Awareness #3

Awareness is key to becoming an effective leader in social events.  You need to be aware of your gaps in life.  These are your weaknesses. When you close these gaps you will grow personally.  You also need to be aware of your strengths so that you can leverage them.  The best way to find out your strengths aside from trying new things everyday is to set quiet time for self-reflection. Socialites are efficient at watching where a conversation is going. This is done by observing behavior and characteristics.  This can only come with experience and practice.  When planning a dinner party take note of different personalities of the guests. Be alert to which ones will clash. Blunt people tend to not like other blunt people.   Look at the body language of people you are talking to. If they are relaxed, they will be leaning on something. If they are fidgeting then something could be on there mind. If they keep checking their phone or watch then maybe they are in a hurry. Watch their eyes. Always try to maintain eye contact with whoever you are in a conversation with. Your eyes send more messages than you tongue can send.  You can show someone you are listening by just making eye contact and nodding your head.  If you see their eyes dart around then maybe they are focused on something else.  This doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested in you, but that they attention is divided.  A lot of people find it hard to concentrate one thing for at least 60 seconds.  Concentration takes patience, but those who focus on the topic at hand will be great conversationalist.  I consider keen concentration, focus and awareness “Lifehacker” skills.  A life hack is a colloquial term for any skill that provides life productivity. Check out the lifehacker website for more information.

Once you become really good at reading body language you will be able to read lips.  You will be able to hear things that you don’t normally hear. You will be able to read what people are thinking without them telling you. If you train yourself to learn the physical movements of the lips you will be able to hear from afar with your eyes.  This helps at loud bars and concerts as well as many other occasions.  Websites exist filled with games and guides on how to read lips.  Try out’s exercises.  I challenge you to listen out for a new sound everyday or try to notice something that you didn’t see before. I challenge you to take a break from technology use on your daily commute. Pay attention to details, advanced users will be able to read lips, this helps with information gathering and it’s fun to show off at restaurants with your date. You can tell him or her what the other table is saying .I like to play this game with my best friend when we go people watching. We will act out what another couple or table is saying by saying words the words to ourselves.

Observe your surroundings, by asking questions and you will notice a lot of things you haven’t seen before. When you tell friends about your new exciting adventures you go on or new product ideas. Pay attention to the ones who consistently give you negativity. If they show resentment or jealousy, maybe include them next time and they will be happier. If not then it’s time to cut those ties loose.  Their negative energy more than likely has lasting affects on you and your success.  Abolish the haters, negative Nancies, and saboteurs from your life. You know those debbie downers, the people that are always telling you that something is too hard, or too weird, or too strange. Around 24 years old, I realized that majority of the things I’ve done to get where I was at that point were from doing unorthodox things. For example, the day I graduated college I moved into an apartment three hours away from home then started a new job the next day, contrary to what my parents wanted me to do.  Several years after that, I switched careers from food service to information technology, against one of my former professor’s recommendations. She said that I wouldn’t excel in the field considering the grades I got in my entry level computer courses.  However, I learned that there will always be work available for two types of people. Those who are willing to learn and those who are honest workers.

Another topic of awareness is charity.  You must strive to be aware of neighbors in need. When you help others enrich their lives you become happier and your life becomes more meaningful as well.  Try to learn at least one thing every day and help at least one person everyday. I challenge you to do with by not lending money but lending time and words of encouragement and affirmation.  If you want to reach the most people you need to broaden the types of people you can influence. You need to be able to effectively communicate with the young and old, the rich and poor.  I’m always willing to lend a helping hand to co-workers, friends, and family.  If they someone asked them to describe me in three words, I am certain that one of them would be helpful or caring.  That warmth that I send them generates willingness and likeability. So, offer a to help with dinner, to take out the trash, to wash the car, or help with a big project. The good friends won’t forget your kindness.

Celebrate Awareness - Take 2

Every Christmas I send about 20+ Christmas cards to special friends from work, church, and my social life.  I send them as a reminder of the relationship we have. I want them to know that I cherish them and I think about them during the special time of year when most thoughts are consumed with meeting family. This is one of the ways I nurture my relationships.  Social networks will break down if not maintained from time to time.  Think about the friends you haven’t seen in a while. Friendship takes two to maintain but it takes one to start. Be the person who picks up the phone and calls that friend you haven’t talked to in months or years.

