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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D. — a uniquely qualified therapist, life coach, and former university professor — has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their relationships, dating, psychology, and lifestyle.

Dr. Tian has been featured in international media, as well as co-hosting a radio show on national radio and a weekly dating advice column in a national newspaper in Singapore.

The show, “Man Up: Masculinity for the Intelligent Man” (, is David’s way of helping as many people as possible enjoy empowering and fulfilling lives, while contributing to the global understanding of masculinity in modern times. In the show, he takes your questions posed in the Man Up private Facebook group ( and answers based on his experience coaching tens of thousands of students around the world for over a decade.

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“The Man Up Show” Ep.85 – Why Social Situations Are Hard For You To Understand

Why Social Situations Are Hard For You To Understand

  • Difficulty in understanding social situations is a common problem among men all around the world and David Tian Ph.D. explains why they’re not improving.

  • David Tian Ph.D. shares that to be able to understand social situations, you need to get educated, go to a class, get instruction.

  • In this Man Up episode, David Tian Ph.D. explains why he prefers one on one coaching.

David Tian: Boom! Stop. In episode 85 of Man Up, I answer the question of, why you might have difficulty reading social situations?

[Intro Music]

Masculinity for the Intelligent Man. I am David Tian, Ph.D., and this is: Man Up!

[Music Fades]

Hi, this is David Tian, Ph.D. and welcome to episode 85 of Man Up and I’m here in Bangkok in my suite back home, it’s nice to be here. Okay, so I got a question, and it’s kind of a long one again. I’m going to summarize it. This one’s from Larry.

He’s basically asking, he found an old blogpost that I was updating until about 2 or 3 years ago on the old blog. That’s the blog that I started out blogging with like 10 years. Started it about 9 years ago. So anyway, I found a post on there on movies that I recommend to guys to watch for examples of seductive characters. Sexually attractive male characters.

And he says that he’s not sure what he’s watching. He sees a great variety of characters, some manipulative and despicable, some rich and powerful, some goofy to him and he’s not sure what he’s supposed to be seeing in these videos. And I point out in that post to watch for body language, eye contact, tonality, the vibe, the energy, the intensity or the relaxed nature. It really is different between the characters. That’s the beauty of it.

So I posted that and a long list of movies to look for. A lot of them are classics that stood the test of time, Jack Nicholson is in a bunch of them. Actually I think I arranged them by the actor and not just the movie name itself. So anyway, you can go google that and find that movies from modelling and and you’ll find it. But he’s asking, he’s saying he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t see what’s there.

Now many years ago, I had an idea of creating a video course based on breaking down movies. I hired a video editor for it but then once I started posting them, I realized that they’re actually copyrighted and I kept getting taken down by YouTube and then it was such a hassle and it became a lot more work than I anticipated so I stopped that, so, and it’s a copyright issue.

So here’s the thing, I do this in live events, I’ll do breakdowns of movie clips in live events, thanks to a couple of very good students of mine many years ago who ripped the clips often and send me the clips so I can use those. And there are some good breakdowns of movies done by some of my friends. You can find those on YouTube. So some of them are still there but I’m not sure how they got around the copyright issue.

But anyway, so they’re there but I think examples of great, attractive men can be found any weekend in any major city in the world. I discovered this fact over ten years ago, well over ten years ago and it was just a process of learning what to observe. When I was actively clubbing three or four nights a week at the bars the rest of the time, I was there. I was there and I was doing my thing.

I was talking to a lot of women and there were plenty of guys around but none of them… well 99.9% of them didn’t know what to pick up on so they had no idea what was going on. So basically they’re just blind. And I just thought, too bad for these guys but then when I started coaching, I realized that this is a common problem among men all around the world and that’s why they’re not improving because they don’t know what to look for.

This is something that I understood in other areas of life from a young age and I’m going to talk about that to answer Larry’s question. A great example of this is actually a recent one, one that applies to me is that, I use the categories of the expert eye versus the untutored eye. The expert eye versus the untutored eye. The untutored eye looks physically, I guess he’s using his eyes, to look at the thing, the phenomena, the event or whatever and doesn’t notice what is important there.

The expert eye takes one look and knows exactly what’s happening and what to do about it maybe and the analysis and so on and is already calculating, moving ahead. There’s so many great examples of this, athletics is a really easy and a great example of this. I used to use the term court sense, so in basketball, like Michael Johnson or Michael Jordan or Steph Curry, coming down the court sees a lot more that you and I do watching it or would definitely coming down the court would notice.

They’re seeing people cut, they’re seeing defensive plays taking place in the defense and they’re reading everything, and you know, many steps ahead like with Wayne Gretzky back in the day with hockey, Mario Lemieux with hockey. There are so many great examples of it.

For myself, right now, like I’m recording this and Conor McGregor’s about to fight Nate Diaz and I’m really pumped about that fight. So that’s just a total trivial thing. When Ronda Rousey got knocked out by Holly Holmes, I’m sure many of you watched those fight. If you haven’t, you got to go watch it.

When I saw the fight live, I paid for the paper view all the way from Thailand, and I watched this fight go down and I thought that a lot of the fight, Rousey just looked bad and out of control and she looks sloppy and I thought Holmes was in control the entire time.

