Social Dynamics Secrets of Elite Socialites
From my book How to Be Cross Eyed: Thriving Despite Your Physical Imperfection — a mémoire and lifehacking manifesto
In Bulgaria, I had this Irish roommate who was a pretty nice, yet idiosyncratic guy. He had a bad habit of mumbling. Irish accents are pretty thick to begin with and he would throw in lots of quirky expressions here and there so he was kind of hard to understand.
I had met some very charming Bulgarian women (at an Internations party!) and invited them to join us a few days later for dinner; after a few bottles of wine his accent got even thicker and his enunciation poorer.
It came up in the conversation that he owned about $400,000 in stocks of a Bulgarian construction firm. He kept repeating this to the Bulgarian woman sitting next to him and she did not really understand him, even though she spoke English well. What he had hoped would impress her just turned into an awkward cultural moment.
No wonder he’s single! I thought to myself but it ended up being a very instructive episode for my graceless roommate.
I had left my smart phone on the table in front of us and had been sneakily recording our dinner conversation. The next day when he sobered up I made a sly proposal to him…
Hey Niall, I think I’m going to do you a favor. I think you might be able to do better with these girls if I secretly recorded your conversations and then you could actually listen to yourself. I think you’ll notice some points of potential improvement in your verbal game.
He thought this was a pretty good idea so I admitted to him…
Well, actually I did that last night! I’ll send you the MP3 to listen to and then I’ll delete my copy. Sound good?
He listened to it and was, of course, horrified to hear his boozy Irish accent. I’m not sure if he actually followed through and used this as the impetus to improve his communication game but it‘s a very easy social dynamics lifehack that you should totally try out!
Most of us have unattractive (or just plain sloppy) body language or verbal ticks that we aren’t aware of. These little bad communication habits that we aren’t really aware of really hold us back from thriving socially.
Unless you have the time, money or inclination to take acting classes or a social dynamics bootcamp it’s pretty difficult to identify weaknesses that could be doing damage to your communication game, be it in personal or business situations.
Hint: It’s probably in your pocket right now. There’s several very good (and free) apps that you can download on your iPhone or Android for recording and listening back to your in-person conversations.
Miidio Recorder for Android
Audio Memos for iPhone
Evernote for All Smartphones
Next time you are having a not boring conversation in person with someone, nonchalantly pull out your smartphone (as people do quite frequently nowadays). Launch the app and record the conversation, if you have the Evernote widget installed it literally takes about 3 seconds to open a voice note recording the conversation. Place your phone on the table in between you and your friend. At first you may feel a little weird since the other person won’t know the conversation is being recorded. I’m not a lawyer but I’m pretty sure that provided you aren’t using the recording for commercial purposes, this is completely legal.
Is just to find out how you sound to other people in conversations. At the end of the day go back and listen to the recordings. You may be shocked at what you hear!
Here’s a few communication imperfections of my own that I’ve managed to mostly eliminate…
- I say ‘So…’ way too much!
- Sometimes my voice goes up at the end of statement as opposed to down. This occasionally makes me sound uncertain of what I’m saying.
- I use a lot of creative expressions to introduce things I’m going to talk about but frequently I will mumble or not say the expression completely before jumping into the explanation or main topic. People appreciate my creative expressions and witticisms more if I don’t rush through them.
You might wonder how you can similarly audit your body language. You could hire a videographer to follow you around at parties, which would certainly be interesting BUT quite cost prohibitive! Luckily you can be your own videographer, thanks to the rise of videosharing apps like Instagram and Snapchat it’s not totally weird to pull out your smartphone in the middle of a conversation and make a quick selfie video of you and whoever you’re socializing with. Just tell them something a little silly and playful like I’m going to send an Instagram story to the bar or let’s pretend like we’re famous for a moment! And you’ll have some (albeit short) videos of yourself socializing.
Plan Your Social Life Daily
A few years ago I was living in Berlin, Germany. I rented a room in a flat in a lively east Berlin neighborhood. The bar noise of Saturday night revelry was wafting into my room as I realized something quite disappointing; I’d lived in Berlin for about 2 months and I didn’t really have anyone to hang out with this Saturday night. Not wanting to get into a moody funk I ventured into the strasse, visited a few bars and found the Berliners to be not exactly excited to meet me. As I returned home I realized that this was really my fault. I had met a lot of people in Berlin, it is a great city for networking but I’d failed to stay in touch and plan my social life.
