The Best Technique of all

by GK on May 14, 2011 · 10 comments

I’ve been thinking lately about two legendary coaches from different worlds, and how their success owes not to teaching technique or strategy, but to understanding the person within.

I just watched “The King’s Speech” for the first time. It’s warm and mushy the way an Oscar-winning film is supposed to be, and I can tolerate that. But as you might expect, I pay particular attention to coach-student relationships, and I found the real-life one between Lionel Logue and the Duke of York/King George VI to reflect the relationships I’ve had when I was at my best with students.  

The Duke had failed at curing his frustrating stammer with all sorts of credentialed therapists using all sorts of techniques that had worked on others. Then along came Logue, who wasn’t credentialed at all but had built a reptuation for curing speech impediments with “unorthodox” methods.

I was impressed by how Geoffrey Rush, who plays Logue,  lays down the foundation with the Duke in their first meeting. Before he teaches a single concept, he looks to establish a trust between the two where they are equals, which is no small task considering his student is royalty.

Rather than bombard his student with techniques right away, Logue starts out by asking the Duke about his childhood, trying to learn the stutter’s origins. The Duke resists mightily at first, wishing only to fix his mechanical difficulties. But Logue insists, and eventually we see that the Duke’s stutter stems from his fear of his father and brother, and his inadequacy about possibly being king someday.

Logue does teach the Duke helpful techniques, but he does so not for technique’s sake, but for the reasons he states in the above clip: “My job was to give them faith in their own voice, and let them know that a friend was listening.”

Call it confidence. Call it inner game. Call it anything. But it’s just one more example of why the best lines, the best clothes and the best social proof don’t mean a thing if a guy doesn’t believe in himself. My job, and I think I’ve done it damn well, was to help guys find that initial spark of self-faith, and let them do the rest.

By the way, there was one funny scene from “The King’s Speech” that ties into my recent post on attraction, and how the non-verbal matters more than the verbal. It’s when the new king is watching footage of Hitler speaking forcefully in public, and his daughter asks him what Hitler is saying. “I don’t know,” says the king, “but he seems to be saying it well.”

(To clarify, this does not mean I encourage anyone to be a bloodthirsty dictator who starts a world war. Just saying he was an effective speaker.)

The second coach on my mind, Phil Jackson, probably coached his last basketball game as of last week. I despise the Lakers and I never liked the Bulls either, but I have nothing but respect for the 11 championships he won, and for how he won them.

Jackson was known for his Triangle Offense, and he was more than competent as a coach. But he was also known as the Zen Master for speaking to his players in a language that went beyond strategy. He was known to show them movies or give them books in the hopes of teaching concepts about teamwork and respect.

Bill Simmons of ESPN.com just published an excellent column about Jackson, and here’s a paragraph that captures what I’m talking about:

“Steve Kerr told me once that what made Jackson special … was that he cared about his twelfth guy as much as his best guy. He spent time with his players, bought them gifts, thought about what made them tick. He connected with them, sold them on the concept of a team, stuck up for them when they needed him. His actual coaching — calling plays, working refs, figuring out lineups and everything else that we see — was a smaller piece of a much bigger picture. His players competed for him for many reasons, but mainly because they truly believed Jackson cared about them. Which he definitely did.”

I may not be social-coaching regularly anymore, but I still believe in it, and I know what a difference the right one can make. If you’re considering finding one, I suggest you avoid the ones promising fancy techniques and pick one who has a little Lionel or Phil in him.

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One guy’s memorable bus ride

by GK on May 11, 2011 · 1 comment

In keeping with my promise to add some tips and stories of fun and success, I offer the aftermath of a private instruction I gave in San Francisco earlier this year.

His name is Gavin, he’s in his early 20s and he lives in Western Canada. Gavin made me the first stop of a North American bus tour in which he hoped to let go of his inhibitions, start having the time of his life and meet some great women along the way.

From the field report he sent me the other day at the conclusion of his tour, he’s done just that and is going strong since.

Who knows whom you might meet on a bus tour?

I’ll let Gavin tell the story, but first I’ll provide my coaching observations about him. If I had to break the students I’ve had into two categories, it is these: guys who need a nip/tuck with their vibe or skills but can’t do it on their own, and guys who need major surgery.  

