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Zoethe

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How to stop being a loser [Oct. 20th, 2003|10:39 pm]
Zoethe
[Current Mood |geekygeeky]

Once again, Ferrett has written an inspirational post about how the world works, this time on the tender topic of how to get laid. And once again, I am inspired to supplement his comments based on the laments of a reader who wonders how to simply stop being a loser in the first place – because if you can’t get a girl to even talk to you, how are you ever gonna even have a chance to use the suave, “Hey, I’d really like to kiss you” line?

Having watched more than a few guys – and some women – struggle with this issue over the years, I have realized that it’s more complicated than “take a bath and stop being a dork.” If they knew how to stop being a dork, they would have done so already. Telling a dork to stop being a dork is like telling a fat person to just lose weight – duh, asshole. Any constructive suggestions?

Perhaps. Here is the advice I would give if I were suddenly trapped in one of those “modern Cinderella” teen romance flicks I loathe. Pay attention, folks:

The bath, the cleaning up, the updated wardrobe. Yeah, you’ve hear it all before, but you know what: people were right – daily showering, with hair washing, and monthly haircuts are non-negotiable. And then on to the wardrobe. If you have “pocket protector” written all over your style, or “ultra-bohemian,” or “radical dude, man,” or (the greatest sin of all) “I don’t care what I wear,” give it the fuck up. You may think you’re the bomb, but you’re only bombing. This is not a big investment: jeans, a short-sleeved button-down shirt in a solid color (no Hawaii, no jungle) and you’ll be “passin’.” I hear the protests now: there are cool dudes who wear outrageous shit and make it work, so why should you go all wallflower? Well, it’s ‘cuz them cool dudes have the knack for doing it, whereas you clearly do not (experience being all the witness needed), so give it the fuck up. You want your first impression to stop being, “look at the weirdo…”

Okay, once you look the part, you need to learn how to act the part. This is the part all those “ugly duckling” stories sail right past, because it’s the really, really hard part. Millions of angry, frustrated men of all ages know that they’re nice guys, and can’t figure out why women ignore them.

It’s because you act like fuckin’ freaks, dude. You can’t carry on a conversation, and you scare people. But even this can be dealt with. Here are the rules.

Rule One: Your voice is the least important in the room. Geeks seem to have one thing in common: they find their own interests fascinating. So fascinating that people talking about other things bores and irritates them, and they will do anything to turn the attention back to Star Trek or the SCA or Bab 5 or Linux Hacks. They will bulldoze conversation, completely unaware of the glazed eyes of the people around them, as they wax on about their roleplaying character or the true meaning of their deep spirituality or what asswipes people not members of this particular social circle have recently been. And the people to whom they are speaking will quickly be overwhelmed, freaked out, and bored. And find excuses to get the hell away.

Ask people about themselves and listen to their answers. Don’t regard their answers as fodder for your own set of stories/complaints/conspiracy theories. Ask follow up questions, encourage responses, laugh at their jokes – mildly.

Do not underestimate the power of the “uh-huh” and the “so what happened next?” responses. It may feel like filler, but it’s the grease of social intercourse – they know you’re listening and they’re encouraged to keep talking to you.

Rule Two: Stay engaged. Fidgeting and making odd noises when other people are talking is bad and it’s creepy. Being overtly bored and wandering away is even worse. So what if you don’t know anything about what they’re talking about – open your ears and learn. Be cool with being laid back and listening. Stop worrying about when you get a turn; at this point in the training, you don’t get a turn. As you get to know people better, you will be able to add the pertinent or amusing one-liner, but for the time being just observe how other people do it.

Look for things you don’t understand or are unclear on and ask questions. People love that. People love to talk as much as you do – the only difference between you and the erudite is he has also learned the art of listening.

Rule Three: Eye contact is good. Creepy eye contact is not: Something that geeks don’t get is that there is an appropriate level of eye contact, and it is neither nonexistent nor continual. If you never make eye contact with people, start working at it. If you are a starer, start gauging when other people start looking away from you and recognize that as having gone a little too long. You should not be seeking to re-engage out of fear that you’re losing your audience. Back off and be more casual, and you will stop making people uncomfortable.

Rule Four: You are not the expert on the topic – even if you are: Conversation is dialogue, not diatribe. Once you have mastered the art of listening, you can begin interjecting, but avoid “going off.” And avoid sniping – if you make everyone’s favorite guy look like a dope, people aren’t going to admire your superior intellect. They are just going to think you’re an ass.

