How to Become Good With People: Part II (Conversations and Situational Awareness)
Part I laid the foundation for my series on “How to Become Good With People.” Remember, it is imperative that you judge a book by its cover and visually assess the person (or persons) you are speaking with. You cannot go into a conversation cold and just wing it without any thought as to who you are talking with. On the flipside, you don’t have time to try to evaluate every small detail about a person aka learn their entire story. The solution?… Pay attention to the main points. Focus on what sticks out in their appearance and behavioral traits.
Bottom line: Use your CliffsNotes.
Today is about Part II though, conversations and situational awareness. What does that mean? It means we’re starting to get into the gravy of how to get good with people. We’ve already gone over how to profile someone and get a basic understanding of who we are dealing within an initial interaction. Now it’s time to delve into the conversational aspect of interpersonal communication. In other words, how do we speak with people and flow in conversation? Better yet, how can we do our best to avoid awkward situations?
This does not have to be complicated at all. You don’t have to read countless books on how to be social. You don’t have to listen to audio tapes. You don’t have to attend special classes. I’m cutting to the chase and telling you how it is. No need to over-logic life when you already have the answer. Here are the main points I want to cover:
1) People want to talk about themselves (Comfort and Acceptance)
2) Small Talk (Get the Ball Rolling and Commonality)
3) Social Coordination (Be normal and avoid awkwardness)
1. People Want to Talk About Themselves
Everybody likes to talk about themselves. The sooner you realize this the better. I’m not being cynical about it. I’m not saying all people are selfish. We all like to talk about who we are, what we do, our experiences… Anything that will help others understand us better, we want to talk about it. We all have a story and we like to tell this story to others…. Why?
It’s because deep down we all desire comfort and acceptance. Some people might claim that they just don’t like socializing with others or worse, don’t like people. That may be the case but the sad reality is most of those people are usually just bitter because they are unable to secure these things for themselves. They are not comfortable with themselves for some reason (or reasons). They are not accepted by their peers. I don’t want this for you guys. If you’ve found my site and are truly into improving yourself (the right way), then you deserve the best. If you want it bad enough and actually put the work in… you deserve to get what you want. You deserve that bomb ass lifestyle that you fantasize about.
But when you are able to understand that people want to talk about themselves and effectively tell their story, it really takes a lot of the effort out of trying to make a good conversation. We’ve all been in situations where we “want it to work” so bad. We just want everything to be smooth and flow.
This is obvious when it comes to talking to the women we like or are very attracted to. We’ve all been uptight and in our own heads just praying that it works out… that we’re able to straight up Versace silk that chick into the bedroom (or get the # at least). We have all tried to overthink things and have shot ourselves in the foot at least once.
The same goes for regular conversations where we want something from the other person. We have all fudged that up too at some point. Don’t worry. Part III will cover this… and then some.
When you just embrace the fact that people want to talk about themselves, life gets a lot easier. Conversations tend to flow better and people will like you more. And when people like you more…
MAKING FRIENDS/ACQUAINTENCES BECOMES EASY.
So how do you integrate this into your everyday conversations? How can you make this at the forefront of your conversational game plan?
You do it by straddling that fine line between genuine curiosity and boring interview mode. You don’t want to talk with someone and the whole conversation is you basically playing 21 questions with them. At the same time it is difficult to truly be interested in some stranger’s story.
So my suggestion (especially for a first interaction) is to:
Ask questions but also contribute to the conversation by commenting on the person’s answers.
In general, you want to have more comments (by both of you) in conversation than questions. One of my closest friends was talking about this with me a few years ago. He explained that you when you talk to someone all you have to do is throw “little gold nuggets” out there.
What he meant by that was to just ask little questions here and there. When they’d answer, you make some comments and everything pretty much flows from there. Maybe ask some more questions along the way. They’ll probably ask you some questions as well. That is the essence of small talk.
2. Small Talk
The purpose of small talk is to get the ball rolling. This is how conversations start. You don’t know them. They don’t know you. But thankfully you read the section before this and know that in general, people want:
Comfort and Acceptance
The easiest way to get the ball rolling on comfort and acceptance is to establish some sort of commonality. When you have something in common, that becomes the meat and potatoes of your initial conversation. There’s no need to try and bounce around from topic to topic. You obviously don’t want to get to the point where you are afraid to branch off into other stuff to talk about but definitely milk that common ground as much as you can.
Hopefully, you read Part I of this series because that’s the easiest way to get the ball rolling and find that common ground. That’s right… profile and judge a book by its cover. Use your CliffsNotes guys.
When you are able to accurately sum up an individual, “knowing what to say” is a walk in the park. All you have to do is pay attention to what sticks out to you about that person. What catches your eye? What do you think is interesting about that person? And ultimately, how can you relate to that person (based upon your observations)? At that point, small talk is easy. And when small talk is easy, conversations flow.
Here’s a personal example:
Back in summer 2011, I was working with a lobbyist to help secure funding for a non-profit organization in Washington DC. Basically, we would go on Capitol Hill every day and meet with representatives. Our job was to essentially talk about how great our organization was and convince them to give us money for some upcoming projects. It was a lot more complicated than that but that was the situation in a nutshell.
My expectation was that I was going to be horrible at this. I didn’t have much experience doing that and I only knew the basics of the organization and the upcoming projects. However, I was good with people. I knew how to get the ball rolling and establish comfort very fast. The way I did this was by judging a book by its cover aka USING CLIFFSNOTES.
