One TGFM reader submitted this text conversation for us to analyze – let’s call him “Bob”. Bob met Angie at a bar where he got her number. This text conversation started a few hours following the number close. Bob does some things right and some things wrong, let’s take a look.
Bob initiates the conversation with “Angie!”, the girl’s name. Bob correctly messages her the same night of the number close. You should text her a few hours following a number close in order to get your number in her phone while her memory of you is still fresh and emotional.
Bob shouldn’t have appended a “!” to her name – exclamation points always make your texts sound less powerful. Bob could’ve also done better than to write her name. He could’ve made a small reference to something they talked about so she’d remember him better. For instance, he could’ve texted something related to the dog story or just his name “Bob”.
In Bob’s next line, he starts by answering her question with his name. Bob was right to give his name out, but he should’ve acknowledged her slight faux pas for forgetting his name. He should’ve also shown reluctance to give out his name because he remembered hers and she didn’t his, which is evidence he’s lower status. Texting “Goldfish memory? It’s Bob” would’ve done the job.
In the second half of Bob’s text, he wrote “remember I told you about my dog?”. It’s good Bob is bringing up a topic they’ve discussed before, but his execution could’ve improved. He could’ve sounded less reactive by atomizing his text to something like “remember dog story?”.
For intuition on woman’s attraction heuristic, read the following thought experiment:
Imagine you’re about to choose one of three job interviews to attend. You know nothing about the job prior to the interview. You could be applying as a cashier at McDonald’s or a CEO of Intel—you have no idea. The only information you’re given is the following:
Job Interview 1 – You answer all the questions easily and feel confident you’ll get the job.
Job Interview 2 – You barely manage to answer the questions and you feel your chances of getting hired are insignificant.
Job Interview 3 – You manage to answer most, but not all of the questions and feel there is about a 50% chance of being hired. Remember, you know nothing about the salary, benefits or prestige of the job you’re interviewing for.
Given what you know, which job interview would you choose and why?
Most people would easily discard the second option. After all, there is no point of wasting your opportunity to interview for attainable jobs for one you have no shot at. The difficulty of the interview is evidence you’re probably under-qualified anyways.
Now you’re left with the first and third option. This decision is a little less obvious. Most would discard the first option, but not for the same reason they discarded the second. The problem with the first interview is that it’s too easy. There are certain inferences you can make about a job whose interview process is easy for you to pass: you’re probably overqualified and can get a higher-paying and more prestigious job elsewhere.
This raises the question: For a job you believe you’re perfectly qualified for and can’t do better or worse elsewhere, how would you expect the job interview to go?
You would expect it to be challenging, but still perceived attainable. In other words, the interview has to be the hardest possible interview that doesn’t make you feel hopeless. And this is why you choose the third interview—it fits the bill.
We know we’re maximizing our payoff when we experience these kinds of challenges; in this case, it was about maximizing the amount of money and prestige from our job. We are evolutionarily designed to seek out these sorts of challenges because they indicate that we’re maximizing our potential gains. Activates that are too hard use up too much energy and time for a little payoff. Conversely, activities that are too easy are a waste because time can be spent on yielding a higher payoffs elsewhere. Think about the times you’ve most enjoyed a sport or game. I can guarantee that in almost every case you experienced a perfect blend of ease and difficulty.
Women are like job-seekers going from interview to interview without knowing the salary or prestige of the jobs. Instead of seeking jobs, they’re seeking men; and instead of trying to maximize salary, they’re trying to maximize status in men. Women are turned on by men who bring forth a “challenging interview process.”
A man’s attractiveness (his status) is not as apparent as a woman’s: her physical appearance. While women have to “discover” a man’s value, men can plainly see a woman’s value. So men know how challenging a woman will be based on her physical appearance, woman don’t. Instead, they use the challenge itself to determine attractiveness. The same reasons that make a sexy woman challenging, make a challenging man sexy – because they’re probably the best you can do.
Don’t be easy to get. Don’t be impossible to get. Be hard to get.
Your social status, or just “status”, is your perceived power to get what you want. It’s the shared belief that others have about your power, and that you have about your own power.
Since powerful people can get what they want, you have everything to gain as their ally and everything to lose as their enemy. A powerful person could, on a whim, provide you with a world of opportunity and pleasure or cause you endless pain or suffering. And your genetic future is at the mercy of powerful people. A powerful person could kill you or protect you from premature death, provide you with genetically fit children or force you into celibacy.
On the other hand, powerless people can’t affect your wellbeing or your genetic future much. The power you perceive people to have, i.e. status, determines how you react to them. Your emotions, thoughts and behaviors in reaction to status were designed to maximize your genetic fitness.
