Monday, April 17, 2006

An Update

I've not posted in a long while, and perhaps with good reason. As is probably apparent, I am (was?) involved with the pick-up community. Pick-up art, if you will. This post will detail some of my initial (mis)conceptions about the group, and my current thoughts on the whole thing.

Initial Misgivings

When I started reading about pick-up, I was quite taken aback by the terminology, the apparent lack of respect for women, and the abhorrent (apparent) behavior of which I saw endless boasting. Despite these immediate red flags, I approached it with an open mind. Having only been apart from my ex-fiancee for a few months, I felt that it may have been a good time to start trying something new, and to meet new people.

One thing I have never gotten over, however, is the acronyms and the linguistics used by this community. It is quite childish. When explaining some of this terminology to a girl friend, she responded with something to the effect of,
``It's probably like that to make it easier to talk about. As children, kids euphamize things all the time, making them seem more playful and more innocent, even though these things may normally be rather difficult to talk about. This community probably uses this terminology -- these euphamisms -- for the same reason: they find it difficult to discuss social interaction in an adult manner. It's likely the reason that so many of them are involved in `the game' anyway.''
I feel that this is a powerful and accurate description of many people who are involved in this study. There are a few reasons that I think that discussion of social dynamics in such a childish format is detrimental to the end goal of the study:

  1. The (in my mind) biggest reason is likely the most obvious. Whenever anything is referred to as a game, it is inherently taken much less seriously. Games have low value and exist only for personal pleasure. One could bring up the point that games also exist for communal pleasure, but I don't feel this is a valid point here, since the game involves people. I have never heard the phrase ``playing games with me'' be used in a positive fashion, and I don't think that anybody appreciates being looked at as a conquest, a goal, or a prize.
  2. It promotes disrespect for others. Indeed, some of the more popular creators of this community's terminology have invented so-called ``methods'' that promote disrespect; specifically, I refer to the concept of ``negs,'' Plenty of information on this concept exists on the Internet, so I will not reference it here; however, I will say that I neither appreciate nor condone the practice of obtaining positive feedback by giving negative.
  3. It doesn't particularly help people become socially aware. One of the great problems I see in the community (especially among young newcomers, such as myself) is that many people are not articulate. Ironically, this is one of the reasons that they end up attempting to follow the guidance of others in the community. Without a good instructor, though, many will fail to get any farther. Even worse, many will fall back in their social skills. This is not a prediction. I have seen it
There are myriad other reasons for my negative sentiment on the terminology used by this community, though I will not list them all here.

Entering the Community

When I initially came into the community, I did not know what to expect. It was suggested that I find and meet up with a group of people who would also be interested in practicing their social skills. In the pick-up community, a group of these people are called a ``lair.'' I wasn't too thrilled to be a part of something sounding so manipulative. I was, however, very excited to see whether or not this would be something that would help me make new friends and improve my social interaction.

Luckily, I live in an area where most people are at least relatively smart. The group of people I met was very open, helpful, and didn't seem to reflect any of the preconceived notions I had developed regarding members of the community. Most of my newfound friends were older than I -- most by at least 6 years. I had many questions, and much to learn.

I Progress

My initial outings were, as I considered then, failures. I found it extremely difficult to be the person that I had read about, the asshole who gets the ladies; the knight in shining armor; the proverbial ladies' man. In retrospect, this taught me precisely what I needed to learn: you're not supposed to be acting. My initial social interactions were largely situational. I'd approach a group of people (or a person) and ask a question or tell a story. It (as you may suspect) didn't work so well.

Being a social person by nature, I asked myself what my problem was. I came up with the conclusion that I wasn't acting like who I really am. Indeed, I was acting: I was not being myself. It was with this conclusion that I realized that there is no other way for one to appear attractive to others, be it physically or otherwise. After this, I asked myself a provocative question: If I am a social person by nature, why am I then unable to successfully meet people?

The answer was obvious, but not easy to come by. Many people in the community discuss the concept of ``approach anxiety.'' This is a state, experienced by most people (to varying degrees) in which, before talking to somebody, one feels physically unfit for the interaction. Some people experience this as stage fright; some people avoid answering telephones for this reason; still other people experience it in other ways, but it is a common feeling that most share and know all too well. While this had something to do with my answer, it was not the root of the answer.

The main reason I was unable to talk to people had to do with the fact that I was unhappy with myself. This sounds excessively cliche, but it is very true. I'm still not at great peace with current status, but I'm a lot more comfortable with who I am than I previously was. When this realization came to me, i was able to take my inherent ability to be social in pre-arranged social situations and apply it to random conversation with random people.

My Experience

When I came to this realization and applied it to my social life, I noticed several things. Because I knew that I wasn't doing anything inherently wrong, I was no longer uncomfortable with taking so-called risks and talking with people. It's amazing how receptive most people are to random conversation.
An even bigger breakthrough came when I realized that I was having more success with people when I had no motives, other than to share a good time.

