How can I develop a more dominant personality?
April 14, 2009 9:58 AM   Subscribe

How can I develop a more dominant personality?

I recently came out of a relationship that I feel ended because I didn't know how to deal with my (self-described) submissive partner. I'm interested in learning some day-to-day things I can work on in order to learn to be more dominant.

Things I've tried so far:
1. Being more assertive about preferences - I'm always the guy who doesn't care which restaurant we go to, etc.
2. Trying to take more risks - I'm always afraid to go for the first kiss in a relationship, etc.

I'd appreciate tips on how to improve skills like these and associated with more dominant or alpha type personalities.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm. I think a good first step is identifying what you want in a situation or relationship, and then thinking about how you can achieve your "goal" while still (if possible) maintaining a certain amount of respect and understanding towards other people involved.

Also, try and think about the worst thing that could happen if you are assertive and take risks (which is usually pretty minimal) and weigh that against how upset you think you'll be if you feel like you're not asserting yourself. I hope this helps. I feel the same way you do sometimes.
posted by elder18 at 10:04 AM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're not a dominant person anyway, what's your rationale for wanting to develop these traits? Not everyone fits into the dominant/submissive spectrum toward the ends. It may be you're a more middle-ground type of person naturally, and that's fine. That said, this topic gets discussed with some regularity her and I'm sure you'll get worthwhile answers.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:08 AM on April 14, 2009

It might help if you see it more as levelling the playing field and not as being dominant. I assume you are not talking about D/s relationships (i.e. dominance in the bedroom) and are just looking for ways to either work with people who are similar to yourself (i.e. not partial in many ways) or ways to just imbue more of your personality into a two-person relationship and not follow someone else's lead or having you both sitting there saying "I dunnow what do you want to do?" Dominating someone isn't usually fun and/or the goal (unless it's specifically the goal if you know what I mean) but balance is a good thing to reach for.

As may be clear from my contributions around here, I have a bit of a dominant personality. That said, a way to look at this from the outside is that while that's sort of the cards I've been dealt brain/mind-wise, it's also sometimes an annoying responsibility. I choose the restaurants because someone has to and no one else will; if people don't like it, it's on me. I always worry that we're doing what I want and other people don't like it but they're not speaking up. I move in for the first kiss and wonder forever if I hadn't made the move, would he have?

So, I think you can look at this as a way to sort of share the joint repsonsibilities of being in a relationship, a situation where choices and decisions have to sometimes be made, and to try to be more of a part of those decisions. I can tell you how I look at these things and maybe you can see how your role would work

1. the "hey i was thinking of doing this, okay with you?" approach. This is actually, in my world a totally open question, not a "do my thing please, unless you object" statement. With people who are more reserved, it can be hard to figure out how much to leave open and how much is just ceding any opinion at all. I do a lot of "what do you think about this?' talking (and then shutting up and listening) in order to get my partner to really think about his side of it. So for you, you could open up questions like this and/or you could reply with real feedback if the question comes your way.
2. You can see it as an excuse to help guide or steward your partner -- if they are more submissive than you -- into things they might not do on their own but that you think would be fun for both of you. Sometimes risk taking like this is a lot less scary if you're in it together. You can also be vulnerable together but present a united front doing the thing. I have a forward personality but am shy in new situations and having my partner or a buddy with me makes the whole thing go much better and seems to be good generally. So this is sort of looking at the risk taking thing, it doesn't have to be you risking vs. partner risking, it can be you encouraging (not pushing) the two of you to do something a little new and unusual for both of you.
3. be decisive. Often people who come across as less "dominant" are just people who take longer to think things through and then someone like me can come in and be like "Have you decided yet?!" Practice making decisions a bit more quickly, see if you can get better at it within your comfort zone. I think often the preferences thing isn't about having or not having preferences, it's about not being able to decide at the moment where someone else has come to a decision and you'd then cede to them.
4. develop a confidence in your own moral authority so that being in charge of things is an okay thing for you to do. I think the restaurant thing and the "what shoudl we do this weekend?" thing can seem like traps to someone who doesn't have strong feelings because they think that making a decision without strong feelings will result in something bad. Realize that in most situations people are happier to be doing something than sitting around figuring out what to do and you can help that process as well as anyone.

