After you listen to this episode, it’s possible that the next ten pushups you do could be very influential in your life. In Episode 27 of the Art of Likability, bodybuilder and listener Steve Parke joins us on the show to discuss the power of playing to your natural inclinations in any social situation, making easy conversation with strangers, and how those next ten pushups you do could be very important.
Maybe you’ve heard this or even thought this before:
“That guy is super funny. I wish I were funny like he is.”
“She’s a charming person. I wish I could be as popular as she is.”
This is someone telling themselves that they need to be more like someone else. That their innate characteristics aren’t up to scratch, so they need to don a mask and clown makeup to be the funny guy now.
That’s a hard undertaking, and you run the risk of being inauthentic. If you’re just not naturally extroverted, making conversation with strangers will be more grinding gears than smooth talk.
It’s much more natural to pay attention to your strengths. Arel and bodybuilder Steve Parke discuss how powerful it is to play to your natural inclinations. Steve rarely found himself the life of the party and did not consider himself super charismatic. But instead of slinking away in the corner, Steve would turn his inaction into action.
Steve wasn’t extroverted and charismatic, but he was inquisitive, and interested in how things worked. As if he were taking apart a car engine, he would take note of people’s body language, their mannerisms, and how they acted in the face of drama, the bits and pieces of a good (or not so good) conversation. He found that he could understand the “communication behind the conversation,” and he could rely on his understanding of communication to improve his social skills. That’s when he started turning daily small talk with strangers from just that—small talk—to a real feel good moment of each day.
Steve found the practice he put into working small talk with strangers was very much related to the practice he put into building his body. It’s going to feel awkward, and the process of going from novice to expert doesn’t happen overnight for yourself. When you do finally get there, it becomes a part of you—you just are a smooth conversationalist, or you are a bodybuilder.
You’re going to feel out of place the minute you pick up the gauntlet. The first time you hit the bench press (your buddies told you that this was a necessary workout, and they’re relatively buff) is the same as the first time you mumble a hello to someone passing you by. As you press the barbell carefully to make sure you’re in good form, the guy right next to you is pumping an incredible amount of weight (and by the way, that’s actually his warm up!). Someone’s squatting three plates and that looks uncomfortable-how does he do it? You’re certainly out of your element here in the gym.
Flash forward to making small talk with a stranger. If this isn’t something you’re used to, you’d make furtive glances at each other before managing a hello. “Nice weather we have today?” Spotted with a few long (too long!) awkward pauses, you think that you could have done better.
But even after both of those experiences, you’ll realize that in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that bad. The next time around, you’ll be mentally prepared for the blowback, and you’ll even have an idea of what to do and say. Eventually, you could be the guy in the gym with impeccable form in his workout, or seemingly all of a sudden, you’d be the guy who’s quick on his feet or highly perceptive in a conversation. “Are those the Pyramids of Giza on your shirt? You must have been to Egypt?”
You’ll also have to put in the work to get to where you want to go. Just like watching your form at the gym to get more out of your workout and avoid injury, you can use your understanding of social behavior to improve your social skills. Steve wanted to get better at small talk with strangers, and he took his understanding of body language to recognize when an appropriate time to engage someone was (or, how not to be a creep).
He found that if he nonverbally engaged with someone by making eye contact or smiling with them, they were more receptive to a hello and a conversation. For people who had their headphones in or were looking down and avoiding eye contact, these people were not receptive and would likely not take well to a hello. And in this way, Steve has screened out unreceptive people from those he’d actually have a good conversation with.
Continuing to have these conversations and getting better at them has caused Steve to see himself as a likable man—it’s just a part of who he is. Just like the work he put into sculpting his body allowed him the confidence that he belonged onstage with other bodybuilders at a show. The lesson we loved from this: the more work you put into something, gradually, it becomes a part of you. You gradually see yourself as more and more capable, as you take on harder and harder tasks.
Which brings us to those 10 pushups. Working out (and anything else) can seem intimidating, especially having to lift heavy weights and comparing yourself to others out there, and this can be a reason for some people to never even hit the gym. This is a hump, but if you ever want to have a strong body, you’re going to need to beat this hump.
Even if you’ve never worked out before (but would love to have a strong and capable body), you can get started with baby steps, and that starts with 10 pushups. Once you get comfortable with 10 pushups and that gets too easy, perhaps you’ll stretch it to 15 pushups.
And after you get comfortable with 15 pushups, perhaps you may feel more comfortable hitting the gym. Little steps will go a long way.
Stay tuned, and stay awesome!