To Catch an Audience/The Center of Attention

It’s fun to pretend we’re psychologists. To think we’ve got someone figured out based on their OCD or their “middle child syndrome” or their relationship with their father. We can look at personality traits and family history as clues as to why a person thinks they way they do. And often when we do this, we can correctly analyze them. Without a psychology degree.

I am one of those people who likes to study personalities as hobby. Currently I am on my 2nd book written by Dr. Kevin Leman, who specializes in birth order and how it determines a person’s personality. While it is fascinating to learn about everyone else in this world, it’s also interesting to learn about myself. I want to know why I think and behave the way I do. What sets me apart from others in my unique perspectives?

Here is what I recently learned from Dr. Kevin Leman:

Some people need an audience.

That is me.

But here’s what sets me apart from the obnoxious “attention hogs” I’ve met throughout my life. Because of my drive to constantly accomplish something admirable through hard work to gain the approval of adults (a first-born burden), I only want to be the center of attention if I’ve earned it.

I know when to be quiet. I can easily go long periods of time without speaking. I do not speak in a group setting unless I have something relevant and worthy of saying. I, unlike many centers of attention, do not like the sound of my own voice. I am “a” center of attention, not “the” center of attention.

Looking back on my life, here are some of the things I’ve done to make sure I had an audience: In Elementary School, I created my own cartoon characters and stories as a kid (eventually getting published in the school newspaper in 4th grade), as well as headed up the Nickbob Ability Test (click here to find out what it is http://wp.me/pxqBU-r9). In high school I fronted an alternative rock band (and for what it’s worth we played out of state a few times). During college I taught elementary school and Junior High Sunday School, while recording three CD’s of music I wrote, playing small shows in the coffee shop circuit. And for the past 4 ½ years, I’ve been writing my “commentary on life” web posts. And of course, as mentioned in Stage Presence (http://wp.me/pxqBU-2m), I grew up being in plays and musicals.

There has always been an audience. My subconscious had made sure of this.

This past weekend as my wife and I were reminiscing how it was three years ago this month that I asked her on our first unofficial date, she said it was the fact that I always had something interesting to talk about that made her feel so comfortable with me. A lifetime in training of capturing an audience ultimately led to me meeting and marrying a girl I have always felt was out of my league. It paid off.

It’s always been hard for me to understand America’s fascination with sports and particularly a man’s ability to keep up with all that trivia about which teams played each other when and the scores and the names of the players. Another Jewish trait I have is that I’m not good at sports (and never cared about them). So I’ve channeled that energy into entertainment.

I have made myself an expert on 1983, the heights and ethnic background of celebrities, the meaning behind all lyrics of the Beatles, holistic and clean living, Intelligent Design, and Jews in American entertainment, just to name a few of my specialties. I always have “random conversation material” in the archives and in the works.

I was quite hesitant when I first tried to process that idea I have to be the center of attention. Because it makes me think of conversation hijackers, drama queens (and kings), and any person I’ve ever met whose whole demeanor screamed, “Look at me! Look at me!” People who appear needy.

I have to be found. That’s how I operate differently. People have to find me. They have to come to me. Because typically those are the exact people I want to entertain. Takes one to know one.

In a party, I’m never the real center of attention. I wander to the back corner of the room, next to the food, and recruit party guests for random conversation. I have this desire to be the alternative choice in entertainment.

In fact, there have been times where people have tried to elevate me to the center of attention position, and I have escaped it. I have to be able to think in my mind that I earn when I get. For example, in high school, one of my good friends Allison Hardin was planning a surprise birthday party and I found out about it. I found a way to keep it from ever happening. Because I strongly resist the idea of being the center of attention when it’s obvious that I am.

I don’t want to be the official man of the hour. It’s too much pressure. I function best in my ad-lib form. Recruit, entice, inform, motivate, entertain, and provoke thoughts in others. On my own terms. That is my niche.

Most of Life is Just Simply Showing Up

There is an art to “being there” when it comes to discovering The Quality of Life. From gaining educational degrees, to getting a job interview, to meeting one’s future spouse, showing up is the most important part. The rest is just details.

Showing Up: 75%
Getting a person to show up for anything is a task in of itself. Because I am a first-born child and because my wife was born of both first-born parents, she and I have both been wired to be planners. There is a schedule and a calendar. When at all possible, we live by them.

It’s easy to get us to show up if we have been told two weeks in advance. But we’re bound to be no-shows when we’re told about an event the day of, via text message. Because chances are, we already have plans.

Anyone who has been married in the last several years surely has a fresh-on-the-brain story or two about RSVP’s gone wrong. Like guests who say they will be there, RSVP for guests of their own (which were not invited), then don’t know up at all. Even at just $35 a head, it still stings when the bill comes after the wedding.

Human presence at a specific event at a specific time is a flighty thing. More fickle and unpredictable than any other aspect of The Quality of Life. A person has to be there before anything else can happen. But once they’re there, things tend to work themselves out.

You show up to class, you’re likely to learn at least a little something.

Experience: 5%
How can one person qualify to relate to another without the minimal proper experience? Whether it’s enough work experience, educational experience, or just simply life experience, without a history and understanding that is similar, it’s difficult for people to be on the same page.

Appearance: 5%
Not a matter of physical beauty, but instead what a person wears when they do show up. In other words, I’m referring to the importance of “wearing the right costume.” Despite what our bodies look like underneath our clothing, what we use to cover our bodies up with is worth more than the money we spend to buy it. Just like a nice Frank Sinatra-style hat can make any slob look a little bit classier, so can a person’s well-presented wardrobe make anyone look at least a bit more attractive.