In order to cross barriers of age, build a connection based on interests just like you would with someone who is your age.  Older people tend to value maturity, stability, and vision in a younger person while younger people tend to value, uniqueness, intelligence, and familiarity.  Use these interests and values to bridge gaps in conversations with those who are a different age than you.

You must be aware of your own other-identity. Embrace it. Being comfortable in your own shoes develops confidence and knowledge.  I didn’t start being comfortable with who I was until I found out who I was. Self-identification is the longest journey. Some of us never stop asking who we are. The key is to decide who you want to be then stick to that model.  It’s hard to be friends with someone who is a different personality every day.  We like consistency in our friendships. We like to know who we can count on.   Never apologize for being yourself.  If you apologize for something that you can’t help doing because it’s your personality then you are betraying yourself.  Write down three to five things that you think you are good at then write down three to five things that other people say you are good at. Practice on transferring those skills to another hobby or field.  It is also helpful to mention how important it is to be in tune with your emotions. Some people meditate others like to have quiet time. However you like to medicate yourself, do it. I just want to focus on being aware of your emotions, how they come off in a  conversation and how you interpret other’s emotions.  I take after my mom emotionally and my dad physically. Even though I might not be mad or bored, sometimes my body language and facial expressions show it. After enough getting tired of people always thinking that, I decided to change how I express myself.  I learned that I have to look a tad overly excited in order to avoid people thinking i’m bored or angry. I’m sure you have met that one person who always looks like they are bored, sad, angry or what have you. It can take a while but it is possible to change that expression. You just have to practice in the mirror, then in conversation.  After you start changing your expressions you will receive unsolicited feedback.

Practice observing conversations. Don’t talk much, just listen. If anyone asks why you are so quiet. Just tell them you are thinking.  Observe the direction the conversation is going. Notice the tone of people’s voices. Is one person dominating the conversation? Are there any loud tones? Are there a lot of hand gestures?  If you do talk, practice thinking of what you are going to say, evaluate it, breath, then say it. This sounds like a lot of steps if you haven’t done it before. But once you get good at it , it will become a habit, and eventually you will be comfortable enough to know how the people you are talking to will react to what you are going to say. Remember habits only take 21 days to create.  If you naturally talk a lot then practice focusing on the content of the chatter. Are people saying things that are relevant and worth saying? What the participants say to change topic? Try focusing on talking only when you have something groundbreaking to say. If you only talk when you have something monumental to say then people will pay attention to you more when you speak and you will learn what is really important to say.  You will realize silence is okay. People will live if you don’t tell them how awesome your dog walking was this morning.  Your time is better spent observing.  Remember it is hard to listen and speak at the same time. I don’t know anyone who has mastered that.

Observing makes you aware of other people’s habits. You will be able to select your friends and acquaintances better by observing how people interact with each other.  Go people watching at different spots. Take mental or physical notes of the similarities and differences between people and cultures at the places you choose. For instance, go to two different shopping malls. Then, check out two different coffee shops. You can see differences in the people that would go to a Starbucks versus those who would go to a local, mom and pop cafe. It’s great to pay attention to detail but you don’t want to over do it. Practice deciding which details about a person are defining attributes and which aren’t unique.  Also, focus on which body parts on a person speak the loudest because everyone presents themselves differently.


Regardless of what you believe about the zodiac, it is an effective tool for dealing with people in all five areas of my speaking with purpose framework.  My focus is mainly on the personality traits part.  I’ve used it to predict new acquaintance’s personalities. I’ve also used it to profile people I am about to meet.  These actions are apart of being aware of personality dynamics and preparing for social encounters.

Here’s a few examples. You’ve just met a girl your age at a gathering with some mutual friends.  Here birthday came up in conversation at the event so you know she is a cancer.. Check the full guide you received in your package for more information on the using the zodiac.  In the few hours you all spent together, you can tell she likes attention from you which means she’s into you but could be quite needy.  You have reinforced these discoveries using the personality guide that shows Cancer signs desire a moderate amount of attention from their friends.  However you are a gemini who doesn’t want to be responsible for entertaining someone for too long.  Seeing these trends you make a decision that she could be more possessive later down the line. Knowing these facts and many more, you can better consider your options or give yourself a heads up to problems that could arise in a potential relationship.

You just ran into a woman at a coffee store who is thinking about starting the same type of business as you.  She gave you her business card. You are interested in starting a business with her but aren’t sure at how your personalities will mesh. Even though you hit it off at the cafe, does that mean you will be excellent partners?  In the interest of time, you want to get to know her quicker in your next icebreaker meetings so you look up her zodiac sign in the guide book. Thankfully, you found out her birth month by an elicitation technique of asking her what her favorite month is. She told you January, then you followed up by asking her if that was what month she was born. She willingly told you that it wasn’t. She was born in December. She just really likes New Years Day.

