In 1718, young Ben Franklin was a burgeoning writer who was working in his brother’s printing shop.
As his apprenticeship progressed, his writing skills improved tremendously. To flex his new “muscle”, Franklin approached his brother requesting to write for the New England Courant. His brother vehemently refused.
To counter this, Franklin devised a persona, someone who would frequently write “letters to the editor” detailing problems with the city of Boston. Because of these letters, the popularity of the newspaper started to take off. Proud of this, Franklin revealed his identity. His brother was pissed. As a result, he fled to Philadelphia and later, London.
In London, Ben Franklin found himself working at another printing shop.
Their custom was to drink beer during work and pitch in part of their paycheck towards the “company beer fund”.
Franklin refused to contribute to the beer fund. He wanted no part of it and explicitly struck it down.
Soon thereafter, “mistakes” started happening around the shop, all centering around Franklin. He knew if this continued, he would be fired.
Getting an idea of what was going on, he then decided to pitch in towards the beer fund.
The mistakes stopped happening.
After a period of time, Franklin began to become skilled in the areas of social intelligence and human nature.
Year after year, Franklin’s once-rivals fell to his charms. People who hated him more than Satan became staunch allies. People frequently commented on his rare level of class and poise.
He later became known as Philadelphia’s model citizen and one of the most loved figures of the early American Republic.
The only reason Ben Franklin rose to the levels of fame and prestige that he did was because of his mastery of social skills and social intelligence.
There’s a game being played all around you.
If you’re in the know, you understand the rules of the game. If you don’t, you’re just another spectator.
If you don’t know how to play this game, opportunities involving work, women, and friendship will whiz past you.
Meanwhile, the ones who know the rules of this game will reap all of the rewards that other men strive towards (in vain).
In this article we’re going to be unraveling the layers of social intelligence, interpersonal skills, and overall human nature.
If you become a master at interpersonal relations, here’s what you could gain:
- Promotions at work
- Less awkward social interactions
- More friends and better quality of friends
- Social dominance
- Respect and admiration from peers
- Better interactions with women (and men)
Overall, you’ll just have a better quality of life and be a happier man. That’s what every guy wants.
Let’s take it back, though.
Why do I need to learn social intelligence?
Social intelligence is the act of navigating complex social environments in a fluid manner, avoiding as much friction as possible. It is also known as “tact”, “street smarts”, or “poise”.
Back a loooooong time ago, our ancestors lived in tribes. These tribes would hunt, gather, and do miscellaneous group activities to ensure their survival.
Their survival depended largely on being able to communicate well. This came in the form of words and of course – body language.
If danger was afoot, a tribal member may have not been able to say something explicitly with words.
Microexpressions, vocal intonations, gestures…all of these were ways to communicate on a covert level.
Thousands of years have passed…but we share the exact same DNA as our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Meaning, we’re the same just in a modern environment.
What social environment are you in?
If you want to be socially intelligent and have smoother interpersonal relations with others, you need to know these three things:
- Who you are speaking to
- Where you are
- What your relative position in that group is
What are some examples?
You speak to your friend differently than you do your boss.
During a funeral, you don’t wear a bright green blazer.
In your friends circle, are you the guy everyone looks up to?
The main takeaway from these examples is that social intelligence is largely relative. Conducting yourself appropriately in different environments is the mark of the socially intelligent and well-adjusted person.
Different environments require different approaches.
Why many people SUCK at social skills and social intelligence
I don’t know if you noticed…but some people fucking SUCK at social interactions (I’m excepting autistic people from this, by the way).
Why is this?
We live in a world that is increasingly isolating the individual by the day.
We as a collective society spend most of our time in one-man cubicles, then drive back home by ourselves, sit in front of the computer by ourselves, then go to sleep by ourselves (because most millennials aren’t having sex by the way, despite the cultural narrative).
The illusion of friendship on social networks don’t do a favor either. You may have 1,500+ Facebook friends but how many do you regularly engage in face-to-face conversation?
It all comes down to this: when you are in a conversation with another person or a group of people you will be receiving real-time feedback. If you tell a good joke, most people will laugh. If you say something “out of place”, there will be a tension in the air. Facial expressions, eye contact, mouth gestures…all of these are signs.
You don’t get that typing away at a screen sitting on social media.
The end result is a human being who is incredibly unaccustomed to social interactions. He is awkward, so he makes other people feel awkward. The result is a conversation that both people can’t wait to finish.
The awkward person most likely doesn’t understand human nature.
Getting better at social intelligence requires a knowledge of human nature
If you want to learn how have better interpersonal relationships with humans, you first need to learn how they operate.
Economist Ludwig Von Mises wrote an incredible book called Human Action in defense of free market capitalism. In it he also explained some incredible and readily observable facts about human nature.
- Lazy – Human beings are lazy. We seek the fastest and easiest way to get the things we want. This is called “the expediency factor”
- Greedy – Humans prefer more to less. Why eat one Oreo when you can eat the whole packet?
- Selfish – Humans think about themselves most of the time. You’re always asking “what’s in it for me?”, in some way.
- Ambitious – Humans ask “will I be better off than I was before?” to determine a course of action.
- Impatient – Humans want things “now” rather than “later”.
