This creates an interesting landscape. You have men who are largely required to initiate conversation, facing off with socially uncomfortable situations, who are either blind to or have a vested interest in ignoring social signals and women who are well-practiced in sending signals that they don’t want to be bothered and are disinterested. At a base level, this means that a lot of these interactions don’t happen, aren’t successful, or don’t last long. But, it also means that the assertive and aggressive men who ignore the women’s messages remain, while those most attuned to reading and being receptive to body language and conversational cues are respectful and disengage.
The telling part of these interactions is what it takes to actually overcome both barriers. Which, in many cases, is a relatively low level of empathy on the man’s part. Consider, he not only has to overcome the fear of failure and social awkwardness of potential rejection, he also has to approach a woman who is very likely sending multiple signals she wants to be left alone. He further has to assume that, even if those signals are not overt, that if their roles were switched he’d want to be approached by a stranger completely interrupting what he was doing. Which assumes he’s empathic enough to even put himself in the woman’s shoes.
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Then, despite the series of social cues of discomfort, or leave-me-alone she’s communicating through body language, behavior, and perhaps even verbal cues—he has to persevere long enough to secure her personal information. As discussed elsewhere in this blog, this often includes partially ignoring very overt and sometimes direct signals from women or relying on social niceties, politeness and the woman’s desire for conflict avoidance to maintain his presence. In other cases this culminates in quasi-awkward situations where women give their contact information as much out of the hope of getting the man to leave and disengage as out of genuine interest or attraction.
Fast forward to a bit of witty banter, some exchanged text messages and a date or two. Presumably he manages to be charming, attractive, or at the very least dedicate enough complimentary attention toward the woman to flatter her. But, things sour and the woman is once again left wondering how and why she’s ended up with another disrespectful asshole. But, this is where we need to pause and ask, is it really a surprise?
In this instance, the type of guy that’s going to come to the surface, be more visible, and most persuasive is most often going to be someone with extremely low levels of empathy and respect. In short? An asshole.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every guy that strikes up a conversation or approaches a woman at random fits that profile. It does, however, go a long way towards explaining why, time and time again, many women find themselves sitting across the table from someone who doesn’t respect them, who regularly violates their barriers and who is unreliable, deceptive or untrustworthy.
What does this ultimately mean for individuals seeking healthy interactions? It means there are no good, clear, and clean alternatives. But, it also means that it’s essential that we carefully examine our behavior and acknowledge that it doesn’t take place in a vacuum Every time we interact with a member of the opposite sex, we’re existing as part of a greater interplay by individuals and culture which adds an oppressive level of context to how we interact. My encouragement to men is to act with respect, to seek to be the best individual you can, and to work to find ways to acknowledge and then positively alter the nature of these interactions. My advice for women is to be aware of how you’re subconsciously vetting suitors and the very real impact that has on shaping who you end up with.
As with many observations throughout this blog, this applies beyond the sphere of relationships. When you meet and interact with someone, regardless of whether it’s tied to love, travel or business and when that person shows a fundamental lack of regard for the messages you’re sending, show extra care and caution.
Ultimately, one of the best litmus tests for choosing the people you spend time with, is asking a simple question—“Does this individual seem like he/she has, can and will put themselves in my shoes?” if the answer is no, then it’s time to get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible. You’ve found yourself in the company of a predator, and that predator will likely spin tales of gold if it gets them what they want.