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Watch me “tear down” students’ social skills

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It’s hard to be creepy as a girl. But IWT readers always rise to the occasion!

Last month, I threw a meetup with my buddy Derek Halpern and hosted about 100 IWT readers at a bar in NYC. At the end of the night, as I walked over near the bar to close my tab, an Indian girl walked up to me. She said, “Do you even remember my name??”

This exact phrase is Indian-girl code for “I like you.” Knowing this, I smiled. “No, I’m pretty sure you didn’t mention your name.”

She did not like that. She actually looked at me and, with a disgusted look on her face, said, “So you DON’T remember my name??”

Again, this is still Indian-girl game — she was testing me even more. I know, it makes no sense to white people.

I shrugged. I’m not into rude people, so I said, “Actually, whenever I introduce myself to someone, I always say ‘Hi, I’m Ramit.’ But you didn’t mention your name at all.” And I turned and closed my tab, leaving a few minutes later.

As I turned away, her jaw dropped. See, it’s not like most Indian guys are swimming in women, so when someone talks to them, they usually immediately supplicate and offer to buy a $300 dinner and two dozen roses. When I didn’t follow the script, this surprised her.

I know this because Derek told me that when she found out I’d left, she was shocked, then went up to him and told him to “get Ramit back.” When Derek laughed, she tried to get my number. And when Derek called her a stalker (correct response), SHE GRABBED HIS PHONE TO TRY TO GET MY PHONE NUMBER.

 The skeptical line of “Do you remember my name??” is actually a classic line my friends and I have heard MANY times.

Notice that this was at a bar, where the stakes are low. Now imagine what happens if you’re using the same untested, mediocre social skills…in your professional life.

Imagine how many doors open because of the way you represent yourself. And imagine how many doors have been closed because of social mistakes you’ve made that you didn’t even realize.

Over the last few days, we’ve had fun with improving our social skills, talking to random people on the street, and even building our Story Toolbox.

Now we’re going to take this fun stuff and APPLY it to one of the highest-potential areas of our lives: our professional lives.

In other words, it’s one thing to chat about dog food with a stranger at the grocery store. It’s another to be able to confidently introduce yourself to a VP at your company, succinctly explain what you’re working on, and show him why you should get to lead this project…or why you deserve a $20,000 raise…or why you should get to work from home on Fridays.

The techniques you employ can mean the difference between being stagnant at a mediocre job…or landing your Dream Job and changing the entire trajectory of your career.

By the way, bad social habits like talking too fast, rambling, being shy, or using an upturned tone at the end of your sentences aren’t mere social “quirks.” As the stakes get higher, these become serious flaws that hold you back — and can determine the difference between living a Rich Life or simply being another guy who goes to a dreary 9-5 job.

The First 10 Seconds: Your invisible message

It’s interesting how much you can tell about someone when they introduce themselves. Let’s say you go up to someone and say, “Hey, I’m ___” and start chatting. Then you ask, “What do you do?” how do they respond?

OPTION 1: “I’m an associate at an online-marketing company. We help companies grow their business using online marketing.” Nice — pretty confident.

OPTION 2: “Uhh” (facial grimace) “I just kinda work at this startup…for now.”

So much conveyed in just 10 seconds. For many of us, our verbal and nonverbal language betrays us.

It comes out when we talk to someone and don’t know how to carry the conversation beyond, “Where are you from?”

It makes us feel awkward when someone asks us something, and we answer with a surprising response — 1-word answers, un-funny jokes, even sarcasm — when we don’t even mean it! It just comes out.

And it hurts us when our social skills cost us opportunities. Like saying the wrong thing in a job interview…or not speaking up when the boss says, “This is an amazing job! Who led this project?”

As I was trying to go from an awkward 127lb dude to a socially skilled man, I got tired of the generic advice telling us useless high-level things like:

  • “Be confident!”
  • “Be yourself!”
  • “If they don’t like you, you wouldn’t want to work for that company anyway!”

Uh…that’s nice, but what am I supposed to say when I can’t think of something interesting to say in a meeting? Why do I constantly freeze up? How do I stop rambling?

So instead of TELLING you, I decided to SHOW you.

Here are actual video critiques of students I did to show you how quickly you can make these changes. You’ll see students overcoming many of the same weaknesses many of you identified in Monday’s challenge.

