Hopefully by now, you understand how much nonsense the whole alpha male thing is. While social hierarchy does play a role in human interactions, we’re far more complicated than a simple description of dominance versus subservience could ever reveal.
If you haven’t caught up on the research from the past few decades, here’s an article with links to plenty of studies explaining how misguided the pickup artist’s idea of the alpha male really is.
No, I’m not here to tear down the alpha male. That’s already been done.
Instead, I want to share an example that everyone can relate to, and then discuss the nuance behind the concept, because the notion that a dominant individual is more attractive isn’t inherently wrong. The question is what it actually means to be dominant …
For eight years, I was a teacher at a continuation high school. That’s where students who’ve been kicked out of their “regular” high school are sent. There are a myriad of reasons why a kid might end up at a continuation school, but among them are the (mostly) boys who have a problem with authority and will take every opportunity to challenge an adult.
Being a teacher to these boys is the stereotypical alpha male wolf/gorilla/chinchilla/whatever scenario — you’re at the top of the social pyramid, and you have a bunch of young males constantly trying to usurp your position.
As the teacher, you have two general ways of responding:
- You rule with an iron fist. You squelch dissent, and no kid gets away with any kind of infraction, no matter how trivial. Punishments are severe. Detentions are the norm.
- You rule with empathy. If you’re challenged, you take the opportunity to build a connection and figure out why the kid acted out. You let the minor infractions go, yet dole out consequences firmly and fairly when it’s a major infraction. One-on-one chats are the norm, and detentions are rare.
(There’s also a third option where you just give in and let the kids have their way. But those teachers don’t last very long, so we’ll ignore them for the purposes of this post.)
Now, let me ask you: Which teacher will the kids respect more?
If you’ve ever been in school, then you undoubtedly know the answer.
Teacher #1 is only going to come across as a tyrant and maybe even insecure. While students may choose to obey, simply because they don’t want to end up in juvenile hall, they certainly won’t harbor any respect for the teacher.
Teacher #2, on the other hand, earns the respect of the students without demanding it. When this teacher does take a stern stance, the students will actually listen. Invariably, Teacher #2 is the one students remember with admiration, even decades later.
In many ways, social dynamics in the adult world aren’t all that different than in a classroom. I used the classroom scenario because it’s something pretty much everyone can remember from when they were a kid. And yet, a lesson that’s so obvious in a classroom is often forgotten once people go off into the adult world.
The bottom line is that humans are prosocial animals, and traits such as agreeableness and sensitivity are valued. True dominance is earned when others voluntarily offer you their respect.
Nowadays, I see guys taking such great lengths to appear dominant. They’re bullheaded and stubborn, they won’t ever admit to being wrong, they’re even rude and condescending to others. They demand subservience from everyone.*
And while people may choose to defer to them, simply because they’re just too much of a pain in the ass to deal with otherwise, certainly no one respects them.
Then there are the guys who are laid-back and relaxed. They’re always positive and upbeat, and people enjoy being around them. At the same time, they’re confident and know how to stick up for themselves and those they care about when appropriate.
These guys don’t need to demand subservience. People naturally look up to them.
Ultimately, that’s how dominance makes you attractive. If you’re out in public, and it’s clear to strangers that the people around you sincerely admire you — well, that’s the truest display of dominance. And that’s what actually makes you attractive, not all that BS posturing that pickup artists would have you engage in.
Okay, so how do you earn the respect of your peers then?
I’ll write plenty more about this …
*As a sidenote to all this, I’d ask you to consider what kind of dominance behaviors President Trump exhibits, and perhaps that will shed some light on why some people roll their eyes at his actions.