Understanding What You’re Communicating

In my last post I discussed a woman who asked me to introduce her friend to some “normal men” on account of the fact she had (by her friend’s own admission) strip-mined conventional dating sources of available men.

(It was floated in the comments that the woman may have been attempting to hit on me directly by flattering me as a source of dating advice; while that’s certainly a possibility, I am skeptical, because she was sitting next to her boyfriend and the hostess of the party was a woman I was dating.)

It’s not that I fault her for it, it seems to be a normal part of the young female mind-script to expect a “she had so much trouble dating the wronggggg men and then she just magically met this GREAT guy who made it allllll better!”kind of story to emerge in her social circle. What she and other women are going to be waking up to is that today’s (beta) men are growing less tolerant of cleaning up after a girl’s youthful indiscretions.

YOU’RE NOT SAYING WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE SAYING

One point I drew attention to was that while she thought she was expressing “I have a single woman your friends might want a crack at,” what she was actually communicating was “my friend is a hot mess and I’m useless as a yenta, will you please help me save her bacon?” She’d effectively disqualified herself and her friend.

In my first job, my boss taught me a ridiculously useful way of evaluating my and others’ workplace actions: “you always need to look at what you’re communicating.” In truth, he was teaching me the concept of frame management, filtered through the corporate survival game. Frame is a critical social dynamics concept, the art of managing how you are presenting yourself and a situation when interacting with others, with a particular bent towards social positioning.

At the time I was boning up on game for the first time, and the relationship between the two was lock and key.

Humans, men especially, tend to overrate the importance of logical integrity and congruence when arguing and persuading others. The truth is that winning friends and influencing people requires so often that we induce or negotiate feelings within people, ahead of presenting them with logically sound arguments. Vox Day has termed this dichotomy “rhetoric” (the former) and “logic” (the latter). (It’s a bit like the Oprah-esque aphorism “people won’t remember what you do, they’ll remember how you make them feel – an important game lesson, incidentally.)

The impetus for my boss’ communication discussion was one coworker or another who had pissed off a client – not by delivering a bad product, but by constructing her response to a client request in a frame that said “I know what you need better than you do.” The client was a high-expectation yet easygoing character, who had plenty of patience for an honest mistake or an earnest counterarugment – but who was deeply put off by a brusque, arrogant response that said in so many words “I know better so why don’t you just shut up and listen to me.”

My boss’ point was that there’s much more to serving a client, customer, friend or partner than what you say and do – there’s a whole subtext of how you’ve framed the discussion, how you present the power balance and how you balance persuasion versus demand in the exchange.

Imagine a hypothetical example where you ask a pal for ten bucks to buy lunch. If you say “dude, I was hoping you could spot me a few bones? It’d be a big help, I’d really appreciate it,” you’re communicating a pre-emptive gratitude and deference to his voluntary charity. But if you say “hey man, how about ten bucks? I know you won’t even feel it,” you’re communicating a sense of entitlement, and an attitude that he’s got so much goddamn money you don’t even care if he sheds a few dollars and he shouldn’t either.

In both cases, you’re asking for exactly the same thing, but you’re creating a very different image of yourself in your friend’s mind.

Another example my boss liked to cite was conspicuous largesse or luxury in tough economic times – executive bonuses and resort conferences were brought up repeatedly. Regardless of the dollar amounts involved, any kind of “perking” when others are asked to go without communicates an air of elitism that is corrosive to a work team’s unity. Shrewd managers know how to put on an air of modesty that keeps the troops believing in cross-team empathy.

FRAME IN THE GAME

Some of the classic tactics of PUA game are based around communcation consciousness:

  • Don’t answer text messages quickly – communicates that you have other higher priorities than chasing girls
  • Don’t call on the phone often – communicates that your schedule is busy and your time well-spent
  • Avoid dinner dates – communicates that you aren’t a bank provider and bankroller of her social life
  • Be cool in the face of sexual rejection – communicates that sex is common for you and not a big deal

THE MIRROR STARES BACK HARD

When it comes to understanding what you’re communicating, a number of cognitive biases conspire to obscure the truth.

Solipsism (a self-referential perspective that paradoxically crowds out self-awareness) often blinds women to this process. There’s been a lot said about solipsism lately so I won’t rehash it, but it does tend to produce an acute lack of understanding about how your actions and words are being interpreted by others.

