Category Archives for "Self Improvement and Social Skills"

Jan 14

What Are Personal Values? – Develop Integrity and Purpose

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

What are personal values and why are they important in dating, relationships or just life at large? When I was 19 or so, a friend of mine came to me complaining that she was being emotionally bullied by a close friend of mine. I softly persuaded him to stop it, despite him being a close friend of mine. I didn’t like bullies, for I was in a somewhat similar position once.

You could argue that by me standing up to my friend, I was acting out of my values. I stood up for my values regardless of external circumstances, whether he’s my good friend or not. I behaved according to my values and persuaded him otherwise, risking a potential loss of friendship with him.

So, What Are Values?

Values can be said to be internal compasses. They are the judgment about how important something is to us. There are principles that are held internally regardless of external circumstances. Sometimes, they are principles and judgments that you may even sacrifice and die for. They can comprise of intangibles such as authenticity, accountability, empathy and respect.

Why are Values Important?

In modern society, you may find yourself in a constant struggle to stick to your values as opposed to sacrifice them for an extrinsic result.

For example, authenticity and expressing yourself honestly is a value in itself. Honesty, however, sometimes is uncomfortable, especially when expressed negatively to friends or superiors. Your honesty may not be appreciated. It may involve telling your boss something that he might disagree with but might be better for the company. This may put you at risk of offending him (or losing your job). This can be difficult at times, especially so in the Asian culture.

In your relationships, what if your date you’re interested in treats you badly? What if he or she’s a no show for three dates straight and cancels on you last minute every single time? Are you going stick up for yourself and perhaps call them out? Or are you going smile, and pretend nothing happened?

Can you uphold the value of self-respect? Perhaps through calling her out for her negative behaviour, risk upsetting her and losing the potential benefit of dating someone you’re interested in?

What if your friends are always showing up late and disrespectful of your time? What if you valued your time, and made efforts to be on time for meetups? Do you hold back calling the person out to avoid the possibility of not offending him or her?

Values are researched to higher self-esteem, in the long run, makes you more attractive to women, increase work creativity, and make you a happier person. Positive values are also usually ensued by strong boundaries.

In short, they’re awesome.

Ironically, it’s people that do not have any values going for them that are unattractive and mediocre. They don’t stand for anything. They are people pleasers. Their craving for attention, affection from the world around them at the cost of their personal integrity and values. They’ll never build a strong identity. Counter-intuitively, it’s this constant need for a false sense of acceptance is what repels people away.

In our relationships, it’s the sacrifice of their own personal values that drive needy and unattractive behaviour.

So Marcus, without sounding like your high school counsellor, how can you instil this thing called values in your life then?

Ironing Out Your Values

Ironing out your values can be simple as taking out a piece of paper and writing down what you will and will not accept in your life. This can range from business decisions, relationship values to all other areas of your life. The second step is to commit and be disciplined about it. Note, no one is perfect and it’s OKAY to falter and be flexible. However, just like habits, you just go back to work on it.

  • Your Dating and Relationship Values

So, a couple of years ago, when I started wanting to attract women. The first step was to iron out my dating and relationship values. This means what I will, and will not accept from women, or people in general. This not only helped my self-esteem, but it also made my dating choices much easier.

I stopped texting girls who didn’t want to text me back, I stopped worrying about girls who didn’t want to go out on dates with me. Yeah, I get rejected, however, it saved me the heartache, the smokes and games that people play.

I started out with a couple of simple values. I decided I’ll not hang out with people who don’t want to hang out with me. I’ll not date a girl who doesn’t want to date me. I’ll not text a girl who doesn’t want to text me. I’ll express interest to women only that I’m interested in.

These values played an important role when on a date. Instead of constantly worrying if I match up to her, I’m going to see if there’s a right fit of values. I’m not looking to impress her.

If you’re wondering what I value in women, physical beauty (I can’t lie), empathy, intellectual curiosity, honesty, nurturance and accountability. From personal experience, I’m a lot more motivated, willing to sacrifice a lot more time and effort and to pursue a girl who’s more physically aesthetic If she’s hot but has selfie problem, sure, I’ll be more tolerant of it. If she’s hot but is slightly emotionally erratic, sure, I’ll be patient. I’m willing to give up many superficial nuances that tick me off.

However, I’m not willing to give up my personal boundaries just to pursue someone who is physically attractive. There are values that are non-negotiable. If she constantly disrespects me or is rude, I am going to call her out on it. If she doesn’t alter her behaviour, then I’ll simply drop her.

Note, I hold these values true for all other relationships as well. I also can’t be bothered by people who don’t respect my time or money. If you don’t respect my time or money, there isn’t a friendship in place anymore in the first place.

Business Values

I once worked for a traditional company in Singapore. Whilst the potential monetary prospects were good, I hated it. Why so? That’s because the way the business was conducted went against my values of providing a competitive and ethical service to society.

The business deals were done over drinks, karaoke pubs and mind games with everyone. Everyone was attempting to look rich, attempting to blow smoke up each other asses, instead of actually discussing rational business.

It forced me to iron out my business values. Through the years I decided that I’ll only make an income through ethical products or service to consumers that don’t hurt society. The systems and products have to work without any overt form of bootlicking. I’m not going to work with or for anyone who uses his network or relationships as a ‘stronghold’. I don’t give two fucks if you tell me your father is a billionaire. I don’t want to rely on ‘Guan Xi’ to do business.

Ironing out these values made a lot of business choices down the road much simpler.  Out went the scammy products that prey on delusional or people that are in a bad spot in life, out went the nights of drinking just for the sake of clinching a deal. Since I had these values in place, it freed me up to learn how to do marketing ethically, branding and ethical business practices.

