"Excuse me, may I have your seat?"

by Eric Disco
Nov 16

Thirty years ago, Dr. Stanley Milgram requested his graduate students perform an experiment.

They were to go down into the subways of New York City and, over and over, ask people if they could have their seat.

“Excuse me, may I have your seat?”

Originally, the experiment was conducted to see just how many people would give up their seats. Surprisingly, two thirds did.

But the more interesting part about this experiment is the trepidation the students experienced trying to carry out this task.

Those of you who have had trouble breaching the invisible barrier between you and that attractive stranger on the street will relate to their experiences.

The seemingly simple assignment proved to be extremely difficult, even traumatic, for the students to carry out.

“It’s something you can’t really understand unless you’ve been there,” said Dr. David Carraher, 55, now a senior scientist at a nonprofit group in Cambridge, Mass.

Dr. Kathryn Krogh, 58, a clinical psychologist in Arlington, Va., was more blunt: “I was afraid I was going to throw up.” (NY Times)

Kathryn Krogh looked so sick that “another woman sprang up from her seat and twice asked Krogh, who kept her eyes fixed on the ground, if she was O.K.”

Dr. Milgram asked another one of his graduate classes to do the experiment. But no one would.

Finally one student agreed. He said he would go out and try it 20 times.

The student could only complete it 14 times. Why only 14? It was too difficult.

So Dr. Milgram went out to try it for himself.

But when he tried, he found himself “frozen.”

“The words seemed lodged in my trachea and would simply not emerge,” he said in the interview.

Retreating, he berated himself: ‘What kind of craven coward are you?”

A few unsuccessful tries later, he managed to choke out a request.

“Taking the man’s seat, I was overwhelmed by the need to behave in a way that would justify my request,” he said. “My head sank between my knees, and I could feel my face blanching. I was not role-playing. I actually felt as if I were going to perish.”

Another student said what he was doing felt “unethical.” He felt like he was deceiving the other passengers. In order to feel better about what he was doing, he would give them a card explaining the experiment.

Keep in mind what these people were doing.

They weren’t stealing money. They weren’t being sexual. They weren’t making a commotion in front of large groups of people.

They were asking a person for their seat on the subway train.

Many who have tried to interact with a stranger in public have experienced this.

People will go to great lengths to avoid public embarrassment and rejection. They will avoid at all costs doing something they perceive as socially inappropriate.

“Just go up and talk to her,” is a common admonishment that very few in our society are comfortable doing themselves.

I had a coaching client this Saturday who wanted to learn in one day all the mechanics of meeting women in public, from getting attraction to getting her phone number.

Yet, when we went into a supermarket, he felt “creepy” picking up a food object and asking an attractive woman if she’d tried it.

“It feels like I’m lying to her,” he told me.

This is completely normal. Everyone has these thoughts and feelings, particularly when starting out.

Once you do it enough times though, those thoughts and feelings fade to the background. You can focus on other things, like voice tone, eye contact, and using edgier openers.

But those thoughts always creep back. Take a few days off–or don’t get enough sleep the night before–and you may find yourself temporarily back in that head space.

Those emotions and thoughts crowd your mind.

Knowing how to deal with it, how to take one step after another up the ladder out of that hole, is the only way forward.

There is no substitute for understanding yourself.


posted in Acceptance, Initiative and Inhibition

11 responses
Anthony says:

Hey Eric, I remember when this came up in the forums and I read the whole study. It’s very fasinating. Especially the whole thing of logic vs emotions. Like, you could tell someone logically that nothing bad is ever going to happen, and let’s say that theoretically nothing bad would ever happpen if you approach a stranger for anything. Most men people(women too) would still be uncomfortable doing so. Because even though you can convince them logically, that won’t do anything to help them emotionally right?

Another that I’m glad that you brought up is that in your experience with your student who thought he was being ‘creepy’ at the supermarket. This example is something that I myself have noticed. Do you think that he thought that he was lying to her because he didn’t really care about what he was asking her about and was therefore not genuine. In other words, if I were at the store and I saw a cute girl that I wished to talk to and went up to her and asked about a certain item that I was just using as prop to talk to her, there wouldn’t be alot of conviction behind it, because I could care less what she thinks about the item at hand. Whereas, if I really needed another opinion on something I could care less who I ask, but if it happens to be a cute girl then that’s a bouns(because I get to talk to a cute girl and get an opinion). So the best scenerio to me any way would be to walk up to her and genuinely state why I was doing so in the most confident, and non-intrusive, non awkward socially calibrated matter. What do you think about this Eric? Look forward to your respose.

Zhelyazko says:

Okay but HOW do I understand myself. How?

Eric Disco says:

So the best scenerio to me any way would be to walk up to her and genuinely state why I was doing so in the most confident, and non-intrusive, non awkward socially calibrated matter.

This is what’s known as “being direct” or “direct opening.” Direct opening is fine and long-term, if you’ve never done it, you should incorporate it into your game. However, there is the problem if you’re *only* direct, if you never use something in the environment to start conversations.

At the start, I was not very social with people I didn’t know. If I were in an elevator, I would not say, “Hi, how are you?” to another person. After I got into a cab and told the cab driver where I was going, I would not feel like asking him how he is or get into a conversation with him. I may not *feel* like calling up friends or going out to new events. I would feel more comfortable staying home and only talking to very close friends.

My main motivation in becoming more social was indeed to meet women. So theoretically, I could be very direct about that. The only time I *feel* like talking with a woman is when I’m attracted to her. So if I wanted to be 100% genuine, I could simply talk to women when I was attracted to them. And if I were truly trying to be “genuine,” I would tell her, when I talked to her, that I was attracted to her. There’s nothing wrong with doing that. That’s being direct and “genuine.” (I suppose if I wanted to be truly honest I should tell her I want to fuck her as well.)