Notice that these are just small excerpts of my Dream Job course (opening later this month), which has over 50 hours of video material, word-for-word email scripts, and tested techniques you can use right away.

PROBLEM: “I’m not confident / I smile too much”

This problem of over-smiling is almost always found with women (along with chronically under-negotiating, and a few other female-specific challenges).

Although women usually have more sophisticated social skills, this sometimes goes awry, resulting in too much smiling or an upturned voice at the end of every sentence — which instantly conveys low confidence. I call this a “Low Competence Trigger,” similar to looking downward, having nervous facial tics, or fidgeting.

And when hiring managers sense low self confidence, they also sense something else: a way to save thousands on hiring someone. As I’ve told some of my female friends when coaching them on interviewing, each overdone smile cost them $1,000. I personally know hiring managers who cut their job offers by $10,000 on the spot when they sensed a female candidate had low confidence…and the candidate took it. They never knew what their mediocre social skills cost them.

Worse, it’s difficult to change people’s perceptions of you. These same perceptions (“she’s not a leader”) can follow you for your entire tenure at a job, so I want to help you improve the way others perceive you from Day 1.

The funny thing is, people ONLY SEE WHAT’S ON THE OUTSIDE! You could be feeling completely unconfident inside, but if you use High Competence Triggers to convey a confident smile, tell disarming jokes, and charm the other person with engaging stories, they’ll instantly perceive you as a confident, collected candidate.

In fact, using these Competence Triggers can actually turn you into a confident candidate. In other words, fake it until you make it — a throwaway phrase that’s actually backed by solid psychological research.

Let me show you a couple examples related to confidence.

First, check out this teardown I did with one of my Dream Job students who didn’t realized he was upturning at the end of his sentences:

And in this video, a Dream Job student and I discuss the power a smile — or too many or lack thereof — can have on your success:


PROBLEM: “I ramble and have a monotone voice”

Based on my interaction with socially awkward IWT readers, I would estimate that roughly 60% of you have this problem. And I want to kill you for it.

Being boring and rambling is actually quite a crippling problem. I’ve interviewed people with EXCELLENT technical skills, but because they couldn’t stop rambling, I said “thanks for your time” and didn’t hire them. Rambling is one of the pernicious social-skills breakdowns you can have because over time, people stop wanting to hear anything you have to say.

Speaking in a monotone can also be powerfully crippling because of the response it evokes. In short, we love talking to people with high energy, but boring people drain us. For example, last week I called my mom just to say hi, but I was really tired and feeling pretty lethargic (not my normal state). Within 30 seconds of me sounding boring, I could feel my mom’s energy match mine. She was like, “mm hmm…” and “oh really…” — in other words, totally disengaged. With her son!!

Listen up: My mom loves me. I’m the oldest son and I do all the polite things a good Indian boy does. So when she sounded bored on the phone and said, “Ok…well…have a nice day…” I knew I had gone wrong somewhere. And the truth is, boring people make us bored.

In this video, watch me take one of my Dream Job students, Chris, from a boring rambling story to something tight and interesting:


PROBLEM: “I talk too fast”

This is a severe Low Competence Trigger, since high-status people almost never speak quickly. For example, compare the difference between a used-car salesman and the President of the United States.

What are the differences? No, not the suit…not the greasy hair…

That’s right — high-status people speak confidently and slowly. For fun, go to YouTube and study any high-status person: George Clooney. Hillary Clinton. Jean-Luc Picard.

So when you see someone speaking quickly, they’re effectively raising their hands and saying, I’m low-status! This can have a severe effect on your perceived credibility.

The beautiful part is, if you can correct this — and you can, with practice — your perceived credibility will instantly go up. And as you become a top performer, you will actually BE more credible.

In this video, watch me critique one of my students who talks too fast, and watch the dramatic before-and-after change:


PROBLEM: “I come off too aggressive”

Men have their own versions of social skills problems. A while back, my friend wanted to go shopping at Lululemon, a store I’d never been in (what the hell guy shops there)? So when we walked in, she went to the women’s section, and I started browsing around. At one point, I was holding up a jacket to see if it fit me. My friend, who has the same sense of humor as me, saw me from across the store. I swear she had a gleam in her eye when she yelled, “HEY RAMIT. NICE JACKET. YOU KNOW THAT’S FOR WOMEN, RIGHT??”