Instead of just walking into the office and trying to plead my case, I would take the time to look around the office and figure out what this person’s deal was. I would see how the office was decorated and what story was told in the pics. I’d start by maybe making some comments about those and that’s how comfort was established.
One particular example that sticks out in my head was when I saw one guy had a picture of him holding up a fish. I’ve been a fisherman my entire life. So I pretty much started the conversation by commenting on that. We talked about fishing for a good 10 minutes until I brought up why I was there. At that point, the commonality was easily established. He agreed to donate to my organization that day.
So the main lesson is that getting the ball rolling with great small talk is the most direct path to meaningful conversations (even if you have no clue on what’s going on). More importantly, it can help you get what you want. Part III will cover that in greater detail.
3. Social Coordination
This is a bigger problem today than it was 30-40 years ago. Technology is great but I also see it has having ruined a generation. If you are interested, I have previously discussed the problem here. I have also offered a possible solution here.
This is an even bigger problem amongst guys that frequent red pill sites and PUA forums… where a lot of guys want to learn how to get laid. They just don’t see that social awkwardness is a BIG PROBLEM that needs to be addressed… before anything else. They don’t recognize (or don’t want to admit) that they are socially awkward.
I’ve said this time and time again. Your foundation must be one of good general social skills. You have to be good with people. There are exceptions but that’s generally how it goes. You can’t skip that no matter what anyone says or tries to sell you on. Take a look at any PUA bootcamp or any filmed product where you can see the audience. The audience is usually guys that all look very socially awkward and usually ARE VERY SOCIALLY AWKWARD. They are years away from results because they are years away from being considered “cool” or good at talking to people.
From a conversational standpoint, you obviously want to avoid awkwardness. Awkwardness makes everyone uncomfortable and like I mentioned in the previous sections, COMFORT is very important. And the way you do this is simple.
Easier said than done for some people. But that’s exactly what you do. The easiest way to be normal in a conversation is to be aware of the situation aka situational awareness.
Be aware of the situation. Don’t say or do stuff that is not appropriate for that situation or environment. That’s a surefire path to awkwardness. It’s awkward for the recipient because it makes them uncomfortable. It’s awkward for the person who said it because they realize they fouled up and now there’s that air of awkward silence.
You gotta be smart. In general, it’s better to play it safe in conversation. You don’t want to push it too far. Once something comes out of your mouth, it’s already out there. You can’t take it back. Here’s some examples.
Riley Cooper (Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receiver)
There was an incident last summer when a video came out that depicted Riley Cooper saying some not so nice things about black people. That video became public for the entire world to see. That’s not good news especially for a guy who plays in the NFL. The majority of players are black.
He was suspended from the team but then quickly “forgiven.” However, there’s no going back from that. He might play alongside black teammates and get along fine with them, but that awkwardness of what was said will always be there until his playing days are over. His teammates will always look to him as that guy who made those racial comments at a Kenny Chesney concert.
That’s an example of poor situational awareness on his part. Poor remarks regardless but he should have known better than to say it on tape. Once something goes out on the Internet, it’s there for the whole world to see forever.
Me (When I first started my job)
I just started work here in Austin about 2 months ago. Now I would definitely consider myself to be “red-pilled”. I also know that one of the downsides of this is that I cannot really talk about my beliefs/experiences regarding a lot of stuff in the white collar world. It can’t happen. If I do that, I would make people feel uncomfortable.
When I first started, there was that period of time where my co-workers wanted to get to know me… feel me out and see what my deal was.
For instance, some of the entry-level women were curious about my dating life. Did I have a girlfriend back home? Was I already dating someone here? Now there’s 2 ways to answer this. I could tell the truth or sugarcoat it.
Truth: Oh well I just broke up with my girlfriend in New York. Since I’ve been in Austin, I’ve been back in cooze hound mode… partying my ass off and pretty much tagging a new chick any night I go out.
Sugarcoat: Oh well I just broke up with my girlfriend in New York. I’m pretty much doing my own thing now.
Both communicate the same thing. However, the second answer still enables my co-workers to be comfortable with me. Had I said the first answer and bragged about being a player, I would have been thought of as creepy and perhaps even try hard.
The easiest way to avoid awkwardness in conversation is to play it safe, especially in the initial interaction(s). Better to fall short of the line than to overstep it. If you overstep it, you can rarely go back. I usually don’t like the idea of “playing it safe” but when it comes to talking to someone for the first time, it’s the smart thing to do. In general:
Don’t get too personal (questions or answers)
Sugarcoat the truth when necessary
Be aware of the situation
This article was a little bit more difficult for me to write because it’s common sense. It’s stuff I have also done automatically and have always been aware of. I’ll admit that it took me a while to really think about this stuff and come up with important points to keep in mind. However, it’s not about me. It’s about YOU.
Part II was for the guys who really struggle socially. It’s for the guys who are not able to hold normal conversations. It’s for the guys who feel awkward or creepy.
My goal was to at least introduce some important points and offer some explanation about how stuff typically works. I think those 3 main points are the most appropriate ones to always be aware of:
People want to talk about themselves
The importance of small talk
Social Coordination and Situational Awareness
If you are someone who is socially awkward and find it hard to relate with other people, those 3 main points will make things easier for you. They highlight what is important. Adhering to them will enable you to have better flowing, less awkward conversations. I’ve said my piece… say yours in the comment section below. Also be on the lookout for:
How to Become Good With People: Part III (Greasing the Wheels)