Car driving analogy of conversational confidence

By Wayne Elise

Imagine driving a car down a stretch of road. Think about how you steer the car. You probably don't hold the steering wheel in one straight-ahead position and hope for the best. That's not how you drive a car, even on a straight road. Instead, you make a series of counter-steering course corrections.

For example, as you drive, your mind, through your awareness, realizes your car is too far over to the right in your lane. It sends a signal to your muscles and you nudge the steering wheel left.

Course corrected. Much better.

But as it turns out, that course correction may have been too bold. Now the car is moving too far left in your lane. You need to push it a back right.

Okay, that's better.

But you soon realize you should have pushed further. No worries. That's easily corrected. Your hand turns the steering wheel to set an improved course.

But hold on. The road's not straight up ahead. You're now entering a slight left-hand curve. Not a problem. Your mind plots a trajectory and turns the wheel into it.

But that course isn't precisely correct either. You turned too far. Turn back to the right. A bit more. There. Nice job. You're driving like a profess…

Uh oh. There's a pothole ahead. Better steer around it.

Good job. Now get back on track. You need to push to the right. That's too far. Course-correct left.

And on and on.

Every input on the steering wheel fixes an errant course, yet sets an ultimately flawed course itself which will have to be adjusted after a time.

Until Google drives our cars, we have to accept this state of rolling imperfection so as to get us down the road.

Yet we all know drivers who seem to think otherwise. They worry about being perfectly centered in their lane. They make exaggerated, overly-conscious input corrections - the sort that makes their passengers want to throw-up, instead of the smooth, small, subtle, mostly subconscious, input corrections we associate with confident driving.

Conversations, especially with strangers, work in similar ways.

We talk a lot here at Charisma Arts about changing behavior to make you more charismatic. "Say this sentence instead of that sentence. Take action A instead of action B." But it's important to understand that conversations, at their best, are driven by a series of imperfect, pieces of behavior.

To understand this more thoroughly let's examine a conversation between a guy and a girl.

He rubs his chin and looks over at her. "I believe love doesn't exist but is purely a human construction created to justify our desire."

He has shared a bit of his life philosophy. That's a good thing. But the statement, as all statements do, creates unintended consequences.

The girl shakes her head. "That's awful."

"Perhaps it is," he says.

"You won't let yourself fall in love?"

"No. I'll probably fall in love again in the future, though hopefully I'll remember it's nothing more than pleasant-feeling self-delusion."

"That's so wrong."

He shrugs his shoulders.

"You're the darkest boy I've ever met."

Misinterpretations are a foregone conclusion. He doesn't consider himself dark, rather light and fun. But he knows accurate impressions are only achieved over time. He's patient.

He laughs. "I like your hands. You have strong hands for a girl."

"I'm not sure how I should feel about that."

He probably would have used a different wording having it over again. But c'est la vie.

"You should feel good. They're sexy hands. The hands of a creator."

"I do sculpt with them."

"You do? Ahem, I mean, you do. I knew that. That's what I'm talking about."

She smiles. "They are kinda big though for a girl."

"I wonder if I should tell you how I feel."


"Well, sometimes feelings are significant and sometimes their just silly."

"What? Tell me."

"Do you believe people meet for a reason?"

"I do."

"Well, I never feel that way. I'm as rational and agnostic as a boy can be. But with you, right now, I want to believe."

Her eyes grow larger. "That's the most romantic thing I've ever heard."

"Is it? I read it in on the back of a food truck."

"Oh my god."

"I'm kidding." He steps closer, reaches out, takes her hand and leads her out to the patio.


This analogy might seem like a burden - another thing to worry about. But, in practice, you don't have to think about any of this consciously. Just like driving, we don't think too much about our actions - our eyes focus some distance ahead and our subconscious mostly makes the moment by moment decisions for us.

Here are some ways to use this analogy for your benefit:

* Develop the habit of kindness toward yourself. Be tolerant of your mistakes and miscues. They are inevitable and necessary to move your conversations forward. Don't beat yourself up for swerving the car.

