As mentioned in part one, this is going to be a multi-part series on the ins and outs of power dynamics. Understanding these concepts will not only make you savvier in your dating life but also in your professional life or any area that requires you to navigate interpersonal relationships. The goal of this series is to help you understand the unspoken power dynamics that exist in every group, how to work with them, and develop a foundation for becoming more socially assertive.
At the risk of sounding utilitarian again, the analogy I used to explain Social Exchange Theory is that it’s like balancing a bank account. There’s a fine balance between over-drafting your social bank account and not utilizing it enough. The goal with every relationship is to maintain social balance. Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. But it’s essential to be able to identify these nuances when making new acquaintances and friends, and learn how to recognize and screen out people who take value, hamper your progress, or have toxic traits.
Part one covered Social Exchange Theory and the fundamentals of social success. In case you forgot some of the major concepts, here’s a quick review:
- To get what you want, you must provide others what they want.
- To achieve social status, popularity, influence and power, you must remember to give value first or develop the ability to deliver value.
- To avoid isolation and potential rejection, you must guard your reputation, and always provide value.
- To befriend, date, do business with, or generally socially transact with high-value individuals, find something to give.
- To develop long and happy relationships, do your best to keep everything a win-win.
Building on these ideas and the bank account analogy, it helps to understand that much like attraction, every social interaction has an exchange. To simplify this, think about how we use currency. In the context of social dynamics, like legal tender, let’s call it “Social Tender.” Social Tenders are specific forms of value that people offer, seek, and exchange.
There are countless currencies that people exchange in their everyday interactions. One of the most helpful ways to develop good strategies when you’re navigating group dynamics is to think of your Social Tender as two layers. Some of these ideas may sound like our “attraction is a perception of value” concept that we cover in our Dating Mastery Program. But in the context of navigating power dynamics, it’s helpful to see how the same concept applies here.
In order to transact with high-value individuals or someone who you perceive as high value, it’s important to be able to deliver value and create win-win situations. It’s okay if you don’t have that level of social awareness or leverage yet or are currently in the process of developing it. Don’t worry if you don’t have every piece of the puzzle figured out. There are many different types of value you can bring to the table in every social exchange.
Two Layers of Social Tender
External social tender includes tangible things such as:
- Looks (physical attractiveness)
- Health (physical fitness)
- Vocal tonality
- Language patterns (efficiency of language)
- Body language and non-verbal cues
Internal social tender includes things that aren’t directly visible and cannot be quantified:
- Sense of humor
- Emotional intelligence
- General knowledge
- Social connections
- Well-rounded personality
- Personal and professional achievements
- Mastery of a specific skill
- Future potential (ambition and passions)
In the early part of our Dating Mastery Program, we focus on external factors first to help our students develop general social and emotional awareness and package themselves properly. The harsh reality of courtship, seduction, and social interaction is that people unconsciously judge you on the surface. For a deeper dive on why people tend to make snap judgments of each other, check out this article.
Snap judgments overpower decision making. Before we finish blinking, we already unconsciously decide whether we want to hire, date, hate, or befriend someone we meet for the first time. First impressions are very difficult to change. That’s why we make it a point in our coaching to tighten up these fundamentals. Making a good first impression will ensure you aren’t fighting an uphill battle to express the internal aspects of your personality, like sense of humor and other intangible traits.
The Balance Between External and Internal
Now don’t think of this dichotomy like that old adage of “fake it ’til you make it,” or that you only prioritize one aspect while ignoring the other. One of the most common issues we see in our clients is the dichotomy of “appearances” versus “being.” Some conventional dating advice only emphasizes the intangibles like “being confident and secure in your own skin.” Others exclusively focus on the externals like “groom yourself properly, dress better, and have an awesome physique.” This leads people to focus on only one piece of the puzzle and neglect the rest.
Attraction is both subjective and holistic, so don’t pigeonhole yourself into one camp. Both sides are important for being able to maximize your dating and social life. Life is situational, and sometimes the external factors may take precedence over the internal ones.
For example, in the context of dating, let’s say you meet a girl in a noisy bar or nightclub while you’re out with your friends for a night on the town. Because these environments are cognitively overstimulating, where you lose your ability to converse and hear the other person, the externals take precedence. The better your externals, the higher the likelihood that you will have a chance to showcase your internals.
As we discussed in our article on how to get a girl interested in you, the externals get your foot in the door. They’re like the appetizer before the main course. They’re a necessary evil that will give you a pass to allow you to express the deeper and intangible layers of your personality. I admit that some of this may sound cold and clinical. But for the sake of understanding these principles, I encourage you to suspend your judgment and keep an open mind.
An exercise we go over at certain points in our Dating Mastery Program to reiterate the “attraction is a perception of value” concept is to partner up our students in a role-play scenario and have them imagine that their counterpart is the richest and most successful individual.
We then ask them how they would feel if that individual complimented them on their style or an accessory like their watch or a piece of jewelry. Then we ask them to imagine that the same person was now a homeless person in tattered clothes. We again ask them how they would feel if that individual complimented them.
I realize this exercise may come off as very superficial and in some cases offensive. The purpose of it is not to look down on homeless people in any way, but rather to demonstrate the difference in value perception. The point is, regardless of whether someone has a lot of intangible value to bring to the table, negative external Social Tender can cause you to easily lose status just by association.
A simpler way to think of external and internal Social Tender is to remember that these two layers go hand-in-hand. When it comes to perception, the link gets stronger. This also ties into the social psychology concept of the “Halo Effect”. In a nutshell, the Halo Effect or the physical attractiveness stereotype is that attractive people are perceived as smarter, funnier, and more likable than less attractive people.
