Let’s start this article with an embarrassing story…
At 6th form I was a popular enough guy. I had lots of friends, which included some of the ‘cool kids’, and by the end of it I was chosen to give the ‘graduation speech’ because I was apparently well liked by all the different groups in the school.
While I was popular however, I was never particularly cool. At least I wasn’t cool in the sense that people were going to start copying my dress sense, that girls would swoon when I walked in the room or that I would be able to command much respect if I started trying to throw my weight around. In other words, I was the smiley ‘nice guy’ of the school. And a bit weird at that…
I was fine with this for the most part but when I went to University I decided I’d like to see what it would be like to be alpha male. So I opted to try and deepen my voice. If you don’t follow my logic there then congratulations – you no longer have the brain of an 18 year old boy. To my mind at the time though, deepening my voice would make me sound more masculine and aggressive and that would mean people would stand up and take notice. People would naturally listen when I was talking because I’d be loud enough and deep enough to project my voice and steam roll over everyone else talking.
Of course this plan didn’t go the way I hoped. My friend who knew me quickly pointed out I was being ridiculous, and it was impossible for me to keep up the facade for even the first day of university. Even if I had – a deep voice was hardly going to turn me into the Fonz.
I am wiser now, and I know that coolness is not something that you win by speaking with a lower voice. But I know for a fact that there are still many more people out there like me. I know it because of the amount of times people search ‘How to be an Alpha Male’ or ‘How to Gain Respect’ online. These are popular search terms because so many people (young guys in particular) want to become instantly more cool and respected.
Unfortunately though, like me, 99% of the people searching for these terms are going to fail just as I did. Let me show you why…
Trying Too Hard
The main point is that if you are searching for how to become taller, or for how to look cooler because you want to demand respect, you clearly care too much about what other people think. This then means that you’ll be coming from a position of insecurity and weakness when you make the changes, and the changes won’t fit you or seem natural to outsiders. They’ll look awkward and you’ll feel awkward, so people will know that you aren’t being ‘yourself’. It’s like when the kids at school learned to swear and started to use swear words more to sound adult and cool. Unfortunately for them, they would pretty much blush every time they said anything at all lude and that would just draw attention to how immature and geeky they were. (One of my most cringe worthy memories was discovering two of my friends awkwardly trying to smoke behind the bike shed before they announced, ‘bet you didn’t know we smoked Sinicki!’)
By trying to do something different to show how cool you are, you’ll demonstrate that you don’t already think you’re cool and that you’re insecure enough to try and change yourself. In turn, this will mean that other people immediately lose respect for you and it will give them some pretty crushing ammo if they’re inclined to be mean. Buy a new leather jacket that doesn’t suit you to try and look cool, and someone is bound to say ‘nice leather jacket’ then laugh. Last time I checked, that isn’t what being ‘cool’ is meant to feel like.
The Battle of Who Could Care Less
The trick then, is to stop worrying about what other people think and to instead be yourself and to be yourself confidently. It sounds ironic, but as soon as you stop caring what people think about you, you become untouchable and bullet proof and you free yourself up to be able to act however you want.
If you have a dispute with someone, and you care too much about hurting their feelings, or about what they’re saying, then you’ll potentially end up getting teary or losing your cool. The minute that happens, you will lose your footing and the other person in the debate is going to ‘win’. It’s the same with negotiation. If you are bartering to buy something, then you have to be willing to walk away if you want to get the best price. The same is true of any interaction, even when it’s not obvious what you’re ‘bartering for’ (there is almost always one party that comes out on top in your discussions).
This doesn’t mean you have to become an asshole however, it just means you should learn to be okay with confrontation. There will rarely be any serious repercussions when you assert yourself, and people will become more desperate for your approval as you become more dismissive. You’ll make more friends who respect you more.
In other words then, don’t try to change yourself to become cool because it will have the opposite effect entirely. Be unapologetically you, stop saying sorry so much and worrying about being liked and respected, and suddenly you’ll find you become a leader instead of a follower.