Imagine this. You are having a conversation with a girl you just met at a bar. She is describing a recent trip to Spain—to the same city you had visited some years ago. She tells a story when she discovered an abandoned cathedral near the beach. The conversation suddenly came to a point where you both say the exact same thing at the same time. She smiles, and without missing a beat, you say “wait, did we just have a moment?” She replies “uh-huh.” You fist-bump her.
By acknowledging a reaction out loud, you’ve just made the interaction meta for just a brief moment. This small and jovial act demonstrates a special ability few people have. Though simple in practice, it comes from a position of inner strength and years of social attunement. In this post, I will explain what being meta is, and how to use it to create attraction. First, I’ll let the pros show you how they do it:
“Eddie Izzard calling the audience out for hissing. He then writes on his imaginary notebook after a joke fails at the 4:00 mark.”
“Louis CK calling the audience out for a moment of discomfort.”
Being meta is an acknowledgement, verbally or non-verbally, of a subtle quirky moment in an interaction. It’s when you take the interaction to another level of awareness. This acknowledgement not only takes away the natural tension caused by those moments, it also enhances the conversation. Simply put, being meta is talking about how we talk to each other. However, these signs of personal power cannot be overstated:
1. An acute awareness of your own personal communication style and abilities.
2. A broad situational awareness of your environment, social events, and their paces.
3. A sense of humor that comes from an internal ease of tension.
4. The dynamic outcome independence when expressing yourself.
5. A willingness to be vulnerable and responsible about what you say and how it’s perceived.
6. An uncanny ability to refine and clarify your intentions.
How does something seemingly innocuous like stating out loud your observations have such a deep effect? It comes down to the layers of your awareness and what you subcommunicate through your words and actions. The more aware you are of your own honest communications, the more in touch you are with your intentions and how you subcommunicate it to others.
Types of Meta
- Meta-Awesomeness (as discussed by Mark Manson). Example: “Look, I’m a bit of a headache when it comes to commitment, and I only get like this because I like you so much.”
- Meta-Humor, where you make fun of something in your conversations or people’s reactions. Example: “Note to self: never bring up that topic again.”
- Meta-Correction, where you clarify what you want to communicate. Example: “Shit, that’s not how I wanted it to sound, let me say it another way.”
- Meta-Flirting, or breaking rapport or instructing. Example (breaking rapport): “Ohh, only you can get away with saying something like that cause you’re so cute.” Example (instructing): “Hey, say what you just said again, it was really cute.”
How to be Meta
Becoming meta is a fairly advanced social interaction technique. It comes from years of social attunement. However, the more you practice, the faster you will pick it up. It might seem weird at first, but once you’re comfortable with it, it will seem like a part of your personality.
Meta-ness, or self-referencing, comes from your power of observations. This means you can start practicing your observational skills without even a thought of acting upon them. Then gradually, allow your expression style to push these observations to the surface.
1. Be more aware of yourself
When you say or do something, become more predictive about how it comes across to other people.
This takes a fair bit of mental exercise, ease of social anxiety, and reception to feedback (verbal and non-verbal). Once you’ve achieved a good amount of self-awareness, you can express yourself fully while recognizing their congruence. If you sense an incongruence in your communications, address it out loud. It’s perfectly okay to say “can I try that again” or “could I say it in another way?”
2. Be more aware of your environment and other people
Note external observations to sharpen your ability to get outside of yourself.
When there is a pause or an awkward moment, there’s your opportunity to be meta. Do it so that the conversation rolls on or takes another direction. In a reaction to something weird someone just said, you can say “well, I don’t know where to go with that, let’s just turn around.”
3. Be more at ease with yourself and more outcome independent
When you are meta, you show the ability to laugh at yourself or the situation, no matter how tense.
This shows that you are enjoying the conversation and the process of making it flow. Your expression is not tied to some outcome. The conversation doesn’t have to go anywhere and you are okay with that. When you are at ease, you observe more and think less.
4. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability and responsibility
Saying things like “oh yeah that was weak, I’ll just have to do better” shows that you are comfortable putting yourself out there to be judged, and you can take responsibility for what you say or do.
It means that you have to take a number of risks in a conversation to polarize people. Don’t do it for their reaction, but do it because that’s what you truly think. Be okay with being wrong or offensive.
Take responsibility for your words and actions. Be humorous and laid-back when you go meta. However, in some cases, it’s more appropriate to be serious: “actually, that wasn’t a joke, I do want to know more about your artistic aspirations.”
5. Continually evaluate your intentions, they matter
Express, not impress. Being meta is a form of self-referencing expression, not to show off how quickly you can point out flaws.
A person who is always self-correcting or pointing out nuances of how other people talk can be seen as annoying at best, or needy at worst.
6. Emulate others
Comedians as Eddie Izzard and Louis C.K. can go meta on stage on a whim. Izzard is great at saying things like “never put those two things together again” (while pretending to write on his hand) or “that’s a good laugh right there, I enjoyed it.” Louis C.K. will go on and on about the fucked-up thoughts in his head.
As experienced world-famous comedians, they have reached a new level of meta self-awareness that is not only hilarious, but also extremely enlightening for their audiences.
You can be the same with the people you interact with, if only on a micro-level. Check out some more Youtube clips that illustrate my point:
“Jim Jefferies acknowledges the tension of the audience. He also comments on the timeliness of his second beer at the 2:45 mark.”
“Eddie Izzard once again points out an audience member’s laugh.”
7. Adjust and re-adjust
Observe how deep you can go meta and how often you do it. Too often and too deep, and you will seem like a try-hard. Not deep enough, or too sparse, and you seem insecure and able to think only about yourself.
At the right level, it’d seem like nothing can escape your power of observations. You can make something exciting out of the simplest actions.
So there you have it. Why is being meta so seductive? Because it shows awareness—one of the pillars of a highly confident individual (or alpha, as some call it). It also shows assertiveness, the courage to speak one’s minds, and the responsibility in doing so. When you are meta, you aren’t invested in what other people think about you, only in how you think.
Meta-ness, of course, is your observations through your own subjective lenses. By pushing it to the surface, you say it as if it was a fact. That influences people to take your point of view and go along with wherever you are leading them. A seductive trait indeed!
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