* Drop the need for initial 'good' responses. Needing a good response puts you in conflict with the law of romantic comedy which states that good relationships often start with conflict before finding rapport and intimacy.

Reacting badly towards a reaction that you hoped was different will often also scare your conversational partner. They will lose confidence in your ability to drive the interaction.

* Develop your situational awareness. That's your ability to calculate your position relative to your goals using experience and the willingness to read the people you interact with. In certain situations, such as army officers dealing with angry villagers in Afghanistan, playing poker, picking up an attractive person or making the huge sale, your situational awareness can be critically important to judging the overall direction of your interactions.

* Pick the right intentions. Needy people often have short-term, ego-involved intentions. They look for personal approval for every piece of their behavior. That's akin to focusing on the cars and lane dividers flowing past and forgetting to look ahead.

Confident people focus forward, up ahead and don't sweat the bumps and position in their lane to much. Their goals tend to have be more far reaching such as developing trust or having fun, or building sexual desire.

* Be an artist. Remember when you were learning to drive and your mom or dad, or whomever was giving you driving lessons, and they freaked out when you turned the wheel harshly or stepped on the brake abruptly. They encouraged you to drive carefully. They knew your ability to recover was low. They wanted to keep you in bounds of what they perceived were recoverable positions.

But now you have more confidence in your driving abilities. You can swing the car harshly and swerve in your lane (not that I'm recommending you do this of course) and recover.

Just because a conversation is sliding at an awkward angle doesn't necessarily mean its out of control. I bet you've seen those guys who drift their cars sideways. They do incredible things. Sometimes we swerve our conversation as a way of making creative moves in conversation. Often the best path between two points is not a straight line but rather the fun or scenic path. In social situations, efficiency is often not important. We can swerve our conversation so long as we can recover and head towards our goal.

* Act calm and confident. Your conversational partners often don't know your capabilities. They don't know what is positions are recoverable for you. And will often assume you are doing fine so long as you act as if you are doing fine.

Imagine yourself in your conversational partner's shoes. Imagine you're sitting in the passenger seat with a professional rally-car driver. I'm sure you've seen those. They are the guys who drive over wilderness tracks at break-neck speed.

Think about how you'd feel sitting there in the car with the trees and spectators flashing past. Probably scared but not terrified so long as you have confidence in your professional rally car driver.

But since this is an experience that's not on par with normal driving, you can't rely on normal driving clues to judge your safety. Instead, you look to the demeanor of your driver. If he looks concerned, "Oh shit! I shouldn't have done that," you'll become terrified. But if he looks at ease, if he tells jokes and sips a latte while sliding around a corner, you'll feel 'relatively' safe even given this extreme situation.

Conversation in stressful, uncommon situations, or with people we don't know well, can feel foreign to our conversational partners. They can't look for their usual conversational clues to judge the safety of the conversation. In these situations they'll look to your demeanor for how they should feel. If you look concerned with the position of the conversation, they'll become afraid things are heading toward embarrassment and want want to bail out. But if you appear calm and confident, they'll feel safe as you drive the conversation toward a desirable goal.

Thanks for reading, Wayne

Pacing your conversation

By Wayne Elise

Imagine a coil of rope lies at your feet. Think of this rope as your personality, your history - the DNA of your life. Everything about you is imprinted on this rope.

Reach down and take hold of the end of this rope. This end is coded with the initial stuff people learn about you when you first meet. If your name is Chuck, you could tape a sign to this end that reads: To know Chuck, begin here.

At the beginning of your rope are usually 'safe' things such as smiles, comments, the initiations of feedback loops. But as you move down this rope, further away from the end, you find increasingly personal ideas and details.

Imagine a stranger next to you. They reach out and take the end of your rope from you. They begin reeling it into their arms. So long as you allow it, the rope passes from the floor around your feet, through your hands and collects in the arms of this other person.

This is the beginning of someone getting to know you. The details they learn about you in the first few minutes may be give-aways such as your taste in high-fidelity stereo speakers and the fact that your mouth goes crooked when you smile. But soon they could be exposed to a slice of your dead-kitten sense of humor. Then later it could be your feeling toward relationships. Eventually it could be your sexual preferences. And on and on.

