A friend and reader asked me for advice in boosting his schmoozing game. Bro, game isn’t what you do or have, it’s who you are.
So…this guy. Let’s call him the Scholar. He thinks and writes and speaks for a living about heady stuff. Within his organization he is beloved, where he is essentially a co-CEO. Outside, he is struggling to get traction. I think he’d like opportunities to think, write, and speak, for other organizations. To emerge as an industry thought leader.
There’s couple angles to take here. We could look at Framing, Attraction/Connection/Respect, or his Inner Game. In our conversation, I focused on the last one.
I told him to leverage his Masculinity and improve his Positivity.
He’s by all appearances a Macho Macho Man…but he doesn’t own it. So that’s incongruent. People wonder why he looks hard and feels soft. This creates cognitive dissonance. The bad, confusing kind (a solid player will sometimes create cognitive dissonance to his advantage). The result is people feel a bit odd in his presence. That unexplainable odd feeling subconciously pushes them away from him.
Better to own his masculinity.
He’s a big, dark skinned, vaguely-Italian bro with a sick goatee. He could easily pass for a Vato or an Iranian terrorist, depending on his sunglasses choice. As a Scholar, thinking big thoughts, and a man, he sometimes lacks empathy (a nice way of saying he doesn’t always get people). When he inadvertently offends, he should just call it out and move on.
That’s masculine: Honesty.
I gave Mr Scholar a reading assignment, since he likes that stuff: “Iron John” by Robert Bly.
Honesty about who you are, and honesty about what you are about, is very manly, and psychologically healthy. Bly calls it honoring your Inner King:
“The Inner King is the one in us who knows what we want to do for the rest of our lives, or the rest of the month, or the rest of the day. He can make clear what we want without being contaminated in his choice by the opinion of others around us. The Inner King is connected with our fire of purpose and passion.”
The scholar’s worry over his man-bear appearance and his lack of empathy breeds excessive caution and a general neurosis. In other words, negativity.
Now he’s got two strikes. Shame and Negativity.
Addressing the former, will over time, help cure the latter. But Negative Energy flow needs to be neutralized with extreme prejudice. Nothing kills your Schmooze Game more than negative energy.
My Scholar has amazing things to say. He’s one of the smartest, most reflective people I know. I love listening to him talk. But I’ve known him for years. Our bro love runs deep. Casual business acquaintances won’t so easily ignore the slight neurotic undertones.
Noobs, you need to know, nobody cares about your eloquent brilliance if they feel vaguely bad in your presence. Maya Angelou says it very well: “People remember how you make them feel, not what you tell them.”
Or Seneca, a leading Roman Philosopher who also ran the Empire while Nero partied: “Happy the man who improves other people not merely when he is in their presence but even when he is in their thoughts!”
Be that guy.
The Scholar’s desire to be a thought leader in his field could easily lead to over-emphasis on other’s opinions of himself. Better to be “that guy” for himself, for his own improvement. Not to improve his schmooze.
Be congruent with who you are, a positive you with healthy masculinity. Care not what others think, while remaining congruent with yourself and they will ultimately think better of you anyway.
Marcus Aurelius, another leading Roman Philosopher and perhaps Rome’s greatest Caesar at it’s zenith, strongly advises ignoring other’s opinions. Note the following is advice he gave himself in his journal.
“Do not waste the remaining part of your life in thoughts about other people, when you are not thinking in some aspect to the common good. Why deprive yourself of the time for some other task? I mean, thinking about what so-and-so is doing, and why, what he is saying or contemplating or plotting, all that line of thought, makes you stray from the close watch on your own ‘directing mind.’
No, in the sequence of your thoughts you must avoid all that is casual or aimless, and most particularly anything prying or malicious. Train yourself to think only those thoughts such that in answer to the sudden question ‘What is in your mind now?’ you could say with immediate frankness whatever it is, this or that: and so your answer can give direct evidence that all your thoughts are straightforward and kindly, the thoughts of a social being who has no regard for the fancies of pleasure or wider indulgence, for rivalry, malice, suspicion, or anything else that would blush to admit was in one’s mind.”