If there's one pet peeve I have right now, it's the current way being an "alpha male" is talked about in most pick up and dating circles. I've gotten to the point personally where I cringe every time I hear some guy talking about "being alpha."
But I don't want to go on an anti-alpha tirade here, because at it's core, the alpha male ideology is very correct; it's just that the term itself has become so laden with cultural baggage that "the alpha male" has just about become a stereotype -- a clownish, cartoon caricature of what an alpha male used to be.
Every time I hear the term "alpha" these days, I imagine some bald, shirtless, gargantuan, vein-popping 'roid-head screaming, "Alpha... ALPHA!!!" at the top of his lungs, and a crowd of skinny nerdy guys standing around him, pointing at him in awe, and whispering to each other, "That's alpha. That's how you get the ladies."
This post is my effort to wrestle back the term "alpha male" from the shadow of itself it's become, and redefine once and for all what the term really means -- and exactly how to be an alpha male... without turning yourself into a cartoon character.
Origins of the Alpha Male
"Alpha male" wasn't always a term that meant a man who ate rusty nails like other men eat Doritos and clubbed women over the head with T-rex femurs to drag them back to his cave, willing or otherwise.
The terminology actually originates in ethology, the name for the scientific discipline devoted to the study of animal behavior. There are five rank designations used in ethology:
- Alpha (the leader of a group)
- Beta (the second-in-command)
- Omega (the lowest of the low; completely subordinate to all others)
You can infer it's probably much better to be the alpha or the beta than it is to be the omega.
But wait, it's more nuanced than that.
There are other individuals -- nomads -- who operate outside of the groups, and don't fall into any of the five main ethological designations. These nomads may at times come into conflict with alpha males, defeat them, and assume alpha male status of the defeated alpha males' groups.
So the big players in ethology end up looking like this:
- Alphas lead their groups, protect them, look out for them, and mate with the top females.
- Betas bide their time, help the alphas succeed, and take over if the alpha dies or is killed or otherwise disappears, becoming the de facto replacement alpha and getting access to the women when the original alpha male is gone.
- Nomads operate outside the hierarchy, not being traditionally ranked ethologically, until they come into contact with a group and, if successful in challenging the group's reigning alpha male, become the new alpha.
You can quickly see that the ethological view of intra-group hierarchical rankings is a lot more nuanced than what the pick up community bandies about. If you listen to most of what's said there, you'll get this message:
"There are alphas, and then there are betas. Dominant men, and weak men. You're either one... or the other. You get either everything... or nothing."
Now, if you know me, you know I talk a lot about finding the middle ground and avoiding extremes. This is a big reason why I get so annoyed with what I hear from most guys instructing others on how to be an alpha male these days.
They take things to the extreme, and recommend that men become cartoonish versions of what a truly dominant, alpha male is.
And what happens when you take something to the extreme, of course, is that you end up looking silly, graceless, and tryhard -- to everyone with any modicum of social awareness.
And that, of course, especially includes women.
Rise (and Fall) of the "Fake Alphas"
I'll start by saying this isn't just a pick up community thing. Men have been trying to position themselves and posture as dominant males since long before anything like an underground international community of seducers came into being. And they've, of course, long achieved varying degrees of success.
In the Hip-Hop world (and elsewhere, but you hear it a lot here), someone who tries to be something he isn't is called a "poseur" -- pronounced like "poser." The poseur is seen to be "posing" like a model would pose; it's all about appearance, without any real substance. Many of the modern "I'm So Alpha!" guys are like this -- they're more concerned with appearing strong and dominant than they are with actually being it.
The problem that catches them is that, in their quest to be seen as alpha males, they never really take the time to learn what being a dominant male really entails -- so they end up getting the crucial details wrong.
If you ask your average pick up community guy what being alpha is all about, he's going to give you back a list that looks something like this:
- You do whatever you want
- You don't take crap from women or anybody else
- You have dominant body language and eye contact
- You take command of group situations and are clearly the leader
- You're loud, physical, and aggressive, and others are intimidated by you
I'll admit, that sounds like a pretty solid list, on first blush. You read through that, and you think to yourself, "Yeah, for sure. That's the guy that just ends up getting whatever he wants, and everyone else defers to him."
But the guys who take this as their whole approach to being alpha males actually usually fail quite miserably, because stuff like this is only half the equation.
When I first started going out actively to improve socially and meet women, I spent a little time trying to mold myself into a stereotypical alpha male the way it's described by most folks in the community. After about six months though, the buzz wore off and my natural social intuition kicked back in and told me, "This is way too over the top. Scale it back down and re-introduce nuance; you're not a damn cartoon character."