To maintain a thriving social life it’s crucial to spend just a little bit of time daily planning it. You might not want to do social things every day but if you spend 5–10 minutes daily messaging or calling friends you won’t find yourself undesired on a Saturday night. If you wait until you’re feeling lonely to reach out to your social circle, well that’s why you’re lonely!
- Often to stay in touch with people I’ll just browse the Facebook events near me, I’ll pick something interesting going on in 4 or 5 days. I’ll just text a few friends and invite them to that. Usually at least one will accept.
- On social media you can often see friends who have birthdays coming up. Send them a private happy birthday message and ask if they’re doing anything to celebrate.
- Maybe you’re thinking my friends are lame! They never want to do anything… Well, you need to get new friends, try infiltrating a “secret society”, get a new hobby, or go try some new things.
In the Coach.me app I’ve added the daily habit Plan Social Life to remind me to stay in touch with people.
One of the keys to high leverage socializing is to not just attend but to host events. I was in the event organizing business for a couple of years and it was a great way to build a large social circle but it’s major brain damage, time consuming and not particularly profitable. A much better deal is to get marginally involved hosting other people’s events, meetups and parties.
- Savvy event organizers are always looking to get more people involved in their parties. Often they’ll appreciate you reaching out and asking if you can be a host of one of their parties. Ask if they’ll add your name to the event flyer or event pages on social media.
- People (especially the people you find attractive) are going to be much more interested in meeting you when it’s your party.
- If people ask what your involvement is insist that you are nobody important — which is charmingly self deprecating.
- A Facebook hack for at least appearing more social is to search for Facebook events near you and just mark yourself as going to all upcoming events. You don’t actually have to go but all the other people going will start seeing your name and little Facebook profile thumbnail on all the events going on. This puts you more on the algorithmic radar of your local social scene. If you do this you’ll start to receive more friend requests, sometimes from very cool and popular local celebrities. It’s real popularity lifehack. I know a guy who’s actually kind of a shutin, he doesn't go out that much but funnily he marks himself as going to practically every cool party in town. This makes him seem like a cool socialite.
Dating, sales and social dynamics gurus are always talking about how important eye contact is; that there is this hypnotic power in being able to gaze really deeply into people’s eyes. I always hated hearing this because I know that eye contact with me is likely weird and a bit awkward. You probably feel the same way whatever your physical imperfection is.
If you’re cross eyed like me you can make it less awkward by not squaring up directly in front of whoever you’re talking to. Approach someone, shake hands, introduce yourself and then step to their side a little. This is an especially good move if you’re a man talking to a woman. It’s more natural for men to square directly up with each other.
Eye contact is powerful but you don’t want to overdo it. If you stare everyone directly in the eyes you come across as a little overaggressive. Especially, if you’re cross eyed this maybe a little disconcerting for them.
What I prefer to use is what I call intermittent intense eye contact. Pick up artists advise that the way to make your eye contact more intense is that you look in someone’s eyes and imagine yourself saying to them: I’m going to fucking kill you! Don’t actually say this of course but just imagine how focused and intense your eyes would get if you were. This makes your eye contact very mesmerizing and striking. I’ll make intense eye contact for a few moments with someone and then I’ll break eye contact.
Style > Imperfection
While your physical imperfection may be the first thing they notice about you if you have a good vibe and energy along with being stylish and well dressed people will quickly disregard your physical oddity.
When I was very socially active as a club promoter in Denver there was a cool guy that I befriended who was wheelchair bound. He was always sharply dressed and social. He wasn't shy about approaching people and introducing himself. He was so popular that groups of guys would get together to carry him in his wheelchair upstairs to wherever the party was. He actually had a pretty cute girlfriend too. He was Romanian and spoke English excellently with just a little bit of an accent that added to his personality. He was kind of regal in his own way; I remember one time we were at a swanky lounge, the cocktail waitress came over to take our order and he demanded some kind of fancy bottled water and was a little disgusted that she offered a very pedestrian brand of cheap bottled water instead. I chuckled to myself and thought I see why he has a cute girlfriend!
A consistent way of alleviating awkwardness is to just call it out and make a joke about it. In my days as a pickup artist, whenever I approached a girl poorly resulting in an awkward vibe I would make a little joke and sillily accuse the woman of being awkward.
Once in Panama City, Panama I got to chatting with this guy in a cafe that had both legs amputated, he noticed me looking at where his legs should have been and just mentioned nonchalantly that everybody looks and told me the story of how he lost them in a railroad accident in Egypt.