And none of this will work well for you if some of it isn't natural for you. I know it's hard after leaving a relationship to think 'this didn't work because I'm this sort of person" and then looking at that with a microscope, but I find it more useful to think about a "bad fit" and lookign at small adjustments, not big personality overhauls, so that you can meet someone who fits with you better. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 10:15 AM on April 14, 2009 [7 favorites]

I wonder if the OP is really asking how to be more assertive, rather than dominant.

Anyway, as jessamyn said, being more assertive or dominant or simply results-oriented can be a real pain in the ass in social situations (but is great if you want to get things done at work).

My wife is Japanese, and, even though I speak the language and to some extent assimilated during my ten years in that country, interacting with her (what to do, what restaurant to go to) is sometimes like an exercise in mind-reading.

Generally, I've had more success as an assertive, type-A personality by paying attention to language, and trying to decode the actual language of a more... reticent (I suppose you would call it "submissive") personality, and then try to adapt to that conversation or communication style, especially when presenting new ideas or trying to achieve consensus.

But often the other person is content to be doing something... Making choices may be irritating for them... You may be overthinking.

It's also important that you end up with the right personality match. You may not have to change all that much, except perhaps invest a bit more time in finding the right person to partner with.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:22 AM on April 14, 2009

I don't think it's necessarily a good idea to change your personality just to make a possible future relationship work, but about the restaurant thing: Even if you don't care, and you're with someone that also doesn't care, just pick one at random as soon as you both establish you don't have strong feelings about it. It'll save you a lot of time.
posted by ignignokt at 10:24 AM on April 14, 2009

Seconding jessamyn that you can hone your confidence by making decisions attentively, quickly, and by supporting yourself by comitting to them and following through with equal vigor. If you lead and nobody follows, don't be too discouraged. I often put something out there - "Hey gang, I'm going parasailing, who's with me?" - and get no response. That's not the same thing as being a poor leader. Give yourself leadership positions that are sanctioned, by consent or structure, so by asking to be the project leader, or working with little kids, you can develop a sense of responsibility and social stewardship.

Work on knowing what you WANT. Get in touch with your id. See how many times you can replace the "I don't know" you're thinking to "I don't care."

But be warned: once you've got the "natural leader" aura, it can be hell to be rid of it, even if only in your mind.

A better approach to relationships might be to seek out people who aren't completely submissive, so that there is more give and take and less burden on you to be the decider.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:40 AM on April 14, 2009

I'm similar to you, anon, but I have several jobs in which I have to be dominant. I do it by thinking of it as a job, in the same sense that taking out the garbage is a job. Taking out the garbage is not in my core personality. If I could do anything I wanted, I would never take it out. I don't try to turn myself into a garbage-taker-outer. I just take out the garbage.

I'm skeptical that a submissive person can turn himself into a dominant person. But I believe that a submissive person can act in dominant ways if it's necessary. Tell yourself it's your job and do it. Allow it to feel like a hat you're wearing. You don't have to wear it all the time.
posted by grumblebee at 10:53 AM on April 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

It may help to think of it the other way round. If you never specify a preference, that's a passive aggressive way of saying "You are responsible for planning 100% of our time and for second guessing what I would like to do. If I don't enjoy it, that's your fault. Now get on and work out what we are doing tonight!". That sounds dominant to me.

Helping out in planning the time you spend with someone isn't dominance. It's putting in your share of the work that needs doing in a relationship. It's just as important as doing your share of the housework. Do you feel dominant when you put your own washing on instead of waiting for someone else to do it?

Maybe you don't like to initiate plans because you're desperately trying to avoid conflict over what to do, or because you're paranoid that nobody else will go along with your plans and you will be left looking silly. In this case, starting making plans for YOU instead of anybody else. Think of something you'd like to do for yourself, then ask people along. If they come, great! If they would rather not, no big deal. That way, you're responsible for yourself and everybody else is responsible for themselves.

