Ben Altman says that you will never truly connect with someone if you’re too busy protecting yourself to take a chance.
The world’s most charismatic men all have something in common
They are willing to speak and take action without guarantees that others will like what they’ve done. They are willing to “go there first”.
Bill Clinton would give compliments as soon as he thought them and send newspaper clippings to acquaintances when he read something that made him think of them (regardless of whether or not they were “close enough” for such a gesture). Martin Luther King risked–and ultimately lost–his life in his fight for equality, but he changed the world because he was willing to shout the things he believed in. Steve Jobs insisted on pristine design when everyone else was concerned with technical specifications.*
Today we admire the achievements of these men. But their willingness to take risks did not make life easy for them. Martin Luther King was assassinated for his political activism. Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded. Bill Clinton lost in his first Congressional bid.
Rarely do we face consequences as dire as MLK’s in our own lives. But the instinct to hide remains.
I know men who have flirted with the coffee barista down the street from their apartment for MONTHS, but never had the courage to ask her on a date. They fear she may reject them, so they say nothing at all – choosing a polite, friendly interaction over the chance to start a relationship that could change their lives forever.
I know men who have dated women for YEARS without saying I love you. The thought of not hearing it back is just too much to bear. They choose to shelter themselves from pain without fully experiencing what it’s like to live and love fully. They protect themselves rather than being vulnerable, rather than taking a chance on themselves. And their relationships suffer.
I get it, I really do. Expressing interest, desire, love – going there first is terrifying. You stick your neck out with no guarantee that it won’t get hacked off. Sometimes it does.
It’s easier to bide time and wait for the “all clear” than to leap in and face rejection.
So you wait until she hints heavily to ask her on a date. You second-guess yourself instead of leaning in for the kiss while she looks at you expectantly. You wait until she says, “I love you” before letting her know that you love her too.
And in this way you never wind up hurt.
But you also miss out on countless opportunities. Because deep down, underneath all the rationalizations, you’re just plain scared. And every date you never have, every kiss you never give, every woman you never openly share your feelings with, they will haunt you far more than the rejections ever could.
The truth is this: man or woman, you will never in your life truly connect with someone if you’re too busy protecting yourself to take a chance.
Take a lesson from the most charismatic men in history. Go there first.
Single or married, young or old, it doesn’t matter
We all have areas in our life where we’re hiding from ourselves. Where we hide behind fake excuses and “practicality” to pretend we aren’t scared. Where we avoid doing what we truly wish to do, and choose to play smaller than we are.
Consider a few areas in your own life:
1.) The next time you see that woman you’ve been secretly thinking about asking out for the longest time, ask her on a date
If you’ve been flirting with your coffee barista for weeks, make it a point to stay at the counter and speak to her for a few minutes longer than you normally do. Find out what she does for fun and make plans to do that thing together. If you can’t think of anything to say, just tell her she has a fun energy and you’d love to hang out sometime.
(Once you guys have agreed to some plans together, ask for her phone number. Text her something funny related to your conversation and you’re on your way to your first date.)
If you have a friend you have a crush on, invite her to do something one on one. Maybe she just wants to be friends; she has every right to feel that way. But maybe, just maybe, she likes you as well. And if that’s the case then one of you has to do something to lead the relationship in that direction. Otherwise neither of you will ever know how the other one feels. So take the lead and ask her to do something one on one.
(You don’t have to label it a “date” when you extend the invite. You can feel it out once you’re together and see how the night unfolds. But if you like the woman in a romantic way, then don’t treat her like one of the guys by inviting her out to grab wings and making fart jokes all night. Instead, ask her to get a drink at a cool bar or to go salsa dancing with you. If you’re dead-set on wings and fart jokes, at least save them for date #3)
Be the first to express interest in the other person. It won’t always lead to a date, but it gives you a chance to create a relationship that otherwise would never be.
2.) If you ARE out with a woman and you like her romantically, lean in for the kiss
Would it be nice if your date would initiate the kiss? Sure. Will a woman sometimes do that? Absolutely.
