Stop. Flip apps and set an alarm. It should go off the next time you’re in a social situation and remind you that you should take 30 short seconds to pause, breath and take a look around you.You’ll see the faces and postures of the social group, you’ll see conversation, you’ll see gestures and you’ll see people who seem secure and confident dominating those who seem nervous and meek. What if there was a way that you could simply and easily make sense of all this data? With practice there is, and playing cards can help you.

Some people don’t ever listen after all, they merely wait their turn to speak

What you’re seeing is status playing out. Social dominance in behavioural form. Some people are high in status – they’re in charge somehow; they get other people to dance to their tune; they control the conversation. Others are low status: if they’re even part of the conversation then it’s purely to support the speakers. Some people don’t ever listen after all, they merely wait their turn to speak, if you’re lucky. Most people are in-between or slip between the two.

Status can be about class, or it can be about a job but it is always about context. Take the highest status person you could imagine – the Queen, a president, a CEO, a celebrity. Imagine all the people fawning around them, hanging on their every word, doing their bidding, physically shrinking so the object of their fear or affection seems to be larger… Now imagine that high status person suddenly on a prison landing when all the guards have disappeared, or in an alley late at night. In the world of status, context is king. In playing cards though, Aces can be higher than kings.

That loud bloviating wind-bag, holding forth at the large table, might have a king on his head

When you’re looking around your social gathering, imagine that everyone has a card on their forehead. It’s just stuck there for all to see except of course the person that it’s stuck to. They can see everyone else’s card though. That loud bloviating wind-bag, holding forth at the large table, might have a king on his head. The nervous wallflower avoiding everyone’s eyes may be a two. There’s a couple talking in the corner like she’s giving him what-for. That looks like an 8 on her head and maybe a 4 on his. How does he know he’s a four? He doesn’t, he just sees her 8 and feels like he’s lower, so behaves accordingly. So what are you? Are you a queen or are you a three? Maybe a jack or just a two? One way of knowing of course is to go talk to people. When you approach the 10, how do you feel, higher or lower? Do you feel like going to talk to the 2 so you can feel you’re kind (or more powerful) or are you drawn to those awesome queens in the corner who may let you have some of their kudos? When you talk to them, you’ll know where you are – they’ll see your card and treat you accordingly. But what if you weren’t happy with the card they give you?

Just know this simple card trick

The other way of knowing your card is to stick it there yourself. Give yourself an ace and people will have no choice but to respond. How to do it? Just know this simple card trick. You see, the cards are your behaviours. We modify our behaviours constantly based on what other people are doing, and bring ourselves higher or lower in response to the status of others. If you take control of that by behaving like an ace, then you give people no choice but to respond as though that card is flashing like a pinball machine and telling the whole world that aces are indeed high.


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