It’s one hell of a place.
Gossip gets a bad rap — as it damn well should. Talking about others is a way to (1) assert our moral superiority, (2) avoid substantive conversation/kill time and (3) address interpersonal conflict in the shittiest, least mature way possible. Gossip is so rarely positive, that saying good things behind people’s back sometimes feels like grounds for canonization.
And if saying good things behind people’s backs makes us feel like saints, there’s one group that’s disproportionately responsible: the Good Vibers.
The Good Vibers does not refer to those who tag every Instagram of a corn field with #goodvibes, or those that went to Burning Man once and now can’t figure out why everyone won’t just, like, send positive vibrations into the ether.
The Good Vibers is the name I assigned to the people that, no matter how long you’ve known them, leave you feeling good or, at least, optimistic — about yourself, your work, your life and your goals. They send you back to the world feeling like you’ve been plugged in, like you have energy for days. You can’t help but say good things about them.
I met one of these people recently, Good Vibing like a motherfucker. And me, I’m in the throes of a self-analytical binge so I wanted to understand: why do I feel all warm and good-impressioned after meeting one dude for like five minutes if (I think) I am straight?
What was it that made me want to meet him again? To hear him as he listened to me?
- They don’t try to impress.
There are a few categories of people. Some try to impress in an obvious way.
When I was at Yale…
The web they weave is obvious. Their behavior is generally frowned upon but, to quote Joe Biden, ‘not illegal — like masturbating on an airplane’ (that was him, right?).
The slightly more self-conscious, but no more bearable manifestation of this genotype are those that have found more ‘subtle’ ways to make sure we know they are successful.
When I was in school in New Haven, they might say.
The third group, and I think most people are here, want to impress but don’t go out of their way to do it. They will wait to be asked before imparting their credentials, but see it as a necessary step to establishing themselves in the eyes of their counterpart.
The Good Vibers though — they are different. They are usually successful people. But not only will they not weave their accomplishments into an asinine narrative, they will remain humble, often mentioning them only in passing. They’ll say they are working on a couple of projects, nothing major. And they’ll often bring the conversation back to you.
They’ll do that because they don’t have the need to prove themselves. They are comfortable within their own skin. They possess that innate sense of confidence that external trappings can never replace. If they are already comfortable with their capabilities, why should they need you to approve of them too?
To learn from them: don’t embark on an ambitious project to entirely change the way you come across. That’s too big of an undertaking taken in whole. Instead, just start by noticing, next time you’re in conversation with someone new, what it is you are thinking about. Are there accomplishments you feel the urge to share? Are you saying ‘I’ a lot?
Your brain has built habits over time. See if you can notice them. And once you do that, you are most of the way there.
2. They maintain a 70–30 listening-to-talking ratio.
Those are random numbers I just made up. The important point here is: they listen more than they talk.
This is a dead horse that’s been beaten by every click-baiting Business Insider article out there. So I won’t dwell on it.
But there’s a reason it’s a lasting cliché. Their self-confidence allows them to immerse themselves fully in you. In what you have to say, in what you think, in what you do. They want to listen to you, and most of us, all we want to do is talk — about ourselves, if possible. This makes their presence fulfilling. Their silence is inquisitive, inviting and, most importantly: validating. It validates us as human beings, proving to the insecure among us that we are indeed interesting, that our actions and truths are worth sharing.
To learn from them: make sure your nods are not absent-minded. Nod if you agree. Nod to encourage. Don’t nod as you wait for your counterpart’s mouth to stop moving so you can insert yourself into the conversation.
3. They aren’t distracted by what’s going on around the conversation
I noticed that when I speak to a Good Viber, I feel like the most important dude in the world, and goddamn if that’s not a nice feeling. Their focus is entirely on me. They are not only actively listening, but they are also actively avoiding distractions.
To learn from them, here are a couple of easy fixes:
- Stop looking around. Stop throwing glances at people passing by, at sounds, at lights. Stop trying to keep track of who else is in the room. Focus your gaze on your counterpart and notice the urges to dart your eyes. These are easy to tame over time, if you remain conscious of them.
- Put your phone AWAY. Put it on Silent or Airplane mode if you can. Whatever you do, get it out of sight. Studies have shown that just having a phone on the table is enough to lower the amount of empathy exchanged in a conversation.
4. They remember your name, and repeat it in the conversation
I realized I like hearing my name mentioned out loud. It probably reflects some atavistic, tribal need for affirmation of social position, but… so what? I like it. And I know I am not the only one.
Science proves it feels nice to hear your own name (unless its a Sixth Sense kinda thing, in which case it’s likely less pleasant). And Good Vibers know this intuitively. Your name is often the first thing they will ask, and the last thing they say. They will also pepper it into conversation.
How’d you end up in New York, Gil?
It makes their listening so much more active, so much more meaningful. And it makes me want to open up to them, too.
To learn from them: when you meet someone new, don’t worry so much about the handshake format (fist bump? firm shake? the Wu Tang Clan shake thing?) but rather on making sure you remember their name. Associate them with the name of someone you already know, even — and especially — if the connection is ridiculous.
5. They remember the small details
If it’s not the first time you’re meeting, Good Vibers will remember small but important details about your life from previous encounters. They will remember your little brother’s name and ask about that apartment situation that was bothering you and how was your dad’s surgery?
They will prove to you that not only were they listening when you talked, but that they cared enough to remember things that are central to your life. Many of those that worked with President Obama suggest that at least part of his charm stems from his ability to recall the quotidian concerns of his staffers, weeks or even months after meeting them last.
To learn from them: when you stop waiting your turn to speak and start actively listening, this will come much easier. In your conversation, notice what topics of conversation elicit a change in emotional state — what makes the other passionate, or joyful or melancholy. Those are the topics that are important to them. And what is empathy if not seeking to understand what matters to those that are not us?
I will be honest. I was a little hesitant conducting this (highly scientific) investigation. It seemed almost treacherous, like deciphering the mechanics of a magic trick. I did it because the Good Vibing Motherf*ckers club seems like one hell of a place, and it might do us all some good if we joined it too.