Like most guys I’ve coached, Gavin fit into the first category: he came off as a nice, likable guy, but when it came to girls, he just couldn’t — or wouldn’t — close the deal. 

Gavin wanted to focus on daytime socializing, and with me there to give a friendly push and some super-genius tips — such as remembering to use breath mints — he became a better closer in our two days together. The highlight for me was at the De Young museum, where he talked up a beautiful 21-year-old who was taller than him, and he got her number while her parents and grandparents watched in the corner. 

Here’s the e-mail I got from Gavin earlier this week:

“Since it’s been about six weeks since my trip to SF, I figured I should drop you a line and let you know how I’ve been doing.

In a word:  well.

My trip was a blast, though my butt got pretty sore after so many days on the bus.  When I got out to Toronto, I worked hard to keep up the momentum and build on the progress I made with you in SF.  My second weekend there, my sister and I went to a Vivian Girls concert and I met a very cute (and tall) redhead.  We hit it off really well and when I suggested getting together later in the week, she very eagerly said “how about tomorrow?” and we exchanged numbers.  We met up the next day and spent most of the afternoon together.  We met up again later in the week and ended up spending the night together.

I did a fair bit of approaching during my stay in Toronto.  While none of them went nearly as well as the redhead, I was still very happy with myself because more often than not, I was making attempts to close. Regardless of how things were going, I would either ask for a number or ask if she wanted to get a drink right then and — with two notable exceptions — all of the rejections were very polite. 

I think my biggest problem was dilly-dallying too long on small talk.  But I’ve been focusing on being more direct, to the point where the other day I walked up to a girl who was unlocking her bike and told her I thought she was really cute and wanted to come say hi.  She turned out to have a boyfriend, but she smiled really big and seemed very flattered if a little taken aback.

I think what I needed more than anything out of my instruction with you was just to prove to myself that I could go in really direct and nothing bad would happen.  I remember you telling me my vibe and conversational skills were just fine and all I needed to do was make a habit out of approaching and closing.  Before my instruction, when I was trying to figure this stuff out on my own, it was hard to really push myself out of my comfort zone.  But having that outside pressure was great for forcing me out of that comfortable but unsatisfying rut.

 Now that I’ve seen that I can indeed do it, that girls generally respond well to me, and that getting rejected is really not that bad, things have been going quite well. 

Since being back home, both when I’ve been out and about during the day by myself as well as the couple times I’ve gone out at night with friends, I’ve been much more comfortable with approaching directly and expressing interest clearly and I’m already starting to see results.

I remember you telling me that within a month of being back here, I should be going on about a date a week.  This week I have two.

Bad habits still occasionally rear their head, like with the girl where I hesitated on closing and missed my window of opportunity because after that she disappeared.  The next week, when I got on the bus and saw her wave at me from the back, I set my mind that I was not going to make the same mistake twice, and I got her number within two minutes of sitting down beside her.

So yeah, that’s about it.  Thanks for being there to push me out of my comfort zone and also for using your experienced eye to reassure me that my vibe and conversational skills are fine and dandy.”

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A promise to add sugar

by GK on May 11, 2011 · 6 comments

I was talking to Rob about the blog yesterday, and it occurred to me that I may be bumming some people out. Since my hiatus I’ve lamented the shutdown of bookstores, declared that the girl you met in such a bookstore may not be as high quality as she seems, and then I burst some bubbles by posting that no matter what you say to women, you simply won’t be good-looking enough for some of them.

I’m a journalist at heart, and now that I’m no longer selling my social-coaching services (aside from the occasional student), I feel even more compelled to keep things real for you. There’s a lot of one-sided marketing hype out there toward inexperienced men — not just in the Community, though it is a shining example — and I want to call bullshit whenever it’s needed. Kind of like how Penn & Teller do with fellow magicians.

Broccoli! You know you want some!

The downside of this is that the marketers, who promise you all the hot young women you want if you just buy their product, are selling you sugar, while I’m offering broccoli. One is much healthier than the other, but when I’m faced with the choice of a green salad or a Three Musketeers bar, good health often loses out.