Helpful and UnHelpful Values 

It’s said if you pursue negative values such as popularity and fame, it’s ‘negative’. However, I don’t entirely see it this way and I think negative values can be a good motivator for positive values. I didn’t desire to be with hot women, I’ll not have undertaken this self-improvement process. If not for the desire to be financially free, I’ll not have attempted to be an entrepreneur. This blog wouldn’t exist. I also think everyone is motivated by different intrinsic and extrinsic motivators at a certain point of time.

Negative values are superstitious, immediately controllable and socially destructive. If you value popularity or fame, and how much you’re liked or accepted by everyone that’s not immediately controllable. That’s because you can’t control how people think of you.

If you measured yourself and valued a million dollars in a bank, that’s an external value that isn’t controllable. It’s merely going to drive you crazy daily. Negative values are reliant on an external event such as flying in a private jet, getting threesomes or travelling the world in pursuit of a hedonistic lifestyle (guilty).

Arguably, negative values can be good motivators initially. You didn’t get into self-development if you didn’t want to fuck more girls, make more money and look really awesome amongst your friends right? Negative values can give you a good start, however, for long term happiness, you’ll need to prioritize internal values in the long run.

Positive values are reality-based, immediately controllable, self-generated and are socially constructive. Positive values such as innovation, honesty and vulnerability are immediately controllable and can be self-generated right this moment.

For example, instead of valuing popularity or how much I’m liked by people, I can make an internal value of improving my dating/ social life. That way, just by going out to a bar to meet more women is a win for me, regardless of their reaction to me.

Positive values are always internally achieved and there’s no completion to them. They are also process oriented. Honesty and vulnerability are internal values that can be practised right now and in every social interaction for the rest of your life.

How to Establish Your Values Without Being an Asshole?

So the one thing about values that people get confused is that you got to be somewhat of an asshole when expressing your values.

Having strong values doesn’t mean that you go around calling others out on their ‘poor values’ or ‘lack of values’. It just means recognising that you have different values than them and sometimes it’s just a lack of compatibility. The first step to establish your values is to express it in a matured manner. If the girl you’re dating shows up late, you don’t have to scream at her for showing up late. Just making it known and calling her out on it is enough.

You can always say: “Hey, I hope you won’t be this late the next time we meet.”

In a respectful and assertive manner.

I also want to note that your values should be flexible and based on context. If you have an amazing friendship with someone who’s always fucking late who has many other merits, then it’s perfectly fine to just accept that flaw in that person.

What Happens When You Change Your Values?

When you change your values, it’s normal for your old relationships to blow up in your face. This can be demonstrated by calling out certain behaviours from old friends and possibly ticking them off the wrong way.

Through my own personal growth, I started valuing my time and I started being serious about my life purpose and my work. If you cancel on me without letting me know, I’m sorry, that’s non-negotiable. I’m calling you out.

Your friendships you made through your life probably supported and confirmed the values of yours. However, when you begin to shift your values, you’re going to inevitably experience a lot of friction amongst those old relationships.

In my experience, long term relationships and friendships are the hardest. You may find yourself in a place where your closest relationships no longer understand you anymore. However, do these friendships have to have to go? I don’t think necessarily so. There’s no need to cut out a person because of a difference in values, that’s because, despite a difference in values, there may be overlap in values.

However, if you are constantly bickering over petty behaviours. That merely goes to show that you have different fundamental life values and have completely different priorities completely, then perhaps some time off that particular relationship might not be a completely negative thing.

In my experience, I found out the hard way that people around you are going to have different values from you do at the different point of their lives in multiple areas of their life from relationships to careers.

This is true of your relationship with to your parents, your childhood best friends, your boss, your pet goldfish, and your colleagues. You may have a childhood friend that has conflicting values at some point of his or her life and a loss of friendship is inevitable.

It’s values that ultimately bring people together and tear people apart. You’re going to be what you value. Choose your values wisely.

Works Cited

J, Z., S, S., J, C., & Z, Z. (2009). Social networks, personal values, and creativity: Evidence for curvilinear and interaction effects. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(4), 1544-1552.

W, M. M. (2007). Happiness and Virtue in Positive Psychology. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 89-103.

 

 

How to Set Boundaries in Dating and Relationships 01
Jan 11

How to Set Healthy Dating and Relationship Boundaries

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

You can argue that the majority of dating and relationship problems are a boundary issue in one way or another. Years ago, I was enrapt in a relationship that felt great at times and just dirt poor other times. It was like a rollercoaster ride. It was only years later after knowing the concept of boundaries, that I realized that my ex-girlfriend and I had piss poor boundaries in our relationship.

So other than sparring yourself from rollercoaster relationships, why are boundaries important?

Firstly, strong boundaries are the cornerstone of attractive behaviour. Secondly, they create emotional health and are created by people with emotional health. They lead to emotional stability and self-esteem. They are also something you can work on right away.

Okay, before you get into deeper details, let’s take a look if you have a boundary issue.

You May Have a Boundary Issue if You:

  • Constantly feel like people take advantage of you or use your emotions for their own gain?
  • Feel like you’re constantly having to “save” people close to you and fix their problems all the time?
  • Find yourself sucked into pointless fighting or debating regularly
  • Find yourself far more invested or attracted to a person than you should be for how long you’ve known them
  • In your relationships, you feel like things are always either amazing or horrible with no in-between. Or perhaps you even go through the break-up/reunion pattern every few months?
  • You tell people how much you hate drama but seem to always be stuck in the middle of it
  • You spend a lot of time defending yourself for things you believe aren’t your fault?

