Why Powerful Women Smile
Dear E. Jean:
I’m a thirty-something career woman with zero social skills.
I’ve always been unpopular. My awkward attempts at socializing have been met with scorn and repulsion. After years of humiliation and rejection, I gave up.
I have been enjoying a placid existence working hard and staying out of people’s way. But now I realize my career path is being cut off because I can’t communicate with people. I’m getting married soon and want to have children and I’m worried I may not be a good mother.
I’ve visited psychiatrists; but I got tired of talking about my parents who were nothing but loving and supportive. Is it too late for me? How do I gain social skills? When I open my mouth, people run in the other direction—The Piranha
Piranha, My Sweet Potato:
You’re “awkward”? Fine. “Unpopular”? Excellent. Hell, woman, you can build a trillion-dollar career on being awkward (like Mark Zuckerberg), unpopular (like Steve Koch), rude (Steve Jobs, Elon Musk), unpleasant (Megyn Kelly), repellent (Richard Nixon), scornful (Sheryl Sandberg), stubborn (Jeff Bezos), impatient (Senator Amy Klobuchar), and ice-queeny (Christine Lagarde). Here, take a look at Madame Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, snubbing a bumbling Ivanka Trump.
As many unlikable people get to the top as likable ones. But those examples above are nothin’ compared to the most disagreeable successful person in America, the woman who ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and won because she was repugnant. Let’s see what we can learn from her, shall we?
The Art of Being Immensely Unlikable
Marjorie Taylor Green’s Two Tips for Career Success
MTG’s Tip #1: Be Obnoxious At All Times
When the House — a first in the modern era — banishes your cross-trained ass from committee assignments because you endorse the execution of Democrats and spread perilous and racist misinformation, do not go quietly. Heavens no! Instead, immediately start yelling that wearing a mask compares to the horrors of the Holocaust. Then, for good measure, lather-up the lunkheads, refer to the Jan 6th rioters as “non-violent trespassers,” try to visit some of them in a D.C. jail and demand to see “the political prisoners.”
MTG Tip #2: Stay Loathsomely Current
Yes, running down the street after a survivor of the child-massacre at Sandy Hook and shouting at him like a female baboon discharging her excrement is great, but the ape/shit thing gets old. A little harassment of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez keeps you in shape, and then when you get a nice fundraiser at Jackson Hole, Patagonia will boycott not only you, but the whole ski resort!! Win-Win, folks!
This concludes the “examples of people with zero social skills rising in their careers” portion of E. Jean’s answer.
Now that I have proved, Ms. Piranha, that you can be an unlikable fish with teeth that can devour a cow and still advance your career—which is kind of fun and makes me sort of love you—let’s turn to other tactics which might help. And, of course, it wouldn’t hurt your career if you smiled (Ok, Ok, we’ll come back to the smile):
First Strategy: Kill the Lie Your current lie is, “When I open my mouth, people run.” This is some major psychological bullshit which causes you to expect people to run, and when you expect people to run, you’re standing there like a numbskull and not listening to what those people are saying, and when you are not listening to what people are saying, it turns them off, and when they’re turned off, they turn around and leave, and thus confirm your lie. As Thoreau said, “We find what we expect.” A cognitive behavioral therapist won’t waste your emotional energy making you flap your gums about Ma and Pa, but, instead, will help you, as neuroscientist Stephen Fleming says, “think about your thinking — a fragile, beautiful, and frankly bizarre feature of the human mind.”
Second Strategy: Revise Your Priors. I.e., Overhaul your mental list of grievances and dissatisfactions with yourself by comparing it to reality. Do this about every twenty minutes.
Third Strategy: Bring Cookies. You won’t be scorned if you arrive with macadamia-nut cookies and release them to co-workers like clay birds being catapulted in a skeet shoot. Trust me.
Fourth Strategy: Hate Who Your Bosses Hate: Obviously you and your future husband fell in love because you share interests and adore many of the same things; but at work, hating the same things as your bosses may help create simpatico faster than Rep. Mo Brooks inciting a riot. It signals that you’re bold enough to break social norms (you’re supposed to lurve everything) and trashing the same restaurants, sports teams and Instagram influencers develops “interpersonal closeness,” according to Jennifer Bosson, a Professor of Psychology at the University of South Florida, who, from her photo, looks like she’s never detested so much as a fly in her life.
Fifth Strategy: Smile: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, I KNOW. Women! We’re all sick of being told to smile. But, damn it, smiling boosts your mood. Smiling tricks your mind. Science even shimmies out on a limb and claims that a laugh makes you feel happier, and when you feel happier, you look happier and when you look happier, it’s easier to get along at work. I don’t want to snap any chastity belts here (I don’t have the data) but powerful women probably smile more than women without power. Watch Vice President Kamala Harris. She’s congenial as a dewdrop, as direct as a hailstorm, and all the while she grins her jaws off.
A smile, Ms. Piranha, will help you rise from the muck heap, which is good because many executives prefer promoting a person who rises from the muck heap of her mistakes and turns things around, over a person who doesn't muck-up at all.
And now, let’s turn to the people who have more social skills than Benjamin Franklin and more wit than Jane Austen, the famous Conflab . . .
The Conflab is where we hash over the questions sent to Ask E. Jean—and where our boisterous community rescues mankind. Today we are solving the problem of Ms. Piranha, who says she has “zero social skills,” has “always” been “unpopular,” and that her “awkward attempts at socializing have been met with scorn and repulsion.”
She also says that “after years of humiliation and rejection” she “gave up.”
If ever there was an Ask E. Jean letter that calls to the brains, the hearts and the uteruses (Pardon me Kal) of the Conflab, this letter is it.
Who has NOT felt rejected? Unpopular? Lost? Unliked?
How did you overcome it? How did you charm people into loving you? Or, if not loving you, at least putting up with you so you could advance?
Drop me photos of your pets!
No. This is not a picture of Senator Rand Paul. I can see how you could easily mistake this porcine pal for Senator Rand Paul, but, no. It is Mr. Trubs, Lori Herron’s pig. He’s a service animal who deserves many tender scratches behind both ears. He is one of Lori’s passel of piglets who have, Lori says, “more than once alerted my sleeping spouse when I have a seizure (I have epilepsy),” and that is a lot more than Senator Rand Paul has ever done for America.
What in Blazing Hell Is this Thing?
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Top photo of flamingo, Marie La Fauci, Getty Images; Photo of outcast, Francisco Carta Fotografo, Getty Images; Photo of MTG, The Washington Post, Getty Images; Photo of outcast in Conflab, Suedhang, Getty Images; Photo of Joshua Matz, E. Jean, and Robbie Kaplan walking into Federal Court: Jefferson Siegle for The New York Times.