(Actually, I will soon be posting a rant about how terrible sugar is for us, and how it even corrodes our social lives, so I’m not joking around.)

Keeping this in mind, I renew my vow to balance out my sobering posts with sweet ones that are fun or inspiring. I do have such stories to tell, and I think they’re all the more encouraging because they show you don’t need all the hype and the weird techniques to make things happen.

Except, that is, for the logistics book that Rob and I are writing. You totally will need to buy that.

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I wanted to make sure I got Rob Overman’s thoughts on the pie chart of attraction I posted a day earlier, and the following is his cogent analysis. He offers a twist on my take, but the gist is the same:

“I’ve been thinking about this all day because it’s an interesting question. At one point you wrote an article  saying that basically a person shouldn’t judge a girl as a 7 vs. a 10 but instead look at them as 1’s and zeros.

I think women do this naturally.  Within 30 seconds of seeing (not meeting, just looking at him) I think most women will give a man a 1 or a zero.  And we as guys do this too.  Imagine you’re standing in line at Trader Joe’s and a chubby girl behind you makes a funny joke.  Now even though I like her sense of humor and dig the fact that she also likes fresh calamari, there is no way that I would be able to get past the fact that she rocks a muffin top and has crinkles in her cankles. 

I guess we are all Shallow Hal before Tony Robbins violates him in an elevator. Even if her vibe and personality made up 50% of her “dating score” I don’t see a way where it could make up for or cancel out my perceived unattraction for her.  She would be a zero. 

So if what I’ve said is true, then that would mean that the emphasis given to looks/physical appearance trumps a cool attitude or conversational skills.  But is that true? 

No, of course not.  I think this of dozens of times where I wanted to spend time with a girl who was a 7 instead of a girl who was a 9 simply because I enjoyed spending time with her more, I liked her attitude better, I liked talking to her more, etc.  But then where does that leave us?  It seems like I’ve said that physical beauty is the winner over all and then I turned back around and said no it isn’t.  What gives?

Well, the difference is that the 7 and the 9 are already 1’s.  I have already decided that they are attractive enough for me to want to spend time and energy to get to know them. 

Boom.  Knowledge explosion.

The (harsh) truth as I see it is that we screen people based on their attractiveness first and then, if they pass the test, we bother to take into account their attitude and how well they can hold down a conversation.  I would even throw in some hard-to-put-my-finger-on terms like “emotional depth” or “how well they fit into my life.” 

But once you pass the physical attractiveness test I think attitude takes up more space on a percentage scale than conversational skills.  So overall I think it’s like this:

Step 1: Physical traits/grooming: either 100% or 0%.  If 100%, move on to the next step.  If 0%, you’re done.  Because you shouldn’t have to convince someone to date you. 

Step 2: Vibe (body language, eye contact, overall confidence): 80% – 90%. Conversational skills: 10% – 20%”

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The Pie Chart of Attraction

by GK on May 3, 2011 · 5 comments

The one scenario in my social-coaching days that seemed to vex my students the most, and even some female friends I’ve had, is this: what to say when they’re first meeting an attractive member of the opposite sex.

Our vexing makes perfect sense — no one wants to be a blubbering mess, vomiting like Stan from “South Park” every time he saw Wendy. And I’ve spent more energy than a nuclear reactor giving people ideas of what they could say.

I’d also tell them they could say whatever they want. Now that I’m mostly out of the biz, and with so much pickup information out there on the Web, I figured this truth would have sunk in by now.

But it seemingly hasn’t, because I still hear guys putting way too much emphasis on the content of words. So I want to make this really clear: All things considered, talk is cheap. There’s a good chance the woman made up her mind about you before you said anything.

I was having coffee with Tall Anna last week, and we used a notepad to scribble a pie chart (mmm, pie) that explains what women are really attracted to in the early stages. By early stages, I would say the initial meeting and perhaps the first one or two dates. We started off with seven traits, then narrowed it to four, and finally to three very basic ones. (We excluded logistics because they don’t determine attraction — merely whether she acts on it.)

Those three traits are the following:

  • Physical attractiveness: Looks, height, race, how much hair he has, fashion, tattoos, etc.
  • Non-verbal communication: Body language, eye contact, voice tone, touch, confident vibe.
  • Conversation skills: Sense of humor, asking good questions, telling good stories, etc.

