Being a Host

Until this point, Ren and I have emphasized the individual aspect of social skills. We have written about the actions you can take and the mindsets you can adopt in order to be comfortable and have fun in various settings. These are important skills, but they are only part of the picture. The next step is to put those around you at ease.

For instance, suppose you are hosting a party where your guests don’t all know one another, and the challenge is to engage your guests and help them feel comfortable mixing among strangers. While you cannot guarantee that everyone will have a good time, you can take meaningful steps to help out. Read the rest of this entry »


How to Dress Better as a Guy

One of the biggest roadblocks I run up against when advising guys on fashion is the idea that dressing well is somehow at odds with the rest of their lifestyles. Guys will claim that they’re too busy and poor to shop for new clothes. Or that they’re math grad students. Or that they live in San Francisco, where blazers are only worn ironically. But dressing well is not fundamentally about buying expensive brands or donning outlandish getups. I firmly believe that you can wear a hoodie every day and look put together, so long as it’s 1) the right fit for your body type and 2) of a consistent formality with the rest of your outfit.

I mention fit first because it’s both obvious and difficult. Style blogs hammer on fit. Men’s magazines hammer on fit. Yet fit is often hard to distinguish. Where is the line between body-skimming and skin-tight? Where should the cuff of your pants hit your foot? And what about all those trends – the baggy jeans trend, the oversized sweater trend, the boyfriend shirt trend – that seem predicated on, if anything, anti-fit? Read the rest of this entry »


How to not be Arrogant

A high school classmate once told me that I was arrogant and that nothing I said or did could convince her otherwise. This all changed one weekend when I ran into her at the rock climbing gym. She was working through some of the more challenging paths while I was struggling to figure out the easier ones. I finally asked for her help. She relented and gave me a demonstration. And the more she showed me, the warmer we both became. Her attitude toward me visibly changed.

My grandfather once told me that if you want to relate to someone, ask him a question. Ask him to explain something to you, to teach you how to do something. By doing so, you acknowledge that you have something to learn from him. And by demonstrating that you are eager to learn from others, that you find others interesting, you communicate openness and respect for what they do. Read the rest of this entry »


Good Girl Gone Bad

Recently I’ve been asking a question that always takes my friends aback: am I a good girl or a bad girl? In asking, I never define the terms, so my poor respondents are left considering the vast social and sexual minefield between good and bad. The guys I ask, in particular seem to have been brought up thinking bad girl equals slut, but the idea I’m trying to get at is broader – who am I? What defines me? Am I an academic achiever? New York review of books reader? The girl who has a Github repo or the girl who has a social skills blog?

As expected, the responses I receive depend heavily on the context in which I know the person. People I pset with or lecture to will unequivocally say good girl. People I’ve met at parties or hostels will qualify that. My closest girlfriends laugh, and given the number of conversations we’ve had under the influence of Cards Against Humanity, I forgive them. One friend says I’m a good girl pretending to be a bad girl pretending to be a good girl, which is just aphoristic enough to be right. Read the rest of this entry »


Stay in Hostels

I recently did a weekend trip to Brussels and stayed in a hostel for the first time. It was a unique experience: much like backpacking, hosteling has in recent years entered the verbiage, connoting not only a particular type of accommodation, but a certain culture – twenty-something Lonely Planet types trying to transcend the mundane, bonding over late nights and early departures. In the past, for convenience’s sake, I’d always booked hotels (or not traveled at all), and certainly, hostels are short on that quality – with twenty bunks to a room, it can be hard to get a shower in edgewise. But I discovered that you meet people at hostels in a way that you simply can’t when you rack up Starwood points at the Hilton.

Especially for those traveling alone, hostels can mitigate the feeling of being an outsider in a foreign place, and they are immensely social. Minutes after my arrival, I was with several other guests, trying samurai sauce on Belgian fries and dodging cyclists. On a free walking tour the next morning, I met several girls from Iowa who were studying abroad in Valencia (in hostels, everyone is coming from somewhere cool and going somewhere cooler). When the tour ended, we continued sightseeing, eating croissants, and generally behaving like tourists. They were very welcoming, and a lot of fun, but maybe one of the best parts of traveling with strangers is that there’s no commitment of any sort, no expectation that you will continue to spend time together. So after dinner, I went back to the hostel, sat by myself, and learned about parametric architecture from a Brazilian exchange student. Read the rest of this entry »


The Importance of Good Girl Friends

This post is especially for girls in science, although the overall message is applicable to girls (and guys) in any field.

At Harvard, I studied math, statistics, and eventually computer science, all subjects with badly skewed gender ratios and a preponderance of ego. With the exception of my roommates, the majority of my closest friends were male – guys I’d met debugging race conditions, solving birthday problems, proving NP-completeness. This phenomenon was further compounded by my primary choice of extracurricular, The Salient, Harvard’s ever-beleaguered conservative newspaper, where the total female membership rose to two my senior year (the other being our publisher’s girlfriend).

Over winter break, I went to visit a girlfriend of mine who was spending the semester in Paris. She was living in a tiny apartment in the third arrondissement with views over Le Marais. We spent our mornings taking walks in the Tuileries, our evenings half-assing pilates exercises. We ate breakfast at midnight. We made fun of our exes. The fact that I could count my girlfriends on one hand had never really bothered me – I was brash and frank in a way that bordered on unladylike, and had plenty of male friends and string of long-term relationships – but for the first time, I wished that I had more of them. Read the rest of this entry »


One-Time Opportunities

I spent the evening attending a ceremony in which twenty-four juniors were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa (a club for people with high GPA’s, it’s the same as any other social club except they only ever meet to initiate new members). Anyway, there was a nice dinner and Daniel Gilbert gave a thought-provoking talk about the psychology of global warming. I got to chat with some bright, engaging juniors, most of whom were meeting each other for the first time. They talked about home and Homer and homotopy, and generally seemed to hit it off. But as the night ended and people trickled home, I realized that without explicit effort, most of them would probably never so much as break matzah together again.

Such one time opportunities are tricky to handle. In principle, they’re fantastic career-building romance-sparking events. In practice, they can be hard to take advantage of. Maybe you’re sitting at a table and you converse with three or four people throughout the evening. You make a connection, but there’s no context, and you don’t arrange anything for later. Since you hadn’t met each other before, chances are you won’t run into them much in the future. So how do you build on this? Read the rest of this entry »


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 53 other followers