I frequently reference the book ``The Art of Loving'' by Erich Fromm. I will do so again, here. This realization now seems obvious, looking back (hindsight 20/20). The basic premise is that the art of loving requires unconditional love. Upon further analysis, one can come to the conclusion that this means three things: one should not expect anything back from the act; one should not care that nothing comes back (indeed, it's unconditional, so the thought shouldn't even be there): implying the third point, there should be no self-serving motivation for one to give this gift.

My biggest success came when I feel that I exercised this perfectly. In fact, this biggest success is still a success: I now have a relationship with a really wonderful lady. I'll spare the details of that story (perhaps I will share them later, perhaps not). Among the most important factors of our initial meeting were that neither one of us had expectations, and we both gave unconditionally. This resulted in us both having a good time and liking each other very much.

This brings me to a final point, which is unfortunately going to leave me ending on a negative note. Perhaps the biggest problem I have with the pick-up community is that many of the people involved exhibit qualities of misogyny (perhaps this is the wrong word, as I wouldn't classify what I mean as a hatred, but certainly a disrespect for women). Whether it's due to past relationships (or the lack thereof), it is quite clearly existent in their behavior. I don't feel that it is correct to lead a woman on in multiple long term relationships; I don't feel that it is correct to sleep with many people at the same time, and I would go so far as to say that there should be limits on how many women you are dating at once. It doesn't take very long to figure out whether you are interested in a woman or not; indeed, it doesn't take very long to figure out whether she's interested in you, either. Certainly, respect is something that needs to be emphasized in the future of this community for it to be successful in the future.

I am now going to sleep. My girlfriend will be coming back from a trip to see her family in Europe in only a few days, and I honestly cannot wait.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Social Dynamics
Interacting with people in general is an interesting psychology that takes a great deal of skill (if one wishes to be successful in one's social situations). Some have a better developed skill than others, and it is a skill that can not even be obtained by some (those with Asperger's Syndrome, for instance). Theory behind social dynamics is what drives myriad classes of people: marketing specialists, salespeople, pick-up artists, technical support people, and others. Each class focusses on different aspects of these dynamics. However, there are aspects utilized by all ``trades'' of people studying these dynamics. This essay will attempt to discuss some of these dynamics.

Congruence

Congruence is a topic that will appear frequently in this blog. I feel that personal congruence is essential in any social situation; when one deviates from what makes one hisself or herself, it is particularly easy for one to come across as phony; worse yet: one acting out of congruence with one's self may come across as a liar. Thus, acting and speaking in a congruent manner is vital for every person in every social situation.

How does one determine what is congruent with one's own self? Answering this question in a generic enough manner to apply to every single person is not feasible and I will not attempt to address it in this manner. Learning how to be congruent involves a large amount of introspection. Obviously, if I do not know what I believe to be right and wrong; if I do not know how I feel and react to various social stimuli, I am unable to be congruent in any situation.

Before I address anything further, I would like to point out one minor issue with this last statement. Certainly, in different social situations, one may act in a method that is radically different than one would act in another: specific examples include the way one would act around one's co-workers versus how one would act with so-called drinking buddies; the actions one may exert around one's family at dinner compared to those shown at a large social gathering. It is thus excruciatingly apparent that congruence itself is dynamic.

There is a fine, but definite and crucial to understand line between social integrity and congruence. While one's actions may differ in varying situations (one may not be perceived as congruent when seen in a given social situation by a peer primarily familiar with one's actions in another), one can maintain integrity through each situations by being honest. The difference: congruence is the recognition of one's morals and acting in a way that reflects this knowledge, while social integrity is maintaining one's congruent appearance between situations disparate enough to warrant a third party's questioning of one's character.

The true social artist is able to maintain his or her social integrity by being steadfast in his or her actions in any of these states. This feat is obtained by the practice of honesty. One who is pathologically dishonest is not able to maintain integrity in any situation in his or her life. However, even this person may be a master of social dynamics (consider con-men) due to the fact that they always act in a method that is congruent with themselves: they always lie.

I will not discuss how to master the art of manipulation through lying. While I'm sure that I could do this, having acted as a pathological liar in the past, I have overcome this as I have determined this to be nothing other than destructive and consider no better than I consider theft or murder.

Juggler, a ``famous'' pick-up artist, maintains that honesty is essential in social interaction when charming women. I believe this to be a truth as well. It doesn't matter what one considers moral or immoral: if one is honest about this, one can find success in any social interaction.