As for risk-taking: you don't take the risk because you're worried you won't succeed. So, teach yourself that you can succeed. Find something to do that's a little bit scary, but manageably so - initiate a conversation in a grocery, join a class, ask some friends along on an outing. Keep doing small-scale risks and build them up as you become more confident in your own abilities.
posted by emilyw at 11:09 AM on April 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's a lot of work to be the leader in the relationship. I'm the dominant in my marriage (yes, in the BDSM sense) and being the responsible one really takes a lot out of me sometimes. The difference between being dominant and assertive is that assertiveness is focused on, uh, asserting what it is that you want. Being dominant is not about getting what you want, it's about doing what's best for the relationship unit and guiding the other person. Assertiveness is saying you want to drive the car. Dominance is actually driving it (in the right direction).

So, while assertiveness is healthy for everyone, not everyone wants to be dominant, and there's nothing wrong with that (otherwise there'd be a lot of lonely people). You'll have to establish what it is that you want to be. jessamyn's already given some great advice on assertiveness, so I'll speak more directly to my experience as a dominant.

1. Cultivate the art of listening, as KokoRyu notes. You do have to become something of a mind-reader with some submissive personalities.
2. Become sure about what it is that you want in life. Develop a clear path to your goals, be it career, family, whatever. A very well-respected dominant friend of mine told me to "create my world, and then invite my submissive into it." You need to be on stable footing first before you can lead someone else. Use the time between relationships to develop yourself. If you have any areas where you lack control of yourself - say, overeating - work on those intently.
3. Become aware of your limitations. There are things you don't want to do, and there are things you can't do. Don't hold yourself up to some ideal, because that shatters your confidence (likewise, don't hold anyone else to an ideal, especially a submissive, lest you crush her will).
4. However, cultivate a role model, either real or fictional, that inspires you to be a leader. The absolute best thing is to hook up with your local BDSM group and find a mentor. If you live near San Francisco, there's someone I can highly recommend talking to. Attend BDSM workshops.
5. Take on other leadership roles - say, at a volunteer organization. Get as much experience as you can managing people, because although your relationship is not a business, many of the same skills will apply.
6. If you are engaging in the physical aspects of BDSM, educate yourself as much as possible. See above re: workshops. Practice with play partners to develop confidence in your skills.
7. Remember that the submissive WANTS to be led. They NEED it, and it's your responsibility to provide it. You're not overstepping your bounds when you tell her what to do, that's what she WANTS you to do.
8. That said, know your boundaries and hers. We rarely engage in D/s outside the bedroom context, so it'd be completely inappropriate for me to call him at work and give him a direct order. Talk, talk, talk to your partner. Do your mind-reading, but then SAY IT OUT LOUD. Make sure you have an open environment where she can express displeasure and disagreement without being punished for it.
9. Get a dog and go to obedience school. I am not joking. Obviously people are not dogs, but you have to be dominant to control a dog, and the same mindset is very, very helpful in dominating people. I should have put this at #1.
10. Learn not to take things personally. She WILL disobey you. Learn not to get easily frustrated. The ropes WILL get tangled. You may or may not have made a mistake, but don't let it shake you. You have to develop a thick skin and the ability to let things roll off your back. You cannot be an effective dominant if you are easily manipulated (she gets pouty and you cave in) or easily frustrated (she gets pouty and you blow up).

If you have specific questions, feel free to memail me or use my gmail in my profile (to which I have limited access during the day).
posted by desjardins at 11:14 AM on April 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

The OP is asking how to be dominant, not how to be assertive. They are different, and not necessarily connected. Some people are quietly in charge without being overly outgoing, and some people are always expressing their opinions but are actually quite submissive when faced with a single command.

