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Group rationality diary, May 24th - June 13th

5 Post author: Prismattic 31 May 2015 03:41AM

This is the public group rationality diary for May 24th - June 13th, 2015. It's a place to record and chat about it if you have done, or are actively doing, things like:

  • Established a useful new habit

  • Obtained new evidence that made you change your mind about some belief

  • Decided to behave in a different way in some set of situations

  • Optimized some part of a common routine or cached behavior

  • Consciously changed your emotions or affect with respect to something

  • Consciously pursued new valuable information about something that could make a big difference in your life

  • Learned something new about your beliefs, behavior, or life that surprised you

  • Tried doing any of the above and failed

Or anything else interesting which you want to share, so that other people can think about it, and perhaps be inspired to take action themselves. Try to include enough details so that everyone can use each other's experiences to learn about what tends to work out, and what doesn't tend to work out.

Archive of previous rationality diaries

Note to future posters: no one is in charge of posting these threads. If it's time for a new thread, and you want a new thread, just create it. It should run for about two weeks, finish on a Saturday, and have the 'group_rationality_diary' tag.

Comments (10)

Comment author: Prismattic 31 May 2015 04:07:47AM 12 points [-]

(None of the following should be particularly surprising. I just want to provide additional personal confirmation that well-established cognitive techniques work as advertised.)

I have fairly strong social anxiety and get overstimulated by loud noises/bright lights. I've previously conditioned myself out of most ordinary and small-group anxiety through a)unavoidable practice with socializing and b)getting a black belt. However, until recently, I continued to have problems with a)a strong stress response to crowds and b)inability to hit on women (at least outside of OKCupid, where the invitation to do so is implicit).

Over the last month, I've successfully applied a couple of standard techniques to deal with this. First, about once or twice a week I would go to a crowded, noisy bar alone and just nurse a drink and people watch for an hour. Exposure therapy worked exactly as expected -- my pulse no longer elevates, I don't perspire excessively, etc. in the crowded/noisy environment.

However, I didn't actually talk to anyone, and even though I can generally be about 95% confident that I will be at least the second-most muscular person in any bar I walk into, I have found that the "strong silent type" approach does not work at all. So it was time for step two. Before going to the bar, I made a commitment on Facebook to make a small extra charitable donation if I did not strike up a conversation with an attractive woman within 60 minutes of arrival (with the intention of increasing the donation amount each time in case of failure. Note that I did not choose a donation to a cause I disagree with, because that would have been adding a source of additional stress in an already stressful situation. The actual motivator here was more "not fail publicly in front of my FB friends," since I'll end up donating to AMF or GiveDirectly eventually regardless.)

And it turns out that pre-commitment works as intended, too. I made my first attempt about 20 minutes in. I did strike up a brief but extremely awkward conversation for a minute or two. I consider this a useful outcome, because it reinforces {failed awkwardly --> no serious consequences} on a subconscious level. I tried again another 20 minutes later (with arguably the most attractive woman in the bar at the time), had a pleasant conversation for 5 or 10 minutes, and got her name.

I don't regard any of this as a particularly heroic accomplishment. I just want to reinforce that, as they say, useful technique is useful.

Comment author: Elo 31 May 2015 09:40:42PM 2 points [-]

Suggestion that seemed to help me when I was stumped for conversation; ask yourself "what do I want to know about this person?" some things I come up with: * Where are they from * What do they do (but I recently realised I would rather know their hopes and dreams than what they are doing now) * Hopes and dreams/goals/plans * pets * are they studying * do they also like X (thing that I like)

From a strictly PUA perspective; Logistics.
1. where does this person live 2. what are they doing tomorrow 4. are they suited to me (this can change over the conversation) 5. do I have an opportunity to take them home with me (this can change over the conversation) 6. are they old enough/too old (local legal statuses/personal preferences). 7. do I have a connection once I leave here; Number; facebook; email; 8. plans to meet them again.

Other things that help awkwardness: Truthfully explaining your position - "I promised myself I would go to a bar and talk to strangers, but I don't really know what I am doing, I thought you looked like a friendly person to talk to so I started with you. I am looking to make friends, can you help me?". As long as its the truth people should be able to read that off you and will treat you better once you have accounted for the potential strange behaviour. (help people understand what is happening in your head)

PM for a further breakdown if you need.

Comment author: ZeitPolizei 13 June 2015 02:13:32AM 0 points [-]

Other things that help awkwardness: Truthfully explaining your position...