Your actual power doesn’t cause people to react differently toward you; only your perceived power does – i.e. your status. If you can manipulate people’s perception of your power – by definition, manipulate your status – then you control how people feel and behave toward you.
Honing your status-manipulation skill requires paying close attention to your status signals – the perceivable clues that others use to determine your status. You need to become a detective, noticing subtle status signals that can change other people’s perception of your power.
Your passive status signals are the ones people can observe without interacting with you: clothes, ethnicity, body language, possessions, interactions with others, physical attractiveness, strength, location, hairstyle, age, etc. You want to manipulate your passive status signals to communicate the status you want, but it’s not easy. Some passive status signals are hard to get, like a nice car. Some are culture-specific, like clothes. And some can’t be changed at all, like height. It’s usually more feasible to manipulate your interactive status signals, the ones people observe when they interact with you.
When people interact with you, the juiciest status signals come from your reactivity. Reactivity is the psychological mechanism that evaluates each stimulus for its potential to impact your genetic future, and then decides how much attention to pay it.
When you were first learning to drive, you were probably anxious and hyper-vigilant, i.e. reactive. As you improved, driving became automatic, freeing up your attention to daydream or listen to music. You don’t feel like driving is risky to your genetic fitness anymore, so when you drive, you’re not reactive. Only an unusually interesting stimulus can get your attention: a swerving car, a tailgater, a broken traffic light, an attractive driver in another car, etc.
It’s natural to be reactive when you interact with high status people. Being reactive to something means you’ve psychologically classified it as having a high potential impact on your genetic future, so you visibly care about it. The higher the status, the more you react. The lower the status, the less you react – or maybe you don’t react at all.
Normally, status determines reactivity. But if you’re one of the few people who understands the link from status to reactivity, you can actually run it backwards: By contriving to act with the right amount of reactivity, you can manipulate your status.
Here are reactive behaviors that communicate your higher or lower status in an interaction.
- Fixed eye contact
- Extending limbs, taking up a lot of space
- Exposing vulnerable body parts: throat, abdomen and groin
- Succinct and monotone speech
- Disclosing little information
- Comfortable and relaxed body language
- Emotionally and physically composed
- Indifferent attitude
- Long pauses in speech
- Ignoring questions or requests
- Breaking rapport
- Still body positions
- Slow movements
- Obeying demands
- Passive (aggressive) language
- Defensive in disagreements
- Contorting body to take up little space
- Speaking verbosely or mostly silent
- Darting eyes
- Disclosing a lot of information
- Overly loud or quiet voice
- Indirect questioning
- Losing composure, or tries to
- Avoiding confrontational subjects
- Trying to impress
- Showing emotion
- Asking for forgiveness
- Repeating movements like wringing hands or bouncing legs
- Frequent short pauses when speaking
- Engaged in conversation
- Showing symptoms of anxiety
When you feel unreactive in an interaction, your brain is saying, “this person isn’t interesting or important; use the least amount of energy needed”. Your behaviors then have the characteristic signs of high status: they’re low-effort, comfortable, lazy.
Conversely, when you feel reactive in an interaction, your brain is saying, “this person is interesting and important; give them your undivided attention”. Your behaviors will have the characteristic signs of low status: anxiety, discomfort, excitement, eagerness, anger, curiosity.
People are natural status detectives. Subconsciously, they process your status signals to evaluate your status. Consciously, they can feel an intuition about your status, but they’re usually not aware that any evaluation process ever took place. When you interact with someone whose conscious mind is absorbed in the content of your conversation, their subconscious mind will be keenly monitoring you for signs of reactivity and other status signals.
In the ancestral environment, it wouldn’t pay to contrive your level of reactivity to manipulate your status level. If you raised your status level above your actual power to get what you want, you’d motivate someone else to raise their own status by overpowering you in a fight.
The consequences of status manipulation in modern society are infinitely milder than they were in ancient times. If you get caught padding your resume or pretending to own a Porsche, you won’t get beaten to death. But human psychology is a relic from ancient times. When someone’s ancient brain evaluates your status, it doesn’t account for the modern possibility that your unreactive behavior may be contrived. That’s a bug in the human software which our modern environment has exposed, and which evolution hasn’t patched yet. If you learn to exploit the brain’s software bugs, you can plant in anyone’s mind an intuitive sense that you’re a powerful person.
This blog will teach you to use status and reactivity concepts to analyze your text conversations and figure out how to make your conversation partner perceive you as attractive. Most of the advice on this blog is based on the premise that women are attracted to men higher status than themselves – men who give them an intuitive sense that they have much to gain from allying. But some of the advice is also about strategically lowering your status. There’s an art to status gaming. It’s all about when and how to change your status level to get the results you want.