I have never been back inside a Lululemon store.

Why? Because men hate to be embarrassed.

Men also have other social oddities, such as coming off too aggressively (this rarely happens for women, just as oversmiling rarely happens for men).

In this video, watch me tear down one of my students, who is a nice guy, but came off way too aggressively in his initial negotiation with me. Watch how he rapidly improves:


*     *     *

How to use your social skills to land a Dream Job

Now I want to go even a step further in helping you apply these social skills to live a rich life.

I’m going to show you how to take some of the elements I’ve taught you this year — the Story Toolbox, certain social skills — and help weave them together to land your Dream Job.

Tonight, I’m holding a free webcast — “War Stories: Lessons Learned from Interviewing at the Best Companies in the World”.

No, I’m not selling anything. I just want to take you behind the scenes of interviewing at some of the world’s top companies — companies where I secured jobs (and some where I was brutally rejected…fun times).

Tonight, I’ll share:

  • A word-for-word script you can use to handle critics, naysayers, and hardball interviewers
  • What to do if a company is delaying a hiring decision — but you need an answer NOW
  • Lots of live Q&A so you can get your toughest social-skills and interview questions answered directly from me

When: Wednesday, 1/16, at 9pm EST (time converter)

Where: Get the secret URL by registering here

Excuses that will not be accepted:

  • “Waa…I live in Siberia and it’s 3am here. Can you please record it?” MY RESPONSE: No.
  • “Waa…it already filled up…why didn’t you tell me earlier?” MY RESPONSE: I feel no sympathy for you. I did tell the 160,000+ people on my newsletter yesterday. You, the unwashed masses who have not yet signed up for my newsletter, get to hear about it later. I always post my best material on my newsletter, so if you’re not already subscribed, sign up here.

See you tonight at 9pm EST. Sign up and lock in your spot here:

* * *

P.S. Leave a quick comment below:
1. What’s one thing you learned from the videos above?
2. What do you want me to cover tonight?

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  1. – Try to smile a bit less
    – Learn how to control the higher pitch in the end of sentences
    – Monotone voice (additionally, it is something typical from Portuguese people in “serious” environments)
    – Talk a bit slower wouldn’t hurt.

    And most of these things only happen in professional environments.

  2. It’s great to see stuff about social skills for business. They skills required really are a subtly different subset from meeting people in a social environment.

    I hadn’t really appreciated that difference before, so thanks for making it so clear!

  3. Dude, you properly need to rename your Dream Job course. I’m one of those super annoying people who actually looks forward to going to work I enjoy it that much, but I’m really considering signing up for the course to learn some of these other skills. I thought it was just about getting a great job, but it seems like it covers so much more.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with Stephen’s point. I’m happy with my current job and the freelance work I do on the side. My initial reaction to the name was similar to Stephen’s, largely on the name. Which meant I assumed it was specific to identifying and getting one’s Dream Job. In actuality it seems well suited to identifying and resolving communication inefficiencies in a variety of professional and social settings.

    • Hi Ramit, I also have to agree with Stephen and Casey.
      As always, your information is impeccable, however it seems to apply to so much more than Job interviews as is exemplified by the comments of people who are recognising it’s validity in general conversations in everyday life as an example. Perhaps you will do another course after this one that is based on the same principles, however geared towards social interactions, or maybe your aim is to do that with this course?

    • 3 other people who feel the exact same way as me! I feel an outpouring of love towards these people for making me realize I’m not alone 🙂

    • Agreed. At this point, psychologists are sending people with social skill deficits, perhaps due to social anxiety or autism, to this website for help. Ramit does a great job of describing the social skill and SHOWING how it looks when the skill is missing and when skill is in action. This is a valuable resource for people who are truly struggling out there in the social world.

    • Agreed. At this point, psychologists are sending people with social skill deficits, perhaps due to social anxiety or autism, to this website for help. Ramit does a great job of describing the social skill and SHOWING how it looks when the skill is missing and when skill is in action. This is a valuable resource for people who are truly struggling out there in the social world. (However, the emoticon response from Ramit to Stephen’s comment must violate one of his social skills rules, ha!)