Anyway, it takes practice and self-confidence. Guess which comes first? Wrong: it's the practice. Start out pretending to be confident. Often you will fail, and fall back into old timid habits. In continuing past these failures, you will develop real confidence, and then it will be easier to see yourself as the best choice to control a given situation. Accept that sometimes you will be wrong, and sometimes you will have to apologize, and that you should consider neither before making a decision. Those, as well as a weighty and constant sense of the responsibility not to be governed by your instincts, are the expected burdens of leadership, in a war, a marriage, or a role-playing game. (and in my dreams, all three with the same person.)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:17 AM on April 14, 2009

I'll approach the dating angle for your question. I am going to take no end of flak for this, but here goes:

I am an easy-going guy. As long as there is something there we can both tolerate, I do not care. I just want to eat with you. I will watch just about any movie, as long as you are next to me. I will even go dancing and spend the entire night trying not to step on your toes with my giant clompy feet. I'm just not that fussy. That's my nature.

Unfortunately, due to some total amount, varying by individual, of genetic predisposition, cultural training, and personal experience (proportions as yet unknown, and hotly contested), many (not all, and I'm done using weasel words for now) women are not especially comfortable with men who want to equitably negotiate what will be going on that night.

My usual magic ratio, when I detect this discomfort, is five out of seven. Five out of seven times I'll pick the film, where we're going, where we might eat, etc. This does not extend to picking out what is eaten. This does extend to what we'll be doing in bed. If there are objections raised, I am happy to go along. This does not grant license to pick out films with lots of explosions and eating at Hooters. Sometimes I pick the activity and she picks the restaurant, so it isn't an "all about me" night.

You might get the bright idea to remove decision-making from the process entirely; presenting your girlfriend with a bunch of white index cards so she can pick at random where we're going does not work out well, I have found, so don't even go there. Few are charmed by this. Most of it is just wanting someone else to get the ball rolling, rather than having someone else make a firm and immovable decision.

I drop this ratio to about three out of seven around birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other special events. I switch it up depending on feedback. Non-verbal cues are incredibly important here. People vary wildly, and they often are not terribly forthcoming, so you must learn to read your partner. It is probably the most important skill you can learn in this arena.

More dominant people gesture broadly. They briefly nip into someone else's personal space. They make small, harmless requests often. So, one of the ways you might get that first kiss is to reach into her personal zone and do the crooked finger. "Come over here." Tilt her head up with that finger. Say, "Kiss me."

Reams and reams have been written about dominance and submission, but a short note is in order: often, relieving someone of potential guilt by making those decisions for them plays a large role. "I had to kiss him, he told me to." If she doesn't make that first move, she doesn't feel like a slut, as absolutely silly as that sounds in print. You received consent, and she can still save face. True submissives often feel anxious when given the "burden" of choice; when you call the shots, you are taking a load off of their shoulders.

Is it hardwired into primates? Is it that the majority of women have been taught not to come off as assertive, and so they are afraid to put forth these kinds of decisions? Did their mom drill into them that ladies await suggestions? Who knows? Would it change anything if you did know? For me, it's a fairly tiresome thing to have to go through, because I don't enjoy making all of these decisions, and I'd like someone else to drive (in more ways than one), but this is what it comes down to.

You must also decide if you are comfortable with doing this. Do not decide now. Try it out for a while. If you find that this makes you miserable, trying to radically alter yourself won't be of great help.
posted by adipocere at 11:18 AM on April 14, 2009 [12 favorites]

They make small, harmless requests often. So, one of the ways you might get that first kiss is to reach into her personal zone and do the crooked finger. "Come over here." Tilt her head up with that finger. Say, "Kiss me."

Absolutely. One of the best ways to suss out a submissive is asking them to do little things and closely watching their reaction. Positive reaction? Then ramp it up. Light my cigarette. Get me a drink. Dance with me. Give me your number.

Unfortunately, it's different from a female dominant perspective, because if a guy likes me it's almost impossible for me to "go too far" on the first few dates*, whereas a woman might be easily put off by too much forwardness.

*I'm not necessarily referring to sex.
posted by desjardins at 11:29 AM on April 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

Drink hard liquor, it will bring out the BEAST in you! Then try to do those same behaviors sober.

I'm dead serious, and have experienced this myself.
posted by sixcolors at 11:56 AM on April 14, 2009

If you don't actually want to be "dominant", wouldn't it be easier to find partners who are compatible with your personality as it is? Not all women are submissive.

