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3 archetypes of social weirdos

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I got a great question about social skills.

“How do you talk productively and amicably with a boss whose long-windedness turns every conversation into a never ending monologue? I feel like my inability to get a word in edgewise with him prevents me from getting any respect from him.”
-Mariko

Which reminded me of a bunch of archetypes I’ve encountered in meeting people:

The One-Word-Answer-Giver

I was at some open bar thing with my friends and my buddy went to get us drinks. Within seconds, some guy comes up to me and goes, “Hey man, what’s up?” I said hello. We got to talking. Then he interrupts me — “Hey listen, my friend likes you.”

Me: “Oh yeah? Is your friend a girl or guy?”

Him: “HEY MAN. I’M NOT A FAG.”

Ok, red flag #1.

He points out his friend, a semi-attractive Indian girl. I wasn’t really into her, but I thought it was pretty cool she was aggressive (even if she sent her friend over to talk to me). So I go, cool, I’ll come talk to her in a few.

My friend comes back, we hang out, and a few minutes later I walk over to the girl. I go hey, what’s up. She is like “hi.” Very terse.

I’m like…so…what’s going on?

Her response: “Nothing much.”

HEY GIRL. THIS IS YOUR IDEA, NOT MINE. I DIDN’T EVEN WANT TO TALK TO YOU BUT HERE I AM. NOW YOU’RE GIVING ME ONE-WORD ANSWERS?

I’m looking around like, are we on Candid Camera? And the friend is standing right there, so clearly he didn’t just make this up. I pry two more excruciating answers. Finally, I say, well…have a good night.

One-word-answerers make you want to re-think your entire life. Why am I here? Why is this conversation so boring? Is gravity real? I used to blame myself for not being able to connect with these people. Maybe it’s me! Should I come up with new conversation topics? Now, like in many things, I just blame them and move on.

The One-Upper

Everyone knows a one-upper. The most interesting thing is, they’re not just bragging about GOOD things that happen. Usually, they love to thrive on how terrible and difficult their life is.

Two people especially love to do this: college students and new moms.

College student: “OMG dude, I only slept 3 hours last night.”

College student #2: “That’s nothing. I’ve only slept 2 hours in the last 9 days and I wrote 3 essays, 2 problem sets, and created a new formula on…”

New mom: “I had a really difficult labor for my son.”

New mom #2: “You!? I was in labor for 9 straight days. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything. I almost died! They had a team of 12 doctors in there.”

The One-Upper reduces ordinary people to mumbling, “Really? Wow” responses because there is no way to get out. However, when paired with another One-Upper, it is truly an explosion of narcissism. I like to listen in from nearby and cackle.

The Rambler

This is the worst. You ask a simple question, and they go into 16 minutes of responses. Just as they’re finally coming to a finish…the last words leads to a new story! Key phrases include “So then I started this new job…well it’s not really about the job, but the thing is, when I first moved to New York…” [story about New York].

Due to the dysfunctional social skills of some IWT readers, I’ve had to develop the ability to extricate myself from situations rapidly. Still, on a recent trip to SF, I met a guy who would not let me go for THIRTY MINUTES. No matter how sophisticated my exit strategy, he kept me in place with his verbal tractor beam.

Finally, I had to cut him off with this. “Sorry, but I have to leave. My friend has been waiting for me for 30 minutes.” He stopped and, in a moment of fleeting light, he realized he’d been talking non-stop for a half-hour. As I walked away, he turned to talk to someone else.

Solution: You look for ways to kill yourself. (Also, check out this video about speaking mistakes, and how to end your sentences with power.)

My favorite ways to improve social skills:

Here are some ways to get around these situations.

Question for you

I mentioned 3 archetypes of social dysfunction: The One-Word-Answer-Giver, The One-Upper, and The Rambler.

What else am I missing? Share your stories below.

By the way, I’ll be talking more about social skills on my email list. Join 200,000+ people on my email list by signing up below to be sure you get the new material.

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126 Comments

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  1. […] 3 archetypes of social weirdos is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich. […]

  2. Ha, quite aware of the first and third types. An addition to the list… The Ignorers. They will ignore a question you asked during a conversation and breach another topic, forcing me to either ask the question again (and again) or forget it because otherwise I might seem awkward or needy.

