#1 Knowledge

I have always been fascinated with finding out how machines and systems tick.  When I was younger, I took apart toys after I became tired of playing with them. When I started going to high school, I switched to old machines around the house or from second hand stores.  Then, when I entered college, I became bored with machines and took an interest in people.  The complexity of human beings attracted me.  Each person on earth is truly unique.  Everyone perceives, understands, hears, and interprets messages differently. Sure, there are stereotypes, similarities, and norms, but the mixes of culture, society, and experiences combine to make us unique. A personality is a combination of experiences, inherited behavior, and culture.  Your unique personality, of course, has different consequences on different people. We can control these consequences by controlling our personality.  We can craft a personality of interest if we know how to change these things that make up our core.

The easiest out of the three core elements to change are your experiences.  Try to experience something new every week, or every day, for the more aggressive reader.  Surround yourself with positive role models.  Find someone who is where you want to be in 5-10 years and befriend them.  The second easiest element to change of your personality is your inherited behavior.  When we are children we have to be taught to share, to tell the truth, and to be kind, but those are the basics. We are necessarily taught the finer skills. We have to teach ourselves how to develop and harness our uniqueness.  Practice observing your own behavior for a week. Carry around a notepad and write down things about yourself that you would like to change.  Notice how you interact with friends, family, and co-workers. The next week, start catching yourself doing the things on your list, then try to promote the opposite or desired behavior.  I did this for years through college and a couple years after.  Never stop trying to improve your image. I should also note, when I say the word image, I am referring to our inward image and not physical appearance.

The hardest and most powerful element that affects a personality is the culture that person exists in.   We can classify them into work or school culture, family culture, and friend culture. There are norms within each of these groups such as always saying good morning to people at the office or having watercooler chats in the break room.  There are also boundaries in things like humor or conversation topics for family culture.  You will either be an influencer or an influence based on the amount of power or leadership you have in these culture groups.  The size of these groups combined with the amount of power you wield in them affects your ability to change these cultures.

That being said, there is some type of emotional, sociological, intangible source that drives everyone. If you find what drives someone then you can influence and motivate them. So, in order to have social power we must first develop knowledge.

Think of yourself as a salesmen and your product is yourself.  In order to persuade someone to buy you, become friends with you, you must find out what they want, then repurpose your personality to offer that trait to them. In order to acquire new friends you might have to get rid of old friends. If you have friends who are adding more complication to your life then consider cutting the time down that you spend with them and use that to spend investing in new friendships.  I’ve had to get rid of friends and acquaintances that were poisoning my quality of life.  This was a hard decision but something I will never regret because it gave me my life back.  Take time to search your connections for relationships that could end up like that down the line. Keep a watchful eye on those.

The 5W’s are the best way I get to know someone: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.  Review a scenario of the 5W’s in the graphic book.  The first time I talk to someone I ask them open ended questions to find out their religion, relationship status, line of work or study, and political affiliation.  In some cultures it is okay to ask about these things right off the bat. In Washington, DC politics are the main topics at a lot of bars so it is normal to ask someone about their political affiliation.  In Lynchburg, VA religion is a big deal. Folks are very open about their religious beliefs therefore it wouldn’t be abnormal to ask about religion during an icebreaker conversation.  Asking questions are also good ways to move a stale conversation along.

Some people will just ignore someone who says “hi” to them walking down the street or sharing an elevator. I welcome conversations with anyone, no matter what they look like, you never know what you can learn from someone. Also practicing talking is the only way you will be a better conversationalist. I had an acquaintance in college who was friends and roommates with one of my good friends.  I never really spent much time with her specifically but I kept her as a contact after college. Years later, we ended up in the same city for graduate school.  As the senior editor for the school newspaper and journalism student she gained excellent editing experience. She started editing my research papers as a favor during graduate school.

