Tuesday, 2 November 2010

How to Meet New People Without Being Creepy

Everybody knows that first impressions count. And if the first impression you're giving is on the creepy side, you're probably tired of being misunderstood. This article will go over what makes someone seem creepy, and how you can stop giving off that creepy vibe.

# 1. Understand the stereotype of a creep. To creep is to move slowly and quietly as if sneaking up on someone. A person who's creepy is someone who's perceived to be eerily quiet in some way, as if there's something behind the scenes that could surprise you in an unpleasant way. Think of a cult leader, serial killer, child molester, or stalker. They all have a dark side brewing that they keep tucked away until the right opportunity comes along. And if you're coming off as creepy, it means you're doing some of the things that strange people often do. Other creepy behavior includes laughing or smiling at unacceptable moments, or perhaps finding humor where others find sadness.

# 2. Commit to changing your behavior. Those of us who get classified as creeps are often just people who are unapologetically unique. It's easy to feel resentful towards people for labeling you as creepy just because you're not jumping through the same social hoops as everyone else. And this feeling might make you resistant towards changing your behavior. So before you proceed, you have to accept that people judge each other, and sometimes they're off, but that's the way it goes. That's what you have to work with. So don't assume that changing the way you act in order to change people's perception of you is somehow violating your pledge to be yourself. If anything, it increases the likelihood that people can get to know your true self, because you're not warding them off in your first conversation by acting like a sociopath. Work on recognizing the behavior of others, and finding ways to interact with them that fall under social norms.

* There's an image presented in a lot of media, especially anime and video games, that being standoffish, mysterious, and quiet is "cool". In real life, however, it's more likely to come off as creepy.
* Don't feel that you must change the way you look or dress. If you can change the way you interact with people, what you look like won't matter as much. But the first time you meet someone, it probably doesn't help if you're dressed in latex or other fetish wear.

# 3. Become a good conversationalist. Awkward silences can very easily turn into creepiness. So can your babbling on and on about your mother, your cat, or your collection of bugs. A good conversationalist keeps finding things they have in common, and they do it in a casual, non-intrusive way. For example, there's a difference between asking someone "Have you ever held a tarantula?" and saying "Have you ever felt the tiny hairs of a tarantula's legs brush up against the palm of your hand?" The latter is more poetic, but way too intimate for a first conversation for most people (and this article presumes you want to learn how to deal with most people, not that tiny minority who's just as quirky and offbeat as you are and will most certainly appreciate your candor). Learn to start a conversation and keep it flowing in a fun, positive and casual way.

* It's worth repeating that you should not go on and on about unique hobbies or interests unless the person shares them or asks a lot of questions. If they only ask a few questions, that doesn't necessarily mean they're interested; it probably means they're being polite, so don't dominate the conversation with your enthusiasm. When first meeting someone, it's more important to listen to what they have to say than to talk about yourself.

# 4. Let go of any neediness you might have. Neediness is a precursor to obsessiveness, and obsessiveness is creepy. Needy people are imbalanced and unstable people, because their happiness hinges too greatly on someone else. If you're projecting a vibe that you'll be devastated if a person doesn't want to be your friend or romantic partner, it's time slow down, be patient, and examine yourself. Read How to Stop Being Needy.

# 5. Respect boundaries. This is a key social skill that many mis-labeled creeps are sorely lacking. Think of any kind of relationship as a video game. You start off at the easiest level, and as time goes on and you improve, you go to more difficult levels and achieve a greater sense of satisfaction. When you first meet someone, you're on level 1, and you're not supposed to proceed to level 2 until you get past level 1, and so on. Creeps tend to accidentally skip to level 15. There are a variety of ways in which they do this:

* Staring. Extended, direct eye contact is something lovers usually do. It's something you can do if the person you're talking to is noticeably romantically interested, but even then it's risky because the creep factor is high if you're mistaken. Look someone in the eye while they're talking, but also be sure to pull your gaze away periodically and shift your interest to other things. And check to make sure you don't have a tendency of staring at someone's body (chest, hands, shoes, whatever) even if in admiration or curiosity. In general, you don't want to make someone feel like they're under a microscope.
* Asking personal questions. What's too personal? It depends. Your best bet is to pay attention to other people's conversations. Notice what people feel comfortable talking about when they first meet. See How to Come Up with Good Conversation Topics. Know which topics to steer clear of: romantic experiences, politics, religion, illness or disease, and anything dark like murder or death (this is not the time to explain how the sword you have on your wall was designed to pierce someone's intestines in a particular way).
* Invitations. Don't invite someone into your basement, a cabin in the woods, a warehouse, or to any setting where horror movies often take place. If it's dark and isolated, it can easily become a creepy experience, and the creepy atmosphere might make you seem creepy, too. This kind of invitation also shows that you expect someone to trust you completely, which generally, they shouldn't (no matter how charming you might be; it's just not street smart). If you're going to extend an invitation, make it to a public place where there are plenty of people.

# 6. Pay attention to body language. Ultimately, everybody has different "standards" for creepiness. What's creepy to one person might be fascinating to another. The only way you can figure this out on a case-by-case basis is by paying attention to signals that a person's ready to go to the next level, or you're making them feel uncomfortable. And you need to do this without staring! For example, if someone is looking away a lot, or toward an exit, or they appear to be turning or edging away from you, it's probably a sign that they want to end the conversation. It'll take some practice and attentiveness, but once you get a grip on body language, you'll start to account for it subconsciously.

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