So I did. I stopped trying to be the really loud guy slapping everyone on the back and out-alphaing everybody else. And when guys would do that around me, I'd just ignore them or shrug them off or be real chill with them (see "Dealing with Disruptive Men"), and they'd shut themselves down or back off or end up looking tryhard, and everyone else would see it and women would gravitate toward me instead of them. It was trippy.
What I realized, you see, was that it isn't the guy who's pulling out all the stops to be alpha who ends up being viewed as the most attractive, dominant male in the group.
In fact, that guy digs his own grave -- he ends up looking tryhard. People know a walking caricature when they see it -- and they know, right away, a guy like that isn't legit.
It's the guy who's alpha without even trying that people end up recognizing as the dominant male -- and this is where my entire philosophy of "real alpha" stems from today.
How to Be an Alpha Male... Without Becoming a Stereotype
A lot of my realizations about dominance stem from investment theory and from understanding sprezzatura and the Law of Least Effort. Once you have those things down, you quickly start seeing that the men (and women) viewed as most powerful and most dominant -- the most alpha of all -- are NOT the ones, necessarily, who are the loudest, who slap people's backs the hardest, and who out-muscle everyone else, verbally and otherwise.
They are, rather, the ones who get their way most often, with the smallest amount of effort.
Who's more alpha -- the man who commands a woman by taking her by the arm and dragging her to a sofa, or the man who commands a woman by gazing seductively at a her, motioning toward the sofa, and the two of them rise together and head over?
Well, if you listened to most folks, you'd guess that the first man is the alpha male. He got all macho and yanked his girl over.
But that ignores a concept known as "buy in," something I plan to write more on in the future. What buy in states is that people are far more invested in you, and far more likely to follow you and remain loyal to you and comply with you and do more with you, when they feel as though they've made the decision to do so themselves -- rather than having been strong-armed into making that decision.
I've seen lots of men strong-arming women into moving around with them in bars and clubs. And what almost always happens is, at some point, the woman breaks away from the man and disappears.
On the other hand, I've seen my fair share as well of men charming the socks off of women and using smoothness and naturalness to guide women along in a seduction, and those men quite often leave with their girls.
Those latter are men variously from the "real alpha" caste, or from the nomad caste (the guys who enter a group and peel off a girl of their own).
In fact, I'd even say that if you're cold approaching, you really shouldn't concern yourself all that much with being "alpha" in the traditional sense of the word -- alpha pertains mostly to group situations, and you're more likely to bed women as a strong nomad who comes in and peels women off than as the alpha male center of a group (who usually ends up with the alpha female of the group, and the two of them are paired up that way -- one of the limitations of social circle game).
But anyway, back to being alpha.
Being the alpha male isn't about being a caricatured "tough guy." It's about mixing vast inner strength and a bit of a hard edge with charm and social grace.
The example I'm most enamored with at the moment is Harrison Ford. I've had several girlfriends of mine confess to me that they find Harrison Ford very attractive. And it's not hard to see why.
Harrison Ford is a penultimate alpha male, in the realest sense of the term. He's a real leader -- he's tough and gruff, doesn't smile much, seemingly doesn't care a heck of a lot what other people think, but he's also sexy, he's warm, and he looks out for people. He's got a rugged exterior, but a good heart, and he's charismatic as hell.
Most guys I see trying to be alpha try to be rugged on the outside, and rugged on the inside, and charisma is an afterthought for them. Women recognize this as fake, and they run away from it. Or they just feel like it's too much, go into auto-rejection, and get scarce.
Learning how to become an alpha male isn't about learning how to be a brick wall outside and in -- it's about learning how to meld strength of character with plain old character.
Here's what I recommend you focus on in your quest to become truly alpha:
- Decide what you will and won't tolerate from people. It's incredibly important you know where your limits are. e.g., if a woman teases you a little bit in a conversation, that's fine, you can deal with it. But if you're not in the mood for teasing girls and she's really pressing you, you'll have to set her straight and let her know that isn't cool.
- Learn to communicate what you won't tolerate with grace. What we just said in #1 though doesn't mean that you're alpha by telling a girl who's teasing too hard that she'd better knock it off or else, or that you're alpha by back-turning her or walking away. That stuff's just rude and/or silly, and it's universally childish (and weak in its childishness... it isn't what a man would do). Instead, learn to be subtle... if she over-teases you, you shrug a little, roll your eyes to the side, and let your attention drift off... it's now her job to reengage you and bring you back into things.