Rule Five: There’s a great big wonderful world out there. Engage in it: Yeah, I know you think sports are retarded, or that politics are for losers, but these things are the things of daily conversation. Follow the top news, learn a little about the hot topics, so that you can engage in the conversations around you. You will be less bored, and people will interact with you.

Rule Six: Kill your weird personal habits: You may not know you have them, but your mother does. So does your cool sister/brother/cousin. It’s gonna be painful, but find someone in your life who will tell you honestly that you have an annoying nervous laugh, or a weird way of shaking your head, or a habit of clearing your throat, or “people think you’ve got fuckin’ Tourette’s, man.” Then enlist that person to rag the crap out of you every time you do it so you will hear it and realize how annoying it is. Keep it up until you overcome it. Beg them to point out every time you make an ass of yourself, because you know as well as I do that if you already knew when they were you would have already stopped.

Rule Seven: How to find people to talk to at parties: Ferrett and I were at a convention where we knew nobody, and he was hesitant about going down to the reception because we wouldn’t have anyone to talk to. I imparted to him my greatest piece of wisdom: look for someone else who looks lost and introduce yourself. They will be grateful to stop looking like a loser and you will be happily engaged in making a new friend. It works. (Corollary: it does not work if you are trying to score – there’s a vibe that gives off and it ain’t pretty.)

Rule Eight: Here’s the big secret: everyone gets nervous. You think that you are the only one who finds conversation circles suddenly shifting away from you like migrating caribou. It happens to everyone, even the cool kids. One of the biggest revelations of my 20s was talking with a high school friend and finding out that both of us thought that the other was the popular one. Everybody is insecure now and then, even the cockiest bastard at the party. The difference is that they have learned to mask their insecurity and yours still vibrates through the room like a foghorn. When you find yourself shut out or shut down – and you will; this isn’t an overnight success story – just take a deep breath and shift gears. No one’s gonna notice that it happened if you don’t make a fuss, and if you bide your time the herd will flow back toward you.

Okay, that’s a beginning. Anyone have any others to add?
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Comments:
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[User Picture]From: purplkat
2003-10-20 07:55 pm (UTC)
Ooh! Ooh!

I know that I tend to gauge people on how they talk about others. I assume that when my back is turned, they will talk about me in the same way, because that's usually the case. So if someone does nothing but talk shit about people who they are friendly with face to face, I'm likely to decide they're not worth my time.
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[User Picture]From: finding_helena
2003-10-20 10:09 pm (UTC)
Totally.

Of course, I have a history of ignoring my instincts and making friends with these people because they pay attention to me, and then having it backfire. *sigh*.
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[User Picture]From: alisonian
2004-06-20 01:46 am (UTC)

Re: Some additional rules (or maybe corollaries)

yes!
another invaluable word is "sorry".
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[User Picture]From: demetria23
2003-10-20 07:59 pm (UTC)
Excellent. Have you read How to win friends and influence people? A lot of the points you listed are entire chapters in there. I would recommend it to any "dork" or "loser."

Here's more:
1. Remember names. A person's name is the sweetest word in the world to them. Never, ever try to guess someone's, because if you get it wrong you'll immediately lose points.
2. Pay attention. If you can recall old stories people tell you, different interests they have, and where they're from, they'll realize you actually listen to them. However, don't be creepy/stalker-ish about this.
3. Smile. Very few people are confident, but the successful, social ones are good at faking it. A good smile won't just make you feel better, but make other people more likely to enjoy being around.
4. Check your smell. Chances are, even your best friends may not tell you if you have bad breath, ineffective deodorant, or don't shower enough. But strangers certainly won't appreciate it.
5. Mirror other people's movements. When people establish a good rapport, they unconsciously start to imitate each other's actions. A psychological trick is to move the same way subtley, making them feel more comfortable.
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[User Picture]From: elf_inside
2003-10-20 08:54 pm (UTC)
Hehe.... I recommended the same book without having even seen your post. Yes, it has some excellent points in that book. At first it may seem that to do what he recommends is to be a fraud, but it's not. It's advice on what other people like to see when dealing with someone. Doing those things is likely to get people to have a more positive impression from you.
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[User Picture]From: elf_inside
2003-10-20 08:58 pm (UTC)
Well if you play Magic, then you're all tapped out anyway when it comes to time for social activities... :) (okay bad bad, I know)... Seriously... I gave up gaming for a social life... and still have no social life :P...
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From: genericrick
2003-10-20 08:02 pm (UTC)
I have a definite no-no for those in college- If you're interested in someone, don't leave notes detailing how you stopped by if the person wasn't in on their white board. You'd be surprised at how much it will creep someone out after a while.