BUT, I can guarantee you that if you’re waiting for the woman to take the lead and initiate the kiss, you are definitely missing out on some great women who don’t want to make the first move.
To some women, it will even be a turnoff having to spell it out for you that they’re waiting for you to kiss them.
Flirting is subtle. You have to be aware of non-verbal cues. Be attuned to a woman and what she’s doing with her body, with her eyes, with her hands. You should do this anyway when you’re on a date so that you can better understand what she’s feeling moment to moment.
Want some help guessing what she’s thinking? Here are a few things to look out for:
- Is she holding eye contact, or even better, alternating between looking you in the eye and glancing at your lips?
- Are her hips and shoulders square to yours?
- Are her arms uncrossed, or even better, are they on your waist or around your neck?
So start with small touches. High fives. A hug. Maybe a hand hold. Get comfortable with one anothers’ touch. Eventually, if the date is going well and leading to a kiss, you’ll end up close to each other.
If so, look her in the eye. Then glance down at her lips. Then look back into her eyes. If she holds eye contact there instead of looking away, smirk or smile and lean in. If she wants to kiss you, she’ll close her eyes and meet you somewhere in the middle.
Even if she pulls away, at least now you know where you stand. You’ll probably have a conversation where she explains that she likes you but doesn’t feel comfortable kissing you yet, or that she just wants to be friends.
Either way, please don’t be the needy guy that blows up in anger and frustration here. She’s allowed to not want to kiss you, so respect that. You know where you stand and she knows how you feel. That’s all you can really ask for when you first start dating.
And I can promise you this: it feels better to go for the kiss and be rebuffed than to sit in your car on the ride home beating yourself up for not leaning in and spending the rest of the night wondering what could have been there.
(One more thing: If you can, try to do this in the middle of date instead of at the end. End of the night kisses can put unnecessary pressure on the kiss. In my experience, middle of the date kisses tend to be more spontaneous and fun, without that awkward, “Wait, is he going to try to kiss me now?” moment that can come up at the end of a walk to her car or her doorstep.)
3.) If you’re dating someone and you think you love her, tell her
I love this one because there is no wrong way to tell someone “I love you.”
Say it while you’re washing the dishes together. Say it when you catch her eye. Say it in the bedroom.
It doesn’t matter where or when, just say it when you feel it on the tip of your tongue.
If you find yourself thinking it, THAT is the moment to say it.
Obviously something happened in that moment that made your brain go there. Share that with her.
Sometimes you’ll hear “I love you too!” right back. Other times, you’ll get confusion, silence, maybe even a laugh.
It doesn’t matter. The point isn’t to say, “I love you” just so you can hear it back. The point is to honestly and openly express how you feel about her. REGARDLESS of what she says back.
So tell her you love her and if she doesn’t say it back, tell her it’s not a big deal, that you didn’t tell her because you wanted to hear it back. You told her because that’s how you feel.
There’s no shame in being in love on your end, and no pressure to reciprocate that feeling on her end.
I’ve told someone, “I love you” and heard crickets in return. It was months before she said it back to me.
When she finally did say it, she admitted that she felt that way all along, but didn’t want to say it because she was afraid that being vulnerable would mean opening herself up to getting hurt. People have different thresholds of vulnerability. But if I hadn’t gone there first, we might never have gotten our relationship to reach the extraordinary depths we did. Who knows how long it would have been before we were honest with each other about how we felt.
People have different associations with the word love. Don’t make anyone feel pressured to say it to you, but be free with it in your own life. It is liberating and has strengthened many of my relationships, romantic and otherwise.
4.) When you’ve acted like an ass, own it right away
For a lot of men, this will be the hardest of them all.
Admitting a mistake can feel like admitting weakness and accepting defeat. But the truth is, there’s strength in owning your mistakes.
Step one of this is to live with the highest integrity you possibly can.
Never, ever lie. Be a man of your word. Live with honor and only do things you’d be proud to have other people know about.
Live in this way and you will not often have to own that you’ve acted like an ass.
But every once in a while, you will. We all do it. We are humans, and we mess up.
