Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stay Alpha, bro'

The question of what is alpha or what is beta is an ill posed one.

Yes, there are alpha males among mankind. And, yes, there are things they commonly do or traits they share. But none of them, by themselves, is neither alpha, nor beta nor iota. They are but empty shells.

A man can posses high or low social status, and expresses it accordingly.
Status is something you do. But it is more about how you do things than what you do.

[edit: For those of you unfamiliar with my definition of social status, please read this first. I am not talking about socioeconomic status. In my primatologist-biased view social status is equal to dominant behavior.]

There are many different ways to achieve high social status, and any of them would not have the same effect if acted out by an individual who does not consider himself top dog. The actions themselves don't count. It is the whole of what a man represents that affects whether something is alpha or beta.

Say, someone is holding open a door for someone behind. Imagine this person is the room cleaner and he hold the door open for the CEO of the company. The room cleaner smiles respectfully and waits patiently until the CEO has walked up and passed the door. What do you see? It is obvious:
If you are a low status guy, holding open a door will be an obedient, serving, submissive gesture. You give a gift of your own effort to someone you deem of higher social status.

Imagine now, the person holding open the door is the CEO of a big company and the person supposed to walk through is one of his assistants. The door seems to lead into the assistant's office. The CEO might have a "serious talk" with him in there. The CEO has impatient look on his face, and the assistant rushes to make it through the door so the CEO can close it behind him. You see the difference?
If you are a high status guy the very same gesture can be interpreted as a gesture of dominance.

It is not the gesture itself that defines the social hierarchy. The dominance/submission relationship between humans (and even objects) is not defined by something simple as a set of acts (or lack thereof). Rather, we sort out who is on top of whom by taking into account as much circumstantial evidence as we can.

If a man wants to climb up the ladder of social hierarchy there is much he needs to learn.

But simply trying to act like a high status guy will not just fail but have the opposite effect as long as it is incongruous with the rest. An artificially created domineering posture gives away more about a guy's insecurities than the lower status body language that comes natural to him. This is why women cringe when they see "strong men" at bars. This is why everything falls into place once one is "in state".

The most important step for a man to gain high status is to change his own mindset. If you do not feel like you are "up there", all your attempts at pretending will easily be seen through.

[So how do you get up there? By attempting to do so. It is a painful but necessary process.]

The worst this misunderstanding about "what is alpha" can lead to is excessive obsessing about "masculinity". It is just like small dick complex - if you feel confident in what you have you never even think about the issue.

It is especially wrong and detrimental to believe that alpha males are nothing but sociopathic, Machiavellian narcissists. While these are male traits that certainly help to quickly establish high social status, it is but one way to get there (and with anything but guaranteed success).

Machos are not equal to alpha males.

Since we are using biological terminology when referring to alpha males, it does make sense to listen to what scientists have to say on the issue. The idea that humans follow the same sexual patterns as other primates is plausible, but if so, it follows that we also share the way we deem individuals "alpha" or not.

I have blogged about this topic before. I based my musings on the following quote by leading primatologist Frans de Waal:
"There are basically two sorts of alpha males. There are males who are physically so strong and hyper-aggressive, they become sort of like dictators. ... And then there’s a completely different situation, where you have males who are much smaller than the other males, but who are nevertheless the alpha males, because they are diplomatic, and they know how to make friends.

It is true, women respond to things that are not deemed courteous and nice. But it is not the assholery per se that does the trick. It is the position of high status that it comes from.

20 comments:

  1. So who's more alpha? The billionare son that is 100 lbs, never been in a fight, doesn't drink or does drug and finanlly gets laid when he's 30 from marriage or the guy that would physically dominate and survive in the wild?

    It all comes down to survival of the fittest. Social status is pretty bad indicator, in nature many animals really don't live by that standard. The weak die and strong perish. Roissy's view of alpha being the male that women would want to fuck the most is the cloest definition. That said if society didn't exist then the physically strong brute would triumpth everytime over the weak nerd.

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  2. Social status is pretty bad indicator

    You talk about socioeconomic status.

    I talk about social status as it works among chimps and mankind alike. I can't say it often enough. Social status is not what you have but what you do.

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  3. This has merit, but I think you're falling victim to what I call "inner game bs". Remember, most betas (not omegas perhaps) don't realize they're low status. Rather they think of themselves as average or high. All the status dynamics and gestures are like a foreign language to them. In fact before I had my eyes opened I still seen those "displays" and thought to myself "what a moron, who is he trying to impress" (granted this would for rather crude, probably insecure underneath people). Thus learning it, observing and applying, will indeed help. Some ridiculous macho (or worse "I'm a man, I eat burger") posture will not. Simply standing tall - will.

    You sure have a point on circumstantial evidence, but on the other hand, there were literally hundreds of times I'd find myself in a position where people would look up to me (work or social situation) and I'd get out of that discomfort, like "wtf is wrong with you guys, come on, ".

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  4. I do disagree also about your last point about alphas not being Machiavellian, narcissistic psychopaths. The is definitely a correlation between those traits and more alpha the individual is in EVERY social situation. It's a born advantage, which is why the traits still exists and prevalent in many alpha males.

    Example: Genghis Kahn, Julius Ceaser,Silvio, most lawyers, military and politicians. Both with high concentration of alpha males.

    Social situations are definitely the best indicator of seeing alpha displays and dominance. Which is why unless you are caveman alpha, clubs are really bad places for pickup. Mystery would have nothing against naturals like Patrick Bateman in real life.

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  5. most betas (not omegas perhaps) don't realize they're low status. Rather they think of themselves as average or high. All the status dynamics and gestures are like a foreign language to them.