Through this process of information transfer, you stop feeling like a stranger to the other person. You begin to feel like a friend or potential lover.

I think that's a helpful metaphor for thinking of the process of someone getting to know you.

So let's encourage people to pull out our life-ropes.

"Whoa. Slow down there cowboy."


"You're missing important information Wayne. Life is never that easy."

"Sure it is. You just…"

"No, you don't just."



"Wait a second. Who are you?"

"I'm the Ghost of Christmas Past."

"What? What are you doing here? It's mid-July."

"This is my summer job. I get paid to fact-check. I also work at Starbucks but that's not here or there."

"Are you sure you're qualified for this fact-checking thing?"

"Absolutely. I took a night course."

"Oh. Okay. Go ahead then. Check away."

"Thank you. I think in your rush to espouse your life-rope metaphor thingy you've forgotten something."

"What's that?"


"Oh yes, tension. That's right. Thank you. Good day."

"I can explain further if you'd like."

"No thank you. Good day."

"What? You want me to go away? I don't think you understand. I'm the Ghost of Christmas past. This is a super-natural event."

"Yes. All that's fine. But good day. See you in December."

"Okay. But when I return, I'm coming for your soul."

"It's already mortgaged."

"Ha. I bought that paper up for pennies on the dollar from the Chinese. Here it is. I own your soul."

"Oh shit."

"Yep. See you later Juggler. Muahahahahaha…"

Ahem. Sorry about that readers. Yes, there is a caveat. People won't appreciate learning about your life-details if you just give them up. That would make you sort of a life-detail slut. Nothing wrong with that of course - so long as you dig that sort of thing.

"Hey," he says. "Look at me! I'm fabulous. I worked with Ted Danson once."

"I'm sorry?" She says.

"I ride a fixie. Want to see my fixie porn?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about. Look. I didn't ask to know anything about you. Perhaps you can hold some thoughts back."

"I could. But I'm not going to. I'm an all out there kinda guy. I'm going to this fab party later. If you're lucky I might invite you."

"No thanks."

"Aww. You're playing hard to get. That's so cute."


"I hear an accent. Where are you from?"


"Ha. Nowhere. That's funny. Can I buy you a drink?"

"Yes. I'll take a piña colada but don't even think about dropping a roofie in there. I'm not going to hook up with you."

"Whoever said anything about hooking up? You're more of the kinda girl I see as a friend."


"Good. So what's your name?"

"Look, it's simple. I find you physically attractive but I want to be a participant in my seduction. I'm your best ally here if you'd be more patient. But you're pushing and pushing and not allowing me to want anything from you. You're not building desire. See my eyes? No sparkle for you. See my hair? Yeah, it's kinda messy. I don't care. You don't make me the good sort of nervous. You make me want to press the brake, not the gas. You're not doing this right."

"Says you. No girl has ever said anything like that to me before. I have always broken up. Never been broken up on. I'm in demand. No one has ever called me anything other than amazing."

"They didn't want to hurt your feelings and probably didn't want to increase an already embarrassing situation."

"Okay. It looks as if we're just going to have to disagree about that. Let me show you my high-five routine. You'll love this."

"Sheesh. Were you listening to me?"

"Yes. Okay, no, not really."

"That's fine. I got a game we can play." She leans in close. "Close your eyes."

"Sure okay. They're closed. This is exciting. What's going to happen? I can't wait. Uh… you've walked out the door haven't you? Shit."

People appreciate hearing the amazing things you have to say more if they desire them first. Don't push. Instead, counterintuitively, you should resist.

Returning to our metaphor. You want to keep your conversational partner in a state of wanting more - pulling on your rope, sort of speak. While, at the same time, YOU want to be in a state of resistance - keeping the length of rope between the two of you taunt. This tension gives you control over the transfer of your life-details.

Pacing is the rate at which you chose to dole out your life-details and the rate that your interaction moves towards a more personal outcome.

People may not consciously be aware of pacing but they respond to it.

Pacing that's too fast deflates the tension out of an interaction. Imagine throwing all your rope into someone's arms. There's no more for them to want or seek.