If you answered “yes” to even a few of the above, then you probably set and maintain poor boundaries in your relationships. If you answered a resounding “yes” to most or all of the items above, you not only have a major boundary problem in your relationships but you also probably have some other personal problems going on in your life.

What are Relationship Boundaries?

There are many reasons why someone may lack boundaries. Psychologically speaking, people with a lack of boundaries may appear may be motivated by an unconscious need to ‘keep the peace’ because of the fear of getting hurt.

So, what are boundaries and how do they look like?

Healthy Boundaries:

  • NOT taking responsibility for OTHER people choices, actions and emotions
  • Taking FULL responsibility for YOUR own choices, actions and emotions

Healthy Boundaries from the outside:

  • NOT expecting others to be responsible for your choices, actions and emotions
  • Other people should be responsible for THEIR choices, actions and emotions and NOT responsible for YOUR emotions and choices.

Dating and Relationship Boundaries

Examples of Poor Boundaries:

Since I’m Asian, I can use a couple examples from the Asian culture, I’ll chime in a few examples.

“If you go out with your friends tonight and not keep me accompany, I’m not going to give you allowance next month.”

“If you don’t study the subjects as I want you to, I’m not going to pay for it.”

“If you don’t do as I say, you’re not being filial to the family. Hence, you’re not a good child.”

This is an example of a parent’s expectation for his or her child to take responsibility for the parent’s choices and emotions.

In this scenario, the person is taking responsibility for actions or emotions that aren’t theirs or are expecting someone to take responsibility for their actions or emotions. When you set boundaries in your relationships, it can be as simple as saying no to someone and letting the chips fall where they may.

You’re NOT responsible for someone’s else emotions.

Flip that around, it’s also the willingness to take a no from someone else. That’s because if you feel crappy about hearing a no, you’re are responsibility for your own mood and not expect or blame anyone else for your emotions and choices. Ultimately, having strong boundaries does not mean that you don’t want your partners or friends to be happy. It just means that you can’t decide if your partners or friends are happy or choose to behave in a certain way.

The Breaker and Fixer Pathology

People with poor boundaries typically come in two flavors:

  1. Those who take too much responsibility for the emotions and actions of others
  2. Those who expect others to take too much responsibility for their own emotions and actions.

They are called the breaker, and the fixer. Interestingly, these two types of people often end up in relationships together. My first relationship was like that, it felt like it was us against the world. However, in hindsight, it was soul-sucking and emotionally tiring. She and I had pathologies of both the victim and saver, oscillating between both roles at different points of time.

  • The Saver

If you are someone who tends to feel a need to make their partners happy all the time, you may be playing the role of the saver in the relationship. You have a boundary issue. This is because, at the core of it, you’re attempting to decide/ control how your partner acts and feel.

The saver doesn’t save the victim because they actually care about the problem, but because they believe if they fix the problem they will feel loved.

  • The Victim

The victim creates problems not because there are real problems, but because they believe it will cause them to feel loved. If you are that someone who is always creating problems, expecting others to take responsibility for your actions and emotions. You are playing the role of the victim.

The saver and victim commonly end up together in relationships and often lead to unstable roller coaster relationships. In such scenarios, the lack of boundaries leads to needy, co-dependent.

From an attachment theory perspective, victims tend to be anxious-attachment types, and savers tend to be avoidant-attachment types. They both push away secure-attachment types. They may also grow up with parents who had poor boundaries in their relationships that led to their model of a relationship that is based on poor boundaries.

You may ask, Marcus, isn’t it cold and cruel to not care about others and fix their problems?

You see, the saver or the victim don’t ACTUALLY care about each other or the relationship, they are behaving in these ways to meet their own need for self-esteem through other people’s problems. The victim needs to create problems to feel loved whilst the saver needs to fix problems to feel loved. There isn’t any real authenticity or genuine emotional connection with these relationships.

Their behaviors are based on their OWN needs to feel loved and not actual unconditional love itself.

If the victim really cares about the saver and the relationship, he or she would say, “Look, this is my problem, you don’t have to fix it for me.” That would be actually caring about the saver.

If the saver really cared for the victim, the saver would say, “Look, you’re blaming others for your own problems, you should be responsible for it yourself.” That would be actually loving the victim.

The hardest thing for a victim to do in the world is to hold themselves accountable for their feelings and their life as opposed to blaming others. They spent their whole life believing they must blame others in order to feel any intimacy or love.

For the saver, the hardest thing to do in the world is to stop fixing other people’s problems and trying to make them feel happy or satisfied. They may have spent their whole lives feeling valued and loved when they were fixing a problem for someone. Hence, letting go of this need is terrifying to them as well. If you see your relationships as economical transactions, only seeing others as beneficial or economical exchanges, not only it’s a form of poor boundaries, it’s also going to tear you apart emotionally eventually.

The Boundary Problem in Modern Culture

Now, I may take some criticism for this, but I’m going to say it anyway. In Asian culture, there’s a cultural belief that children are inherently SUPPOSED to be filial to their parents or grandparents. It’s a common cultural Asian cultural narrative to love, respect and obey your parents JUST because they are your biological parents, not based upon the fact if they are good parents or not.

This often expressed in the value of filial piety.

I had a friend to said that he would give in to demanding/unreasonable requests to his parents just because they are paying for his University fees. His parents are using monetary support as a bargaining tool to get their child to conform.

I’m may piss off some you reading here but listen to me.

