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All the Worlds a Stage

All the worlds a stage, And all the men and women merely players. —William Shakespeare

Executive summary of the contents of this blog:

  • Nobody knows who you are “deep down;” people seek you out or avoid you based on what you say and how you say it.
  • The effect you have on others is manageable; you are not doomed to be unloved and disliked by birthright.
  • Actors manage their affect—gestures and expressions—and their words to create every possible personality type. They can be lovable and they can be villainous; so can you.
  • This blog is not about spiritual transformation, or self-motivation, or self-help, or inspirational jargon; it is about the fact that your verbal and non-verbal behaviors create your persona—the way you are perceived by others.
  • The bottom line is that most of the things we want in life we get from or through others. If we repel others we have one level of success; if we attract them and make them comfortable we have another level of success.
  • The “how” to get what you want from life is known; whether you want to behave differently is your choice.

What do we want from others? Do you want to have a positive influence on others—to be liked and sought-after? These are not rhetorical questions. If you are not concerned about the effect you have on others, then this blog will hold no interest for you. If you are defensive about “who you are,” and have developed several self-affirming rationales about how you are misunderstood and that others are going to have to learn to appreciate you—then the realities I present here are of no use to you.

What do most humans want from other humans?

  • To be loved and cared for
  • We want others to do things our way
  • To be liked; to have friends. Most of us would like to be more popular
  • To be believed
  • We want to be trusted
  • We want to inspire—to influence others
  • We want others to cooperate with us
  • We want recognition, promotion, bonuses, and raises
  • We want others to say good things about us

How do you get these things from others? By our appearance? From our genetics? Our education? Our affluence? These factors may play a minor role; in some cases they may set the stage—kind of prime the pump for influencing others to give us what we want, but they are not the cause for our varying effects on others.

The bottom line is that we get what we want from others through the things we say—our verbal behavior—and the gestures and expressions that accompany our verbal behavior. The main things we want in life are obtained by what we say and how we say it. It’s all about behavior. If we want to influence others to do what we want and feel the way we want them to toward us, we have to understand the effect of our verbal behavior—the words we choose and how we say them.

In the cases above, we want to have a positive influence on a person or group. There are many things we can make people do if we have the power, authority, or status, but we can not “make” them feel good about us, love us or like us. The fear of punishment can cause us to do lots of things we don’t want to do; intimidation can control our behavior. We can bully family members, students, and employees but they will not like us for it.

So, you can get the good things in life through positive influence—through verbal and non-verbal behavior that creates positive emotions in others, or you can get people to do a lot of things that you want by subtle intimidation, but they will not love you or like you for it.

I have heard people from all walks of life and every economic class say, “I don’t have to be liked I just want people to do what I say.” I think people who feel this way are in the minority; whether we admit it or not, most of us want to be liked, loved, respected, befriended, esteemed, believed, and admired. We want people to seek us out, invite us to parties or out to diner, and call us to talk.

Here is the $64,000 dollar question; if you knew exactly what to say and how to say it—if you knew the words, tones, inflection, facial expressions and gestures that would compel others to love you, be attracted to you, seek you out to be their friend, would you behave in those ways. If you knew that all you had to do was change some words and some expressions and it would change your life—would you do it?

For the majority of us, I think the answer to that question is yes. Most people believe that they do not have the influence they want to have on others because they are not attractive enough, or cool enough, or sophisticated enough, or educated enough, or affluent enough. Well that is a crock, even if you have deluded yourself into believing it. We all know someone who has none of those attributes, but we like them or love them because they say and do things that make us feel great—make us want to be around them.

Often the talent that some people have for saying things in a way that attracts us is described by words like “charming, engaging, warm, personable, and lovable.” We use the words so often we forget that they describe how a person behaves. No matter how many excuses you’ve made for the dissatisfaction you feel about not being well liked and popular—“I don’t need people; they don’t understand me; if they don’t like me it’s too bad; their stupid,” and so forth—you know that is all rationalization, denial, and cynicism. The real deal has two parts:

  1. You have clues, but no hard, reliable, objective information about the things you say or mannerisms that turn people off, make them dislike you, or push them away. We question the authority and accuracy of negative feedback, which allows us to dismiss it and continue to behave in the same ways. You cannot change without hard, valid feedback.
  2. You don’t know the things to say and how to say them that encourage people to be attracted to you, like you, love you, trust you, and admire you. You cannot say anything you want, anyway you want. Spontaneity is wonderful if it expresses the proper sentiments--otherwise, shooting off you mouth can be a problem. There are certain words to avoid--certain facial expressions that are off-putting to others. Knowing specifically what these words and expressions are can help you get what you want from others.

At this point, you may say (and actually believe) it’s a lot more complicated than that; it’s not me, it’s the other people. Liking and loving are spiritual states created by more than what we say and how we say it to others; it’s more than simple behaviors that we control and can choose to do or not do. Well, if you say that enough (and I’m sure many of you have), you may begin to believe it. I think it is true for many of us that we would rather deny the truth of a solution that requires the acceptance of personal responsibility; we would prefer to think that the true solution is too esoteric—beyond our power to resolve—beyond our control.

Denial, whining, self-pity, and romantic sorrows are self-indulgences that allow us to escape responsibility from the fact that we are the problem and we are the solution; you will not find a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychoanalyst, counselor or self-help book that does not ultimately lead you to that realization. There is a solution—you change your behavior—and then you become the person you have always wanted to be. You are in charge of your behavior. You can become as charming, lovable, engaging, and desirable as you want to be; you just have to say the right things in the right way.

In the second part of this blog, I will address the “how” to help yourself behave differently, then later the “what” or the kinds of behaviors that lead to personal success and personal influence. However, to further persuade you of the validity of the principles invoked in this blog, think about the interviews you have seen on TV with actors. One popular actor who has been interviewed often is Russell Crowe.

When interviewed for the television show, Inside the Actor's Studio, one noticed that Russell Crowe’s demeanor was relatively flat; his facial expressions usually look rather dull—almost depressed. Very little smiling behavior; his facial muscles are not used. Many of his statements sounded arrogant and sometimes hostile. His language was also flat—not very expressive. His voice was monotone; no inflection or emphasis on his words like newscasters do to enliven the informational copy they have to read. On the whole, if this were the way he behaved socially and at work, you would not expect him to have many friends. In fact, he has a reputation for being difficult to work with.

If you have seen him in movies like 3:10 to Yuma, and Gladiator, you remember how persuasively diverse his affect was—how convincing his personalities appeared. You might say, “Well of course he changes himself and comes across as any type of personality he chooses; he is getting paid to do so.” Your argument is that the consequences for him to behave—to act, are extremely positive and that is why he takes the trouble to do so.

The consequences for you and I are no less important. The impact you have on others leads to emotional and material capital. Your verbal and non-verbal behaviors lead to personal and career success. Success in life is a function of how others perceive you. If Russell Crowe can change himself—like a chameleon, to effect any type of character and personality, if he can manage his words and expressions to create either a lovable, attractive person or a repellent, unattractive villain—then so can you.