But pacing that's too slow makes people feel bored and as if the interaction isn't going anywhere.

Finding the proper pacing for the situation is a fun challenge. Sometimes we get this right and sometimes we get it wrong. But it's always an adventure.

At an 80's night.

"I noticed you're wearing a lot of black."

"Yeah. I love the whole thing. I borrowed this from my sister."

"And wore spangles and topped it with a headband. Well, I think it looks… good. You rock the 80's. I thought my outfit was the 80's but it turns out I'm 1978. Perhaps it's the wooden tennis racket. It's a John McEnroe autographed edition."

She looks blank.

"That was a famous tennis player," he adds. "He - got - mad - at - people. Probably before your time. I was just trying to guess your age."

"How old do you think?"

"I'm afraid I can't answer that question."

"Why can't you answer that question?"

"Because if I do then all the tension will leave the conversation. As it stands, you want to know my guess and if I give that up I'll lose your interest."

"I promise you won't lose my interest."

"Fine. But first, let's sit down and make ourselves a bit more comfortable, if that's alright. Then I'll tell you all about yourself. I've been told I have an intuitive nature."

They sit down on the couch nearby.

"Where are your friends? Perhaps they should join us."

"Don't worry about them. I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself."

"I bet you can. Okay, I think you're twenty eight."

She hits him in the shoulder.

"Okay. Twenty six?"

"You're really bad at this."

"I know. My credentials might have been over-stated."

"How about you? How old are you?"

"Older than you. Let's just put it this way. I'm your real father. I remember your mom. She was hot back in the 80's."

"She still's hot."

"I'm sure she is. People of any age can be sexy. But personally I end up dating girls who are uh..."


"Younger, mostly."

"Why do you do that?"

"Well, there's a long answer to that question and a short answer."

"What's the short answer?"

"They're hotter."

"Okay, what's the long answer."

"I can't really tell you. I'd have to show you."

"Is that some sort of ploy?"

"Maybe it is. Nice use of the word 'ploy' by the way. That's an archaic one. I bet you're educated."

"Not formally."

"Well, now I'm fascinated."

"I grew up in Belarus. My mother was an economist. But she made some enemies in the government. We spent my teens traveling from country to country. I was educated in libraries around Europe and by experiencing things. I didn't read about the Yugoslav Wars. We went there."

"I bet you met a lot of interesting people."

"Oh yes. Heaps. You have no idea."

"I'm sure I don't."

"How about you? What do you do?"

"Thanks for asking. I like that you're curious. But it's not that interesting to most people and takes several minutes to make anyone understand."

"I got time."

"And a Powerpoint presentation… I'm kidding of course. Okay, if you really want to know."

"I do."

"I'm an orgy planner. Ha. Just kidding. You should have seen your face. I'm not saying I haven't thrown together an occasional orgy but it's not my main gig. Which reminds me of why I like younger women."

"Do tell."

"Well, first do you mind if I ask you a personal question?"

"Um, sure."

"What sort of guy or girl do you find attractive?"

"I like a person who's fun. Who can laugh at themselves and not take everything too seriously. I've had enough of serious people to last a lifetime. I like guys with tattoos."

"You know, almost every girl I've dated in the last few years has tattoos. But I'm not that into them."

"What are you into?"

"Well, I look for specific things."


"I don't share this with everyone but since you asked. I like a girl who's tall but not taller than me. I like a girl who has read Hemingway but thinks it's garbage. She loves Death Cab for Cutie but realizes that music is sentimental crack. She's blonde with green eyes. She's not Chinese but she's excited about the idea of having a threesome with me and a Chinese girl. She likes dive bars and can cook a mean quiche."

"That's very specific."


"Why are you talking to me? I'm not blonde with green eyes."

"Growing up in Eastern Europe I think you'd understand that in life compromises have to be made."

"You're a bastard."

"I know. I was thinking it would be fun to get out of here together."

"And do what?"

"Cab back to my place and spend the night making love to each other. I know exactly where I want to start with you."

"And where is that?"

"On the kitchen table. Duh."

"Hmmm… Let me think about it."

"Sure. Take all the time you want."