That is an unhealthy and toxic relationship dynamic between him and his parents with a lack of boundaries. On one hand, his parents are using money as a means to control their child’s behaviour. Secondly, on his end, he is giving up his self-respect, his honest thoughts, and desires because he’s afraid of not getting the money from his parents.

If your parents only provide for you financially if you give in to their whims and demands. It’s a conditional relationship. The underlying meaning of the relationship would mean: I only love you if you listen to me. I will only provide for you if you listen to me.

Firstly, these are a poor form of boundaries. Secondly, there isn’t any genuine support or affection in their relationship.

From personal experience in the Singaporean culture, there are many that have this perception that if their parents provide for them financially, it’s a MUST to give in to their parents, against their genuine thoughts, desires and beliefs.

Some of the people reading this might say: Marcus, you’re such an INGRATE for speaking out against the age-old values of filial piety. You’re Asian yourself and you SHOULD be filial to your parents.

Okay, shut up.

I AM filial to my parents. However, I act on it as a gift, with no expectations of return, as opposed to an OBLIGATION. There’s a difference.

The act and value of filial piety should be something that’s given unconditionally, rather than demanded or assumed because of cultural or social reasons. 

If you’re forced to visit your grandparents every weekend and you secretly hate it. Then you’re not acting out of a genuine desire to see and care for your grandparents. You’re doing it because you don’t want to piss your Mum and Dad off.

As I argued, acts of affection are only genuine if they’re performed without expectations.

Is It Okay to Sacrifice?

You may ask then, Marcus, what about making sacrifices for people you love? What about going the extra mile for best friends? What if my girlfriend wants me to call her daily? What if my pet cat requires me to stroke his belly 20 times a day?

I SHOULD make that sacrifice right?

Firstly, sacrifices that are made out of obligation aren’t genuine sacrifices. They are actually your inability to say no.

True sacrifice only comes in the form of unconditionally, as a gift, with no expectations of return. One common behavior I noticed during my stint as a dating coach for men is that they compliment women in hopes of getting her attention. Needless to say, they didn’t get far.

Sacrifice is only true and genuine when you desire to do it out of no expectations, as a gift, and not because you should feel obligated to or fear the consequences of NOT doing it.

You can simply ask yourself this: If you stopped doing an X behavior, would it change anything about your relationship with Y? Read: I know, the algebra. I’m Asian, live with it.

  • If I stopped picking her up from her house or sending her home, will she still love me?
  • If I stopped agreeing with her on everything she says, will she still love me?
  • If I told my friend that he should be on time in the future, and being late isn’t cool at all, will we still be friends?

If your answer is NO, it wouldn’t change a damn thing in the relationship, if you stopped doing a certain behavior, then that’s a good sign.

If YES, then you probably have a boundary issue. You’re making a particular sacrifice or behaving in a certain way because you fear to lose the relationship.

How to Set Strong Boundaries

I started off a YES man. I’d say YES to events, business opportunities, introductions, trips and I was the guy that was flexible and easy to get along. Yes, that helped a lot. However, as I grow, I realized it’s so much better to say NO and truly evaluate how and who you spend your time and effort with.

These days, I’m always evaluating how I feel after spending time with someone. If I feel emotionally recharged, listened to or that I learned something from him or her, I’ll continue pursuing that relationship. If I feel disrespected, belittled or unjustly criticized then I’ll stop.

In my business career, I had instances where potential clients waste my time by getting me to draft out long thought out proposals for their digital marketing campaigns and I don’t hear back from them. No, no more. You need to be a good fit to work with me.

I had instances where girls waste my time and don’t show up for a date. That’s on me. That’s MY fault. I didn’t qualify her properly. If I had disqualified and said: ‘You and I are probably not going to get a long because you’re always late’, she’s going to either straighten up or not waste my time by not showing up.

These days, I hold by these standards throughout all my relationships, from friends, family, clients, business partners, and life choices. In that sense, I’m valuing my time and myself. Only by valuing your time and yourself, that you can get others to value you and your time.

Here are some of the lines you can use:

  • I prefer not to discuss them as these matters are private to me’
  • I never kiss and tell’
  • I already stated my opinion and I’m not going to argue with you further.’
  • ‘If you keep doing X behaviour, then I’m going to leave.’
  • ‘This is are my values, and I hope you can respect that.’

Closing Thoughts

Setting boundaries by cutting an acquaintance out or an ever unaccountable friend is easy. It’s as simple as cutting them out from your life or seeing them lesser. However, setting boundaries and maybe even cutting family and best friends out are a lot harder. You can dump your girlfriend, you can’t dump a bad family member. Family relationships are the hardest to deal with. Trust me, I’ve been there.

One time, I stopped driving a couple of my friends around. I realized that if I stopped driving them around, they wouldn’t bother hanging out with me. Tough truth to face, but that’s life. When I go out with a girl on a date and she says something offensive, I don’t just play nice and ignore, I call her out on it. That’s a form of my boundaries. I don’t accept rude or offensive behaviours in my life.

How to Set Boundaries in Dating and Relationships 03

Someone with strong boundaries isn’t afraid to say no. He or she isn’t afraid of a temper tantrum or getting into an argument. He or she also understands that he may hurt someone else’s feelings at times and ultimately can’t control how someone else feels.

He or she also understands that a genuine relationship isn’t made up of two people deciding on each other’s actions or emotions, but instead, an unconditional relationship is made up of two people supporting each other, without judgment or expectations.