Nor are they dominant, for that matter--I'm a very assertive woman but I was never interested in being dominant, and for whatever reason various submissive guys didn't quite grok that and disappointment and hurt feelings ensued.

I can't tell from your question whether you want to be dominant and just don't know how to go about it, or if you think that you have to be dominant in order to have a happy relationship with a woman. I assure you that the second is not the case at all.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:57 AM on April 14, 2009

Drink hard liquor, it will bring out the BEAST in you!

This is ... bites tongue...extremely poor advice. Don't ever try and dominate someone - especially physically - when drunk. Your judgment is impaired and, if they're bound, their life is literally in your hands.
posted by desjardins at 12:01 PM on April 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

Drink hard liquor, it will bring out the BEAST in you!

In addition to what desjardins said about intoxication and domination being a horrible, horrible mix, I don't think this is necessarily a sound idea for other reasons. If you're not by nature a dominant person, the disinhibitory factor of alcohol is not going to make you any more dominant. In vino veritas, y/y?
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:08 PM on April 14, 2009

I don't think you meant dominant in the D/S sense, you even said alpha like, so I'll go from this description. there are two secrets that I have found enable one to at least seem an alpha, and may cause you to become one. Practice makes perfect.

1) Confidence: That article basically says if people know for a fact an individual is of low status, but this individual is confident, people will ignore reality and ascribe high status to the lowly-but-confident individual. So, what does this mean practically? Every time I am in a social situation and I question myself, I now endeavor to take whichever option is the one a truly confident person would take. I approach conversations as a confident person would. Doesn't matter a bit if I am actually confident, people will ascribe to me that which I present. So, next time you say "but she might think I'm a wuss" flip it, say to yourself "she thinks I've got it going on" or whatever. In this study they found that false confidence, rather than annoying others, induces them to view you favorably.

Confidence is not being a bull headed jerk that never budges no matter how wrong they are. True confidence means you are/act secure in yourself to the point that admitting you were wrong doesn't phase you. Admitting to weakness can be, paradoxically, strength. Don't flip out if people don't like the new you, a confident person will be sure that better things are around the bend. Be that person. You don't even need to change, really, just recognize your instinct to be submissive isn't getting you anywhere, and be contrarian, do the opposite. You don't even need to think of a strategy, just flip whatever negative pops in your head and do it!

2) Selflessness: This makes no sense, but its true. If you confidently and without degrading yourself seek to always make the lives of others better, you are the alpha. The leader of the pack doesn't whip the pack into submission, they take care of their brood. Take the lead when someone is needed to do so, let others take the lead when doing so would make them happier. Approach people not expecting anything for yourself, confidently try to make their lives better, and you will get everything you could have asked from them and more. Don't do the spineless i'll-do-anything-you-ask-just-don't-stop-talking-to-me thing. You will find the right balance.

I don't have all this right by any means, but its my current working theory on bettering my social skills.
posted by jester69 at 12:17 PM on April 14, 2009 [6 favorites]

jester69 is absolutely correct. I would just add that dominance in the D/s sense is what everyone here is describing as alpha/assertive, PLUS additional responsibility and knowledge. The base layer is exactly the same.

(I'm not saying that D/s is better, just that it requires more attention to certain things than egalitarian relationships.)
posted by desjardins at 12:55 PM on April 14, 2009

I've often thought "dominance" is a something like happiness: it's difficult to go after it to go after it.

So when you say something like I'm always the guy who doesn't care which restaurant we go to, etc, I don't really think you're not dominant; you're just being yourself.

In truth, that's the thing: being yourself. If you can work on just being comfortable with yourself, you'll stop thinking in terms of dominant or submissive. The problem isn't you, per se, but the unnecessary politicking of modern human relationships. But the best way to navigate is to figure out who you are—before you figure out who you want to be.
posted by trotter at 1:08 PM on April 14, 2009

As long as you're doing what you want to do--as opposed to what you're most comfortable doing--then you're dominant (i.e., confident, "alpha") by definition.