Conversely, men are often blind to what they are communicating due to male-typical tactic of not mincing words or dressing up talk with flowering indirect statement. What seems like a straightforward logical declaration can come across as a abrasive, disempathic personal attack. It’s not so much that men are unaware as they’ve decided (or been told) that the logical correctness of their words is all that should matter.

“Should” ain’t got nothing to do with it – we need to account for what  we’re communicating, in all interactions, if we want to be persuasive and seductive.

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “Understanding What You’re Communicating

  1. DC Phil

    Vox’s definition of rhetoric is the classical definition, not the hackneyed and overwrought “rhetoric” that’s defined by the talking heads (a certain kind of “rhetoric” which they themselves are peddling.)

    A helpful article: http://www.crmbuyer.com/story/39361.html

  2. Opus

    I don’t think you mentioned how old the woman looking for a normal man is? Perhaps you could give us a clue?

    It seems to me that young women have no trouble finding a boy-friend, which is partly why older women are only left with ‘weirdos and freaks’, the other reason is that women are prgrammed to reject for the slightest reason, thus when they do find a man that suits them they overpraise him, when in fact like all the others he is merely normal..

  3. Dalrock had an outstanding post today on women “strip mining” for men, riffed off of your original. Both of you are very insightful about the subject.

    I’ve had the same sort of problem, sort of. Mrs. Ironwood’s friends are for the most part unmarried, having totally missed the bus in their 30s and are now wondering where all the “good men” are.

    So at my wife’s BFF’s birthday party, I had the uncomfortable pleasure of explaining to an absolutely gorgeous 40 year old friend of my wife’s why despite her great looks and solid career, she wasn’t likely to find a man, according to the numbers. Since she just broke up with her boyfriend (3 years) over reproduction (he wanted kids, she has a grown one), she was devastated and has been borderline suicidal for days. (It’s an attention thing, I know — no real danger).

    But this begs the question, what is a woman in her 40s to do, if she still wants a dude? Besides lower her standards to “he has a pulse and at least three functioning limbs!”? I agree that women are too picky in general, but what’s the best advice you can give a woman in that situation? I’d appreciate your insight.

  4. I like the idea that you need to focus on what you’re communicating! With women its always important to communicate strength and leadership, along with whatever else you’re attempting to convey.

    What struck me was this little gem:

    because she was sitting next to her boyfriend

    Indirectly hitting on you or not, she still made a pretty brash statement considering her company.

    My girlfriend is always graceful in public situations. Firstly she was brought up to be a lady, which I’m sure is sorely missing in most of society, but she tends to follow my lead in public.While I can’t vouch for how she acts when I’m not there, I know that when she’s in my company she chooses her words delicately, she smiles, and she’s graceful.

    Again, she was brought up right, but she also knows that I have expectations. She knows I’ll be disappointed if she doesn’t meet them. Most women wouldn’t care because they don’t have a leading man in their lives – but I am a leading man. My goal isn’t to have a wife – my goal is personal wealth and I work for it. Her role is support, she supports my goal. Because she has a proper place in the relationship and knows it, my satisfaction or dissatisfaction becomes paramount. Anyway, just some thoughts.

  5. deti

    Ian:

    “what is a woman in her 40s to do, if she still wants a dude? Besides lower her standards to “he has a pulse and at least three functioning limbs!”? I agree that women are too picky in general, but what’s the best advice you can give a woman in that situation? I’d appreciate your insight.”

    You’ve zeroed in on the second most important thing a 40+ woman needs to do to find a man. Sounds like she has Job One covered:

    1. Improve your physical appearance.

    After that she needs to

    2. Lower your standards. She is not going to get the alpha men for anything other than STRs at best. If she wants a LTR or be considered for a second marriage, she needs to set her sights down.

    Then the third thing is to

    3. Find attractive things about the men you meet. Stop looking for reasons to reject them; and start looking for attractive attributes.

    Problem is, for 40+ women, most of them are not very physically attractive. Most of them need to lose weight, get better (longer) hairstyles, and dress better.

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  7. Steve Canyon

    Don’t forget “Abandon hope that the 40 year old man is going to be the one for you. Start targeting single men in their late 40′s and 50′s, and forget about having kids if you’re childless. And accept the fact that he’s likely going to be divorced and wise to your bullshit, so don’t try to bamboozle him like you did men when you were 25.”

