Heya, Doc; maybe you can help snap me out of this funk I’ve been feeling.
Basically, with the results of election night now in hand, I feel like the entire world’s just stopped making sense and the country is going to get nuked within the next four years. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to date for years now, and admittedly my game is pretty terrible. I guess the best way to describe it, I feel like I’ve been playing a game and now someone has suddenly jumped up the difficulty; it’s hard for me to imagine myself being happy with someone or even trying to find someone with the world feeling like it’s getting ready to fall apart.
I am pretty happy with how my life is and I’m pretty cool with being single. I guess being together with someone once would have been nice for the bucket list XD.
Hey, I feel you, TETBA. For a while it seemed like yeah we were gonna get close to the edge, but we were going to pull it back. And then we all went over like lemmings in a faked nature video. Now everything feels like a combination of getting kicked in the nuts and that full-body ache when you’ve got the flu mixed with a hangover and a sense of dread.
But here’s the thing: the world didn’t end. The credits didn’t roll. The story’s not over and we’re not dead yet. Where there’s life, there’s hope and there’s love. And now’s a time when we’re going to need both of those more than anything because there’re a lot of folks who trade on hatred and fear and cynically exploit people’s fear and despair for their own purposes.
Don’t get me wrong: I get the impulse to just say “fuck this, I give up.” Getting better at dating can be hard enough when things are going pretty well. It can be even harder – hell it feels almost insignificant – at a time when it seems like we’ve started down the path to an authoritarian regime. I can totally understand wanting to just lay in bed and pull the covers over your head and just hope that it all goes away. But it’s not going to go away and – critically – nothing is going to get better if you and we don’t do something. The best way to fight that feeling of helplessness and despair is to start taking back control, even in small ways. Even the smallest things – those little micro-revolutions – help reassert that things aren’t hopeless. Holding on to those small victories, whether it’s pushing back against one person’s hate speech or having just one conversation with someone attractive, is a sign that you have more power than you think. It doesn’t have to be a big victory; you don’t have to change somebody’s mind or get a phone number, you just have to have done it at all. That puts a crack – a tiny one – in that wall of despair. Sure, it’s a tiny crack but the fact that there’s a crack at all shows that the wall isn’t impenetrable. You made one tiny crack, so now you know you can make another one – maybe you call your representatives in Congress or you spend some time practicing your social skills. There’s another crack in the wall. Time for another crack. You show up at town halls. You start tweaking your online dating profile. You work out. You donate to charities. More cracks in that wall.
Put enough cracks in a wall, even tiny ones, and that wall falls down.
Anything can seem too immense to handle at first, because we tend to believe we need to conquer it all at once. I didn’t get better at dating overnight; it took me years of constant practice and struggle and failure. But I took it one step at a time, one micro-victory at a time. It’s the same with any task, even when it seems hopeless. You take one step, focus on that first milestone, even if it’s something seemingly futile or too small to make a difference. And you just keep putting cracks in that wall.
And because I’m feeling a bit sentimental, I’ll let another Doctor have the final word on this. I think you’ll find it applies to… pretty much everything difficult in life.
I’ll try to keep this brief: essentially, I have been struggling to maintain friendships for many years now. About 5-6 years ago, I got out of a miserable marriage, and I realized after my divorce that I had very few friends and almost no social life to speak of. Making friends and meeting people has always been something that I have struggled with, so I decided to consult books like Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and Mark Goulston’s “Just Listen!” as well as a myriad of web articles about the subject. Essentially, all of these sources boil the secret of friendship down to these simple maxims: give people lots of attention, talk about what they want to talk about, give them compliments, and generally try to make them feel special.
Sounds easy, right?
Well, Doc, I have been living by this kind of advice for years now, and I have experienced even more rejection and failure than when I wasn’t trying to follow any magical relationship-building behavior. The odd thing is, I actually have experienced really positive interactions during this span of time with people when I wasn’t trying to do anything special, especially since I had just met them and was still trying to get a feel for them; I was just being generally friendly and humorous. But as soon as I launch into my “win friends” behaviors like giving them attention, sending them links or pictures of stuff they would like, commenting on their Facebook feeds, etc, this is when they suddenly become “too busy” and “really bad at keeping up with people,” which all comes across like sugar-coated bullshit to me. It really makes no sense, especially when I personally quite enjoy when people do those kinds of things for me. So why don’t they like it when I do it for them?
