By: Brian Swichkow, Social Engineer, My Social Sherpa
I’m not a pickup artist, I’m a curious explorer.
It is only with a sense of wonderment and an openness to failure that I, or anyone else, can stumble the way towards any sense of clarity. Sometimes in life you’re afforded the luxury of being able to see the destination before you start the journey, but in matters like love you’re rarely afforded that luxury. Columbus set out to discover brave new worlds, but knew that he couldn’t possibly know what to expect until he arrived. He remained hopeful, yet not expectant, that he would discover something worthwhile. This emotional detachment from what he was about to discover enabled him to dedicate himself to the journey itself.
Every good narrative starts with a man and his muse.
In this story, I am not that man nor am I that muse. I was an observer that came to play a role in someone else’s story and, while the part was small, the outcomes could last a lifetime.
December 13th, 2014 was the day I boarded a plane out of northern Vermont and moved to Los Angeles. I had spent 2012 going on more than 150 dates, split-tested my tinder profile for 18 months in 2013, and wandered through 2014 somewhat confused. I wasn’t looking for someone in particular, but rather a better understanding of how different personalities resonated with my own. I knew I had to put myself in unfamiliar, and often uncomfortable, situations in order to learn.
Unsure of where to explore next, I took a suggestion from a friend and went on a “dating diet” as a mental reset. For thirty days I was to adhere, without exception, to five rules:
- no sex
- no masturbation
- no pornography
- no online dating
- no flirting
The first few weeks weren’t too hard. I was getting acquainted with my new neighborhood and didn’t find too much time to connect with those within it. It wasn’t till New Year’s Eve that I found myself invited to a multi-night pop up concert with over a hundred DJs and a not-so-secret warehouse party sandwiched in between. I remember walking in the door and soaking in what would be the first truly memorable experience I would share with this new city. that lasted for about three minutes before I looked around the room and understood the meaning behind 2Pac’s ‘California Love’.
“I’m on a diet!” I reminded myself.
I looked back out to the dance floor and asked, “if I’m not searching for women… what the fuck am I supposed to be doing?!” After a while this realization compounded and I understood that everyone around me was still living within the narrative I had left bookmarked at home. The one where you’re either trying to get or to shield yourself from being taken. I started looking closer and felt as though I was walking through a room of people plugged into a matrix. They were unaware of me, but I could see their every thought as clearly as the picture on a television.
I should point out at this juncture what I do for work.
I’m a Social Engineer. I construct social scenarios in order to manufacture perception and guide my targets to action. Said differently, and arguably more accurately, I get paid to fuck with people on the Internet.
The same skills that enabled me to drive my roommate to a state of delusional paranoia using targeting facebook advertising carry over, for better or for worse, into the real world.
There are two things you should know. Cognitive Science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the mind and its processes while Applied Psychology is the use of psychological principles and theories to overcome problems in real life situations. The former is the plumbing while the latter is what you use to control the flow and pressure within the pipes.
Coincidentally, after offering advice a friend just texted me:
She’s not wrong.
When I looked out onto the dance floor that night I saw more than just people. I saw hundreds of narratives intersecting endlessly within the room. Everyone had come from someplace and was destined to head to another — living the same story on totally different worlds.
For years I have lived by the axiom, “you are the average of the people you spend the most time with” and, new to Los Angeles, wanted to make sure I grew my social circle with the right seeds. Disinterested in talking to those who were “on the hunt” I looked for those who were present, fulfilled, and truly glowing. People who would lead me to a treasure trove of wonderful people that would introduce me to the amazing wonders of my new home.
I stood in the back of the room, raised to the balls of my feet, and out of hundreds — I saw three.
Before approaching, I observed.
Most single women tend to control their gaze in crowded social settings, often looking down or directly at friends, as they protect themselves from creating openings used by men on the hunt. When not engaged by their immediate surroundings, women in relationships (of some form) typically fixate on something in the distance as they analyze their surroundings. They often display a disinterest for discovering anything outside of who they came with and what they came for. These behaviors are among thousands of indicators that coalesce to form a narrative of the person and their state of mind. Applied psychology is a skill like any other, it must be practiced frequently and with consistency in order to attain some form of proficiency. The best way to learn is not by identifying the signals, but rather by building a narrative based on a feeling and later verifying its accuracies and inaccuracies so as to improve in the future.