How to Talk to Women
Jan 02

How to Start a Conversation and Talk to Anyone

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

You see your ideal partner sitting across the table of Starbuck having a quiet cup of coffee. He or she is dressed casually. They don’t look intimidating They are attractive. They are also alone. The hundreds of possibilities run through your head. You want to start a conversation with them. However, you freeze and you don’t know what to say, much less how to say it. Or maybe you’re at a networking session are you see the boss of your ideal company standing beside a booth. You’re thinking of what to say in a situation like this.

How many of us experienced similar situations like this?

Starting a conversation with anyone is a skillset that can be learnt.

How to Talk to Anyone – Conversational Mindsets

Firstly, you need to understand that there are good conversational mindsets that can make or break any conversation.

This can be done by adopting conversational mindsets such as 1) using effective language, 2) learning the art of making statements, 3) creating endless conversation threads by actively listening and 5) understanding the mechanics of how to connect deeply with anyone.

Mindset 1: Lower The Bar For a Conversation

The first step to starting a conversation with a stranger and never running out of words is to lower the bar for conversation. I was notorious for being too witty and lost in abstract arguments in my head. It has single handedly submarined a lot of social, romantic and business opportunities. Purely relying on pure wit or intellect is actually a horrible way to communicate in any relationship

It’s a cultural narrative from movies you watch growing up where the actors and actresses often come up with witty lines and the ‘perfect moment’ to strike up a conversation. In reality, is far from the truth. It’s always a little awkward at first when getting to know someone new, just keep it simple.

Mindset 2: Statements Versus Questions

Have you ever had someone who you just got to know ask you repetitive questions? I bet you have. It also felt irritating. People feel the same way as well. When you go interview mode on someone, you’re making the conversational flow one sided.

Instead of going down the route of interviewing someone and asking questions. When you make statements, you’re giving your own input and giving her a window to respond to that statement.

The trick here isn’t to just stick to statements. It’s to mix in statements and questions. In Asian culture, if you were just to stick to statements, most people will not know how to respond. From my experience, they’re just too used to guys asking questions all the time, and haven’t built any social skills to share themselves.

It’s a much better conversational habit as compared to asking questions and waiting for her reply. Of course, if you were to make statements, questions and she just doesn’t respond, it means that she’s not ready to talk and isn’t receptive.

Don’t take it personally and move on.

Statements offer more ‘value’ and opportunity for someone to get continue to a conversation than questions. When you’re just going off on questions with someone, you don’t express your identity, and you don’t really put them in a position to express themselves. The other party got to invest in the conversation for the interaction to go well.

Cold reading is a skillset that you can use to make statements. Other simple ones include making observations about the environment or something that catches your eye. It’s possible to turn every question into a statement. For example, instead of asking what someone does for a job, why not make a statement that they looks like they work in creative line or looks like a teacher and etc.

If you get it wrong, they’ll correct you. If you get it right, they’ll be quite surprised at how intuitive you are. There are no loses to making cold reads.

You can also make statements about your day to day life. Instead of worrying what to ask next, you can just go off randomly on your day or events that interest you: ‘I hate my boss, he just made me do two times the work today’.

It’s better to be random and interesting than to be predictable. However, don’t be too random, as it won’t work in an Asian setting.

Statements done right can inspire someone to find out more about yourself. It can inspire someone to ask more questions about you. This way, it’s a two sided conversation.

Caveat: I’d like to add that questions are alright in an Asian setting, most Asian aren’t really equipped with the social skills to lead the interaction, you’ll be required to do a little bit of babysitting by mixing questions with statements.

Mindset 3: Listening Actively 

One of the common pitfalls of learning social skills is to only talk about yourself and only showing interest in the topics that you yourself are interested in.

One time, I went out with one of my girl friends. She had relationship woes. For three hours straight, she went on was how shit of their ex-boyfriend treated her. That spanned the whole of three fucking hours. Whilst I’m perfectly cool with lending a listening ear, it just got downright exasperating and I felt like killing myself at the end of the session.

Read: if you want to feel better about yourself it’s better to step outside of yourself and empathise with someone else’s problems. Instead of having a self-defeating loop in your mind, merely focused on your own problems, your own trouble or your own pain. It helps, try it.

If you’re genuinely interested in the world of others. It will lead you to a lot more conversational opportunities than just sticking to your own topics of conversation.

Take a good listen to people around you. Everyone’s attempting to jam their point of view down everyone else’s throat. No one’s truly listening. Communication at the end of the day is a two-way thing. Yes, you get to share your story, once they are done listening to yours, do make a point to listen to their story. Part of being interesting is being genuinely interested remember?

How to Talk to Girls 05

Mindset 4: Use Effective Language 

One way to be a great communicator is by using effective language. This means using the shortest number of words possible to in conversation to get your point across. You would rather have 5 minutes of awesome conversation as opposed to 15 minutes of beating around the bush. You will come off as more well spoken and charismatic.

This means removing ‘ahh’ ‘you know’ and ‘erhms’ and other filters when you’re conversing.

This doesn’t mean you speak like a robot either. You can use different tonality and pace to get more emotion across in your conversations. Writing and keeping a journal can help with this skillset.

When there’s nothing to say, don’t feel like a need that you have to say something. That’s part of being grounded in your social interactions. There’s no need to fill every silent gap with something to say. In psychology, it’s said that people who can’t help but ramble on to ‘keep the peace’ may be displaying a form of anxious attachment.

When in doubt, ask yourself, ask yourself, are you saying something because you’re afraid of the silence or the slight confrontation? If the answer is Yes, then it’s OKAY to keep to yourself. Remember, you don’t need permission to speak to anyone, or not speak to anyone.

