GK on Vacation, and Self-Deprecation

by GK on November 26, 2010 · 2 comments

I am interrupting today’s turkey and pumpkin pie binge to make a temporary farewell entry. I’m two days from the vacation of a lifetime, as I’ll be spending 28 days visiting Australia, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. The only reason I’m not excited about this is that I won’t be traveling with my laptop, which will put me in better touch with my surroundings but in worse touch with my writing.

So you probably won’t see this blog updated until after Christmas. But hey, every TV show has its reruns, so consider this your chance to peruse my archives and re-read some of your favorite posts over the holidays. Or you can watch my 50-minute Nerd Nite presentation yet again!

In fact, this post is in part inspired by one of the questions I received at the end of that presentation — the suggestion that guys need a healthy amount of self-deprecation to be good with women. I have some strong opinions on this topic, as it took me a long time to understand how to retain my modesty while remaining attractive to women.

To sum it up, I consider self-deprecation — or disqualification, as we in Charisma Arts called it — to be like cooking with garlic: tasty if it’s proportioned right, but it’s better to have none than too much. (Mind you, I love the garlic fries served at San Francisco Giants games). And with most of my students, I found it better not to teach disqualification at all.

I don’t find self-deprecation to be inherently attractive or unattractive. But for guys like me, who might hide behind the podium in embarrassment if we ever won the Nobel Peace Prize — most guys who seek social coaching fit this description — the last thing we need to be taught is how to take the piss out of ourselves. Yet this is what most CA bootcamps were teaching when I became an instructor, and you’ll have to pardon me when I brag that I helped eliminate that.

You know which guys disqualification works for best? George Clooney. Brad Pitt. Even Michael Cera. Guys who are already so revered that when they knock themselves down a peg during an interview, it makes them all the more charming.  All I had to do was search “Clooney interview” to find the above self-deprecating clip with David Letterman (though notice how he mixes it up with the last question).

But telling Vinny the Virgin that he should use self-deprecating humor? Not on my watch.

I took some hard knocks with disqualification after learning it in my own bootcamp, where it wasn’t taught to me properly. In the following months, multiple girls were telling me to stop mocking myself or to just accept their compliments. I was committing the same mistake that guys make when they brag about their Porsche: I was trying too hard. I was already modest in my mannerisms, so there was no need to be so in words.

Here’s how I would try to disqualify back then:

Girl: “I love your jacket!”

Me: “Oh, this thing? It’s so old!” OR “Thanks, I just stole it off a homeless guy!” 

These days? I usually just say thanks. Not that those responses are bad for everyone. If an alpha-male type said it, it might work great for him.

That’s why the better you know yourself, the better you can take your personality and augment it with such things as self-deprecation or cockiness. But if you must err with one or the other, I’d rather it be the latter. When women start calling you a player, feel free to self-deprecate.

And if you’re beginning to learn this stuff, you don’t have to fake it until you make it with confidence, because most of you already have made it. You have lots to offer someone, but you just hadn’t noticed. Don’t hide from your strengths — be proud of them.

Those of us who live in the Western world live in a culture where confidence and assertiveness are prized over modesty and passiveness. Yes, people and regions are different, but that’s generally the way it is. I would dare say it’s a big reason why hip-hop has replaced rock as the dominant pop music in America. I have a strong emo-boy side, and I can’t stop listening to this current Robert Smith song. But I can only listen to so many tunes by The Decemberists before my testosterone levels drop, whereas Kanye West, jerk that he is, can always deliver the swagger.

Sometimes that swagger and materialism go too far, but more often hip-hop succeeds because it’s infused with modesty at its core.

One of my favorite rap songs is “Look at Me Now,” by Beanie Sigel. The title brags about his success, but the occasionally humble lyrics show it’s because he came from nothing. His gangster talk isn’t cocky — it’s who he is (indeed, he was in prison when this album was released). As he says, “Mob style for real, this is my lifestyle for real.” Here’s a listen for you:


That’s right, I’m leaving the country with a gangsta-rap reference. Keep it real, yo.


1 Dirkmanley November 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Good advice. And congrats on the trip. I’m sure you’ll have a great time, meet some amazing women, and come back with a ton of hilarious stories.

2 Sal November 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm

You are such a lucky mofo to get to travel so much! This year alone you’ve been to New York, London and Dublin, and now you’re spending a month visiting Australia and Asia. It’s like your personal anthem is Daft Punk’s “Around the World.” Have fun on your trip!

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