Help for Shy Boys, Part III: Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk
Posted Sep 11 2008 6:05pm
“Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.” Robert Benchley
***Note: This four-part series is intended to help men who want to meet women, which is generally more difficult for men because there’s usually the expectation that they’ll make the first move, etc. However, this information may be equally helpful to women. If you haven’t read the first two parts, drop down to Part I and read forward. Of course, if you’re a new reader, I recommend you begin with the introductory post from last August and read forward from there.***
In the previous two weeks we’ve discussed your first steps to overcoming shyness and the importance of appearance. This week, we’re going to cover the basics of talking and listening to a person you’ve just met. Before you run screaming from the room, I promise you this will be fun, albeit challenging.
You’ve probably noticed the huge amount of books for women who want to take charge of their lives and, conversely, very few directed at men. Why? Because you’re supposed to give the impression of being in control of your life, even if you’re often not getting what you want. Here’s what sexologist and author Bernie Zilbergeld has to say about this issue:
“We don’t have to be at the mercy of the traditional sex roles we were brought up on. We don’t have to forgo the incredible joys and benefits of truly loving relationships. We don’t have to put up with boring, joyless or dysfunctional sex. We can develop personal styles, relationships, and sexual patterns that more closely fit our own values, preferences, and interests—that more closely fit our human selves.”
That’s a powerful statement coming from a powerful man. That is, a man who is comfortable in his skin, being who he is, nothing more, nothing less.
Although you may be shy and have had limited experience with women, this could actually be an advantage for you, because you haven’t made all those macho mistakes. You’re part of a new generation of men that wants to be more than just a high-achieving wallet, right?
Becoming a Good Listener (Huh?)
How many times have you been with someone who barely allows you to finish your thought before they interrupt and run away with the conversation? You: “I found the perfect car to lease…” Friend: “Cars! Don’t get me started! I’ve been looking at hybrid SUVs for months. Just yesterday, I saw this great…” And on and on. Your thoughts and feelings clearly don’t interest your friend; you’re merely an audience. To be fair, some people also interrupt and hijack the conversation because they’re anxious to entertain, impress, etc. Don’t be that person.
The best way to begin any new friendship or relationship is to be a good listener. This takes time and effort, but the payoff is well worth it. How to practice? Make it a point to really listen for a few minutes whenever you get the opportunity: with a friend, a client, a student, etc.
Once you’ve learned how to listen, you’ll be amazed at how much fun it is. You’ll learn lots—not just about the other person, but about yourself—if you think about what’s being said before you react.
I Feel Your Pain
A man with empathy is always well-liked. Most women want not only to be listened to, but to be heard, or empathized with. In other words, you can relate to her feelings because you understand them. And the more you understand, the better your listening skills and communication.
You’re having a drink after work, and you see a woman sitting at the bar looking rather frazzled. Here’s how you might initiate an empathetic conversation:
You: “Hard day?” Her: “You don’t know the half of it!” You: “Mmm. Sounds bad. So what started it off?”
It’s often helpful to rehearse conversations. Ask a friend to help you role play those uncomfortable situations you sometimes find yourself in. You know—the ones where you try to strike up a conversation, but instead almost swallow your tongue.
For more suggestions on how to talk with someone, see my three posts on communication beginning on January 4.
Are Your “Wingmen” Shooting You Down?
When you go out with friends, do you sometimes feel you’re trapped in a bad beer commercial? Are you hanging out with guys who undermine you by their tacky behavior? You know the type: trying to impress each other by bragging loudly about the women they’ve had sex with, or engaging in belching contests. Yuck! Now that’s REALLY attractive. Single men often socialize in groups of three or more. Danger: you’re probably reinforcing each other’s worst qualities! Very often, a woman will remark: “I think I might like to meet him, but he’s always with those two losers.” ‘Nuff said.
As you think about the issues raised here, try to figure out which is the most difficult for you. What’s holding you back? (“Um. The fact that as soon as I open my mouth, I know I’ll say something stupid.”) OK. Say something stupid to your mirror, over and over again. Got that out of your system? Good. And guess what? Sometimes, saying dumb stuff can be cute!
“Hi. I’m Sandy“ “Artichoke“ “What?“ “I mean Art. I’m Art.“
Don’t be embarrassed. Just go with it and smile ruefully. Hopefully, she’ll think you’re so interested in her that you’re at a loss for words.
Once you’ve become comfortable with talking/listening, the next step is trotting out your new skills in public and meeting people. That’s where next week’s post comes in. Stay tuned for Part 4: Where ARE You? Hooking Up
As always, the Doc. is in for your questions and comments.