How to Start a Conversation out of Nothing

Skillset 1: Asking Innocuous Questions

I used to think that simple questions sounded stupid and it’s ‘impractical’ to ask someone on such questions. However, I realised innocuous questions are a mere social tool and conversational starter to get some social juices going when talking to strangers.

No one goes deep into their life story in the first few minutes of getting someone new, and no one expects a life story within the first few minutes either.

Some example of innocuous questions:

  • “What are you up to here?”
  • “How’s your day?”

You’ll be surprised how far these innocuous questions can help is starting a conversation with an interesting stranger.

Skillset 2: Making Simple Observations

Secondly, you can also start a conversation with a stranger by making simple observations. You can get creative with this. It can be something in the current environment you’re in, it can be the nicely tailored suit that he’s wearing, or the cute blue toenails she has spent hours on. It can be the weather. It can be the fake tan she has on. (I’m kidding)

  • “Wow, the weather’s pretty hot today.”
  • ‘Those are nice blue toenails you have on, they are really cute.’

Just like asking innocuous questions, think of it as a conversational starter. Once you get small talks like that going, you can follow these observations up with a question, or a cold read.

Skillset 3: The Art of Cold Reading

Cold reading is the art of making an intelligent guess about something about someone. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong or right. The point of it is to get the conversation going. It’s one of the most effective and a bread and butter of conversational tools that you should include in your daily life if you’re looking to improve your social and conversational skills.

Cold reading is done by making harmless neutral assumptions with the people you are talking with.

Examples of Cold Reading:

  • “Hi, you seem to be a really artsy person. Did you take an arts subject in school?”
  • “You look like you’re a school teacher, you must be a pretty bad one, all the kids must hate you”

The thing about cold reading and guessing is that you never go wrong with it. If you get it wrong, he or she will correct you, and perhaps add onto it. If you’re spot on, they’ll likely to think that you’re quite perceptive and may engage with you in conversation because of that. Just last week I got most of my cold reads right by chance by guessing a girl was half Japanese and was studying at the University of London. She reacted positively and was curious how did I know so much. I followed up by teasing that I stalk her daily on Facebook and Instagram.

Through cold reading, you can keep conversational threads flowing and then relate these threads back to your own life with your own experiences.

I’ve personally used this conversational tool thousands of times to spark new conversations or in the middle of dying conversations threads. It works every time.

How to Keep a Conversation Going Anyone

One of the most commonly asked questions in social skills, dating and relationships advice is how to keep a conversation going with anyone, and how to never run out of words?

In social interactions, you’re going to assume to the burden of taking the lead, to start, to continue and to lead in the conversation. Instead of ending your conversations with one-word answers: Yes or No, try to end it with stories, statements and specifics.

  • The Art of Improvisation

There’s a misconception in conversation that people pay attention to words and phrases. However, it’s the meaning of the conversation that people are more interested in. If you just pay attention to to phrases and words, it may result in an unnatural conversation. It’ll seem as if you’re trying to keep this conversation going and you’re afraid of silences.

The secret to creating endless conversational topics is to get good at improvisation. You can only get better with this skill by learning from stand up comedians. I started off studying George Carlin and Louis CK, however, their style of comedy can be quite dark and self depreciating. That’s not really good for most situations. One of the good comedians to check out is Russell Brand and Russell Peters.

The best way to get good at this is to gain an appreciation of language.

  • Penetrate the Ostensible

When you’re penetrating the ostensible, you are take multiple meanings to a word, phrase or intonation and playing around it. This is taking note of little nuances, words that someone says and playfully adding in a tease.

The Art of Story Telling: How to Tell a Story

Ever know someone who went on, and on and on and you can’t help but quietly look away whilst he goes on and on to kind of signal that he’s being too long-winded? Or maybe you know someone who awkwardly tries to fit in a joke in his conversations?

Starting conversations is an important skill. However, learning how to continue them in a dynamic manner is also equally important.

Human beings, by nature, are enrapt by stories. People in power, businessmen, priests (erhem), comedians, and politicians all use the art of storytelling to explain, persuade and influence others to their way of thinking.

In the dating advice community, memorizing stories and routines are popular methods. Whilst this might work in the short run, there’s going to come a point of time where you’re going to run out of words. Hence, I advocate understanding the principles of what makes a dynamic conversation and apply them using your own life stories and experiences.

Learning how to tell a story in a structured, and interesting manner will make you a good conversationalist.

Every great story has a rough three-step process that anyone can use.

  • The Set Up

The set up gives context to the conflict of the story. It’s the general setting, such as the location and brief details of the story. The set up should be as short as possible. But it’s necessary to give the initial context and foundation for the follow-up of the complete story.

If you don’t set up your stories, you’ll come off to others as random in your conversations.

One simple one lined example of the “set up” would be this:

“I was attending my school orientation the other day. Whilst watching the orientation games, there was this girl that tripped and fell. I was an asshole about it and laughed a little.”

It’s descriptive and gives background to the story.

  • The Conflict

The conflict is the part where you introduce the majority of the story. This should be the part that causes tension and expectancy. The content of the story needs to be captivating and hook others into wanting to know what will happen next. If there isn’t much conflict in the content of your stories, you will get the feeling that you ramble on a lot and others are not paying attention to you.

To continue to story from the set up:

“One of the most attractive girls in the whole of the camp took me by surprise and gave me a smack on my arm. I actually froze up! I froze up and walked away like an idiot! I should have just said something out of my mouth or smacked her back. But I didn’t. I retardedly froze up and walked away.”

“However, I never really felt right, that’s because I didn’t want myself worth to be judged on how many girls date, or anything like that. I also felt I wasn’t experienced enough to coach guys that might be twice my age.”