However, if I continued to only take action when I *felt* like taking action, I would severely limit myself. That means I would go my entire day keeping to myself and then when I see that attractive woman, all of a sudden, I would try to be social. It would be like trying to flip a switch.

This is one of the biggest problems when it comes to approach anxiety. Guys are trying to do too much at once. This is like trying to run a 10 mile race when you feel like it. Yeah, you may feel like it, but guess what? If you haven’t been going out for a couple weeks and running every day regardless of whether you felt like running, when you get on the starting line of that 10 mile race, you’re not going to be able to run fast for very long.

There’s an old saying: Fake it till you make it.

Even though you don’t feel like talking to someone, even though you don’t really have a reason to talk to someone, you fake it until you have a reason.

Yesterday I got onto a crowded subway train. I found myself standing next to a girl who looked like she could have been on the cover of Vogue magazine. She was carrying a bag that was furry to the point where it looked like she was carrying a dog. I turned to her and said, “Does that bag purr when you pet it?”

It was spontaneous. It was fun for me. I was having fun. And she reacted the same way: smiling and having fun. She told me that her dog died and she made it into a bag. I believed her for a second and then we both laughed. We had a great interaction after that.

I can tell you right now, I would NOT have said that had I not been “faking” it up till then. I had been asking different women for directions and doing other stupid things that I initially did not *feel* like doing. Since I had been doing that stuff earlier, I *felt* uninhibited when I was standing next to that gorgeous girl.

When guys start out, they *feel* like they’re lying by asking for directions when they don’t really care about the answer. But it’s usually not even an ethical issue for them. They just don’t like how it feels. Once they start doing this stuff more, that feeling goes away.

Asking for directions is just an excuse to have a social interaction. If I were naturally uninhibited enough, perhaps I could just say whatever I thought or whatever came to mind whenever I saw an attractive woman. But typically if I’m not warmed up, those things don’t come to me until I am a half mile away from the girl.

When you start out, unless you want to fuck the girl, almost all social interactions don’t *feel* genuine. Ironically, as you practice, you are able to be more genuine and spontaneous with women.


seelow says:

Last line ftw.

Cairo says:

“But it’s usually not even an ethical issue for them. They just don’t like how it feels. Once they start doing this stuff more, that feeling goes away.”

I gotta remind myself of this. Thanks for the explanation.

PUA Vault says:

Excellent comment – I recently just had a chat with a friend of mine – he mentioned he wanted to find a good woman and things would fall into place, and I told him that he needed to go through all the micro steps from zero to hero before one could conceivable get and hold his dream ‘good woman’. This involves opening, escalating, with 5′s to 7′s to above. And there’s lessons there to be learned, and ingrained, so when the 9 shows up you’ve been there plenty of times.

lordt78 says:

Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?

Scitzoid says:

Thought I’d chime in. I might be the student Eric was referring to since we had a coaching session and I expressed my concern about indirectly asking a girl about her opinion about an item, especially when I don’t care at all about the item we’re talking about and it’s somewhat obvious I’m talking to her because she’s hot.

However, I do think that with practice I could get better at it. I think it’s an important skill to master and I learned a ton from Eric that day. How to creatively comment on a random item and get a really smooth approach going. It really softens the blow of pick up. Especially at a store where indirect might make her feel more comfortable. So I’m definitely still practicing this.

But the only problem I’ve found with the stores is that there’s just not alot of super attractive girls there. I mean, sometimes there are. But it’s more like a hit or miss situation. So I’m not saying it can’t work, but it’s just alot of luck and coincidence.

So where are all the hot girls? Street and Subway. Dunno why, but that’s just the way it is.

I’ve found that on the cold-hearted streets, direct is pretty much the only way possible though.

I recently had some coaching with a PUA called “Sasha Daygame”. (You can youtube him). He’s a bit psychotic and actually gets off creating embarrassing moments. Our session was a bit terrifying to tell you the truth. We did these really socially awkward exercises. like screaming at the top of your lungs in the middle of a busy city street where literally everyone turns around to see who it is, and some other weird socially awkward sh*t. By the end of the exercises though, I was almost relieved to do direct street pick up. This pickup where you run after a girl, get in front of her, stop her, and express your true intentions. I did about 4 direct street openers that day, and whenever I whimped out, he’d do it instead of me. He probably opened around twenty or so girls without any hesitation. I learned alot that day. I learned what fearless really meant.

So as for direct / indirect. It’s still a subject I’m wrestling with. My current opinion is: indirect for stores, direct for public places (malls, street, etc).
Also each PUA has their own style (Eric favors smooth indirect openers, whereas Sasha only does direct openers). But I don’t think there’s a style that is 100% “correct” at all times. I definitely think there’s a place for both.

Carl888 says:

@ Scitzoid: Doing direct street game with this coach Sasha, what was your (and Sasha’s) success rate?

Scitzoid says:

Carl, for me, out of the 10 approaches (over the span of a couple days) I’ve ever done I got zero number closes. That being said, I’m really not good at it and didn’t even attempt to ask for a number b/c I was pretty nervous, and the girl’s deer-in-the-headlights look which happened most of the time for me didn’t help me either. But I recognize that they were just mirroring the way I probably looked. I’ve learned that girls are just emotional mirrors.

Sasha told me he usually gets about 30-40% to give him the number but only about 10% actually follow up on a date (while the rest just flake out).

So on direct street game it’s likely to get about 1 good outcome (a date) out of 10 approaches.

There’s also an academic research study (don’t have the link handy) that confirms about 10% chance of success on direct street approaches.