Fit in With Any Tribe
Let's talk about how to fit in with groups of people you may not actually belong to. So the trick is to make them think you do belong, that's the art of decorum, the art of fitness or of fitting in. How are you gonna fit in with any kind of tribe? There are three basic ways to do this and we're kind of in an easy part of rhetoric right now so you can stay in cognitive ease. Manners, dress, and language. I talked about that, didn't I? If you're collecting data points on somebody else, you're collecting it on their manners, their dress, and their language, trying to find out what values are expressed with this. Values have to do with how you fit in with a tribe. So, let's talk about manners first. Suppose you are talking to a group of people who are really nothing like you or you think they're nothing like you. There is no such thing if you're both humans. If you're talking to a group of cats, that might be different. But humans, not so much. So you're talking to people who don't look li...
ke you, suppose you are, sorry to do this about me again, but suppose you are a man of a certain age, you're white, you're urban, you're northeastern, and you're talking to a group of southern Hispanics who have come from Honduras. Are they completely unlike you? I doubt it. They're all in America and so are you. There's a reason they came to America and maybe you have ancestors who came for the same reasons. And those are the things for you to think about. In the meanwhile, you can get a little stupid, think about manners. What manners do you have in common? What manners can you do that simply are appealing to them? What do they aspire to be and can you convey that? Okay, so let's talk about that a little bit more specifically. Do you imitate them? One of the worst things a white man of a certain age can do is to try to talk to a group of Hondurans in Spanish. Again, I'm speaking personally, it doesn't work well. What you can do is speak to them in English in ways that are respectful of them. I'm back to sending love beams out of my eyes so if you love your audience, people can see you're really trying and this is a factor I call forgive-ability. Forgive-ability. Forgive-ability allows you to screw up, to make mistakes. But people see you're doing it with a good heart, that's where the love beams come from. You're conveying your heart. Now that may not be what you're really feeling, either. You may be manipulating people. Again, it's a dark art. But by saying to yourself, "I love these people," and conveying these love beams through your eyes, you are showing your respect them. That's the most important mannerism of all and it's the most important part of decorum. I think I was talking just recently in one of the breaks about I had a very close colleague who was a really great writer at the University of Tulane in New Orleans. He was a Hasidic Jew. He died, unfortunately, last year. But before that, his family had me attend a Seder. I grew up Episcopalian. I did everything wrong. Like there wasn't single thing I did properly during this entire meal. And they just gently corrected me throughout. What they were doing was forgiving me every step of the way and they forgave me because they knew I was doing my best, which is not much, and that I was trying really hard to do my best for them. I was loving them the whole time and they were forgiving me for all the mistakes I made. That's decorum. So a lot of times we think about how to be perfect in every situation, what's the right fork to use? Like do I have the right accent? Am I using the right language? That does not matter all that much in that many occasions, even, believe it or not, research shows this, when you're applying for a job. People want first to see whether you're a good person and they're not gonna judge you as a good person, necessarily, simply because of your specific demeanor or the way you speak. They may judge you for this, don't get me wrong, people do make mistakes, but if you are showing a really good heart, people really appreciate it. And this applies to some of the most prejudiced, bigoted people I know. They will absolutely fall in love with people who are completely unlike them if they think there's a genuine attempt to get along. That's not the only thing you can do though and I'm not saying this will solve all your problems. Let's talk dress. One way you can fit in with a tribe is to dress in a way that seems appropriate to the occasion and the crowd. Now I deliberately, and I did this kind of rhetorically, I knew that for this group probably showing up wearing a jacket would be a little much, right? I was a little over-dressed. Did you see me that way? No? I did. A little bit, right? I did that deliberately. One of the things when my wife went back to work after 20 years, she was asking, "How should I dress? "What do I do?" And I said, "See what they dress like on Fridays." This was back when there were casual Fridays. Now everyday is casual Friday. So I said, and here's what you do, look at casual Friday and dress a little better than everybody else on casual Friday but not too much better. So, one of the things you can do in any office place is do one little step above what people are wearing. Why? Because it shows that you kind of fit in and you understand that but you're making a little bit extra effort. The whole idea of decorum is not just to say "I'm one of you." It's actually to convey, "I'm one of you and a little more," in a way that doesn't make them wanna hate you. So, we're talking about the art of leadership, you want people to see you as a leader, right? People elect the President of the United States who's not just somebody to have a beer with but somebody you wanna have a beer with but also will lead the nation, however you interpret that. See what I'm saying? That's why presidents wear suits when nobody else in the world seems to. Okay, language. Here it's really tricky. We're talking code here, that's what language is. So what is proper grammar? Think about that. What's proper grammar? Proper grammar is the grammar of the elite. So who's the elite? That depends. Okay so proper grammar generally is the grammar you learn in school. Why? Because it's the grammar that the elite teaches. Is it the most logical grammar? Does it make the most sense? This is the English language, it does not make sense, it's completely illogical, right? We can't even spell in our language. Like what is gh? It can pronounce ow or uf or whatever. Proper grammar, proper spelling is a way to fit in with the elite. Sometimes the worst thing you can do, as you know, is to speak the King's or the Queen's English to a group of people who don't. But on the other hand, do you wanna sound like an African American, like a gangster rapper, if you're of a certain age and a white male? No, you don't. Again, you send the love beams out of your eyes and you convey a respectful language. You do not correct other people's grammar, obviously. You do not point out fallacies, these are very indecorous things to do. Indecorous means you're not fitting in with the crowd. If you try to fit too closely, you're making a mistake. The fitness has to do with mutual respect and love. You want people to like and trust you, that's all you're trying to do. You're not making them think, "Wow, this person is an African American "even though he looks white." That's not the point here. Does this make sense to you? We're in a really tricky point here because we're talking about code so one of the things you find politicians doing is they do what I call code grooming. Code grooming, it's a way of flattering people by using a little bit of their language. So, remember we were talking about those words, those key words in the job openings? That's kinda code grooming. You wanna use their terms. So one of the great things you can do is listening for these key words allows you to use their code, even if it's not their language and you just throw in the words that they use. One of the great things to listen for is cliches. So you know if somebody's interviewing you for a job and they say, "We want somebody who's gonna think out of the box," you can immediately know that this is a company that never, ever thinks out of the box. (laughing) 'Cause that's like the most cliche thing in the world. So it's kind of in your same thing but you can use that. So here's an out of the box thing you can say if people talk about power relationships and use that term, you use that term, too. This is code grooming saying, "Oh, I acknowledged your language, "I'm speaking your terms." So Steve Martin used to tell this story about how back in his early days as a stand up comedian he had to work these conventions. So he had this challenge he made to himself to try to tell a joke that would be understandable only to that group. So he talked about once speaking to a group of plumbers, we're back to plumbers, and the punchline was something like, "I said socket not sprocket," and knocked them dead. So I was so inspired by this, I was giving a talk to a group of foresters so I came up with a forestry joke that would be funny only to them and it was something like, "What do you do when you get below "a number seven round wood?" I'm not gonna explain this. "A carrot." They laughed until they cried. It was my greatest moment on the stage. That is code grooming, okay? So it's not trying to be exactly like them, it's fitting in in a way that people like and trust you.