  • The Resolution/ Punchline

The resolution and the punchline are where you insert ‘the moral of the story’, the ‘punchline’ and the ‘joke’ to end off the story, or just closure for a generic story. People who don’t conclude their stories properly will often get blank stares when they’re finished speaking, or people will ask them “Yeah, and…?”

To end off the story with a punchline:

“Lesson learned! Never ever stand beside an attractive woman during orientation games.” (Joke)

“Nonetheless, I’ve decided to give it a shot, as long as I do my research, and stick to my values, and business values, I’m sure it’ll turn out alright.”

These are all true stories by the way.

Learning how to tell stories in a dynamic and interesting manner is a conversational habit has helped me over the years with strangers, sales and persuading others in my business and dating life. Learning how to structure your conversations is going to be helpful for everything from sales presentations, networking events, casual conversations and other forms of social interactions. It can also make or break a romantic interaction when you’re expected to lead in conversation.

How to Talk to Girls - Start a Conversation and Connection 03

Should You Memorize Lines for Conversations?

Some times, I get this question: should you memorize lines for your conversations? Personally, I never felt right memorising lines. It has never turned out well for me. Furthermore, you don’t want to be some robotic person repeating what somebody wrote on the internet.

There’s no need to memorize anything, I’ve sparked conversations with people all over the world with this simple line: “Hi I’m Marcus, I just wanted to say Hi, you look like…”.

I haven’t had a drink splashed on me yet.

You want to understand the principles of conversations, and use your own unique life stories and motivations. This will serve you much better in the long run. Not to mention social interactions has many variables that are out of your control and cannot be completely boxed and quantified like a formula.

However, if you’re starting out you can memorize one line jokes or some of your own life stories as training wheels. They should come naturally out of you after some practice.

The Art of Qualification: Empathy and Appreciation

Mark Twain was quoted saying: “really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

When was the last time someone took notice of something about you and appreciated that aspect of you? You see, appreciation is as aspect that’s left out in our culture and conversations. That’s because it genuine appreciation requires vulnerability.

The secret desire is that everyone desires to be appreciated and to be admired. The art of qualification is the art of appreciating someone for their values or personality. The  way to get good at this is to step outside your daily judgments and asking yourself why someone behaves the way they do.

I also don’t mean it in a manner where you compliment someone for the sake of complimenting them. You have to convey your compliments in an authentic manner.

For example: The guy who seems fearless in his entrepreneurial pursuits, selfish with his time, demand and uptight about his schedule, isn’t actually being an asshole. He could be working on a huge project that may help his family financially.

Someone who is extremely financially motivated might not be money minded. He might be doing it because he had a negative experience financially when he was young.

I choose to write about social skills, dating and relationships because I essentially care about this area of my life. Writers make choices. It must obviously mean something to me. So does everyone, with whatever they choose to pursue.

The world is mired in advertising, society, family, friends telling you and everyone else that they aren’t good enough. If you’re able to dig beneath the surface, figure out why people do what they do and appreciate them for that, you’ll stand out from the norm in their lives. It’s only when you find that gold in someone, appreciate them for that, and watch them lit up like a Christmas tree.

How to Build a Deep Emotional Connection

Society often shames us for expressing what you really feel or think. Hence all of us grow up to hold back our thoughts, desires, and feelings, whether be it consciously or subconsciously. However, as humans being, we all have an emotional need for connection and significance in our relationships.

How to Talk to Girls 11

If you’re going to meet someone and merely talk about the weather, gossip on your mutual friends or nerd out about politics, then you aren’t being truly vulnerable. If all you know about someone is merely the superficial facts about someone, then you don’t really know someone at all.

Men tend to converse through information, fact and theories and women through emotions. However, many pay attention to the “WHATs” of life: their job, their cat’s name and where they live. The facts are mere superficial details of the emotions experienced. You want to relate to the underlying emotions behind the facts.

They rarely peer into the WHYs.

Conversing with emotions will not only help you connect to someone in a deeper manner, but it’ll also help you connect on a more meaningful level. Deeper friendships and romantic relationships aren’t just built by the number of experiences two people have together, it’s also built upon opening up to each other.

No matter how different, everyone in the world has gone through some form of success, failure, hurt, disappointment, anger and lost. If you want to connect with someone emotionally, you got to open yourself up and connect on these universal emotions and experiences.

I often tell people that I’m quite a good judge of character and someone else’s motivation. That’s because I pay attention to the undercurrent of what someone is saying, as opposed to the superficial layers of communication. Powerful emotional connection is built upon understanding and relating to each other’s WHYs in life.

You need to pay attention to the motivations behind pursuits and behaviours.

Here’s an example of going into the WHYs:

Her: Wow, what inspired you to be an entrepreneur at such a young age?
Me: I pursue business I want to be financially free because I felt financially suffocated during my teenage years as my family went bankrupt for a period of time.

That is a ‘Why’.

Here’s another way to tell a story in a dynamic way:

I was once a competitor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and currently I’m an entrepreneur. The feeling before a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition is the same pressure before a giving a business pitch.

They are both some sort of competition in some way. One of them is trying to overcome a physical challenge whilst the other a financial one. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor is risking failure, success, and embarrassment just like how the entrepreneur is.

Never thought how a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu champion can relate to an entrepreneur uh?

Like I mentioned, everyone on this planet shares a handful of universal emotional realities: ambition, shame, alienation, loneliness, achievement, regret, hardship, friendship, love, heartbreak. You and I have all experienced it. The facts change, but the feelings stay the same.

