Do you ever wish you could rewire parts of your personality that are holding you back socially?
We all have something we wish we were better at. Right now let’s use the topic of conversational skills.
As a specific example from my experience, I used to think I wasn’t funny enough to try and use laughter and jokes as a way to attract women. I thought only my close friends got my sense of humor.
But I ended up taking an interest in a few kinds of comedy (actually…maybe I got a little obsessed) — like standup, improv, and comedians’ podcasts — and I slowly learned different ways to be funny around other people. Fun times, fun times.
The mysterious skeleton key to improving your skills
It might sound obvious, but there’s a big difference between believing you’re locked into having your current social skills, and believing you can change them. I’m not talking about your core values or your identity or anything.
It’s like you’re a block of wood that just came off the woodworker’s saw table. It’s a solid block, but it has rough edges and the surfaces of the faces are jagged.
The woodworker whittles, files, and sands away at the block until all the sides are contoured and smooth. It’s the same block as before, but it’s much more elegant now.
You probably saw this coming: you are that block. I actually think it’s helpful to literally picture yourself that way, because it’s a little less emotional when you decide there’s something you need to change.
Lots of insightful people talk about this idea, like Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (analyzed here by Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings).
According to Dweck’s work, it’s best to have a growth mindset, and avoid having a fixed mindset. In general, a growth mindset means viewing everything you do and every important decision you make as an experimental test. This can be applied in many areas of life.
So when you fail or make a mistake, you can tell yourself “Okay, that didn’t work. What can I try differently next time?” INSTEAD OF the fixed-mindset “I must be terrible at this” or “I guess I’m no social butterfly.”
It’s fine to be embarrassed sometimes. The key is not interpreting a misstep as a part of you, but simply as a learning opportunity. A piece of information to be remembered for later.
You might be thinking that you get this, and of course you apply it to your life. Maybe you take courses and do research to get better at your job. You went to college. You’ve been working out at the gym and gradually increasing the weight you can lift.
Sure, these are all good examples of taking action with growth in mind. But seriously, dig deeper. Ask yourself: “What qualities do I wish I could improve, but I keep telling myself are just part of me?”
- “I’m an awkward guy.” Maybe this means you stay quiet most of the time when you’re hanging out with other people.
- “Women always make me nervous, so I have to fight through that.” You might think you need a “wingman” or a matchmaker to help make you look good to women.
- “I’m not very good at conversations.” I’ve felt this one pretty hard myself – I used to be convinced that I needed to date someone who was bubbly and outgoing, so there would be less uncomfortable silences and we’d have things to talk about.
The real world is your playground
The point is, you don’t have to resign yourself to having traits you think are hurting your happiness, self-worth, or success in any area – especially dating.
Pay attention to the times when a certain negative quality affects you. Nervousness while making conversation, for example.
Try to remember each time you notice it, and envision what it would be like if you were better at it. This way, you can focus on trying ways to improve going forward.
Just think of one small aspect at a time to concentrate on.
Rather than calling it a task, I find it’s best to think of it as a fun science experiment you’re doing, like: can I talk to 3 people tonight for 20 seconds without looking at the floor? Be the Tony Stark of social interactions, and invent! B-)
The next level would be actively creating situations where you will have opportunities to “practice,” like inviting people over to hang out more, or joining a group activity or something.
If you get frustrated, just keep reminding yourself that you’re working on it. It feels good to know you have something you’re working on. If you’re consistent, you WILL get better over time.
If you have any questions about putting this mindset into practice, give me a shout! I read every email.
Or, leave a comment below and say hello. 🙂