The stunning brunette I spotted dancing against the stage was in the company of three friends. She had an athletic build, silky hair, and would have been five foot six inches without her three inch heels. The colors, accents, and overall synchronicity of her ensemble suggested she was stylish and intentional, but not craving the attention of others. Moving to the music with her shoulders open and unlocked suggested that she was confident. I gathered with reasonable certainty that she was single, recently out of a long relationship, and not interested in meeting anyone new. She just wanted to enjoy her evening with friends. I watched as she was approached by eight men as they disturbed her dance in an attempt to pull something from her. I was the ninth, but I didn’t seek to get — I wanted to give.
She didn’t want to meet new people, she just wanted to dance. Just as the eight men had approached her before in succession, not overlapping, I knew that positioned appropriately I would dissuade any others from fracturing her obvious commitment to dancing. Without saying anything, I danced in proximity subtly defending her ability to express herself. When the time came, after her walls had lowered, I started a conversation by mentioning how much of a crime it was to interrupt a good song. While that’s something I genuinely believe, I also know that you can win someone’s trust by stating what they believe to be true — people resonate with those who have similar views. We talked and, when her friends turned to check-in, I introduced myself with no interest for understanding the dynamic of the group (i.e. who was dating whom). Determining that I was value to the group they quickly let down their guard as we continued to chat, dance, and enjoy the evening.
As it turns out, my initial read was spot on. She was single and had just broken it off with a guy she had been with for two years. She was focused on her career and had no plans to jump back into the dating pool anytime soon. We exchanged numbers, platonically, and I excused myself to reconnect with friends.
At the back of the room, I found the group I had arrived with in one of the lounge areas. While I didn’t know many people in Los Angeles, the small group of friends I had developed in the past two weeks knew my propensity for wandering off to meet new people — after all, it was how I had met many of them. I have a habit for knowing, and connecting, half the dance floor by the end of the night. After regrouping, it was time to head back to the dance floor.
It had been forty-five minutes since I stood in the back of the room to scan the crowd, but the cute asian woman with dimples was still dancing in the same space at the center of the floor. While I knew how unlikely it was that someone would dance in the same place for an hour without being with, or waiting for, someone they knew — she seemed distant from those around her. I approached the center of the dance floor to enjoy the music and get a better read on why I had been drawn to talk to her.
While her movement was open and free, there was a guy to her right doing what I call the “single guy shuffle”. His shoulders were locked in parallel as they bounced back and forth with the lowest, and most consistent, beat of the music — a sign of conservancy. His elbows were bent with light fists, brought to his low chest in a relaxed boxing stance and as he shifted his weight his feet barely moved. If there were a website dedicated to uncomfortable guys on a dance floor you could make a .gif of his shuffle, put it on the homepage, and never need to explain it further.
Humans are oddly predictable creatures, we will never do something uncomfortable unless there is, or will potentially be, a pleasurable outcome that follows.
I watched as his focus was locked on the DJ, further establishing his need for a stable anchor in a sea of clashing bodies. He wasn’t looking for a reason to justify his discomfort and that meant that he likely already had one — standing next to him. It was fairly obvious that he liked her, but I needed to test that assumption… for science.
I tapped her on the shoulder, a more abrasive gesture than what I might normally use, and complimented her on her dancing. She blushed and laughed as she thanked me and opened herself to a conversation. Within seconds, the guy to her right had turned from the security of his deadlock on the stage to see what we were doing. He stared awkwardly over her shoulder as I was asking if she had taken any dance classes. I leaned towards him and suggested they should take a dance class together — he smiled, happy to be seen as being coupled with her. The conversation waned and I let her get back to dancing and he to his shuffle.
While I danced, I couldn’t help but watch the dynamic between these two. They arrived together and yet they were living in parallel. As I observed, I noticed something profound. I tapped her on the shoulder and again started to talk about dance as I worked the conversation to my more poignant question, “are you two dating?” Even though I already knew the answer, it was the way in which she responded that answered the “why” behind it. We laughed at how much she struggled to explain as she begun to explain. They were both in town for a conference and, while she really liked him, was afraid to push forward. She was paralyzed by the fear of “what this is” and unable to move forward enough to actually find out.