Skill – Mimicking and profiling

Some soft skills that will help with gaining knowledge from people are mimicking and profiling. Profiling isn’t just for policemen.  When I struggled with my depressed during high school days, my mom decided to send me to a psychologist. I went once a month for almost a year. The sessions helped me discover how alone and angry I was but they didn’t lead me to joy.  My feelings of happiness and sadness weren’t consistent, but one day, while waiting in the hallway for my next class to start I met a older guy who quickly became my best friend.  In hour first conversation we found out that we both play the same video games, love the same music, and live less than half a mile from eachother.  I also found out that he worked the graveyard shift inside a submarine for the navy, so if anyone knew about loneliness – he did. Jeffrey became my role model. For a couple years, I mimicked his behavior because he was a big influence in my life.

Profiling is a way for you to infer information about someone based on collections of physical and behavioral qualities. Based on pre-built profiles you can infer information about someone that will help you predict their actions, likes, dislikes, etc.

Capitalize on the insecurity of lost identity. People want to know the 5W’s, who they are, what they are good at, and why. Self-identification is an ongoing process. People never stop redefining themselves. Besides, let’s face it, who doesn’t like hearing reaffirm great things about themselves.  I’m not saying you should suck up to someone or be a “yes man”. That is for amateurs.  Everyday try to find something good about one person and let it naturally come up in conversation.  For instance, a co-worker is telling you about a recent project they worked on,  you can tell them “Modifying XYZ spreadsheets is your specialty. I’m sure you will ace this project!”. Co-workers love being recognized of their strengths.

Always assume someone is watching you when you are in public.  At my college there was a secret society called Chi (pronounced ‘Kai’ not ‘Chee’).  They were the spirit of the school. It was understood amongst the students that Chi was always watching.   One year I dyed my hair blue just for fun. A couple days after doing so, I received a letter from Chi in the mail, condoning my school spirit. The letter also asked me to do the honor of placing the ceremonial flowers and sign on the pedestal for there next Chi Walk event.

If you have ever noticed someone picking their nose in the mirror in their car then you know – people act weird when they think no one’s watching. Don’t be that person and you can avoid some embarrassing moments and office drama.  Your big brother, parents, boss, teacher, they are always watching. Don’t let them know that you know they are watching but always perform your best because you know they are watching.

When debating about projects and current events, only tell someone they are wrong if they can take criticism, and if you know them well enough.  People respect constructive criticism from their peers they trust.  Unfortunately, some people can’t take criticism at all, and offending them isn’t the way to be interesting.  Remember, the best location for criticism is away from other peers.  If you are in a debate or argument, remember to voice your respect for their opinion in spite of your disagreement of it.

Social proof is the scientific term for mimicking. It is a great influence tactic for beginners.  For example you go to your friend’s birthday party where you only know a few people. There are two different friend circles there, his work buddies and former classmates.  You don’t really know his classmates so you attempt to reflect their behavior to fit into the conversation.  Meaning you try to mimic their body language and facial expressions as not to stand out.  It’s a good practice to draw similarities quickly, perhaps after-school clubs, sports, or Greek organizations.

The best time to be unique is when you are in small gatherings.  This is the time you can create originality. Originality is replaceable. This will create a void in their life. When they experience how refreshing your personality is they can’t help themselves by being around you.  If you are in the courting process, limit your time with the person. This gives them a taste.  Think of movie trailers. They just give you the scenes right before the action starts. You have to pay to see the full movie to get the details. This is the same effect we want to have in our social encounters to elicit the maximum influence and desire.  An easy way to differentiate yourself is to join something where you are the only kind of your gender.  Try taking a class or joining a club where the opposite sex stereotypically is the minority. You can look at local sports clubs, music classes, book clubs, different art classes, or hiking,  Surprisingly, many organizations still post things in newspapers, so be sure to check the obvious and not so obvious locations as you hunt for new hobbies.   Thanks for reading, comment, like and subscribe if I changed the way you think.

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