If you're not doing what you want to do, then ask yourself why. And when you can answer that question, then you're on your way.
posted by mpls2 at 1:22 PM on April 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

The biggest trait that I've noticed about dominant/alpha people is that they completely own their own reality. By this, I mean that it's very difficult for any outside person or situation to mentally knock them off balance. Less dominant/assertive people are much more reactive to the world around them. They're not stoic or anything, but they have their own attitude and it's hard to force them out of it or direct their emotions.

I think a lot of this comes with world experience and communicating with other people. As you gain more experiences with different people, situations, cultures, etc, less things come as a surprise to you and you gain more trust in your ability to handle situations.
posted by PFL at 1:35 PM on April 14, 2009

I've dated guys that are fairly passive, in that they dont plan dates, rarely express opinions on restaurants or plans, etc. Drives me NUTS. But knowing that it drives me nuts, I can choose to date guys that express more of an opinion about the activities we do, which makes me much happier overall.

Moral: this is just a part of the person, and not necessarily tied to the overall personality. Targeting that individual personality trait and avoiding it is a lot easier than trying to target an overall personality, or trying to change my own.
posted by CTORourke at 2:21 PM on April 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

This makes no sense, but its true. If you confidently and without degrading yourself seek to always make the lives of others better, you are the alpha.

It's a bit of a paradox. A lot of "alpha" behavior mirrors "submissive" behavior, IMO, but the intent is opposite -- selfless vs. selfish. For the submissive, you're bettering people's lives because you want them to like you. For the alpha, you're bettering peoples' lives because you want them to be happy. You're providing value to them rather than seeking to extract value from them. You're filling holes in people's lives rather than begging them to fill yours. Before you know it, you're surrounded by people who love you, and that's a pretty amazing thing!

Most people, it seems, are going through life trying extract their self-esteem from other people -- bragging on themselves and their possessions (which usually makes the other person feel lesser and worse about themselves), withholding appropriate compliments (which could have made the other person feel good, but can't let them think they're better than me!!), or injecting subtle or not-so-subtle insults where it's entirely unnecessary, either directly at other people or gossipy behind their backs.

The model I try to use is that I have so much self-esteem that I can give it away, freely. I don't need to take yours; I'm good, thanks! Here, have some of mine! The more you give away, it seems the more people assume you have. Crazy!! I'll probably never get to my own personal "10", but I've definitely noticed that the closer I get to that ideal, the more guys regard me as their leader, and ... here's where this is all relevant to the situation at hand ... the more girls are attracted to me AND ON MY TERMS.

But this is not just about getting girls, or successfully managing romantic relationships. I really think being more alpha makes you a better, more honest person, helps you get more out of your own life, and makes all the people you interact with happier. And that, IMO, is the ultimate "Nice Guy".
posted by LordSludge at 2:27 PM on April 14, 2009 [14 favorites]

I'm a very relaxed, diplomatic, non-dom kind of person, in most things. In certain key ways, I'm extremely dominant. I personally think you taking the time to force yourself to be more dominant from a confidence and comfort position is a good idea, but would avoid doing so to appeal more to submissive types. If you're not dom, you're not dom, as it were -- why fake it? Be who you are and find a person who suits you better...that seems a better strategy than changing yourself to suit another person that you've already lost.


If you confidently and without degrading yourself seek to always make the lives of others better, you are the alpha.

posted by davejay at 3:54 PM on April 14, 2009

Oh, almost forgot: I have in many ways attempted to be more submissive in my marriage, for reasons not relevant to this thread, and it fails 100% of the time; she neither likes it nor do I feel good when I do it. If you act differently and feel liberated, terrific; but if you act differently and it doesn't feel good, stop.
posted by davejay at 4:37 PM on April 14, 2009

davejay's right. Also, another thing: if you really feel like this is part of your personality, you could simply just date more aggressive women. They're out there, and many of them are attractive, too (in a black-widow-going-to-eat-you-alive sort of way) and want their way in life. They may struggle for control with dominant men, but in the end, they will probably have a LTR with a submissive man. I know women in my life who are married to pretty passive men, and they're always the ones who drive, pick the restaurant, (their husband isn't cowed, he just says, "let's go to a restaurant, I don't want to cook" and he genuinely does not care which restaurant, and the wife says, "I want to go here," and she gets into the car, drives, and goes off to the restaurant of her choosing) maintain their cars, etc. I will warn you that this will shrink your dating pool somewhat, but in so doing, may help you find a better match.