I asked, “you know he likes you right?” to which her eyebrows raised in surprise. I explained, “You see how he’s dancing right now, he’s stiff and uncomfortable. That’s how most men dance. However whenever he makes eye contact with you his shoulders unlock, his hips start to move, and he becomes more expressive. The mere sight of you lights him up from within.” She pulled back in disbelief, astonished that a complete stranger could see something so clearly. I challenged her, “Go dance with him. Get in front of him, make eye contact, and don’t let him look away. Focus on that and let the rest happen.” She giggled and, to my surprise, accepted the challenge without further prompting — all but charging towards him.
She stepped in front of him smiling as she looked into his eyes about three feet away. He smiled, opened, and likely as a result of the direct contact started to nervously look away. Like a pro, she moved with his eyes and pulled his gaze back into her. They danced and in a matter of seconds the three foot gap between them became just inches. I couldn’t stop laughing. These two had been awkwardly dancing next to each other for over an hour and all it took was a passing comment to spark a moment of which they both had fantasized.
I waited a few minutes before interrupting to let them know I was going to dance with friends, but was really just giving them space to be in their moment. I went looking for the third and, unable to find her, ended up starting a conversation with someone else. It was about 10:30PM, no more than thirty minutes later, when she broke through the crowd and all but tackled be with a hug. She wanted to thank me as they were headed out. This time is was my turn to respond in surprise, “Already?! Is that a good thing?”. She smiled and said, “It’s a VERY good thing.” We laughed as she thanked me again and insisted she be able to add me on Facebook.
A few weeks later…
It’s been five months since we met on the dance floor and they’re still dating.
In the moment, she had been projecting non-acceptance onto a possibility that she had yet to explore. She was worried that he might not see her in the same light with which she saw him, but was too afraid to get close enough to discover that wasn’t the case. As Robert Downey Jr. eloquently said, “worrying is like praying for something you don’t want to happen” and that night, it’s exactly what she was doing.
While that’s a powerful lesson in itself, it’s not why I tell this story.
Every time you’re in the presence of another person, you’re communicating — even when you’re not intending to. Whether someone is behind you in line for coffee, across the dance floor, or looking down from an open window — your body language is telling them a story. If you think I’m the only one able to interpret this, you’d be wrong. We all can.
The ability to perceive the emotions of others is a part of our biology.
The amygdala in particular is an almond shaped region of within the central part of our brain. It is the first to receive emotional information and the first to react to it. The central part of our brain, otherwise known as the Limbic Brain, lacks the capacity for language and is the origin of all your “gut feelings”. Whether they be strong kicks or gentle nudges is dependent on the strength of the transmission and each individual’s ability to perceive them.
Remember the last time you had an intense feeling you couldn’t explain? That was your amygdla talking. How did that match up to the outcome?
Let’s recap. The part of your brain that you don’t control is guiding how you speak with your body to communicate a message that’s translated by the people around you using a part of their brains that they don’t control.
Well… that’s not entirely true. You do have the ability to control it, but you need to practice.
The programming of your subconscious mind what’s communicating with those around you and you have the ability to reprogram it to your liking. Are you tired of attracting the wrong type of partner? It’s no coincidence, it’s your programming. Change that and you change everything. One way to do that is through meditation.
In ten years, meditation will be the new brushing your teeth. If you’re new to meditation, fear not. I’m an over-analytical ball of anxiety and I learned to manage that through daily practice. I recommend downloading the Headspace App (not an affiliate link) and doing their ‘10 minutes for 10 days’ challenge. The app and each meditation is guided so all you have to do is find the time and follow along. Meditation is not about the absence of thought, but rather the acknowledgement and release of anything that crosses your mind. This comes in handy throughout the day as things, or people, hit you. From that experience I learned something and turned it into a daily practice. Each time I leave the house I remind myself:
“I have all that I will ever need within me right now. I am fulfilled.”
The number of interest I get romantically, platonically, or in regards to my business when I take ten seconds to remind myself of that is measurably higher (and yes, I have data). From a scientific perspective, you will attract into your life whatever is in line with your dominant thoughts. Change your thoughts and you will change your world.
There’s nothing sexier than a woman to refuses to give a fuck.
People want what they can’t have, but it’s not about feigning disinterest. You have to learn you and commit to being you. In this you will be able to know when someone is trying to pull you away from that experience and when someone is trying to add to it. This is how I was able to identify the three people I wanted to talk to that night, by reading their body language to determine that they were present within themselves — they were fulfilled.
You even communicate subconscious language through facebook… but that’s a topic for another article.