People in positions of authority are often perceived to be taller, and great personalities who make us feel good are perceived to be more attractive. Of course, the converse is also true. Unattractive physical traits will unfortunately make you come across as lower value, and value-negative personality traits will also make you come across as less physically attractive.
How to Increase Your Value
The good news is that you can influence your value. For example, carrying yourself as if you already have status can increase your actual social value. But as we emphasize in our workshops, faking it until you make it can only take you so far. When taken to extremes, it can create possible internal and identity conflicts.
Be careful with this approach, because if you overdo it, you will come off as haughty, annoyingly entitled, and in some cases out of touch with reality, which will automatically decrease your value. Some dating advice out there tells you to just be confident and “fake it ‘til you make it or become it,” but like with anything else in life, it’s important to practice finding the middle ground and doing things in moderation.
After close to a decade of coaching men from various walks of life, one thing I’ve seen from guys who got dating advice without context is that when they’re out meeting women, they would sometimes exclaim, “I know my value,” to protect their sense of self.
Changing your internal narrative is a very difficult thing to do, especially if you grew up in an environment that didn’t have many positive feedback loops to nurture a healthy sense of self-worth. One thing that’s rarely addressed when it comes to positive affirmations taken to the extreme and done improperly like the above example, is that bragging about knowing your value makes you come off as an entitled status inflator.
This statement sub-communicates that “I know and I set my value, independently of what you think, so you must put out a lot of effort for me.” Take for example, a young attractive woman who gets a lot of attention. Immature women who receive a lot of dating prospects, offers, and sexual advances, but aren’t used to managing all this attention, end up falling into the same entitlement trap.
Some of the benefits of understanding the transactional nature of human relationships include being able to assess a person’s character, recognize and associate with collaborators who add value to your life and whose lives you can add value to, improve your leadership skills, and most importantly, recognize and cut out people who take value, hamper your progress, or have toxic personality traits.
When it comes to screening out the right personalities in the context of courtship and seduction, this skill and the ability to intuit takes time and real life experience to develop. Over time, you’ll naturally learn to identify certain traits to not only save yourself pain and stress in your dating life, but also within the context of making new friends, expanding your social circle, and navigating workplace politics.
Value-Taking Personality Types
Trying to climb any hierarchy is normal. But value-taking social climbers do this by stepping on and over others while simultaneously pushing them down.
Being around people who always find the smallest things to complain and nag about is a gigantic mood killer. But in the context of taking value from others, they chip away at the confidence of the go-getters of this world.
Nervous and Emotionally Insecure
Emotional states are contagious. Fear is understandable if you don’t have the basic emotional intelligence to manage your feelings or the experience to navigate around it.
However, not getting a handle on nerves and emotional insecurity will not only make for poor social interactions, but also kill new social opportunities. It will establish a feedback loop of negative expectations and experiences that will be hard to break. This applies to all social settings but especially to courtship and seduction.
People who constantly project their negative moods and experiences take value by making people around them feel the same way.
Status inflators are similar to social climbers. A key principle to remember, which is the foundation of charisma and charm, is that people generally like those who make others feel important and heard, not those who go about proving their importance to others.
Vanity and giving yourself a pat on the back in moderation is normal. But when taken to extremes, it becomes narcissistic and a massive turn off. For example, take the wanna-be Instagram influencers who rent Lamborghinis and dress in expensive designer wear while quoting some fake guru in order to sub-communicate status. Not only is this narcissistic, but it’s also unrelatable and demonstrates insecurity and the need for validation.
This includes people who have no basic understanding of how social and power dynamics work. They’re the types of people who break the unspoken social rules and norms that exist in every social interaction and within groups..
The concepts we’ve covered in this article on Social Tender and in part one on Social Exchange Theory applies to new and fresh relationships. As the old saying goes, “You rarely ever get a second chance to make a great first impression.” It’s important to fundamentally understand that every social interaction has a certain exchange take place. Being on the lookout for potential gains or losses is generally an unconscious process. But the social balance is never zero.
In the context of dating, the higher value person is often the one who looks more attractive. So for example, let’s take an attractive girl who has a lot of social status. She unconsciously asks herself with every dating prospect, “Is this guy taking something or bringing value to the table?” This isn’t referring just to superficial things like looks, money, and status. It also includes emotional value and intangibles like a sense of humor, emotional intelligence, and having a well-rounded personality.
To build on the takeaways covered in part one, internalize the following principles.
Focus on what you bring to the table.
Bringing value should be your number one priority in any social exchange.
Focus on what the other person brings to the table.
Being more aware of how other people act and conduct themselves will help you screen out value-takers.
Ask yourself if your relationship is balanced.
Much like the win-win concept we covered last week, it’s important to have balanced relationships, as they’re usually much stronger, happier, and longer lasting. Imbalanced relationships often hide emotional manipulation.
Stick with the collaborators.
While competition can be beneficial in moderation for pushing yourself and overcoming hurdles, going into every relationship with the mentality where everything is a zero-sum game isn’t sustainable or healthy for developing trust.
Much like removing value-takers from your life, recognizing collaborators creates healthy norms and precedents in your relationships. Collaborators are generally much more reliable, emotionally attuned, and genuinely good people to associate with.
Collaborators naturally want to give back, even if you do something for them and expect nothing in return. They feel bad about being in social debt and always seek to give back. Sometimes they might refuse a favor because they feel like it’s asking for too much.
Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of Social Exchange and Social Tender, in the coming articles we’ll dive more into power dynamics and assertiveness in the context of leadership as well as courtship and seduction.
’Til next time,