Have you actually experienced this, or is this an assumption? I would have expected that saying these sorts of things would come off as a red flag for "this person is awkward/desperate" --> avoid contact.

Comment author: Elo 13 June 2015 09:32:32AM *  1 point [-]

As a two-option situation:

  1. explain

  2. don't explain

Assuming you are going to act, or feel awkwardly either way. You would be better off also explaining the situation than have the person be put-off by those behaviours without understanding why/what is going on.

As an added bonus, asking someone to help you, "can you help me meet new people/make friends" (ask a stranger to do a favour for you) will make them like you more. Internally its a signal that goes something like - (system1) I only do favours for people I like; I barely know this person; I must like this person. Kinda a cheaty-way to get people to like you. Where accepting to do a favour is a system 2 response (person asked a favour; its an easy one that I can help with).

This concept is well explained in the book "the charisma myth". using a related concept. If you are having a meeting in a coffee shop and you are sitting in the sun, you are likely to be squinting a lot. Or the other party is likely to notice you squinting a lot. without (the other party) necessarily understanding why - a squinting face is similar to a suspicious or judgemental facial expression. If you want to be seen as "just squinting/judging right now" you are best to explain the fact that you are squinting because of the sun, not letting them assume you are inherently squinting/suspicious.

"Being an awkward person" is not a permanent characteristic, only one that pops up in new environments. By identifying it; you allow people to be charitable as to what your traits are usually, and you can warm up to them in your own time.

Does this make sense?

Comment author: ZeitPolizei 13 June 2015 05:48:02PM 0 points [-]

Yes, it makes a lot of sense. It's more of a method to combat already existing awkwardness, than a preventative measure. There's no need to bring it up if you're feeling comfortable anyway.

Comment author: Elo 14 June 2015 12:19:20AM 1 point [-]

oh yes definitely. I should have been more clear about those two points. That was implied with it having to be the truth, but I guess I didn't see it clearly. Thanks for that! and glad I could help.

Comment author: Good_Burning_Plastic 31 May 2015 10:55:57AM 0 points [-]

Before going to the bar, I made a commitment on Facebook to make a small extra charitable donation if I did not strike up a conversation with an attractive woman within 60 minutes of arrival (with the intention of increasing the donation amount each time in case of failure. Note that I did not choose a donation to a cause I disagree with, because that would have been adding a source of additional stress in an already stressful situation. The actual motivator here was more "not fail publicly in front of my FB friends," since I'll end up donating to AMF or GiveDirectly eventually regardless.)

Why not Beeminder?

Comment author: quantified 20 June 2015 11:20:10AM *  2 points [-]

I made a plan to help me take the stress out of responding to a desire for more desirable mental states. I'd like to post it in the Discussion but I do not have enough karma.

Comment author: polymathwannabe 16 June 2015 04:25:09PM 2 points [-]

I've been meaning to cut down on snacks, and it's been harder since one coworker set up an informal mini-shop at the office where I can indulge in cookies just by walking to the next cubicle. But two weeks ago she made an inoffensive comment that was only slightly annoying, and I took that chance to use that tiny amount of discomfort as an excuse to not buy any more snacks from her. As a result, it's been two full weeks without buying one single candy, and I'm starting to not miss them.

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 03 June 2015 08:01:12AM 1 point [-]
  • Established a useful new habit

Taking zinc on the first signs of a cold. Seems to have avoided three cases but whether it shortens a cold remains to be seen.

  • Obtained new evidence that made you change your mind about some belief

  • Decided to behave in a different way in some set of situations

I read "Getting to Yes" and used that to improve negotiations (one with a mechanic). The change mostly consists in asking questions instead of making my own position transparent (transparency is good, but position is not).

  • Optimized some part of a common routine or cached behavior

I made a habit to consciously reflect on the future merit of web-pages I'm browsing instead of just following my intuition (and impulse). It led to skipping quite a few low to medium value pages.

  • Learned something new about your beliefs, behavior, or life that surprised you

My model of my own learning was that I adapt quickly to new information - but often overshoot the target. I believed that I this was a sign of quickness of mind but when thinking about the differences in reasoning and how fast we adapt to new information I realized that my overadapting really might mean that I take facts too literally. That I don't sufficiently question the underlying assumptions - and thus overshoot. I'm still not clear how to deal with that. The good thing is that after overshooting I return equally fast - if given further input/feedback.