So, she is a Sagittarius. Upon reading the zodiac guide you find out her sign is very career-minded, goal driven, and great at understanding laws.  This will prove very helpful in researching laws that your business must abide by.  You saw this fiery passion inside her for a little bit during your initial meeting.  At your next business meeting with her, you ask her questions to find out information that will support this prediction about her personality.

If you have a significant other, spouse, or best friend, try this fun exercise.  Look up each other’s birthday signs in the guide, read each other’s sign descriptions and list which you think are true and aren’t true of the person.  Then, share your answers with each other to see what your friend thinks of you. Next, take note of what traits you all have in common.  As I’ve said, we are all unique individuals. Different people born in March will have different personalities that align with the descriptions in the guide. It is up to you to find out which ones are true and which ones aren’t. The guide is merely a tool for predicting a person’s personality. Once you get to know them you will find out their true tendencies.      

Tools -Apps, Informants

    There are a couple of great apps that help with developing different types of awareness. Consequently, there is an app on the iStore called Awareness that lets you listen to music in your headphones while also hearing the outside world.  There is another app called AWARENESS, developed by a New York psychologist, that helps you develop freedom and peace in your own shell.  I think self-reflection, if done regularly  can be very helpful in discovering changes in your lifestyle.

Power #2

My mom and my grandfather always used to say knowledge is power. Read, read, read. Talk seldom, listen often.  More people read less today than 30 years ago. Newspaper sales have decreased while online news subscriptions have increased.  I had two friends who worked for the Virginian pilot for a couple years until they got laid off after the 2008 recession. The recession just tipped the bucket for a lot of businesses that were sitting on the edge of decline already.  We leave in a marvelous age where we can report and read news in real time. We can also look up almost any information within seconds thanks to powerful search websites.  The internet is and will continue to morph into an efficient outsourcing of our brain. There’s no need to carry around a Rolodex anymore or remember phone numbers and dates of birthdays because we can store those in our phones.  Powerful people, in a social sense, know a wealth of information.  The ancient powerhouses like Michelangelo, Leonardo Di Vinci, and Albert Einstein knew about various different fields of work.

Powerful people don’t have to be heard. The best influencers are powerful listeners.  If you just sit back and listen to people they will teach you a lot. Loose lips sink ships. Sometimes if you just sit back, listen, and ask the right open ended questions, you can find out the scoop at the office or the next big change with the school board.  This information can be used as leverage for something later down the road.

I love talking to senior citizens, they have so much knowledge and insight on the ways of the world.  Some have a story for everything.  A lot of times we might look at a person’s outer image to judge the usefulness of their stories. This will cause us to miss out on useful connections. Two of my favorite bands, Kiss and Metallica, are considered weird amongst certain clichés of people, not in the heavy metal scene. Yet, they’ve sold out hundreds of shows, millions of albums, and toured all around the globe.  Obviously, their message resonates with someone.  It is apparent people understand them and are gravitated towards them.  No matter what your message or passion is, there is at least one person out there who understands you. There is someone who can level with you. You just have to keep your eyes open.

It’s good to learn things about the world but let’s start with the easiest thing, yourself. What do you know? What things are you good at? What is your specialty.  Are you a master or a specialist?  The skill that you are freakishly good at, that would blow the minds of students at a high school talent show, will be what we want to focus on.  This is the trick you can whip out at a small dinner party to show off your entertainment skills.    A few years ago I was at a pretty intimate dinner party with neighbors in the riverside community where my friend lived. We were all gathered in the kitchen as the food was finishing up cooking.  There was a young girl there named Samantha, who worked as an accountant. When the current conversation seemed to die down she told to check out a neat trick.  We watched as she went into the cupboard to grab four different glasses. She listened for the sound of crystal with the tap of her spoon.  Next, Samantha filled the crystal with different levels of water.  She delicately dipped the tips of her fingers in some of the water then rubbed them around the edges the crystal.  We watched and listened intently and after a couple notes we could make out a tune.  When Samantha was finished we all clapped in astonishment.  From that point on, she was the highlight of the party. Everyone wanted to know the 5W’s.

