Thursday, October 8, 2015

How and when to self-deprecate

There are times when it can be useful to self-deprecate. Particularly when one is socially dominant, self-deprecation can help put others, especially introverts, unattractive women and lower-ranking men, at their ease with you. Sitting in silence can be uncomfortable and unpleasant, especially at a social event, and often those less socially skilled (or less socially desirable), individuals can be every bit as intelligent and interesting as their more superficially attractive colleagues.

However, self-deprecation is also dangerous, particularly for deltas and gammas, because it should NEVER be used as a way of attempting to gain either approval or sympathy, much less to generate attraction. While I am aware that Wounded Bird Game is a time-honored seduction tactic, it does not generate attraction, but relies upon the attraction already being present. To attempt to use it in order to generate attraction is a category error.

So, self-deprecation should only be used when you are dealing with people who appear to be uneasy or overwhelmed. Humorous self-deprecation is best, such as an incident when you behaved poorly, something unexpected happened, and you ended up looking ridiculous as a result.

For example, I was at an event where those around me had pretty much exhausted all the obvious topics that occurred to them within ten minutes. All very smart people, all international, but not exactly prom queens and football captains. So I told a story about Americans blundering abroad, which culminated in four very hungover college students urinating in the only patch of green they could find in Tokyo, only to discover, in mid-stream, that they were relieving themselves right next to a little old Japanese lady kneeling down and wearing a giant straw hat as she worked in her tiny garden. It was the worst American behavior since Vietnam!

The ice being completely broken, everyone laughed hard, but the real punchline followed when I told the guy sitting next to me, as if on an unrelated tangent, "You know, I've always wanted to visit (his country)".

He pretended to look horrified, of course, and said, "Please don't", which cracked everyone up again. After that we were all on a socially level playing field and the conversation flowed considerably more naturally.

So, there is a place for self-deprecation, but use it in order to make others more comfortable, not as a passive-aggressive way to make yourself look better, which it really doesn't do anyhow.

21 comments:

Thomas Davidsmeier said...

As a teacher, I use it to help students feel less intimidated early in the year. I also sprinkle in wild claims of superiority, so it keeps them guessing, interested, and entertained. Unfortunately, the modern classroom needs to be edu-tainment more often than plain, old-fashioned education.

Combining the occasional self-deprecation with the wild claims of superiority shows the students I am not one of those insecure teachers that will become defensive or combative when questioned. Though, the level of student does dictate how much of it I do.

Desiderius said...

I'd steer clear of ugly American humor at this time. It's a good way to get mistaken for an SJW.

Sokrates said...

It takes a big amount of self-confidence to depreciate yourself. On the other side it can be a very useful social tool too.

from http://freedompowerandwealth.com

Bitter Clinger said...

@Thomas Davidsmeier: Seems we've hit on the same classroom technique. I teach students who are successful in their professional career and are back in the classroom to add a credential (and a bit of education). I begin with some dry humor, a little bit of sarcasm, so they know not to take everything I say as a serious statement and then I play a bit of the "pompous professor." Definitely makes them more comfortable to be back in the classroom after 10-20 years.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

To be used sparingly and with skill and faultless timing.

Caned Crusader said...

Self-deprication can be exceptionally helpful if you have a disability, but there are right ways to go about it. Using dry and occasional humor to show you don't take it seriously and it's not a big deal makes people feel much more comfortable out you, and makes you appear more confident, because you're showing that the disability doesn't negatively dominate your life. If you don't actually have this attitude, though, your attempts to be "funny" will at best engender pity and at worse make people irritated, because it will come across as complaints hidden beneath bitter sarcasm. What you're doing is not so much making fun of yourself, but making fun of what many people see as a negative and thus beating its influence over perception. But if you don't already feel this way, it's never going to work.

eidolon1109 said...

Back in my more gamma days, I used self-deprecating "humor" all the time. The problem is that you absolutely must project an attitude of "I'm so awesome I can make fun of myself and it's not a big deal." If you don't, then when you say negative things about yourself people will often take them seriously and try to reassure you (or just avoid you to avoid the uncomfortable situation). If anyone ever, under any circumstances, takes your self-deprecating joke seriously, stop using those jokes immediately until you can project more confidence. I found that this was something that really turned people off strongly, especially women.

Later, when I could show the right attitude, I could use this or not and it wasn't an issue because it was clear that I was joking and that I didn't really think poorly of myself.

One thing I learned when leaving gammatude was that I had an incorrect view of what humility was. I thought of it as not thinking or saying good things about myself (not sure if that's a general gamma thing or was unique to me). What I found about how this affected people surprised me -- refusing to accept a compliment or talking yourself down really annoys people. If you're genuinely superior to them at something and you disclaim that even though they know about it, then it's an implicit insult to them. Owning your good qualities was something I found actually makes people more comfortable with you. Being self-deprecating is not really a quality people enjoy unless it's a joke and you believe it's a joke; they'd rather you own your good qualities and be willing to accept a little ribbing about your bad ones rather than bringing up your bad qualities yourself.

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus said...

Some humour can be self-deprecating. And some is just self-defecating.

Patrick Kelly said...

Thank you, this is very helpful for me.

Rabbi B said...

Excellent post. Self-deprecation, ironically and paradoxically, is not about yourself.

Double E said...

self defecation should be used even more sparingly

Anchorman said...

I think some who use it don't get the difference between self-deprecating and self-insulting.

Tommy Hass said...

Damn, that is some nice execution.

Robert What? said...

@Double E - "self defecation". Har!

Aeoli Pera said...

So, self-deprecation should only be used when you are dealing with people who appear to be uneasy or overwhelmed.

That seems like good advice. I think I have probably been spending too much time with fellow aspies (internet and math classes) because I have fallen back into self-deprecating humor and they don't socially punish this. But this is going to hamstring me if I ever need to interact with NTs in a serious way.

Aeoli Pera said...

self defecation should be used even more sparingly

Lol, the truly autistic among us send their thanks for stating this explicitly.

Keef said...

I decided a few years ago that I should only self deprecate when the topic is something that I would be ok with someone else poking fun at over.

For example, in my work fantasy football league I'm 0-4 and got smacked around by my boss a few weeks ago. I made fun of myself because I wouldn't care if someone else poked fun at me for it.

Matamoros said...

“A true gentleman is at a disadvantage in dealing with women. Women are realists, and their tactics are realistic, so no man should be a gentleman where women are concerned unless the women are very, very old or very, very young. Women admire gentlemen, and sleep with cads.”
― Louis L'Amour

maniacprovost said...

The 1980s sitcom style of humor that was essentially insulting people was terrible, but insulting someone CAN be funny. The funniness is just outweighed by the fact you're being a huge jerk. Self deprecating humor doesn't have that drawback.

Humorous arrogance is slightly harder to pull off. Of course it's not a problem for me.

Fred Mok said...

helpful and yet for most guys with little game, your example is like dunking a basketball. Most guys are neither tall enough nor can jump that high.

Fred Mok said...

helpful and yet for most guys with little game, your example is like dunking a basketball. Most guys are neither tall enough nor can jump that high.

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