We’ve all made mistakes, we’ve all said and done things we wish we could take back. You cannot prevent this 100% of the time. What you CAN do is immediately try to remedy the situation when you DO inevitably screw up. And step one of that is owning it.
Go to the person you’ve wronged and tell them you screwed up. Don’t make excuses. Don’t try to minimize your mistake or sugar coat what you did. Be frank about it, be honest in your fault, and apologize sincerely for it. Do this the instant you realize you’re in the wrong.
Then, take actions to reverse any damage you’ve done and to make sure you don’t do it again.
At the end of the day, that’s all anyone can ask of you, and that’s all you can ask of yourself. Admit when you’ve done something wrong. Apologize for it without minimizing it. And do everything you can to make things right.
People will respect your honesty, and in some cases, respect you even more than they did before for being able to get beyond your own pride and do the right thing.
5.) If the woman you’re dating has hurt you, tell her
As men in the western world, we have a lot of social programming telling us to be tough. Hide our feelings. And don’t cry.
I’m definitely guilty of it myself at times. That social programming goes quite deep.
But when the woman you’re dating says or does something that hurts you, don’t just bury it. Tell her.
She’ll appreciate you for being open and vulnerable, AND she’s much less likely to do it again if she knows how much it hurt you. Don’t go using this as a weapon. Just be honest about how you feel and how you react to things.
Do you feel underappreciated for something? Do you wish she would give you more compliments when you strut around in your undies? Did a casual joke she made amongst friends accidentally cut too deeply and touch a nerve?
Don’t whine at her. Don’t yell at her. Just tell her. Without casting blame. Simply tell her, “Hey, the other night when you made that joke about my beer belly in front of your friends…I just wanted to let you know that that really bothered me. It made me feel self conscious and it hurt my feelings”
Don’t say anything that can be refuted. Don’t say, “The other night you were being being annoying and you said…” or “Remember the other night when you made that joke to make me feel badly? Well that really bothered me”. Those can be refuted. Stick to the facts. She said you were storing up fat for winter, and it made you feel sad.
If you stick to your own feelings and her exact words, you can’t be accused of misinterpreting anything. The truth is, you are allowed to feel however you feel, and as long as you stick to hard facts and your own feelings, you can’t be accused of misconstruing anything. This keeps the conversation from being an argument, and instead makes it a discussion about your feelings.
Most likely, she’ll apologize and try to be aware of not doing anything to hurt you in the future. And if that’s not the case, maybe that means it’s time to consider dating somebody else. You’ve got millions of options, so no need to stay with somebody that continuously makes you feel badly about yourself.
It can be hard to go there first in this instance, especially for a man. But if you are willing to go there first and get honest with your feelings, especially when you’ve been hurt, you open yourself up to trade in quiet resentment for a healthier, happier relationship.
Lastly, do it all without reassurance it will go well.
Take this advice and I can promise you, you WILL experience disappointments. Maybe that’s not what you were expecting to hear, but it’s the truth. It happens to us all. Not every woman will want to go on a date. You might say, “I love you.” and hear the deafening sound of silence on the other end.
But I can promise you something else as well – it will lead to some of the most amazing moments in your life.
And that’s the point. You don’t go there first because you can control the outcome and it’s always roses. You do it because it’s real and it’s honest. You do it because it’s the key to truly living, to having your relationships reach their full potential.
The men we admire most don’t take pride in getting what they want; they take pride in going after what they want. And regardless of the outcome, they know they can look themselves in the mirror and say “I gave it my all. I didn’t let fear shape my life”
So ask yourself, where have you been protecting yourself?
Where have you been dodging the specter of rejection by muting your true feelings? What amazing things could happen if you just took a chance?
Find that thing and do it. Be willing to go there first.
*(The same is true for charismatic women. Oprah wore her emotions on her sleeve and would get her entire audience buzzing with her impassioned speaking. Ellen DeGeneres came out of the closet on national TV way back in 1997 when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was still the rule of the land.)
You can see more of Ben’s writing at CharismaOnCommand.com
If you liked this, you’ll likely also enjoy this article by Charlie Houpert.
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