- Leave off the social butterflying. One huge misconception that most guys have about being the dominant guy in a group is that the dominant guy is the one who's doing all the talking. Are you kidding me? It takes a lot of work to talk... and dominant men don't do a lot of work. Picture a lion sitting among his pride... he's relaxing, not trying to entertain. Heck, picture Harrison Ford again -- can you envision him blabbing non-stop to a group of people he's just met? Can you picture Sean Connery doing this?
They'll be social, sure -- they'll tell a few stories, crack a few jokes, get everyone liking them. And then they'll fast switch into focusing on talking to that pretty girl they like a lot (if they're there for women) -- so fast you'll hardly notice. One minute they're socializing, the next minute they're getting to know a girl one-on-one. Everyone else respects this decisiveness a lot more than they do the guy who keeps trying and trying and trying to win them over by blabbing. It gets old.
- Quit trying to tool guys. The most respected, dominant, successful men I know with women never try to tool or AMOG other men. Never. They build other men up -- make them sound good.
Why do real alphas never tear others down and only build them up instead (or ignore them / marginalize them if they're being ignorant)? Because, quite simply, it's the social ladder climbers who tool others to try and advance their position. Leaders, by contrast, build others up and confer value upon them, because they don't want weak people in their group -- they want strong ones, they want allies who're grateful for being recognized and appreciated, and they want to disarm with charm rather than try and beat down with verbal or physical intimidation.
- Go for what you want FAST. While the fake alphas are busting their asses posturing and trying to look tough and sound dominant, you start talking to the cutest girl there, and within a few minutes invite her to go sit with you. And twenty or thirty minutes after that, you invite her to go have a nightcap with you, and the two of you leave and head back to your place.
Fast, easy, effective. And don't worry, everyone else notices -- people really do ultimately pay more attention to the results others produce than the reactions they get. And everybody sees the guys full of hot air standing around trying to be alpha, while the actual alpha male (or, in some cases, nomad) goes and takes his woman and leaves.
- Do use dominant body language... but don't be a caricature. Best example of this is how some guys trying to be alpha hold their arms out a little too far from their sides, as if trying to exaggerate how big and muscular their arms are. I learned this one was bad back in high school, when hanging out with some girls I worked with.
"What's with Royce and his arms being held so far out, have you seen that?" one girl asked the others. She was referring to a pretty ripped guy who often tried to seem like a really tough guy, and held his arms too far out from his sides. "I think he must have a lot of armpit hair or something and he can't close his arms," another girl joked. They all laughed. "Too much deodorant on or something and his arms get stuck that way," another one said, and they all laughed again.
Exaggerated body language: it looks silly. Yes, stand tall, and do puff your chest out -- but not so far out you look like a rooster. Aim to look like James Bond instead.
- Remember to make it natural and stop trying to pose. If you scan through the above points, you can quickly pick up a theme:
• Don't over exaggerate your displeasure (#2)
• Don't over-try to win people over and be liked (#3)
• Don't over-try to intimidate guys or out-alpha them (#4)
• Don't waste time posing when you could be closing (#5)
• Don't over exaggerate dominant body language (#6)
See the trend? It's don't be tryhard. The instant people start thinking a guy is tryhard, he's banned in their heads from ever being considered a true alpha male leader of the pack. Real alphas don't try to lead or work on the appearance of leading... they just lead.
- Be cool. If people don't like you, they won't follow you, no matter how alpha you try to be. Humans are not a species where sheer physical dominance wins the day -- it's a combination of perceived physical presence, and demonstrated social ability. If a guy is short and stocky but moves solidly, and compliments that with a 100-megawatt smile and charm and moving fast to close on what he wants, he's going to be seen as alpha. If a guy is tall and lanky but moves his body slowly and takes up space with his body and is chill and relaxed in his demeanor and also moves things very smoothly but very quickly forward, he'll be seen as alpha.
Becoming an alpha male isn't about being a beefcake who yells at women and head butts walls. It's about mastering your physical presence and your social presentation -- being solid, confident, cool, and charming, and not wasting time trying to pose and instead looking for opportunities to close.
Those are the kinds of men women go for. Always remember that women are far more attuned than the vast majority of men to power dynamics, too -- so while a guy who's a meathead may think he's more alpha than you are, women are still going to recognize if you're ignoring his efforts to tool you and are instead moving with social grace and effortlessness and you're closing on the girl you want.
Women notice that in a BIG way. That's why real alphas get the girls... while fake alphas get left standing around still trying to win people over and tool people and wondering why the heck that beautiful girl left with that less active guy.