Erika and I had dinner with Johnny Saviour and his girlfriend Sharon recently. When Johnny talks about his career in the movie business, he says things such as, "Most people misunderstand character development. They think of it as a machine in which you input variables to output a product. But it is in fact more akin to a birthing a baby. Some mothers eat little and give birth to skinny babies. These mothers tend to be skinny themselves. But effective character development is a process that takes time. It's something that a development team has to invest themselves in fully. When we financially back a film we look for a writing and directing team that reminds us of fat pregnant mothers."
When Johnny worked as an instructor for me at Charisma Arts I would watch him out in the field talking to girls. I'm not sure if any of them could fully comprehend his vocabulary but they were dazzled by his vocabulary. You could see it on their faces. They met a man who was smart and wasn't afraid to show it. But he was smart in a way that was helpful not arrogant. He would use metaphor so relate his points to their experience.
"It's like when you attend a concert and the opening act it better than the featured act that you came to see," he would say.
"Oh, we get it." the girls would say.
People wanted to be Johnny. Girls wanted to be around him.
A quick story about Johnny. One night Johnny and I are teaching a Charm School Bootcamp in a London nightclub with five clients. Coincidentally everyone in the camp, including Johnny and myself were wearing blazers.
We had just walked into the club when a client said to me, "Those two girls at the bar look cute. I'm going to go talk to them."
The girls were turned facing into each other with their backs to everyone else.
"They look standoffish to me," I said. "I'd probably talk to someone nearby and see if their body language would change first, but sure, sometimes it can be instructive to just go for it."
So our guy walked over to the girls. He said the line which we had suggested earlier as a general opener; "You two look interesting so I thought I'd come over and say hello."
The girls rejected him.
As I sat there watching, each of our clients found these same girls and each were rejected one by one.
Finally Johnny, who'd taken a different taxi to the club showed up. Sure enough, he walks over and talks to the girls. Ten minutes later they're all laughing and the girls are hanging on him.
"What did you say to them?" I asked when he finally took a break from their attention.
"Well," he said. "I walked up and said to them that they looked interesting and I wanted to say hi."
"Oh, how did that go?"
"They were total bitches. They said they just wanted to have a conversation. I smiled at them and said what a coincidence - me too. And that made the one girl laugh. So I said hey I like your smile. You should let that out more often."
"Nice job," I said.
"Thanks. Yeah, I think they want to have a threesome. But I haven't told you the best part."
"So eventually after they started being nice to me the one girl says, 'Sorry about before. It's just that we'd been approached by five guys all wearing blazers and saying the identical thing as you.' So, I asked them why I was different. She said I was the only one who stuck around."
That story always makes me smile but it's misleading. The real reason those girls liked Johnny was for his intelligent way with words. He has a confidence and aura that descends from his willing use of the language, a powerful presumption that he's dealing with intelligent people and a willingness to speak in ways that people can relate to.
Advice based on this principle:
- Read more. There are few better ways to build your vocabulary.
- When communicating in any form, use proper language.
- Don't talk down to people. Presume they're smart.
- Use specific verbs and not general verbs. You don't 'get' a taxi, you 'hail' one. You didn't 'go' to Australia, you 'Fly' there.
- Practice using metaphors that connect with the reality of the people you speak with.