Then we assigned a percentage to how much we think each trait matters to the average girl, and we came to a quick agreement based on our vast experience and our overall geniusness. Here it is in pie-chart form:

The Official Female Attraction Breakdown

Looks are 50 percent, non-verbal is 35 and verbal is 15. So if you’re spending your days worrying about conversational topics or presuming you got rejected because you weren’t witty enough, you’re really only working with 15 percent of the pie. That’s too small a slice for me to eat.

The bottom line is this: All things being equal, if a woman doesn’t think you’re good-looking, and if you don’t carry yourself in an attractive way, you stand little chance of getting her. Not even if you’re the world’s best conversationalist.

On the other hand, if you do pass the initial sniff test, you don’t need to have Jon Stewart’s wit to end up with her. Simply sounding like a normal human being who has a life is often enough.

Perhaps this equation gets lost because it’s tougher to explain non-verbal skills over the Internet. As for the importance of God-given looks, that gets swept under the rug because it’s a sensitive topic. Few people will tell a guy that he’s been rejected because he was too short, too Asian or too old. Thus, men lose sight of how women are really judging them.

During and since my Charisma Arts days, I ran into lots of otherwise smart guys who misunderstood what we were teaching. Many thought that if they could only become master conversationalists and learn the right funny lines for every situation, women would throw themselves at them. (Indeed, there are expensive and less-qualified “gurus” and companies guaranteeing such results.)

That’s why in-person coaching is so important, either with a real coach or a trusted friend. While I could only do so much with a student’s physical traits, I could at least see how he was presenting himself non-verbally and point out any bad habits. As for conversation, all that I cared about was that the words came from him and not from someone else, and that he was showing interest.

I recently opined on certain men’s preference for meeting women during the day. And I think a lot of guys are scared to meet women in louder places like bars and nightclubs because they can’t use conversation as much. But I see that as the best training. Because that’s where you can really focus on having a good vibe.

I put this into effect with a guy I recently coached in San Francisco, and the results surprised even me. Like the typical student, he was nervous about what to say, and much of what he was saying looked disingenuous because he was trying too hard to be seductive. No woman talked to him for long the first day.

I pointed out some non-verbal mistakes he was making (talking too low, not having fun, not facing the girl) and told him to keep it simple with the conversation. To make it truly come from himself, and to not be afraid of silence.

He kicked butt the second day, and where I was truly impressed was at the club we went to. Forced to sink or swim based on the non-verbal, he had the time of his life and women reacted much better to him. He was Mikey from “Swingers,” dancing the night away, and I was Vince Vaughn, crying with pride. 

Remember, the pie chart above only applies to initial attraction. The pie gets more complicated as a relationship evolves, and verbal connection will play a larger role then. So conversation definitely has its place.

All this talk of pie is making me hungry.

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As I return from New York and Miami, and figuratively from Mexico, I feel a bit like Jimmy Chitwood in “Hoosiers.” It’s time for me to start blogging again.

 I’ll have more to say in the days ahead, but I wanted to get one thought off my chest. This regards meeting women during the day, or day game, as we affectionately call it.

I still get surprised when guys approach me for strictly day-game coaching, as a couple have done this year. I’m not sure if it’s more about me — I did earn a reputation for teaching it when I was coaching regularly — or them. But over the years I have met a lot of guys who saw day game as some kind of better environment for meeting high-quality women than bars.

I think there’s some truth to this, but I also feel compelled to say that guys may be romanticizing the idea.

I’m sure you’ve witnessed a scene like this: some hot chick in her 20s stumbling around drunkenly after the bars close, her clothes disheveled, and maybe you’re thinking, “Damn, she’d be attractive if she weren’t such a mess. I should meet smart girls in bookstores and coffee shops. They don’t party like that.”

But who’s to say that very girl wasn’t in a bookstore earlier that day? I’ve dated and made friends with a lot of women in my years, and I can say that some of the craziest were some of the most educated. And they went to museums and cafes too. (I could follow this up by saying all women are at least a little crazy, but you knew that, didn’t you?)

