Social status is highly relative.
You can be a star in one a group, and a nobody in another one. In the short span of a few minutes.
This post will review social relativity from a groups’ perspective.
When Status is LESS Relative
In The Social Exchange Rule we reviewed that social relationships often obey a non written rule based on social value exchange. It postulates that the more social value you possess, the more you can demand from others. We dubbed that social value “social currency”.
That’s the general rule. And some of those currencies are almost always in demand, no matter the group you are.
Some examples of them are:
- Social skills
- Conversation skills
- Great looks
- Lots of resources (or ability to acquire them)
When you possess them, you tend to do well in most any social circle you join.
When Groups’ Currencies Trump General Ones
But in some rare instances groups’ specific currencies, or the qualities that a specific group appreciates, can count more than the general ones.
And in extreme examples, even subvert them.
For example, a positive and upbeat personality is what most people like. But if you want to enter a circle of emo and Gothic subcultures your smiles and positive attitude might make you an outcast.
Social Relativity Examples
This is a quick overview on specific groups and what will make you valuable -or useless- within them.
Some group aggregate towards interests. Being good at whatever skill those groups value will give you status within that specific group. In a stamp collection club, the guy with the most stamps will see a boost in his social value.
In tuning’s groups, the guy with the most powerful car and stereo will probably one of the coolest guys.
Some groups bond around age.
You can see it more commonly in universities and classes. Age doesn’t give any benefits in these groups because, well… Everyone’s the same. But being of different age almost automatically makes you an outsider to that social hierarchy.
Which basically means: you don’t belong.
Some groups form out of necessity and not of out participants’ own will. Some examples are:
- High school
- Military drafts
These groups tend to be highly differentiated. Popularity is the high school social currency, strength is the social currency in the military and strength and connections in prisons.
In companies a lot of your social status will depend on your position within that company, which is rather formalized through a title.
As John Maxwell says, titles don’t make leaders, but titles certainly have a major impact in the social hierarchy within the company -and in the social status too-.
Sometimes groups can get nasty towards outsiders.
This mostly happens when the following happen:
- Strong pride in what makes them a group
- Building their pride around out-group enemies
- High similarity among members
- Out-groups are seen as dangerous for the group
Sometimes you will loosely be part of a group simply because of geographical location or proximity.
In a club, for example, your social status is highly relative to the people who are attending that club. Sometimes that will play well for you, some other times less so.
One evening for example I ended up in a club where the local football players usually hang out. Most girls in there where hookers looking for football players.
The social currency there was media popularity and footballing skills.
I shouldn’t need to tell you I was pretty much a nobody there :).
Environment Impact On Personal Values
Sometimes you will completely change environment without joining any specific group. For example: when you travel to different countries.
Simply being more exotic can get people to notice you more and make you more interesting. Or because of stereotypes or real differences, you can be perceived as “better” than the people around.
Dating is one of the starkest example of this. As a white man, traveling to an African or a South East Asian country will immediately boost my value.
In some cases, it will skyrocket my value. This is such an example.
Win Every Time: Value Targeting
And now how you can use the theory in the real life.
To get what you want from people, to start friendships or to start a relationship: get and show them the currency they specifically value.
Date an Artist:
Do you like artistic folks, do you want to join an art circle and maybe have an artist as a wife/husband? Of course they are likely want people with the same currencies. Here’s what you do: start drawing, acting and attending art exhibitions. You’ll pick the lingo, the common topics and you’ll be able to give the comfort of a shared culture and passion. Or learn history of art better than most and give her free classes -women dream to sleep with their professors :)-.
Learn from Top Business Masters: you want to mingle in business circles and attract a business mentor? Don’t write you seek employment from them, that’s what everybody does. Speak to him in a currency he wants instead. Tell him you’ll work for free for 3 months, and if you’re great and only if you’re great he can start paying you. Otherwise you’ll be happy for having learned from him and he got free labor.
Now he’s going to listen.
Also check: WIIFT
Being a social chameleon indeed is all about understanding what the people around you appreciate. And then playing up those qualities value while muting the ones they don’t.
Understand the group’s social currency and give that currency.
A breadth of experience will help you develop lots of reference points so that you will always have something to offer.
Group Social Value Drawbacks
The very nature of group specificity makes groups’ status less valuable. In the Small Pond Syndrome we reviewed how some people spend inordinate amount of energies to boost and defend their social statuses in some specific groups.
Only to one day move out of those groups and realize that what they was… Meaningless.
Unless you stick to a specific group for your whole life, I would advise to care little of groups’ internal social status.
We have seen that what people value can be highly relative depending on the groups you join. Your social status in those groups will hinge on whether or not you have the currencies that group values.
Most groups however are not very strict and value what most other groups value. Focus on those general currencies and you’ll do great. Check my Social Mastery Guide to do just that.