Not necessarily a matter of expensive clothing. Just simply the right “costume”. A good presentation goes a long way. Or at least 5%, according to my calculations.

A few weeks ago on the “makeover episode” of The Biggest Loser, I laughed when I saw Allen. He already was a clean-shaven, clean-cut man to begin with. They just stuck him in a nice suit and tie. That was his makeover.

Personality: 5%
People like people who remind themselves of themselves. A person is much more likely to positively respond to another person who uses the same speech patterns, who positions their body in a similar stance, who laughs and shows sympathy at the right cues, who uses the other person’s name sporadically in conversation, and who maintains good eye contact. Dale Carnegie 101.

Performance: 5%
I have a philosophy I live by at work. “Do your best constantly. That way it’s easier to have your boss never say anything negative about you during a performance meeting or mass e-mail, especially when the boss is having a bad day.” With so many slackers in the world, when a person proves that they are competent, creative, and dedicated, they automatically stick out from the crowd. Just like we are quite aware of the inflation of money in our economy, it seems the same thing is happening with work ethics.

To acknowledge I can do something better is to say that I’m not already doing my best. And sometimes, for a person to do their best means that they are meeting their co-workers’ and superiors’ reasonable expectations. Which includes not pushing the dress code, taking constant personal calls, and leaving regularly for outside appointments. And that goes back to simply showing up.

Random Chance: 5%
Right place, right time. I showed up to a random filming of the CMT show “Crossroads”. I had the life experience of a 25 year-old American guy and could relate to a 25 year-old American girl. I was dressed neatly (not wearing Bachelor Pants). I was friendly and confident, not obnoxious or desperate. I successfully entertained the beautiful girl who I noticed as soon as I walked into the room, while we waited in an hour long line.

Without random chance (divinely guided or not) I wouldn’t have met the girl I would eventually marry. On October 5th, 2006 a stranger would walk into my life who would forever change it.

But of course the “random choice” of her being there too that night only reflects the importance of the most important element of the Quality of Life: being there. She showed up.

People are the meaning of life. And most of life is just simply showing up. To work parties. Service projects. Family reunions. School plays. Church activities.  People tend to notice, remember, and appreciate the ones that are there in person, not just in spirit.

This post is based on a concept presented to me by Shawn Garbett, a guy I met at my wife’s Christmas work party. We both showed up. Our initial conversion produced this as the result.

Manspeak, Volume 12: Transparency

In college I read a book called The Birth Order Connection. If I felt like exaggerating the truth, I could say it “changed my life”. Thanks to the direction of the book, I became better able to understand others based on what order in the family they were born.

Typically, the first born children (or the “only child” of the family) are the most straight-laced, the most concerned with not getting into trouble, and the bossiest (almost every US President has been a “first born”). Middle born children are the most easy-going, the least resistant, the peace makers, and when they become adults are the least likely to get divorced. And usually the last born children are the most free-spirited, the most fun, and the most mischievous.

http://yourtotalhealth.ivillage.com/birth-order-your-personality-8-facts-that-might-surprise-you.html

As I began sharing what I learned from The Birth Order Connection with my friends at college and even back home, I realized something: Most people were amazed because of how much my prediction accurately described their own personality, but some, I offended. A few didn’t like being told who they were based on a researched psychological analysis. Interestingly, these two or three that didn’t like what I was telling them were females.

It would be a few years later before I understood why no males were annoyed by the impressively accurate personality predictions outlined in the book.

Here’s what it all comes down to: As a guy, I know for a fact that I absolutely, definitely, completely want to be understood by people. I want to be “see-through”. I am not a mystery to be unraveled or a phantom to be discovered. I am simply a man- there’s not much to figure out about me and I want to keep it that way. Arguably, much of the motivation I have in writing this never-ending series is simply that: to be better understood despite my gender which is infamous for not talking about feelings, and also to help those who have trouble understanding men.

In fact, when I am in a situation where I feel others don’t understand me or can’t relate to me, I get really frustrated. This can lead to a feeling of loneliness and eventually anger, and possibly depression. This is perfectly demonstrated in the first 15 minutes of the movie Where the Wild Things Are, which is not a kid’s movie, but instead an accurate look at a boy who is crossing into the lonely, scary, strange world of adulthood.

On the contraire, the same is not necessarily true for women. I learned this after reading the book Wild at Heart, which explains that women want to be pursued. They want to be a mystery. They want a man who will take the time to discover them day after day. That’s the opposite of how I’m wired to think and act.

So how did I offend those females back a few years ago when I accurately explained their personalities based on their birth order? Because I was attempting to “figure them out”. That’s completely different than rediscovering a woman. The idea of figuring out a woman is insulting because it insinuates that a woman is that simple. And obviously that is not the case.

But I was simply approaching the situation from the way I see things as a guy. I feel complimented if someone takes the initiative to figure out me out. While I do mature as I age, I don’t change often. I’m set in my ways. I can be figured out. It’s not an insult, it’s an honor.

Men are transparent. They like a formula that works and will faithfully apply that formula everyday as long as it continues to work. Males become frustrated when the pattern is broken. Predictability is good.

This poses a problem for men because most women don’t want to be “figured out”, but do want to be pursued and discovered. For a guy, that in itself is a confusing statement and request. It’s more romantic if he proves himself each new day, willing to learn and do what it takes to please his mysterious woman, yet he must remember that that the job is never complete because a woman can not be figured out.

So how does a man who needs to follow a simple formula properly treat a woman who thrives on not being solved like a puzzle? He remembers a simple formula: Don’t treat a woman like she’s a puzzle to be solved.

All this irony is making my brain hurt.

transparency

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com