Monday

THE IRONMAN SETS LIMITS

A critical chapter, so pay close attention.
In his pursuit of a woman, an Ironman draws a mental line in the sand over which he will not step. The line will vary at different stages in his development, and, curiously, may actually be more lenient and flexible as The Ironman matures, as he gets to know himself better and realize his full strength. In the early years, an Ironman may be far more hard-nosed.

For example, when he is very young, an Ironman may decide that if a woman ever neglects to return a phone message he's left with her secretary, answering machine, or voice mail, he will not call her again until she has made a positive move toward him, stopped by his desk and asked him to lunch, invited him over, left a phone message for him.

This is not a bad thing for a young Ironman to decide. I like it. It's a code. It's a set rule to live by. It provides guidance, a roadmap for those times when life has become murky, unclear. And I particularly like it because it's tough and uncompromising. There are many times in his life when an Ironman must be tough and uncompromising, even when it's hard, even when it's frightening, even when it's disappointing.

'She seems to like me,' thinks the young Ironman, 'yet two days ago I left a clear message on her answering machine to give me a buzz. I still haven't heard from her. Maybe her answering machine's on the fritz. Maybe she's out of town. Maybe I should overlook it and call her again.' But the young ironman has his rule: He never calls a woman who hasn't returned his call. Never.

So even though his feelings are cloudy and he's unsure what to do, he has a personal code of conduct that tells him what to do: Don't call. He may want desperately to call. He may be thinking, 'God, what if her secretary didn't take the message and by not calling it looks like I'm ignoring her.' Too bad. You're an Ironman and you got to take your chances.

Figure it this way. If she's lost whatever little interest in you she's had, big deal. You phoned once, didn't get a response, and so have moved on to other things. At the very least she'll think, 'H'mmmm, I guess he didn't like me that much, either.'

If she does like you and has neglected to return your call out of busyness or laziness, you've put yourself on record as somebody who expects to have his calls returned, no excuses. You'll get her attention. She'll sense your pride, your hard-nosedness. She'll realize, rather quickly, that you're not a man to be trifled with. You've got limits. You can't be treated shabbily or off-handedly.

Here's the worst-case scenario. She does like you — a lot. Her answering machine was on the blink. Now, because she hasn't heard from you, she assumes you no longer care for her. Hurt, angry, she resumes dating her old boyfriend, he asks her to marry him, they get engaged and you're out of the picture.

Unlikely, but it could happen. Too bad. You're the Ironman and you've got to take your chances. These miscommunications can happen when you have such a strict code by which you live. But I can tell you this. For every one time you lose a woman out of hard-nosedness, you'll gain a dozen. That's how much power you project when people sense you're a man with a code, an uncompromising sense of pride, the inner toughness even to lose a woman over principle.

And you know something? The longer you live by your code, the more strictly you adhere to it, the surer you'll become that what you're doing is right, and the more you'll come to enjoy your burgeoning sense of self-respect. For that's where being appealing to others really begins -- with your own strong sense of self-respect.

Earlier in the chapter I hinted that as an Ironman matures and truly comes to understand his inner power, the power he has developed by living the past ten years as an Ironman, he may, if he feels like it, decide to call a woman who has neglected to call him back. He can do it because by this time he has had so many women, and has been so fully in control in his relationships with them, he now has the confidence he will soon be dominating the very woman who neglected to return his phone call. It will just be a matter of time.

He calls her by saying, "I guess you didn't get my message. I called you the other day to say hello." If she really did get his message, she'll be pleased to be let off the hook. And she'll be impressed by his confidence. Of course she couldn't have got his message. Otherwise she would have returned the call.

But, again, this is for the experienced, confident Ironman. Don't use it as an excuse to phone a woman who hasn't returned your call. I'd much rather see you err on the side of hard-nosedness. It makes you different. With all the weak, compromising, anxiety-ridden men out there, a man with the guts to take the hard line, even if it means he may be cutting himself off from someone he likes, truly stands out.

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