It’s merely how well you’re able to express yours, which will in turn inspire them to share theirs. This requires some degree of vulnerability. It’s true that many carry themselves in a superficial manner in order to fit in with society. However, everybody has it somewhere in them. It’s your job to dig it out and connect with that part of them. That’s where the gold is. That’s where the real magic happens.

  • Be Aware of Your Own Life Stories and Motivations

The rule of thumb here is to always go first. If you share a vulnerable part of yourself, it’ll inspire them to share about theirs.

However, to do that, you first have to be firstly aware of your own emotions, motivations and life story.

This includes:

  • Your passions and favourite things to do
  • Your dreams, ambitions, life goals
  • Best/worst thing that has happened to you
  • Your childhood, family life and upbringing

You can initiate these conversations by a simple cold read: you look like you’re close to your family.

This is where majority of people (especially men) fail at this. Men tend to discuss technical know-hows and superficial details rather than be introspective about their own emotions. The majority of guys suck at talking about themselves. They think it’s ‘weird’ in some ways. Women, on the other hand are super engaged when they are talking about themselves (or each other). This is why women enjoy gossiping, creating drama or people watching.

Here is an example:

I always wanted to be a psychologist growing up because I had a lot of problems growing up as a rebellious teenager. I was always angry, apathetic and under performing. I ended up being hooked onto self development due to a horrible break up with my ex-girlfriend. I was addicted to the fact that I could have a control over my dating life and social interactions.

Through years of failure, today, I feel much more in control of my dating life. I took an interest in psychology that partially inspired my entrepreneurial projects.

However, if you talk about how you FEEL about your experiences, then you can relate to how she FEELS about her experiences. It’s never the experiences themselves that make the difference, it’s the similar underlying emotions of those experiences that you relate to someone that makes a difference.

Here are some examples:

She studies really hard to get into law school because she was brought up by a single Mum and she wants to be self-reliant and independent. That’s driving her. You can relate to her by saying that you had a distant upbringing with your family and you always had to rely on yourself emotionally to get by.

When you open up about yourself and can relate to each other’s emotions and experience, you’ll elicit them to to open up about themselves. The more this goes on, the more personal stories become and the deeper the emotions you connect with. The harder it is to talk about it as a subject, the more genuine and attractive it potentially can be. For example, topics such as childhood, upbringing and family life are often hard for someone to express, especially so in Asian culture.

Here’s a reframe: by being alright with sharing any part of yourself with anyone, you’re truly confident. Emotional connection occurs only through exposing yourself to a certain degree. It cannot be faked.

Confrontation and Boundaries

Lastly, confrontation is necessary to build a deeper emotional connection. Think of it as a parent who sits you down, says something that you don’t want to hear, but know that you should hear. You hate it at first, however, you appreciate that after awhile because deep down you know they are saying so because they care for you.

How to Talk to Girls 03

Confrontation can be painful and vulnerable. The majority of people avoid confrontation in the fear of imploding the relationship. However, it is necessary. Confrontation was something I started to get more comfortable with as I grew older. This is especially so with close relationships.

Recently, I confronted two good friends. I was feeling really upset for their unreliability and a host of other issues. I kept it in for months. However, it finally felt inauthentic to be around them without expressing those issues. It didn’t feel like a genuine friendship anymore. It felt like I was holding back my thoughts and desires in fear of losing the relationship.

Confrontation from a dating and relationships aspect can be as simple as calling a girl out for being half an hour late into a date to confronting your boyfriend about those weird late night calls to his ex. These conversations are almost often downright uncomfortable, but necessary. However, that’s how an authentic and deeper relationship is formed over time.

Putting it all Together

When you combine these conversational skillsets of cold reading, making statements over questions, storytelling, improvisation, deep emotional connection, you’ll eventually find yourself in being able to direct and control the flow of any conversation. This is actually easier than it sounds. You probably already are using different parts of these skillsets time to time. Now, you just got to do it consistently with anyone you are intending to converse with.

When I was 17, and I was the biggest countercultural hippie. I listened to John Lennon, proclaimed that all you need is love and just felt that life was all too short to be worried about you know the practical stuff. I sat at the playground near my house I was with my ex girlfriend who I was dating at that point in time. I sat and both of us chatted for hours.

I went off about how societal expectations were ridiculous and gave a mini-lecture if the universe existed or not. I told her how amazing was to exist as a tiny speck of the universe. I ranted passionately for a good hour. She listened. She listened well.

I then caught myself rambling and stared into her eyes.

I said: “Were you even listening, did you understand what I just said?”

She said: “No, I don’t, but I just love the way you say it.”

I got annoyed because I wanted her to understand all of that hippie stuff. She didn’t. However, years later, looking back, she probably loved how I expressed it. It my passion, my values and story telling at it’s finest. That was because those stories demonstrated my vulnerability, my authenticity.

Fast forward years later and I found myself dating this other girl at this bar near my home. That point of time, I was also a competitive martial artist and was preparing for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament. I ended ranting off on about how Jiu Jitsu is similar to the game of human chess. I told her Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was akin to facing death.

I explained to her that by being submitted in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match, it is the equivalent of dying. You’re either choked out, or risk suffering a major limb broken, which will lead you to a huge disability continuing the fight. I then went on about how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teaches everyone to be humble because getting into a physical altercation in reality always pans out differently.

Guess what? She loved it. She just stared at me like my ex girlfriend did, mesmerised at how I went on passionately about something I cared about.

Complete different people, and completely different stories. Nonetheless, the same universal emotions.

The facts often get shifted around, however, the feelings are always same.