A couple of months ago I sat in on a rather thought-provoking "boot camp" for men trying to improve their social skills with women and the head trainer said something I've rolled around in my mind ever since ...
You might remember James McLane whom I posted about in July, when he broke down which Australian cities he thought were the best to live in as a single man.
McLane is fascinating to listen to because he's absorbed and tested pretty much every piece of "Pick-up Artist" literature there is out there - and taken a step beyond it in the way he conducts his seminars and camps.
For McLane, the secret to being successful with women is not about learning reams of pick-up lines, games, "patterns" and "negs", but largely about observing and understanding how social interactions work.
This is assuredly not something you master overnight but, in the three to five days he spends with clients on his boot camps, they do get a rather remarkable insight into how and why they act the way they do in social situations, as well as hundreds of suggestions for improving their affability and attractiveness.
Of course, you can do all the theorising you want when it comes to this stuff but nothing can replace the experience of talking to women - strange, attractive women, who give you that "ulp" feeling in your throat.
This is why McLane offers his clients interactions with female trainers, with whom the men spend days, running through a spectrum of scenarios.
One of the things that really resounded with me watching him work with his clients is how so many guys complicate the process of conversation.
McLane counsels keeping it simple; just introduce yourself, shake hands, ask the woman what she's got planned for the weekend, what have they done interesting lately, listen, take the conversation from there.
"[The Australian tennis great] Fred Stolle once said 'Don't do more than you need to win the point,' " says McLane, which could be one of the most sage pieces of advice I've ever heard about interacting with the opposite sex.
I think men and women - young and old - often get so caught up in what they'd like to happen with the person opposite them, they forget about what is happening and fail to attend to the moment; by embroidering, they drop the stitch in time.
I know when I meet people, I'm bound to launch into obscure conversations because I'm a wanker, when the truth is most people - when they go out for a meal or a drink - just want to have an easy chat, not discuss geopolitics or Kant.
So when McLane suggests "don't do more than you need to win the point", he's just saying don't overcomplicate things. The reality is most conversations you'll have will lead nowhere but you don't have to short-circuit them by launching into over-challenging or obtuse topics.
Of course, this is but one tiny lesson McLane teaches over the course of his bootcamps (of which I only observed three or four hours) but even this got me thinking.
Another comment James made was that once you've started a conversation with a woman, there's no shame in directing it to topics that interest you, whether they be fitness, reading, art, politics, travel, cooking, fashion or sport.
In the end, if you're looking to meet a person with similar interests and drives, this is a good time to discover this information, rather than after the 10th date (or first child).
Finally, to those of you who'll take exception to the mere concept of a man teaching other men how to talk to (and ulitmately sleep with) women, perhaps take a step back and consider what's motivating the clients.
Yes, some of the guys probably just wanted to have sex with multiple women but most of the men I observed were looking for relationships and had paid thousands of dollars to improve their chances of this.
I think it's a pretty sincere testimony to how much all of us want to be wanted and I'm stoked to see people like James McLane opening up that opportunity to other than the genetically blessed and socially gifted.
If you want to learn more about James and Social Coach, you can check out his website here.