If you ask people what they want, shouldn’t they know? Doesn’t everyone know what they want deep down?
People are not as introspective as one might think…
For a long time, I had the false notion that people had a deep and rich inner world filled with truths. I thought people really understood themselves. How naive I was (and still continue to be as I still make this mistake).
This may be another essay about the teleological fallacy.
The problem with psychology is that it is very theoretical and hard to prove or disprove (making it very attractive to charlatans). Freud may have a million theories about why you behave the way that you do but how can we know for certain? Freud might explain the same problem by saying that you were either hugged too much or too little as a child.
Everywhere you look, you see evidence for whatever theory you happen to believe in at the time. This is why theories are so fragile. Confirmation bias dictates that when we hold a belief near and dear, we tend to look for examples that confirm our beliefs rather than examples that deny them. The reason might be that it takes a lot of effort to initially take in a new belief, reinforce it only to replace it. In the wild, it is costly to waste our energy on things that aren’t essential. Therefore, thinking right is something that we simply weren’t wired to do in the fast-paced and dangerous world that we come from.
Why do people do what they do? Most people seem to make decisions for reasons that they themselves don’t really understand. However, they will quickly rationalize their behavior with whatever intellectual arguments/beliefs that they hold at the time.
Why do people over-eat? A Freudian might say that it has something to do with their parents not loving them enough. A new-age spiritualist might say that it is because they don’t have enough of a connection to the universe. The person with the eating problem might say that it’s because they come from an Italian family might bring in some sort of cultural rationalization and say that is a sin to go a day without pasta!
The interesting thing is that all of the arguments above point to one thing: the fact that people rarely understand why they do what they do. This is not to say that it is impossible to experiment and find out what works for you in terms of your preferences and methods for self-control, etc. I have successfully overcome many bad habits in my life through trial and error but many of my initial assessments/rationalizations turned out to be wrong.
Human knowledge tends to be very fragile. One theory gets replaced with another. And most people aren’t trained enough to even understand the basics of what they proclaim to know about.
Some implications of this in dating
The other day, I was out with some friends at a club. One of my friends bought his GF who happened to bring two of her attractive female friends. I was attracted to the blonde, let’s call her Cindy.
As the night went on, tequila made its way into our bodies. At one point, I danced with Cindy and we ended up making out. She drunkenly asked me why I hadn’t made a move earlier. A few moments later, my friend told me that his GF spoke to Cindy earlier and that she mentioned not having an interest in me.
I laughed inside because I knew that there was no way that Cindy knew herself or me enough to know for certain that she had no interest in me. Her words were not to be taken seriously. I am increasingly finding evidence for why David Deida says to listen to your woman as you would the ocean. Her words are not meant to be taken as law but rather as superficial musings stemming from her emotions in the moment.
Did the blonde really know herself enough to ascertain that she had no interest in me? If she was smarter, she would have at least remained more open (and in terms of her behavior, she definitely did, I later heard that she kissed several more men and some women too).
The point is that if I were naive, I would have taken what my friend said at face value causing me to miss out on the opportunity of seducing her. Therefore, don’t take rejection or people’s words too seriously (especially when it comes to dating). If you really have a good feeling about someone, don’t hesitate to be a little persistent to give them some time to change their mind. Plus in my experience, women find persistence to be a turn on as it may signal positive dominance and a sense of direction which are attractive qualities for a man.
This lesson can be applied to business as well. In an earlier article, I mentioned Steve Jobs and how he distrusted advice from market researchers preferring instead to rely on his own imagination/intuition.
I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’ ” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.” – Steve Jobs