The last point I will make here brings in the skill of appearing congruent in multiple social situations in which one may be considered as acting incongruent. Take the following situation into consideration:

A person works at a company and this person's function is primarily solidary. One keeps to onesself. This person later sees a co-worker at a local lounge or club. The co-worker may consider this to be out of the person's normal social state. However, upon confronting the person, the co-worker finds out that the co-worker is extremely outgoing and social, and values sobriety. To maintain integrity, the person must not be drinking and must actually never do so. The key here is not that the person is not caught drinking, but that it actually never occurs. The obvious reason behind this is that, upon being caught later, one loses a great deal of credability (for consistency: social integrity). The less obvious reason is that one claims total sobriety and one does not act in a manner congruent with this, one unintentionally creates a strange vibe between him- or herself. While this may or may not be immediately apparent, it creates issues in future social situations as well.


Speaking Clearly

The importance of speaking clearly cannot be understated. Being understandable is key in any social situation. Many people have preconceived notions on the intelligence or integrity of those with accents. One will consciously or subconsciously label those they cannot understand as unintelligible or as a liar. One exception to this depends purely on environment: in a different country, one with an accent or speaking in a different language will frequently pique interest in others due to the exotic nature of their speech.


Listening, Interpretation, and Recognizing Social Cues

The importance of listening, as with clear speech, cannot be understated. Surprisingly few people are actually good at this social technique. Along with listening comes interpretation. Simply hearing the words of another is not enough: one must be able to adequately interpret and understand the underlying meaning of the message.

Certainly, this is most clearly made apparent with an example. A technical support worker must be able to interpret what a user really means when he or she says, ``I can't print.'' The user may mean that he or she can print, but may be leaving important information out of the statement: printing in color may be the only issue, and the correct diagnosis may simply be that the user is out of color ink.

Thus, listening must be combined with active interpretation as well. Nothing displays an active listener better than one who is able to quickly get to the actual topic of discussion, or the actual issue as is pinpointed in the above case.

However, a third factor must be considered as well: interpreting social cues. Expressions on one's face, change in vocal tonalities, emphasis on specific keywords, and gestures are all cues that a master of social dynamics is able to identify and process with lightning speed. A good example of this is what poker players call ``tells:'' actions that players take when they have a good hand or, perhaps more importantly when they're bluffing.

Indeed, poker serves as a good game to explain social dynamics, and I may use it more frequently: there is no better game in which congruence and recognition of social cues is so important.

These are, in my opinion, the most important facets of social dynamics in any given situation. I will discuss more later on how to improve on each of these. Comments on writing style, constructive criticism, and questions are entirely welcome.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I'm going to go ahead and use this blog as a staging environment for material on pick-up and relationships. It's a constant work-in-progress; ideas here may be constantly revised. The best way to read this is likely to be bottom-up; start from this post and continue reading to more recent posts.

Yesterday evening, I worked on an introduction for some of this material. I'll post that here as an introduction to the ideas behind what one may come to find in this blog.

I don't claim to have everything figured out. I will never do this; it is counterproductive to both myself and to others who are reading this material: False impressions in any relationship, be it face-to-face, via online communication, or otherwise tend to ruin many things. Above all of these thingsis trust, which will play a very important topic in this essay material. By keeping this simple fact in my mind, I can assure myself (and, consequently, you can be assured) that anything in here is based on experience and that I'm not attempting to raise myself to any level above which I am. That said, I would also recommend that people take all this (and any other) material with a grain of salt. I'm not proposing that anything written here is 100% true, nor that it will work for everybody. Look out for those who claim to have it all figured out -- nobody does.

I began this work with the idea in mind that it would be useful to myself as well as to you, the reader. By expressing ideas in written form, I have the opportunity to refine and perhaps more clearly state abstract ideas (such as relationships) that would be more difficult to emphasize in a spot-on conversation. Many, including myself, have had relationships that have gone poorly. Few learn from these experiences, but those who do are changed for the better and are able to apply their newfound experience to the future.

Many people pose the question, ``How do I meet and attract a girl?'' While there is plenty of material on this subject, I will attempt to address this in some detail in this blog. Surprisingly many people, however, extend this question to, ``How do I meet, attract, and maintain a stable relationship with a girl?'' It is this question that this material will attempt to answer.

My reference for this material comes from myriad places. I have read wealths of material on the subject of maintaining relationships, and the psychology of social dynamics (from meeting people to maintaining relationships) is an area of exquisite interest for me. My experience with relationships may be somewhat lacking compared to others of greater age. That said, I do have several wonderful relationships behind me, from which I have learned much about myself, and about relationships. Reference for material regarding to meeting and attracting women in the first place comes from countless material I've read and many, many hours of actual so-called ``field work,'' which is an ongoing hobby of mine.

All this said, this material is not meant to cater to all people. Essentially every individual is in a different place in their life. Various points mentioned here will feel applicable to some and not to others.


I hope that this will be interesting and useful to people.