odd to think of using people as practice and being willing to essentially burn an approach in the name of self-improvement, but it’s the best way to improve. Acknowledge that you’re making sacrifices in the short term because you know it’s going to pay off for you in the long term. It doesn’t matter if you screw up because you’re not focused on getting laid, you’re focused on getting better at being able to interact with people… which will get you crazy laid in the future.
But What If You Screw Up?
So what if you do? What if you end up creeping someone out? Or insulting them? Or commit any of the death-by-a-thousand-cuts mistakes that kill a social interaction?
Simple: you apologize, you take a step back (occasionally literally) and if things are bad enough, you cut your losses and go.
Just because you fucked up doesn’t automatically mean that you’ve failed and you’re being entered into the Undatable Creepers registry. It just means you made a mistake and the sooner you get over the idea that one mistake is instantly fatal to attraction, the more relaxed you will be.
Not every mistake is an unrecoverable, game-ending disaster; a sincere apology can make the difference between being able to salvage the situation and having to give up and try again with someone else.
And you may well find that it’s in pulling out from a downward spiral that you learn the most.
There’s a saying in pick-up circles that’s fitting: the first thousand rejections don’t count. Those first thousand rejections aren’t about you, they’re part of the learning process; they’re no different then all the wrong notes when you’re studying guitar or every missed shot when you’re practicing free-throws. Before you work through those first thousand rejections you’re not even in the game yet; you’re still building up the skillset that will mean you get rejected less and less as you improve.
People like to say that dating is a numbers game; if you approach hundreds women, eventually you’ll find one to date. But the better calibrated you are, the better you are at understanding and fitting in with the social dynamics, the fewer approaches you’ll have to make. Being better socially calibrated means you’re not hitting her creepy vibe or accidentally getting yourself rejected… and that means you’re able to spend more time finding the person that’s right for you.