RECOUNTING A CONVERSATION he had with Steve Jobs, Jony Ive said that when pressed on why he thought Jobs should be kinder, Ive said that it was because he cared about the team. Jobs disagreed, saying instead:
“No, Jony, you’re just really vain. […] you just want people to like you. And I’m surprised at you because I thought you really held the work up as the most important, not how you believed you were perceived by other people.”
Ive left the conversation annoyed. But years later, admitted he knew Jobs was right. He called it a “brutally brilliant insight.”
Jobs was a complicated individual, and I’m not going to write about him here. His insight into design and companies has been written about, put on the big screen, and strangled to death so many times in popular culture that there’s hardly anything of merit to say about the man. But the insight that he gave to Ive is something that I still think about to this day.
YOU AVOID CONFLICT OUT OF VANITY
When we hold people’s perceptions of us higher than our perceptions of what we believe and what we want to do, we alter our behavior out of vanity; rather than adhere to our values out of a desire to be true to ourselves.
In the social interactions of human beings, between the interplay of emotions, identities, and beliefs, there is a simple trade of values. You either present your own or you mold to theirs. On some level, this is always occurring; and nowhere more so than in the lives of people who wish to liked, who wish to be charismatic.
Y’know, the superpower everyone wishes they had.
In my own life, I went through years of trying to be more charismatic. My desire to be perceived as a good guy, so that people wouldn’t hurt my self-esteem was fuelled entirely by my vanity and motivated almost all of my decisions socially. I read, I learned, and I practiced ways to be likable. On good days I would mold myself to fit the conversation, on bad days I would stay silent for fear of saying the wrong thing.
And, shock and surprise, it never worked.
In fact, the reality was quite the reverse.
YOUR PERCEPTION SUCKS
It’s easy to think of a charismatic person. I imagine you have an idea of what they look like; cool, calm, collected. Probably some kind of stand in for James Bond but with your goofy face. When you look at him or her, you see their behaviors, which appear effortless and you see the ease at which they win people round to their influence. People just seem to like them. They stand out. You look at what they do; the handshake, the smile, the attentiveness, the confident posture, the picture of social confidence. And you mimic it, but it never seems to work.
Because you’re looking at charisma the wrong way.
Charisma doesn’t lie in the behaviors someone does, it lies in the effect they have on the other person. Charisma doesn’t lie in doing anything, it lies in letting go of feeling that you need to do anything. Charisma lies in social freedom. It lies in being unlikeable.
THE ART OF NOT BEING BORING AS SHIT™
People often look into charisma trying to find ways to be more likable, little realizing that it is the people that allow themselves to be potentially perceived as unlikeable that are usually the most charismatic. These people have said ‘no’ to pleasing everyone and have instead said ‘yes’ to themselves; ‘yes’ to their values. As a result, their personality has come into a bloom, and alongside this their polarizing nature.
If you look at the best standup comedians – they’ll often say things that shock, offend, or confront something the audience takes to be accepted and normal. They invite disagreement, they invite discomfort and they invite you not liking them.
This is one of the core principles of humor; risk. You think it, you say it. The laughs aren’t guaranteed.
Hell, it’s not just stand-up comedians that do this, it’s pretty much anyone who’s got a lick of social flair. You build rapport, then you break it. Pick up artists do this all the time. One of the standard ways guys learn game is to “approach and polarize.” Or in plain english, ‘go up to a girl and invite her potential dislike.’
This is for a simple reason. When you invite dislike, you invite a sharp contrast in someone’s emotional response to you. You create their emotional reality in some strong way. Either attraction, humor, outrage, whatever. You create an emotion in them.
It’s what I like to call The Art Of Not Being Boring As Shit™.
The reason you perceive someone as charismatic isn’t because of what they specifically do, but because of how they make you or others feel. When they’re attractive, or capitalizing on a feeling already present within you, you’ll perceive them as charismatic; but the art of being charismatic lies in risking being unlikeable which causes emotional spikes and contrast.
The irony of people looking for advice on how to be more charismatic is that every book on charisma simply gives them more techniques to try and become more likable; but it is precisely that drive to be more likable, that makes them unlikeable. It’s what drains their flair. Their character. Their personality.
The easiest way to start developing charismatic experiences for people is to start allowing yourself to be perceived as unlikeable; to allow yourself to take risks, and potentially lose people. This is what will give you a level of social freedom that others will envy and allow you to create emotional realities that people find enjoyable and magnetic.
A strange truth about people is that they can sense when someone wants them to like them, and they find it creepy, they find it disposable and they often take advantage of this person. I’ve seen it so many times, I think it just might be part of our species. But the truth is, if that’s happening to you, you’re letting it happen to yourself.
THE FUCKED UP I’M A COMPLETE LOSER CYCLE™
The desire to be likable comes from a desire to be validated, and the desire to be validated comes from a feeling that we are less, or we aren’t worthwhile, or our daddy doesn’t love us, or probably all three. But the more we try to be likable, the less charismatic we are, and as a result, we don’t receive the validation we crave, which further reinforces our motivator, which further drives us to act likable in the pursuit of validation, which only fails again, and continues the bullshit ad infinitum.
This is The Fucked Up I’m A Complete Loser Cycle.™
I called it that because I have no imagination, and that’s more or less what you’ll be telling yourself. Over, and over, and over again.
It’s an emotionally exhausting place to live, as it constantly has you wounding your self-esteem.
But here’s the thing, the same technique used to create emotional spikes in other people – the acceptance of acting in a way that could be perceived as unlikeable – also works to break you out of this cycle. By allowing yourself to no longer pursue validation, you actively take a conscious step to remove yourself from this pattern of self-destructive behavior.
IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING A DICKHEAD, BUT IT’S ALSO ABOUT BEING A DICKHEAD
Allowing yourself to be perceived as unlikeable isn’t about acting like a dickhead. In fact, acting like a dickhead in order to get a reaction our of people is in itself seeking validation and therefore attempting to be likable.
Allowing yourself to be perceived as unlikeable is simply allowing yourself to be unfiltered and speak your mind. If you think it, say it.
When you disagree, you say you disagree. When you think that’s wrong, you say you think that’s wrong. When you think she looks great, you say you think she looks great. When you think he’s done something dumb, you make fun of him for it. Whatever.
It’s about merging thought and action into an honest expression. And the more you do this, the more you’ll you’ll strengthen those cognitive muscles, and find yourself often being completely polarizing to the people around you, and completely comfortable with it.
In other words, that guy the dickheads are trying to be. Someone with clear opinions, who takes a lot of pleasure in being free expressing them.
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