  4. Great reminders about the importance of how we speak. I’ve never had too much problems with my intonation or being ‘lively’ enough, that comes quite naturally. Therefore, I always though I was a good speaker. But these videos reminded me there are other important aspects too, like the pace. The next time I am interviewing or making a presentation, I will definitely keep the president vs 21 year old in the back of my head!

    It also encouraged me again to experiment more. To not be afraid of just trying new techniques 🙂

    I’d love to learn techniques on how to condense/expand stories to 30 seconds, 5 minutes or 30 minutes. Sadly though I won’t be joining the webinar as I’ll have to be asleep at that time (Europe). I hope I can find some videos another day.

    • Another option for a place to practice and get feedback is Toastmasters. It is more focused on presenting, but getting the feedback from people on how you come across is useful. Otherwise whip out a video recorder and record yourself talking.

  5. Hi Ramit,

    I’ve definitely been guilty of smiling too much.

    Looking back, it’s interesting what an impact this has already had for me. I felt really insecure when I started networking, as I was pretty much the youngest and least experienced person in the room. I felt shy but I made an effort to talk to people. Although my social skills evolved and I got better at small talk, I still know I smiled too much, trying to be friendly and positive.

    Thinking about it, that’s why I probably never felt I never got the real authority when I took on leadership in the group, despite people seeming to appreciate me.

    And considering that it was business networking, I don’t want to think of how much business smiling too much because I was insecure will have cost me. I DO think about it though – that’s why I’ve been practicing not smiling too much in recent business meetings.

  6. 1. What’s one thing you learned from the videos above?
    – It seems I’m one of the few guys that needs to smile less in formal situations. I hold the nickname “Giggles” at work if that gives you any idea.

    2. What do you want me to cover tonight?
    – I have a work party to attend tonight so I will sadly be missing this. It will be a prime opportunity to practice these social skills though.

  7. Good tips. I particularly liked the reminder to be more concise, to smile a wee bit less, to slow down. Love the Clintons, and enjoyed watching the videos, and observing them. Believe telling stories is a very cool way to make a connection, though there is a real art to that, and sometimes I fall on my face. 🙂 It’s all good.

    I think women are horrible at selling their skills and their services. I’d like to learn more how to do that. Thanks for the free teaching!

  8. I noticed right away two weaknesses that a former colleague (female) displays regularly – she ends rambling, slow-paced monotone sentences with a VERY pronounced upturn of the voice. To some extent, I think lack of smiling may be a third issue. What I didn’t know, and have been unable to articulate to her, is how the first two issues I noticed come across to listeners / interviewers as low-confidence triggers. That trigger might very well explain her lack of success in finding her dream job. The kicker is, she’s a former human resources senior manager. I will be sending her a link to IWT today.

    • And I will be expecting your hilarious story of her unanticipated response tomorrow

    • Why pick on a former colleague? It is so easy to pick fault with others, what about thinking of your own possible shortcomings? The upturn is something that has become prominent with the advent of Australian tv programms.
      Even Ramit does it from time to time.

  9. Mevonnie Biggins Link to this comment

    I am guilty for “talking too fast”. Coming from a Caribbean background, I embraced it as part of a trademark, but I realize that this could be the very thing that will hold me back from reaching a position of high influence.

    Ramit, what you said about actors speaking slowly and realizing that people will wait to hear what you have to say spoke volumes. I am now working on my slow speech with other colleagues. I’ll keep you posted!



  10. I love these social tear-downs, because many people believe that you either got it or you don’t. Kudos to Chris for being ballesy, putting himself out there b/c you can tell he’s uncomfortable but what’s to learn.

    I noticed with Allison that talking fast makes you say “umm” and such more, which I’ve been prone to do many times, I’ve never even thought to talk slowly b/c I have such a scatter brain. But that’s the homework I’m going to try.

    I’ve found with storied that if you can “automate yourself” and your mind with the story i.e. Get the story down to a T that you don’t even have to think about it when telling it, you’re able to adjust it on the spot much more easily and add flavor/humor to it. B/c when you tell a story for the first time you’re trying to do so much at once : make it funny, make it interesting, speak slowly etc., but one you automate it, you’re able to adjust on the fly.

    That’s helped me alot in interviews b/c you can add humor in there tailored specifically to each person.

    Love the New Year content Ramit!