Think this doesn’t describe you? Think again. These are present in every human being in different degrees. These traits are neither good nor bad. They just “are”.
When you know this and accept this, you find the key to winning the social game.
What’s your value?
This all comes down to the question: how much value are you bringing to an interaction? Is this person’s life going to be enhanced from talking to you?
People generally don’t want to be with someone who “takes”. You know how certain people make you feel drained and others make you feel alive after talking to them?
If you’re low energy, negative or petty, very few people will want to be around you.
This is a major reason why a lot of guys suck with women. They generally “take” more than they “give”.
Social Intelligence is all based on how you make others feel in your presence.
Being socially intelligent means making people feel at ease around you, making them feel as if they are an ally, not an adversary.
You make someone an ally or an enemy with certain behaviors:
- Mirroring – A technique used to build rapport with another person in a conversation. You mimic (not copy) their movements just slightly. Body language between people in rapport tends to be very similar. A good example is two people who are in love.
- Open body language- In conversation, expressing open and interested body language makes the other person feel safe in your presence.
- Inquisitive questioning – This is different from interrogative questioning, where you’re trying to drill someone for answers. This type of questioning involves being genuinely interested in people, something that’s hard to fake.
- Opposing body language – If someone is sitting and you’re standing during a conversation, you’re not in rapport. This creates a very slight imbalance.
- Closed body language – Are you trying to hide something? The arms crossed, brows furrowed, shifty eye contact type of body language is inherently adversarial.
- Interrogative questioning – As I said before, drilling someone for answers is not creating an alliance. You might as well take them to a torture chamber.
There’s many, many, more but I hope that this gives you an idea of some things that makes it easier or harder to navigate social environments.
Social intelligence requires that you “think inside” the person and adjust yourself to the signals that they are giving off. You do this through your microexpressions, rather than just saying hollow words.
It all comes down to:
Demotion vs. Equilibrium. vs. “Hero Worship”
In the demotion frame, you view the other person as beneath you. Tilting your chin, not looking at someone when talking – these all signal to the other person that you consider yourself above them. This is considered “arrogance”.
In the equilibrium frame, you and the other person are on a level playing field. You are no better than they are, they are no better than you. This is considered “geniality”.
In the worshiper frame, you view the other person as greater than you. Nervousness, shifting eye contact, constricted movement – these all signal to the other person that you consider yourself below them.
I would personally estimate that less than 20% of the population practices social equilibrium on a consistent basis.
The rest fluctuate between levels of excessive worship and various levels of demotion.
Why demotion and “hero worship” are adversarial
Think of demotive behaviors as someone moving a dog’s food bowl away from him when he wants to eat. Hero worshiping is like a whirlpool.
The dog wants to eat and no one wants to get sucked into a whirlpool. One is taking, the other is grasping.
Either way, you destroy your social status with either of these behaviors.
Do you think most celebrities like to meet their fans? Definitely not. That’s because fans look up to the celebrities and put them on an unattainable pedestal.
This is especially true with worshiping women.
Most men are unable to hold a conversation with an attractive woman because he views her as an unassailable goddess.
When someone is classified as “creepy” (a death sentence for guys), that means that they are stuck in the “hero worship” frame. As a result, the object of their affection treats them that way. A pat on the leg, a slight smile, and a “thanks for the date, good night” after the car ride home is standard for people who come from this frame.
Here’s what she’s really saying: “If you think you’re ever going to fuck me, get real”.
I’m not saying I’m a Casanova by any stretch but seeing and hearing stories of guys blatantly strike out with women is incredibly painful when you realize what’s going on.
Talking to women is a whole different topic, but overall… you want to have an equilibrium frame if you want to succeed in interpersonal behaviors and social intelligence.
Winning the game + action steps
You may be socially awkward or stuck up in your head. That’s fine. You don’t have to stay that way.
I myself was socially unintelligent for many years. It was only until I really started to live life “out there” rather than “in here” that I was able to get the skills to interact others in a fluid manner.
Here’s some steps you can take to advance toward social intelligence and better interpersonal interactions.
Make yourself equal – Get it in your mind that no one is greater than you and no one is lesser. We all eat, breathe, bleed, shit, etc. This means that no one should hold any power on you. If they do it’s because you’ve mentally given yourself permission to. Repeat that in your head until it sticks.
Become genuinely interested in people – Everyone has a story to tell. With 7 billion people on the planet, there’s a wide diversity of stories out there. Shift the spotlight off of you and put it on someone else. If you do it right, you’ll have another friend or acquaintance. This is what some of the most charismatic people in the world do.
Practice expressive body language – How do you sit? How do you stand? How do you walk? What’s your vocal tonality like? These and many other factors are things you have to take into account. Most of our communication is nonverbal. Make sure you’re sending out signals that are not adversarial.
Meet different groups of people – The only way to practice being socially intelligent is going out and interacting with people. Use Meetup.com to meet new people who live in your area. Go to something you’ve never tried before. You’ll have a higher chance of meeting people who are different from you. This forces you to become more socially intelligent.
Take yourself out of bad groups – If you’re hanging around people that are petty and negative, you will express that behavior in other interactions. Likewise, if you’re known as “the low man on the totem pole” or “a clown” in a friend circle, you will want to take yourself out of those circles. It degrades your self-confidence and destroys your locus of control as a man.