So I’ve talked about what I’m looking for, what a successful interaction looks and feels like, and assessed myself via psychology, feedback from loved ones and personal introspection.
That’s sorted out, “Where am I going?” and, “What I’m carrying along the way.” The tricky part is, “How am I going to get there?”
So, as I mentioned in the original SCW post, the first thing I did when I started this project was draw a pretty mindmap (again, not sharing it with you – it works into a neat little set of lists) about where I found difficulties on socialising in general, and dating in particular. My focus is on dating, but several of the points cover the broader aspect as well.
Criteria For Success
The first list I produced from my mindmap was about my criteria for success. Not surprisingly, therefore, I did a couple of posts talking about what those actually are. The questions I had were about interaction success rather than longer-term dating success, and had to do with handling my negative reactions or achieving the positive tools to help.
I already knew I would be talking about visualising success, and my first question is how I can best achieve that: how do I visualise the conversation in which neither person feels pressured, the other person feels they have got something out of talking to me, and I feel like I know where I stand? More specifically, how do I visualise starting that conversation successfully?
On the flip side of that, I want to ask how I can handle the fear of failure (or a bad outcome) that inevitably comes from having criteria for success that may be dependent on outside variables (such as what sort of day the other person is having)?
After working out the general criteria for success, the other question is about how those get applied in a specific situation and how to be clear with myself what I hope for/expect to happen out of it. I want to know how to determine what a realistic minimum to aim for might be. Relevant here is to avoid the Richie campaign plan for success – “set absurdly low expectations and then exceed them”, as CJ Cregg put it in The West Wing – since that approach for me lowers self-esteem because I know how absurdly low the expectations are (and what happens if it turns out I can’t manage the absurdly low expectations?) So “talk to that woman, and call it a success if neither of you throws up over the other” is not helpful, although I can sort of see why that sort of approach might help some types of people with social anxiety.
The questions I have are therefore:
- How can I visualise success in interactions?
- How can I deal with, or make best use of, the fear of failure that arises from having criteria for success or failure?
- How can I set realistic outcomes for various situations?
Since my criteria for success hinge heavily on the other person’s outcome, I have questions addressing issues surrounding that.
In line with the philosophy of “become the person that is attractive to the type of person you want to attract”, I would like help in figuring out what that is. In a conversation or starting a conversation, I want to know what the other person is looking for from it. In thinking about what tools I have, I started to address the question of, “What can I do in, or give to, the conversation, that makes it feel to them like it went well?”
Before I even start an interaction, my biggest concern is whether a person is open to being approached. A recent post by Daygame.com suggests that such concerns are merely “excuses” for not initiating, but for me it comes from my deeply-rooted compassion and politeness: if someone wants not to be approached then approaching them is going to be a major breach of their boundaries. (This comes from my introversion and “hamster ball theory”, but I don’t have a way to see it in an extraverted way. I have to assume everyone has a hamster ball until there is evidence to the contrary.) That means having some tools with which to improve my chances that a person is open to being approached (or of not approaching those who aren’t) would be extremely helpful in improving my confidence.
A good way of figuring out a person’s desires from an interaction is to read their body language. I am not good at this. I have several incidents through my life where people were openly flirting with me and I had no clue (some of those situations were at times when I was clueless that anyone could find me attractive, though – thankfully, those days are gone). The difficulty remains that I do not do well at spotting flirting behaviour or when a person (usually a woman, in the socialised gender roles of male approacher/female attractor) is sending out signals inviting me to approach (in the language of the previous post, they put on a temporary/selective t-shirt and I can’t read the message). Learning what to look for, or better, having some experience of observing it for what it is, would help on all these points.
So the questions boil down to:
- What are they looking for, and what can I do to make it happen?
- How can I improve my chances of seeing whether a person is open or closed to being approached?
- How can I improve my reading of body language, flirting signals, “approach me” signals, etc?
Figuring out how to identify their outcome leads naturally into the matter of good dating/interacting/approaching technique. At the top of the list, of course, is “making sense of body language”, which rounded off the last list.
Of course, reading body language is one thing. Speaking it is another. So the question in my mind is how I can become better at speaking mutually-intelligible dialects of body language. In particular, I want to be able to convey that I am approachable (and want to be approached – the reciprocal of my question on reading body language), and that I am friendly. I want to let the other person feel safe (For example, Charlie Nox points out that some people inadvertently close off escape routes, which makes the other person more nervous, so making sure the other person can exit easily is useful – are there other things like that that I can learn?)
The “hamster ball theory” in Dr Carmella’s Guide to Understanding the Introverted (linked above) reveals another question, that may or may not have answers available: are there ways to handle the fatigue or exhaustion that comes from most social interaction? Obviously, “leaving and being alone” is one way, but that rather tends to bring an end to the conversation, and it would be nice to have better stamina. Chris MacLeod @ Succeed Socially seems to think it’s possible, although I am sceptical of his methods for decreasing the tendency or dealing “in the moment”.
The other area of technique that bothers me is that of conversation topics. How do I choose a good one, what works for them (see also, “Their Outcome”), and when I’m approaching, how do I choose an opening line and, more importantly for me, how do I choose something to say to follow their response to it? Again, MacLeod @ Succeed Socially has some advice on making conversation but a lot of it doesn’t feel like it’s addressing the question from the right angle for me, or things I already do. (There is some that I can learn from, though.)
The TL;DR version is:
- How to read body language in a conversation?
- How do I improve my body language?
- Am I inviting approaches?
- Am I inadvertently sending ‘danger’ signals?
- Can I improve my social stamina?
- How do I choose topics of conversation?
- What works for them?
- How do I start a conversation/follow up an initial approach?
Now, something immediately follows from my remarks about not finding Succeed Socially that useful for my conversation issues. To wit: if the advice isn’t right for me, then I must be asking the wrong question, or asking in the wrong way. That means I should dig a bit deeper and figure out what the right question is, and what the problem behind the problem might be. This sounds like a new post topic (and a new mind map! Yay!)