This is very different than ohming (Google that!) This is a voice hack for a deeper, sexier voice. If you’re a woman it will make you sound less girlish and more confident. Lots of people have kind of weak, unsure voices — deep ooohming can strengthen their voices quite a bit.
You take a big breath, open your mouth wide (but not extremely wide) and as you exhale make low oooooohhhhhhhhmmmmmm growl from deep within your chest. Exhale low and slow for 10–20 seconds. Do this repeatedly. I do this for 10–15 minutes during my meditation sessions. Over time this does change your voice.
- I used to have a kind of high, screechy voice https://youtu.be/4T_g_LKPrhU
- After habituating this Ooohming my voice has improved quite a bit, as you can hear here https://youtu.be/40f7JdiDmGc
Now people compliment me on my radio voice often, in the first conversation I ever had with my fiancee she actually told me that I sounded a little like Darth Vader!
Can be a real game changer for your communication skills!
- You don’t need to script your vlogs. Pick a subject that interests you or something that you know about and just speak extemporaneously about it for 5–10 minutes.
- You could also record a video letter to a friend or family member saying whatever you might have to say to them.
- You don’t need to get any fancy recording equipment. Just use your webcam or smartphone.
- Importantly, watch and listen to your vlogs. Which at first may be a bit painful, a lot of us are naturally cringeworthy in front of a camera. Record, watch yourself and re-record a couple of times. It doesn't have to be perfect but you should see yourself improving.
- You may notice yourself using a lot of filler words; Uhms and ahs — instead make an effort to just pause and think about what you’re going to say next. Pausing while you’re speaking makes you sound intelligent and thoughtful instead of nervous and indecisive.
You maybe thinking…
I don’t really want to become a vlogger! There’s already a million Youtubers out there. I don’t really want to broadcast my opinions out to the entire world.
Well, you don’t have to. You can upload but leave your vlogs unpublished — maybe you’ll want to share them with someone eventually. Or you can record them and just save on your hard drive.
Asking people what they do
In all sorts of social settings you’ll want to ask people what they do for work. You’ll come across as a more interesting conversationalist if you ask the question this way…
So how do you spend your time when you aren’t ___________?
The blank should be something relevant to the context, environment or something that you know about them. Examples:
So how do you spend your time when you aren’t writing fascinating blog posts?
So how do you spend your time when you aren’t on Facebook?
So how do you spend your time when you aren’t hanging out with beautiful women?
So how do you spend your time when you aren’t at the gym?
Socialite Technique: The Group Merger
Here’s an awesome little move to use at parties, meetings and social events that makes you look like a real social rockstar.
If you are at a party or social event there will be multiple groups of people standing around chatting. Over the course of the event you will migrate between different groups. As you see one of your previous groups in close proximity to your current group invite them to join together. Make a joke about this if appropriate:
I have some more friends over here to introduce you all to, can I arrange a merger and acquisition?
This sets you up as the dominant leader of both groups.
A very clever cocktail toast
Use this toast next time you are drinking socially and your friends will love you, strangers will envy you, bartenders will give you your next round on the house, business associates will praise you & women will swoon.
Here’s to living famously, drinking dangerously, lying audaciously and to the friends who forgive us for doing so.
The most clever cocktail toast ever (invented by me!) should only be used in the following situations…
- At a party that people will be talking about for a long time
- After the bride & groom have left at a wedding reception
- In the presence of old, dear friends
- In celebration of victories in life & business
- To make a beautiful woman smile
- While turning back a drink from a bottle of something nice enough that you will be displaying it for quite some time after it is empty
- While drinking Patron-Redbull
Perhaps you’re thinking…
Ok these lifehacks are all great but I have social anxiety. I might be confident, social and talkative when I’m around my close friends and family BUT when I get around strangers or people I find really attractive I really clam up and run out of things to say.
Social anxiety is real. Almost everyone struggles at least a little with it. Some find it absolutely detrimental to their social lives and happiness. The next chapter will thorough discuss an often undiscussed way of addressing it.
- Record your conversations and interactions using your smartphone and self audit. It will quickly reveal some of your unattractive bad verbal and subcommunication habits that you can eliminate.
- Spend a few minutes daily staying in touch with people. Invite people to things. Wish people happy birthday.
- Get marginally involved with other people’s events as a host and you’ll see your social capital grow rapidly.
- Vlogging (even privately) can really improve your communication skills.
- People will quickly see past your physical imperfection if you have good style and energy.