    50 year old dudes looking for a 40 year old wife (+1 if she’s hot) is going to be a lot more plentiful than a 40 year old dude who can pull a 30 or even 25 year old wife. Your competition in the 50 year old female market is going to be a lot worse off than you are, and you will have an advantage. It will be your only advantage.

  8. Me

    can you do like a whole series on this please, “I’d really apreciate it”

  9. Cautiously Pessimistic

    “What seems like a straightforward logical declaration can come across as a abrasive, disempathic personal attack.”

    Heh. Guilty. So much so that, when the situation allows for it, I overplay the directness to get a humorous vibe rather than an abrasive one. Trying to dress up a response in diplomacy is one of the most frustrating things in my job (where humorously abrasive generally doesn’t fly).

    Subtlety is for pussies.

  10. Athor Pel

    Here’s an object lesson in miscommunication from my teenage years. I’m 47 by the way.

    I share this because it is a good illustration of what many guys go through in their understanding of women.

    I decide that my summer job between school terms in high school is going to be as a life guard at the city pool. This means I have to take the two week Red Cross water safety course in order to get the piece of paper that says yes, I can drag people out of a tiny city pool with a big stick.

    Several of my classmates are also taking the class so we car pool. I end up car pooling with a girl that I had wanted to get to know for quite a while. Let’s call her Betty.

    Betty had just broken up with her long term boy friend so she was free to date other guys. I planned on being that other guy. She was also angling for me so it was a win-win.

    On the 30 minute drives to and from the class we get to know each other better and I eventually ask her out on a date towards the end of the class.

    Date went fine except for a weird vibe I was getting from her where she seemed to be emotionally stiff, like she was trying really hard to avoid making any mistakes.

    Time warp to the end of the date, haven’t even kissed her yet. We are talking in my car in front of her house when I express that I’m glad we got to be better friends. Her whole demeanor changes instantly. She gets visibly furious and stops looking at me. She says nothing though. She immediately gets out of the car and stomps away, slamming the car door and the front door of her house quite vigorously.

    I’m left stunned, completely unaware of what ghastly crime I had committed. I was probably 16 or 17 years old at the time. This was my first taste of an explosive female reaction to a miscommunication.

    I ran things back through my mind as I sat there in the car and decided that it wasn’t my problem, it was hers. What I thought at the time went like this, if she can blow up like that in reaction to what I just said then I don’t want to be around her. I saw it as unpredictable and therefore to be avoided.

    What I have since concluded goes like this. If she didn’t have the patience to ride things out to either confirm or not whether I was actually saying what she thought I was saying then I wasn’t going to waste my time trying to talk her down from her righteous indignation. I never talked to her again.

    I have long since figured out what crime I committed, or rather, what crime she imputed to me. I in effect told her, “let’s just be friends”. Which in fem-sprache means, “I will never ever have sex with you but I will use you for menial tasks as well as emotional validation.”

    I share this because it is a good illustration of what many guys go through in their understanding on how to deal with women.

  11. Acksiom

    “But this begs the question, what is a woman in her 40s to do, if she still wants a dude?”

    What’s in it for me to care?

  12. themaraudingmongol

    Good article, I like the way you write.
    Unrelated, but CH also put up a post talking about frames today.

  13. Cautiously Pessimistic

    “What’s in it for me to care?”

    Bingo.

  14. Höllenhund

    “But this begs the question, what is a woman in her 40s to do, if she still wants a dude?”

    Nothing. Finally swallow her damn pride and realize she cannot get everything she wants. Then shrivel up and die.

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  16. there are woman in the 40′s? when did this occur? lol.

    @Ian-
    “So at my wife’s BFF’s birthday party, I had the uncomfortable pleasure of explaining to an absolutely gorgeous 40 year old friend of my wife’s why despite her great looks and solid career, she wasn’t likely to find a man, according to the numbers.”

    i hear this from women all the time and i respond with, you should probably look for a gf because all that is meaningless to attracting a man.

  17. WillieMaize24

    Athor,
    I wasn’t there, but it seems like something else was going on, Anyway you were lucky she didn’t call the cops and accuse you of rape.

  18. qld654

    Reblogged this on Château Oz.

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