This was a very nice post, Gini! I've always had trouble gauging duration of eye contact, myself. :\
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-10-20 08:57 pm (UTC)
Here's a couple of clues:

Never, ever under ANY circumstances engage in "meaningful" eye contact with someone until you are very close. I've been creeped out by Catholic deacons and pagan dudes alike who think that they should read your soul.

Look at people when they are speaking, and then let your gaze shift while you are speaking, to their mouth, forehead, across the room. Don't avoid their eyes completely at that point, but don't bore into them with your eyes and words. You will appear attentive to their words and thoughtful in your response.

Hope that helps!
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[User Picture]From: kibbles
2003-10-20 08:03 pm (UTC)
I know it's cliched but if you can throw in proper handshake protocol or even something about touching, period. Some people pull away like YOU have cooties, or touch you too damn much, or inappropriately. There is also a dork habit of standing too damn close, no concept of personal space.

Know when to back off -- if you ask someone price of house, salary, sex life, and so on, and they laugh it off or change the subject drop it. Dont relent. (Happened last nite when someone kept asking how much the new place is. I said "oh, its in NY, so a more than you are used to for the size" this after I was badgered for sq. footage. Went on and on until I finally said how much. This person asks questions like that all the time and I was too nice and let myself get bulldozed.)

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[User Picture]From: lysana
2003-10-20 08:24 pm (UTC)

Re: I AM a geek. Lord help me.

Personally, I'd say the haircut clause varies by individual. Some folks' hair grows fast enough where monthly matters. Others, not so much.
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[User Picture]From: irishbanshee
2003-10-20 08:09 pm (UTC)
Rule Whatever-number-we're-up-to-now: Personal space. If someone is backing away from you in small increments, that probably means you're too fucking close. You do not have to be close enough to smell what the person had for lunch (unless it was onions or garlic :)) in order to carry on a conversation with them.
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[User Picture]From: i_descend
2003-10-20 09:00 pm (UTC)
Oooo. This is a -really- important one. Nothing creeps people out faster than invading personal space.
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[User Picture]From: lucifers_girl
2003-10-20 08:12 pm (UTC)
Get rid of the unibrow. My stupid geek boyfriend still won't and he'd look like a normal human being and be able to hide his geekness if he got rid of it. I usually forget about it but whenever I remember it's there and look at him I shudder with embarassment.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-10-20 09:00 pm (UTC)

Re: Oh christ

Hey, I am a geek, happily surrounded by geeks, and enjoy geeks. You don't have to give up the things you love. It's just a matter of figuring out what's appropriate for each situation.
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[User Picture]From: erebor
2003-10-20 08:25 pm (UTC)
Rule Whatever: Don't talk endlessly about a technical subject that your listener isn't into (eg, the intricacies of baseball, or the use of circumflexes in Khuzdul) and then when their polite attention momentarily wavers annouce loudly, "Oh, am I BORING you??" Hint: the answer is yes.

Know your audience. And don't embarrass them.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-10-20 08:52 pm (UTC)
Corollary (damn, I knew I'd forget some!): don't dominate a room by carrying on an obscure conversation about a topic that only you and one other person understands. It can wait until later, or you can retreat to a corner.
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[User Picture]From: elf_inside
2003-10-20 08:26 pm (UTC)
Read Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People". Nothing less than the classic will do. While it hasn't made me into a Don Juan, it has helped me at least be able to make and keep acquaintances who have a positive view of me.
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[User Picture]From: selki
2007-05-27 10:59 pm (UTC)
Learn to like people. Learn to find something about the person sitting with you that is likable, and focus on it.

Yes, yes, yes.
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[User Picture]From: salix_03
2003-10-20 08:36 pm (UTC)
*takes notes* though i might just pass for 'normal' online, im really not!! people are a bit warey of me... but with practice, i can not weird out someone for a short conversaion....
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From: ladytabitha
2003-10-20 08:40 pm (UTC)
This post, coupled with many many endorsements from theferrett, has caused me to friend you.

I blame society.
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[User Picture]From: theferrett
2003-10-20 09:01 pm (UTC)
You can blame me. She's my wife. Of course I'm pimpin' her.
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