If you'll look at a previous AskMe question of mine, you'll notice that I was looking for more dominant men (and I was genuinely unhappy with passive men I had been dating--they were not setting off my sparks), but the problem was that I was putting off a pretty dominant, "don't mess with me or I'll karate-punch you in the balls" vibe 24/7, which isn't really conducive to attracting assertive men. I was attracting the mates my entire M.O. was asking for, though. So I wasn't happy with my dating partners, so I decided to change not my personality, but the way I was projecting it, into a more feminine "voice" or vibe (and I actually like it! If you had told me 2 years ago I'd be paying daily attention to my appearance, I would have given you a hard punch in the arm). I'm also jiving much better with the assertive men I meet. So if you stay like you are and look in the right places, you'll probably attract more assertive women. If you don't like that dynamic, then by all means work on projecting your personality in a more alpha male manner. You may find you like it! There are dating opportunitiesto be had both ways; they're just different opportunities, different women, and different relationship dynamics.
posted by Dukat at 3:12 AM on April 15, 2009

Just a couple notes: the "mind-reading" thing is really just empathy (what would I be feeling or wanting if I were in this person's shoes?), reading body-language & subcommunication, and careful listening. It can (and should!) be practiced and learned -- it will serve you well not only in romantic endeavors, but also in friendships, family relations, conflict resolution (incl. talking your way out of fights), sales, business, etc.

Every time I am in a social situation and I question myself, I now endeavor to take whichever option is the one a truly confident person would take.

Great advice -- and yet so obvious once you think about it! Sounds weird, but in dating scenarios, especially, I often evaluate my decisions in the light of "What would a really hot girl do in my situation?" For some reason, it helps me visualize my own desired behavior better than -- maybe because, at least in my world, hot women are pretty common (so I've observed more of their behavior), whereas truly confident men are pretty rare. But really it's the same thing -- how would a person on top of their game, who needs no validation from anybody, handle this?

For much more info on this, google "Inner Game" -- it's popular in PUA ("Pick-up Artist") advice circles because as you get more confident and alpha and become, well, a better person, girls will like you better. Despite the bad reputation the PUA community has on Mefi, there are a lot of smart guys who have put a whole lot of thought and work into this area -- a lot more than we could ever put into one AskMe thread. (We haven't even touched on alpha body language, which I'm convinced is crucial subcommunication needed for resolving that alpha-submissive mirror paradox.) I'm partial to David DeAngelo and "Tyler Durden"s work -- they are very "be the man you know you can be" and "fill the world with love and the world will love you". (ya srsly) By contrast, I hate Ross Jeffries's approach -- seems nasty, misogynistic, and um beta to me.

And please be careful about discussing this deep social stuff with family/friends. I've made that mistake too many times, and it's almost always received with suspicion, defensiveness, and anger -- as if you're attacking them personally, rather than philosophizing on human nature in general.
posted by LordSludge at 12:53 PM on April 15, 2009

read this book.

Actually, everyone should read this book.

Don't be put off by the title. It's not nearly as chauvinistic as it sounds. It's written from a spiritual/buddhist perspective. I've given copies to many people in my life.
posted by Espoo2 at 5:33 PM on April 15, 2009

1. Figure out what you want.

2. Figure out how to get it

3. Go get it.

Note the implicit assumption that you should get what you want. Also note that while you can be asshole, you don't have to be an asshole.

However, being dominant beens you have additional responsibilities, as others have noted. You need to decide if you want that extra responsibility and if you want to be a babysitter i.e. telling a submissive what to do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:38 AM on April 25, 2009

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