    Very true.
    Excellent point.
    The only measure of how well you do in terms of high status behavior is how other, esp. women, respond to you.

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  6. I do disagree also about your last point about alphas not being Machiavellian, narcissistic psychopaths.

    My point was that not ALL alphas are of the dark triad. There are other alpha males who have a "softer reign". They tend to act more senior, more paternal - and that has an even stronger effect than ruthlessness.

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  7. the attempting is a painful process. a loooot of crash and burn dotted with a few successful ones. even now, after all the practice, the 1/7 rule for success is the standard which i've found to hold true. meanginful interaction with perhaps 1 out of every 7 girls I meet. decent odds, but nothing astronomically favorable.

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  8. As an example of Alpha behavior, there was this guy in my college town who could WHUP anyone. Cause the police liked him and if you hurt him they would arrest you. And if you filed charges against him they would ignore them.

    That's ALPHA. I mean that. Try being "dominant" to someone who can punch you in the face and you have to take it or go to jail.

    Oh..... and I think most of you are smart enough not to call me a liar, as this is obviously a trap. But PLEASE, couldn't you do it this once?

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  9. 11 minutes:

    Social status is not what you have but what you do.

    Maybe I'm missing something here but this seems to contradict what you say in the article:

    If you are a high status guy the very same gesture can be interpreted as a gesture of dominance.

    It is not the gesture itself that defines the social hierarchy. The dominance/submission relationship between humans...is not defined by something simple as a set of acts...


    In other words, if the *very same behaviors* can be *both* alpha or beta depending on the people involved (e.g., CEO vs. janitor), then simply changing your behavior won't make you more alpha.

    I've oversimplified to make my point but I think you get the gist.

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  10. to my eye, the door opener/holder is always the high status guy. ... unless he's paid to open doors.

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  11. "My point was that not ALL alphas are of the dark triad. There are other alpha males who have a "softer reign". They tend to act more senior, more paternal - and that has an even stronger effect than ruthlessness."

    Agree empathically. Some men have a "I take care of everyone around me." mindset. Ex. I (female) was caught out of town in a blizzard. Without much conversion, a stable-married peer arranged for my overnight hotel accommodations. Respect!

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  12. @ Tupac - You got a point. It seems self contradictory. What I meant to say is that it is not the act in itself but the context that decides.

    So when I quote Keith Johnstone by saying that status is something you do, I really mean status is the way you do.

    Most of us will fill in the blanks (of body language) in the two examples that I evoked. I alluded to it a little bit by making the door holder seem more obedient or dominant.

    Johnstone's book "Impro" is the central basis of all these ideas. I can't recommend it enough (I've been recommended by a reader of this blog myself). Readers who followed my advice called the experience "life changing", even "religious".

    Johnstone succeeds to put well what I am struggling to express in my most recent posts. Let me try to summarize again:
    - any interaction has a more dominant pole
    - which side is more dominant is often surprising
    - it takes some training to get conscious access to the dominance hierarchy in an interaction; it is like learning to listen to your "gut feeling"
    - some people get very good at taking on a high status attitude (this is where Johnstone stops, but all other evidence points toward women cravin these men)

    The key point here is that "status" loses its socioeconomic connotation. It becomes an attitude, an expression, a way of life rather than anything measurable. It is as close to what people deem "alpha" as can be.

    The other important point is that high status can be communicated in a myriad of different ways. Aggreesive bullying is one of them. the "bad guys" in the movies belong to this kind of alpha. For some strange reason this has become the dogma of pure "alphahood" on PUA and MRA sites.
    Yet, benevolent paternal patronizing has the same effect. As long as you come "from above" you are of higher status. And this is why it is hard to brand certani behaviors as "beta":
    One guy avoiding a fight at a bar might lose his status and look like a dodging coward while another man might just look as is if he graciously walked away from a nuisance - doing the exact same thing.

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  13. Let's not downplay the socioeconomic effect.

    People may not see you as the top dog just because you make a million dollars. On the other hand, a higher position will give most guys mental permission to act more congruently with higher status behavior.

    it is still possible that a richer guy will not mentally correlate his wealth or position with higher status, but I think in most cases making more money will give guys the balls to demand more respect with their behavior.

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  14. Ah, bravo, bravo, bravo!

    Finally someone touches on this subject!

    This REALLY needs to be explored at greater length in the GAme community because this is CRUCIAL!

    Read Roissy`s site and you will fail because it makes you MACHO!

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  15. I never go anon but I need to here.

    I work in a corporate environment amidst upper level VP's and Presidential scumbuckets.

    I hear their transactions going on all day.

    Impressed? Hardly

    I'm one of the few (if any) people on that floor who seriously does not give a shit.

    My boss makes over twice what I do.
    I would never trade places with him.
    I don't have a wife and a brat to support. I don't need to send emails out to everyone at 10:30 pm.

    I'm not married to my job. Or anyone.
    I'll take my pittance and proceed on my merry way.

    I feel more Alpha than that piece of sushi-munching pussy.

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  16. el chief has an interesting post about how to avoid coming across as an obnoxious douche.

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  17. It is interesting that betas have no idea how their low value behavior is interpreted. I'm sure many of them are just cowering beneath a mask of indiference but internally somewhere they know something is wrong with them.

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  18. I really like the idea that alpha status is really all about attitude.

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  19. it's easy to be alpha, just consider yourself the best of the best, the strongest, and it's no problem. If you keep telling yourself that you are alpha you'll eventually become alpha. Confidence will sink in and poof: you're alpha

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    ReplyDelete