Seeking the approval of others is something most of us do on some level. We seek the approval of our parents, bosses, friends, etc. It is normal that we want people to like us, and when we meet someone new, it is natural that we would want them to like us too. But we can often fall into the unhealthy frame of trying to win the other person over, and in so doing we may ingratiate or attempt to build rapport with others that we have not properly qualified.
When we do this, we in essence make others “the prize” to be won. Often, this “prizing” doesn’t help to create the relationship we truly desire because it takes the healthy social vibe out of balance and reveals an agenda that naturally repels others. The person of whom we seek approval may not recognize it consciously—indeed we may not recognize it in ourselves—but there are subtle and almost undetectable ways in which we seek approval that spontaneously trigger ill feelings in the social interaction.
We may become the entertainer, like a jester in a court vying for attention. We may over qualify ourselves, talking too much about accomplishments and name-dropping, when it’s in fact best to keep sense of mystery and let things come out naturally over the course of conversation. Finally, we may try to build too much rapport by over-complimenting people before qualifying them, or by asking people too many questions about themselves.
The way out of seeking approval is to become the approver.
We teach others how to treat us from the first moments we meet them. When you see and vocalize the traits you like in others it often says more about you then it does about them. Our goal is to communicate that we are a person of value who leads their life by following their interests and passions.
First, you must approve of yourself, even if you don’t feel your best. Accept yourself as you are, like yourself, in fact, love being you. When you reach this point, you can truly see the greatness in others and compliment them from a place of greatness within yourself. When this act communicates that you are a person of internal value, high standards and keen observation, a simple compliment can be enormously validating.
Here are the most powerful ways to avoid falling into the frame of seeking approval and to become the approver in any interaction:
First, seek your own joy. Be playful because it feels good to you. Enjoy flirting because flirting is fun. Don’t ever be outcome dependent; just enjoy the process of interacting for its own sake, or for the sake of becoming a more effective communicator.
Then, qualify and validate. Qualifying someone is simply the act of seeing where their values match with yours. The prerequisite to qualification is knowing what your values are, knowing what you like, expect, and accept from yourself and other people. The more specific you are, the higher the quality of people you will be inviting into your life.
Some values that will undoubtedly fill your life with empowering people include a positive outlook, creativity, playfulness, spontaneity, sense of humor, sense of fashion, sense of adventure, passionate drive, health consciousness, etc. Build from this list your own set of values that will give you a crystal clear sense of what you like.
Values make you a source of validation, while qualification is the process of validation. In other words, when you have your own values, you come pre-approved to anyone who shares them, and you come into every interaction as the approver, approving others in accordance with what is important to you.
When you know what you like, you can qualify for these traits in others and validate or affirm them for having the qualities that you value. These seal the circuit of mutual attraction from which every strong relationship arises.
Qualification: Recognize your values and seek them in others. Are you fun? You seem creative, are you an artist? Are you adventurous? You have a good sense of humor? Are you always this way or are you just trying to impress me? Oh no you’re from Long Island … does that mean you’re overly opinionated?
Validation: Acknowledge your values as you find them in others. Statements of approval can be as simple as: You’re cool. You’re fun. You have great energy. You’re playful, I like that. You have a great sense of fashion. You have a good sense of humor, or you have a great laugh.
If you ever feel like you are overly validating, simply scale it back by throwing in a light tease. You might say, “You have a great laugh … although it does sound a little evil,” or, “You’re fun, I like that … ah but the fact that you’re from Canada … I don’t think I can continue this conversation.” Always with a wink and a smile.
When we remember that all the friends and lovers we have today were strangers when we met them, we might start to wonder what makes the difference between a million strangers we’ll never remember and a precious few we’ll never forget? The distinction is this: at some point in your interactions with the latter, you qualified them, and they you; you validated them, and they you.
When you recognize the distinction of seeking approval and being the approver, you’ll notice that the process of qualification and validation occurs all day long, even, if not especially, among strangers.
Every time you walk briskly past a begging homeless person, every time you give a warm smile to your door man, every time you turn your head for a second look at an attractive stranger—you’re engaged in the process.
And by bringing the process to the level of conscious awareness and intentional practice, you can engage it more fully to turn the brief and fleeting windows of our daily social interactions into real connections of the present and loving relationships of the future.
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