  3. There’s also the silent type. You’re explaining something relevant to the topic at hand, finish, and they just stare at you not saying anything until you say something else.

  4. I have a former friend who I’ll call “The Controller”. In any given social situation, she turns the dynamic so that she’s almost holding court — instead of the conversation being a spontaneous give-and-take, she controls the conversation as if she’s leading a panel discussion. She’ll ask someone a question, they’ll answer, and then she’ll turn to another person in the group and ask “Fred, what do you think of that?” After a while she’ll change the topic and say “Let’s talk about X now. Mary, what do you think about X?” It’s exhausting. The funny thing is, she never volunteers information about herself throughout this (you would think someone who does this would want to turn the conversation back to herself)… she controls the conversation, but doesn’t participate.

  5. The coversational narcissist. When you mention something you’ve done, they immediately relate it to something they’ve done (most of the time without letting you finish your sentence) and then proceed to talk about themselves and look irritated if you try and finish your story.

    • Just slightly worse than that, is when all the questions she asks you are mere set-ups for what they want to talk about! I have a close friend that I’m just now realizing does this. All the time. Strange.

  6. The Joker. This is the person who will attempt to make a funny comment about everything you say. They are always trying to “lighten the mood” but it becomes apparent that it is because they are incapable of carrying on a serious conversation.

    The Specialist. This person ties every conversation to their topic of expertise or study, whatever that is. Football, music, hunting, shopping, economics, history, whatever, they have the comparative situation in their chosen field of play, regardless of how remotely relevant it may be. They don’t know about anything else and aren’t interested in learning about anything else, so they always refer back to their chosen topics.

    • I confess- I am a Joker. For the longest time, I thought it was my “thing”, that I could be relied on to find the humor in any situation. I thought that surely everyone else must see how funny/crazy/ironic and randomly connected everything was; it was my job to point it out at every opportunity. The cornier, the better! Wordplay is our friend!
      I see now that this habit (not a character flaw, not a lack of intelligence, not a deliberate attempt to draw attention to myself, it is merely a habit)- has derailed more conversations and potential friendships than I care to dwell on. I also see that I picked this bad habit up from my mother; I’ve never had a deep, meaningful conversation with her because that’s just not what we do. She still wears clothes she’s had before I was born; she is resistant to change. I hope to avoid that same fate. It is only recently that I realized how much this “joking” habit has affected my life; it’s as if my social skills were a submarine and I’ve been treating them like a boat, only skimming the surface, never plumbing the depths. It’s probably a major reason why, at 32, I’m still a virgin. I’ve gone through the majority of my adult life never realizing that I could ask deep questions of others, that it’s OK to “bother” someone by engaging them in a serious discussion or asking them insightful questions. So sad, but at least I’m realizing it now. I only hope I can break my bad habits.

    • I definitely know the Specialist type. One of our friends used to be a lawyer and always pushes every topic back to “what the law says” …

  7. Oh, and there’s people that, upon hearing a topic, say “oh, I saw a movie about that, have you seen…?” And the rest of it would be about movies.

  8. Expanding on Alicia’s conversational narcissist comment. The girl who comes in all chirpy and starts off the conversation with “What did you do this weekend?” Feigns interest… and looks at you impatiently when you’ve talked for over 30 seconds and then gets all cheery when its her turn and proceeds to talk for a half hour about her weekend…. Why do they ask at all, if they just don’t care?

  9. Hi Ramit,

    What social Archetype are you?
    If you find this sort of thing interesting you might like to check out a great book called Games People Play by Eric Berne if you haven’t already.

  10. The ‘statement maker’. The nerdy guy who tries to start a conversation with you by making a statement, rather than asking you a question, that isn’t a compliment. e.g. You must be very hungry.

    He should ask me a question that I might have an opinion about or be able to tell a story about. e.g. What do you think of the music? or How do you know our host?

    • +1 for the Statement Maker! I happened to have tried to be in a relationship with one. and that was rather painful. Him: “You sure are happy to see your family this weekend!”. Me: “Where did you get this information?”

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