On the other hand, I’ve met plenty of high-quality women — the kind who can hold their alcohol, have interesting lives and hold jobs — who like to drink or dance at night. And I’d rather go out with those kinds of women than the ones who call it a day at 6 p.m. on a Friday.

Does location matter when meeting women? Absolutely. And here in San Francisco, there really are a segment of attractive women who don’t party much and are more likely to be out during the day. If that sounds more like your type, then by all means, go stop them in the park and talk to them about crepes, bicycles and David Sedaris books.

Just know that when you meet a woman in the day, you’re meeting just one side of her, just as she’s meeting one side of you. Don’t put her on any pedestals before she’s earned it.

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I’m giving my blogging hiatus a one-day hiatus of its own, since I’m about to split town for two weeks in New York and Miami and I wanted to address this sad story.

Two weeks ago I stepped into my local Borders bookstore in Union Square for the last time. That Borders, like others around the Bay Area and the country, is going the way of newspapers and music stores — destroyed by the Death Star that is the Internet. There are now no big bookstores anywhere within a bus ride of my home.

I can’t say this is a bad thing for reading books. It’s cheaper to buy them online, and with the Kindle and similar products, it’s also easier to read them than ever. But it is a bad thing for the subject I’ve taught so well: meeting women in the daytime.

That Borders in Union Square was home to many memories for me, ever since my bootcamp as a Charisma Arts student, when my first approach was so bad I startled the girl right out of the store. Later, I proved myself as an apprentice there, and then I coached scores of guys and witnessed many instant dates there.

Sometimes I’d even spot random community guys and other aspiring pickup artists doing their own approaches in that store. It was like a workshop, and even though I rarely meet women in the daytime — I’m a night person — bookstores were my favorite day-game venue. I could spend hours there for the books alone, and if I see a girl nose deep in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, she’s already got a big point in her favor.

We’ve still got the mom-and-pop bookstores, and I’m glad. But you can’t just order some coffee inside and hang out with a book; you and the women are on the move, which makes the experience as random and unpredictable as most other forms of day game. And the Internet has taken a toll in other ways.

For instance, there are loads of coffee shops in big cities like this one, but free WiFi has turned them into mini-offices, where a lot of the women are working and don’t have time to talk, and there’s little turnover at tables. I was able to turn this situation into a date earlier this year, but it took a couple of hours of waiting for breaks from our laptops.

(Also, as in a regular office, you have to ask yourself if you want to risk running into the girl again and again after you’ve finished dating her.)

Not that I’m declaring the death of day game. Chances are you still have parks, squares, festivals, shopping malls (even though I hate them), museums, college campuses, buses, churches and myriad other options. Actually, if you’re looking for intelligent women in the day and and want to be efficient with your time, I’d suggest waiting a few hours for some early-evening game. As I’ve blogged about before, lots of museums are having relaxed nighttime events where drinks are plenty and children are not.

But wherever you meet her, it appears much less likely to be in a bookstore now. Damn you, Internet. Pretty soon you’ll be the only source for dating as well.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled hiatus.

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I’m Taking a Hiatus

by GK on March 9, 2011 · 4 comments

In some ways, I forever gave up normalcy when I got into social coaching and started this blog. But there are times when my desire for that normalcy, to live out the Peter Parker side of my life, is so great that I have to give Spider-Man a complete break.

This is one of those times, which is why I want you to know I’ll be taking some time off from this blog. You’ll see fewer posts for a while, and what little I write may be completely off topic. If only there were a new season of “Mad Men” to write about.

I remind you that this isn’t goodbye. In fact, I’ll have much to tell you about in the months ahead. Rob and I are working on a book together, and we’re going to be excited to get it to you. Taking a break from blogging will give me more time for that, too.

I suggest that you subscribe to my blog feed, if you haven’t done so. That way, when news arises, you’ll get it quicker. I may also develop an e-mail list to keep you guys updated on the book that way. And for those of you e-mailing me questions, I may not be as responsive during my hiatus, but I’ll get back to at least some of you.

But for now, you can liken me to Andy Dufresne from “The Shawshank Redemption.” I just feel like escaping to Mexico for a little while. The water is bluer here.

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