"Can I give you my number instead?"

"I don't take numbers."

"Give me yours then."

"I'm not that big on the whole numbers thing. I always think that if it's meant to be we'll run into each other."


"We'll start slow. You'll be in control. You can use the accelerator and I'll use the brake. You pull me into the bedroom and I'll resist."

"You're a weird one."

"I'll take that as a compliment."

"Are you inviting your Chinese friend?"

"I don't have anyone specific in mind but we can find a girl later together. That can be an adventure."

"I like adventures. The unknown. I'm a bit addicted."

He smiles.

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Why Jokey Smurf is the most successful smurf and what you can learn from him

Jokey Smurf

By Wayne Elise

If you think about it, Jokey Smurf is a terrorist. He places bombs in boxes, wraps them in gold-leaf paper and ties them with a red bow. Sounds like an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) to me. Other Smurfs find these irresistible.

Brainy Smurf smiles at the site of a gift. "For me? Aww, you really shouldn't have Jokey."

Jokey reaches to take the box back.

Brainy tightens his grip on it. "Don't you dare. I love surprises. I was just being a polite smurf."

He unwraps the gift and it explodes in his face. Boom!

Jokey doubles over with laughter. "Hahahahahaha."

Brainy staggers around, wiping the soot out of his eyes. "Very funny Jokey Smurf."

For the life of me I can't understand why Jokey's not on Obama's drone-kill list.

Boom Boom Boom.

You'd think the Smurfs would wise up to his hijinks. But they fall for the same gag over and over.

Boom Boom Boom.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Smurf Village, inside Vanity Smurf's house, a distant explosion rattles the windows.

Handy Smurf looks up from his tea. "That was a big one."

Vanity Smurf lowers his hand-mirror. "Yeah. I can't believe anysmurf would be so gullible." He opens the front door. "Oh hey, there's a present on my doorstep."

"Wait! Don't open it!"

"But it's so pretty. Probably a gift from an admirer. I'll just pull this ribbon off..."



So why is Jokey Smurf so successful with his reign of terror?

The answer is, he understands Smurf psychology. He knows that a Smurf has to desire something before you give it to them. And if you build enough desire you can get anybody to do anything.

Compare that to how Brawny Smurf acts. He sticks flowers in Smurfett's face. He performs headstands for her amusement. He offers things with no sense of building desire and he gets nowhere with her.

At night he's comforted by Brainy who rubs smurf oil into his shoulders.

"You don't want her anyway," Brainy says. "Based on Smurfett's flirtation behavior, I calculate there's a seventy five percent chance she has smurf-bumps."

"I don't care. She's the only girl I could love."

"She's the only female smurf we know in existence so technically you are correct. But logic dictates that if there's one there could be others. And mostly I think you should look nearby for companionship and..."

"She's perfect for me." Brawny says, cutting Brainy off.

"I know you think so but perhaps you should try someone new."

"I need her."

"Someone smarter."

"Her hair is like gold. Her body is like a lilac flower..."

"Someone willing."

"...with two plump, delicious smurf berries."

"Someone who appreciates your strength."

Brawny stands up, unbalancing Brainy who tips over and falls face first onto the floor.

"I need to go lift some boulders," says Brawny. "If my biceps are just a smurf-inch bigger I'm sure she'll notice me."

Meanwhile Smurfett's hooking up with Jokey behind the Bakery while Baker Smurf is off smoking a joint in the woods with Pappa Smurf.

"Oh Jokey," she says. "You're so bad for me. But I just can't get enough of you. You have a way of making me feel like I just drank tingle berry juice. I feel warm and excited around you."

Jokey sticks out his tongue. "Ha ha."

"Is that all you can say?"

"Ha ha."

She shakes her head. "Ugh! Men!"

"Ha ha."

She picks her dress off a bush. "I'm leaving."

He holds his hands out. "Wait. Here's something for you."

"What? A present for me. You've never done that before. That's so nice. I was wrong to get mad at you."

She unties the ribbon and opens the lid.


I think humans are not so different from Smurfs. They pursue what they desire. The key to succeeding with them is making them desire something you have.