A friend of mine was in the process of becoming a minister in the Episcopal church. He told me he was concerned that the process of choosing ministers ensured that “characters” were screened out of the process. He was seeing that the older generation of unique and talented ministers was being replaced by bland corporate types, i.e. “nice guys.”
It is not just churches that love to screen out “characters.” Almost all education in the Western world is designed to make everybody the same: quiet and reserved conformists. The goal has been effective in eliminating any sort of “edge” in most guys. Sure, there are still plenty of jerks out there, whose dysfunctional family backgrounds ensure they will be totally “bad boy” despite efforts to civilize them. This is not the “edge” I am talking about. Their inherent instability is bad for society, and their “edge” comes from psychological problems and insecurity, not true confidence.
However, most upper middle class guys probably suffer from the opposite. They lack any edge at all. They will do whatever they are told their entire lives, until possibly they wake up (or crack up). They have had any kind of “edge” bred out of them by seemingly innocuous teachers and bureaucrats.
This leaves many men in their 20s and 30s who are so bland they lack the social skills to get ahead in life. They also can’t get dates and end up in the “friend zone.” Sure, they are polite as can be, but dateless and directionless. Once they leave the “collective” environment of high school and college, they are like sheep: totally dependent in a world where they have to be independent. Thinking their quiet achievement, “sameness,” and politeness will earn them promotions, dates, and friends, they become bitter when they realize the harsh truth that blandness won’t get them anywhere. The world is not going to reward them for simply being a “nice guy.”
The solution? It is never too late to develop an edge! I am not saying become a jerk with anger issues. That is “edgy,” but won’t make you popular. Also, I am not saying you should be on edge. That means you are anxious and nobody wants to be around you. Instead be funny, slightly unpredictable (but always responsible), and an individual.
Here are some suggestions on how to develop your edge:
– Don’t always agree with everybody just to agree. Be cool about it, but disagree with someone if you really do. If you do it assertively and with coolness, people will admire you for it.
– Inject humor into conversations. Most educational and corporate types love turning people into humorless zombies. Add some (appropriate) humor to the mix.
– Make people wonder what awesome and funny thing will come out of your mouth next. Again, keep it appropriate!
– Don’t apologize when you have done nothing wrong. If someone runs into you, let them apologize. You can say “whoops, you almost got me” or something like that, but don’t ever apologize for something you didn’t do. If you do something wrong, then definitely apologize.
– Change your body language to be more confident. It is beyond the scope of this article (See our book Be Popular Now), but confident body language telegraphs that you have an edge. People with an edge can be described as confident and even a little cocky. Since the majority of our communication is non-verbal, having confident body language is extremely important.
– Take risks. Not dumb risks like trying bath salts, but real social risks, like talking to new people, disagreeing with people, and asking women out on dates even if you may get shot down.
– Do unexpected things. As a teacher, there are days after school when I have my feet propped up on my desk, with “Sail” by Awolnation playing through my Smart Board speakers. My car, with a headband from the Tough Mudder hanging from the rear-view mirror, is parked next to cars with “my child is an honor student” bumper stickers glued to them. Both of these say “edge.” Deviating from boring stereotypes people have about you will show that you have an edge. Again, stay professional and appropriate.
– Dress a little edgy. There are days when I show up to work with a black leather jacket, which goes with my black boots. A good friend of mine is a priest who always wears Italian biker boots. These are within our dress codes, but they show a little edge and willingness to be different.
You may be worrying a little right now. We have been accustomed to believe that an “edge” is a bad thing. You may be thinking you will lose the friends that you do have! Trust me. An edge will make you more popular. Watch a movie. Look around at work. Pay attention when out in public. Popular people have an edge. The hero in a movie is never the corporate suit that plays nice all the time and agrees with everybody. He is never the “nice guy” who is completely bland and agreeable.
However, there is one caveat to this advice about having an edge. Having an edge may make you less popular with some people in authority. Unfortunately corporate and non-profit culture has become very bland and conformist. Even though I have been blessed with great bosses and leaders, to be blunt, many uptight people are in charge. I would suggest keeping your edge to yourself at work, unless you are sure it is valued. Again, the edge I am talking about is not about being irresponsible or a jerk; nonetheless, any sign of lack of conformity can get you “in trouble” with a certain type of insecure leader.