Social dancing teaches me a lot about life. I've had joyful moments and painful lessons. Often the two, the moments and the lessons, have had a common denominator. The thing I want to talk about today, the denominator at hand, is how to be assertive. This topic of being assertive comes to mind because I experience it every week at dance events. I also had a joyful and painful encounter with it at MonsterCon, a local comic book / toy / cosplay convention.
I attended MonsterCon and took lots of photos. Friday and Saturday were mostly about taking photos of the attendees in their creative cosplay costumes. Sunday I focused on the celebrities, film & media, writers, artists, & press, cosplay & modeling, and fan groups. My method for taking these photos was pretty simple. I went to a group's booth and told them that I was taking pictures of the guests, and could I please take their picture. Nobody said no. Before or after the photos I had the pleasure of some interesting conversations with a number of the guests. All and all the guest photography was a really neat exercise in being assertive.
There was a downside to my assertion exercise. I couldn't bring myself to ask the top guests, the really famous ones, for the chance to document their being at the convention. I just wanted to share that they were at the convention and honor their participation. It didn't happen in a handful of cases because I was not assertive enough. I was freaking out about the relative importance of these guests. Heavy sigh. I asked my lovely wife about today and she said that none of these guests would have said no. Besides, I was asking before taking their pictures, so they did have the option to say no. Maybe I'll do better next year.
I want to bring the conversation back around to social dancing. Be the dancing contra or swing, the social part begins when somebody asks another person to dance. The lucky ones are asked to dance, but this is not always a sure thing. Too many times I've some phenomenal dancers sitting out a dance because nobody asked them to participate. A more sure fire way to dance is to ask somebody. Listen... this can take a pile of guts. Going up to a stranger, or somebody you know who is too awesome for words, and then asking them to dance, can be freaking intimidating. The unfun part of social dancing happens when nobody asks you to dance and you're not up to asking other people.
Is asking a person to dance just a number game? I mean, isn't being assertive easy when the odds are in your favor? I was at a swing dance recently and spoke to an incredibly dynamic experienced dancer about asking people to dance. They had written about an inexperienced dancer asking my experienced friend for a dance. We looked around and saw several guys just standing on the sidelines. Here's the scoop on swing dancing and contra dancing: the gals outnumber the guys. The gals really want to dance, and here were two guys not doing their part! My friend was kinda peeved about the situation, and I don't blame them. These guys had the odds in their favor, but they still had problems being assertive.
A bit of personal sharing and then I'll wrap up this article! I usually don't mind asking the lovely ladies to dance. This comes from years of practice. I have to say that I've been rarely turned down when I ask somebody to dance. That's why they are there! I have been turned down because my timing was off, and they already had a partner, but the overwhelming responses to my dance requests have been positive. Does this keep doubt from sabotaging me? Nope. There are some incredible ladies that I still am reluctant to ask for a dance because I don't feel I'm good enough. Sigh. Would they say yes? Of course! Darn you doubt.
What is doubt doing? How can we overcome it and become assertive? The key is to remember that doubt is 99% us. Doubt is you speaking to yourself. There have been times when I've been ready to leave a dance because I did not feel good enough. Doubt had a stranglehold on me, but guess what, that was me screwing with myself. I asked myself to stand aside. I was there to dance and so where other people. The trick was to step around that doubting side of myself and seek the other side of the social equation, my fellow dancers.
Let's wrap this up. Social dancing works when somebody asks somebody else to dance. Taking photos of everyone at a convention works when I am brave enough to ask EVERYONE. People at a dance, and at a convention, are there for a reason. Dancers want to dance. Star guests at a convention want to interact with attendees. The thing that gets in the way are our doubts. Am I good enough? Will they say yes? The answer is yes and yes (probably!). Does a person say no because they aren't ready to dance at all? Well, that is another issue. That's their doubt. Move on and find somebody else. Would you like to dance with me? Ask me! I don't say no. The easiest way to learn assertiveness is to practice it over and over again. The good news is that social dancing will give you lots of opportunities. The painful lessons may be there, but they will surely transform into many joyful moments.