And it’s not just my own experiences that I’ve been observing, either. There is a high-ranking guy in management at my work who is pretty much a living personification of the Dale Carnegie type: he walks around all day talking to people, trying to encourage them to talk about themselves and their lives. On paper, he should be one of the most popular people there, but he’s not. Instead, he comes across as eager and even a little annoying, and I don’t think that anyone at my work considers themselves lucky that he’s talking to them. Conversely, I have met many people who are insanely popular and seem to have lots of friends, but they aren’t bending over backwards trying to make other people feel special. In fact, some of them seem downright self-absorbed. Yet they are some of the most sought-after people I know.
What am I missing here, doc? What is it that makes some people more popular and desirable than Krispy Kreme doughnuts, even though they’re barely trying? And what is it that turns people into social lepers, even though they’re doing everything that “social science” says leads to popularity and friendship? I’d really look forward to hearing your input on this.
–I Aren’t the Popular One
Dale Carnagie’s not wrong: showing interest in someone and showing that you like them is a big part in how you make friends. But it misses a critical point: there’s a line between being friendly and showing interest and being a pushy, needy person. It really doesn’t take very much before that cool guy or girl you met becomes the reason why you don’t open WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger so they don’t see that you got their latest missive. Take that guy you mention in upper management: how he seems over-eager and a bit annoying. Why is that? Is it because, while he’s wanting to talk and showing interest, he’s not paying attention to how they feel? Is he overstaying his welcome or approaching people at times when they’d rather not talk? Is he spamming them with links or videos? Even if he’s doing everything that Carnegie and Goulston and, well, I say someone should do, it can get exhausting very quickly to be on the receiving end of non-stop attention from someone who just doesn’t seem to pay attention to his audience.
What about the dude who everyone likes. Yeah, he’s not going out of his way to do things for people, but what else is he doing? Does he pick his moments? Does he leave things open for people to approach him, instead of behaving like a puppy wanting tummy rubs?
Getting people to like you isn’t like grinding your stats in an RPG; you don’t do the same thing over and over and over again and build up the friendship meter. It’s a process. It’s like I said in the most recent podcast: you can’t just pile on compliment after compliment or joke after joke and expect it to work. You have to use them sparingly and strategically.
Think about at the beginning, when you’re getting those positive reactions without really doing anything special. You weren’t on a campaign to win someone over, you were just trying to feel someone out and get to know them. You were a lot lower-key than when you’re going full-tilt boogie on your friendship quest. That approach is going to work better than just being Johnny-on-the-spot who’s always trying to get their attention.
So just… relax a little. Dial it back. Continue to show interest and be willing to talk and maybe share something cool, but at a lower energy level. It sounds like you’re at a 10 and you need to be at a 3.
Hi Doc, long time/ first time.
I recently got out of a year and a half relationship. I have been looking at the different online dating apps and websites out there, and I have a question. What should the etiquette be about contacting people you’re interested in that you see on different platforms? Obviously I don’t mean sending the same person eight messages through four different platforms, because that is creepy. But let’s say you’re swiping through Tinder, you see a photo your recognize from OKC, and after a few days you don’t match. Do you send a message with OKC, or do you take that as a not interested?
Dating Makes Confusion
Here’s the thing about how Tinder works: because it’s a dual opt-in, you only know that someone’s seen your profile if you’ve both swiped right on one another. At any one time, there’re quite literally thousands of people using it in a geographic area. So it’s theoretically possible that someone on Tinder may have never actually seen you.
Possible, however, isn’t the same as “definitely”, and Tinder’s algorithm plays around with who it shows and when – especially because there’re the folks who’ll swipe right on everyone in hopes of making as many matches as possible.
So you could try sending a message on OKC and hoping for the best, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that they may not have seen you on Tinder. But I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s better to change up your photos and tweak your profile, in both apps. That way, if/when she sees you, she’ll be more likely to swipe right or send you a message.