So, find out what you are good at. See if there are any clubs for that at your school or in your community. Join the club, take the class, master the course, and take over the scene. I’ve always been good at creating art with my hands. I’m good at organizing colors on things like furniture, clothes, and posters.  In high school, I started with basic art classes to work myself up to ceramics class.  By the time I got to the top classes I was the only guy in the class.  My artwork also had a reputation for being unique. A few classmates would always have something interesting to see about my work or petition me for advice on theirs.

Now, I take jewelry making classes at a local bead gallery downtown.  I’m still the only guy and I receive lots of petitions for jewelry design ideas.  I’m always meeting new people there. My guy friends are surprised when they find out I made some of the jewelry lying around my home.   Interesting art pieces are always a talking point.  It is good to have a few laying around your home. When I was growing up, my mother asked for my opinion on her clothing and shoe choices because she wasn’t good at it but she knew I was.

Subtleties of Black

Being assertive means standing up for yourself. These type of people are seen as powerful.  They stand up for what they believe is right without stepping over others.  They are the lions of the group, that believe, encourage, and fight for their friends.  If you apologize for little things quite frequently, try analyzing what you are apologizing for and if it is really necessary. Are you really sorry that you forgot to leave the orange juice out for your wife?  Does she care that you are sorry?  You can look more confident by laughing things off. Do your peers feel that your apologies are legitimate? Accept that bad things happen, people make mistakes, then move on.  If you never apologize for anything, then it’s time to start taking responsibility for your actions.  New friends will be attracted to your mature desire to take the high road.  Stand proud when you own up to something that you did. The opposite sex loves that. If you  are considered over-assertive then try to take time to observe other people’s viewpoints.  Find the positives in their ideas.  Take a chance on someone. Get to know them as a person then you will be able to trust them easier.  When in a negotiation, practice being silent, let someone else voice their ideas, and evade conflict with employees.  Your coworkers will notice how silent you have been. You will have more attention on you that way versus being aggressive. Dr. Ames and research assistant Mrs. Wazlawek from Columbia Business School conducted a psychological survey that found that the key to developing the right amount of assertiveness is self-awareness.  When engineers build bridges they can look at the math and tell that there is too much structural support in one section of the bridge.  However, it is hard for us to notice how overly assertive we have become.

Skills to use – Reverse Psychology and Courage

Reverse psychology not only works on kids but adults as well.  This behavior works the best on people with sensitive ego’s and people who hate being ordered around. Managers don’t like being told what to do because they are used to telling other people what to do. If you have an awesome idea at work and your boss isn’t as open minded as others, try telling him how bad it would be if we went with in direction ABC.  Tell him you don’t care what direction we take the project in as long as it’s not going ABC because that would just ruin things.  Sometimes the quickest way to acquire something isn’t the most direct way.  Part of dealing with different personalities is learning who you can directly ask for things with and why you have to work through some hurdles with first. Truthfully, we are all little kids at heart. As the average life span increases we strive to look younger. Everyone has a little childhood left inside them. It’s just buried under the mundane responsibilities of our daily lives. We want to be held, adored, etc. we are curious, greedy, and naive by nature. Being original takes courage. Lots of major media heroes are revered for their courage like Asland, Thor, and Elsa. Everyone liked those characters because they could count on them. Their courage affected their persona, making them look more powerful. You could have something in common with them.  As you go about your day look for someone you can help. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. It is surprising how little things are appreciated by some people.  People remember the strangest little things about you that you wouldn’t have even thought twice about. Talk, listen, observe, find out what is on their mind, and you will get your chance to shine. Spying Turquoise
Elicitation is something that you may or may not have done unknowingly. I did it before I even knew it was an important skill.  It is the process of covertly extracting information from someone through conversation without letting them know the intended purpose of the conversation.  If mastered, you can use this skill to find out things about people to use for later.  I’ll let you decide what to use the information for. A master will also be able to detect and deny elicitation techniques used against him or her.

The FBI practiced elicitation before I did though, take some tips from their online counter-intelligence training.  Serious businesses use this tactic for non-public information gathering from competitors.  It is a combination of body language, poker face, and great conversation skills.  To practice your elicitation skills, try planning a surprise party for someone. If it is someone you don’t know then it will make the exercise more challenging.  Discover their food tastes, gift ideas, likes, and dislikes without them knowing. Here are some personality traits that are the most common to exploit: politeness to newcomers, appealing to an inflated ego, desire to feel knowledgeable about a topic, and  tendency  to gossip.

#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.