I was like, “Whoa! What a contrast”, between that fight and Rousey’s earlier fight and it was quite a shock. And then a few days later I saw a breakdown of the fight by George St. Pierre’s coach, Firas Zahabi. And Zahabi’s put out some really interesting videos on his own YouTube channel and one of them is the breakdown of the Holly Holmes-Ronda Rousey fight.

That’s when I saw through his eyes, his expert eye, the fact that Rousey was actually doing a lot, it’s just that Holly Holmes was countering at the crucial moments. And the fact that there was a moment when Rousey almost had it but then Holmes did, at the last minute, the correct counter and she got lucky and then she escaped. Then after that, Rousey was just spent… you can just see the breakdown yourselves just google search it, YouTube search it, Firas Zahabi’s breakdown of the Rousey-Holmes fight.

The thing is like for three days I watched that, because it’s a short fight, I have watched that fight multiple times. Actually I think I was paper viewing it in Toronto. I think it was in Toronto then. Anyway, I was talking about this fight with brother in law and our friends there and I didn’t even know what the heck I was talking about. Really, like looking back on it, Zahabi’s breakdown was beautiful.

I was just so impressed. It was like a thing of beauty to behold. When he slowed it down, he showed the arm and he inter-spliced that with other clips the other people she’s fought where they made that mistake then do the counter and it was really cool to see. And in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I just have new found respect for it as I mentioned in the past video, I spent a week doing it every day in Singapore for the first time after watching it for many years, I finally did it. I’m really not a fan of the gi by the way for the guys who do BJJ.

This gym I’m at that I go to in Singapore requires 3 stripes to go to no gi. I just don’t want to waste my fingers. Anyway, just another bracket, tangent. The fight was, the fight breakdown was great. That’s an MMA breakdown and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a lot like that, a lot like chess. And when I’m watching I come at it with a novice’s eye. I don’t know what to look for and it’s like that with attraction or seduction or social interactions before you are experts, before you are a practitioner, before you make some progress like you’re an intermediate. Before you learn!

This is true about everything that you’re learning. You don’t know what to look for because you don’t know what to look for and that’s a natural normal thing. So get fucking educated. Now the easiest way to get educated is to take a course. You know, go to a class, get instruction.

You can try to DIY – do it yourself – through videos like this, through books. Learn for yourself with books and I do a lot of that myself, my first pass. My first thing would be to, actually that’s not true, maybe 10, 15 years ago my first thing would be to try to learn it myself. Actually that’s not even true neither.

My personal, first thing to do is to get one on one coaching. If that’s not affordable or if I’m not passionate enough about that skill. Then I might just try to do it on my own. I think when it came to Thai language, like I downloaded the Pimsleur courses first on my phone and then I was just too lazy, didn’t go through with them so I knew I got to get a one on one teacher, so I did that.

With martial arts, I think I’m going to have to go with the one-on-one teacher soon, I just don’t know which disciplines to focus on because I don’t want to…anyway, so this is too much detail. The point is you can learn on your own but it’s sort of like learning Karate or whatever. Karate’s not popular these days but it’s sort of like learning Muay Thai on your own through videos. I suppose you can make, if you know nothing at all, then watching the videos on how to do martial arts, will take you up because you started at zero but then as pretty quickly, you’re going to hit a plateau with most people. 99% of people. I can imagine somebody becoming an expert in their garage through videos but most people can’t do that. Then you need a personal expert feedback.

The thing is when it comes to dating, women and relationships in psychology, most people have as their instructors, maybe not instructors but peers, the people they go to for advice are people like themselves. So ask yourselves this, the people you go to for advice. Your friends. Mostly your friends.

Occasionally your parents but they’re in a different generation. They don’t quite understand the dynamics usually of people in your generation, right? So anyway, Those people, your friends, people who are your peer group, they are probably inexperienced, uneducated, unqualified, not experts, inexperienced instructors.

But you’re going to them for advice. Just let that sink in. So like imagine you’re learning how to drive a car and instead of going to a driving instructor or a school, you ask other people who have never driven a car before either. Or at most, they’ve had some driving courses. Like a few lessons.

Or maybe their dad’s driven with them, shown them how to drive a car a couple of times and you go to them and ask them to teach you. Or you go to them to ask for advice on how to drive a car. It’s just so ridiculous right? That’s why people treat one of the most important aspects of their lives, I mean relationships are arguably more important than health and wealth because if people who are perfectly healthy and have plenty of money but are lonely as fuck, what good is that, right?

Arguably, one of the the most important aspects of your life, you’re treating it with less significance, with less importance, you’re treating it with less care than driving a car which I understand because driving a car is pretty dangerous. I mean that’s basically a two-ton death machine as Elon Musk says.

So you better not kill anyone when you’re getting behind that wheel or yourself, don’t kill yourself. And it’s important because of the physical danger, they respect it, actually it’s not even that. It’s the legal right and the legal implications, you have to pass these tests.

But there’s no like, licensing for relationships or anything. So people treat this very important aspect of their lives, their social lives, dating lives, social intelligence, emotional intelligence, relationships psychology. They treat this, arguably one of the most important aspects of their lives as if they don’t matter. As if it doesn’t matter so they just crash and burn. They rely on un-qualified, unreliable sources. I mean it’s just common sense right?

But anyway, people expect to be able to just pick it up like that and they go and watch these movies and they’re surprised they don’t pick up, and what, you know, they don’t pick anything up! Because it’s sort of like me, as like an amateur and novice watching a fight versus Zahabi watching a fight.

You know, totally different. If you think about it, whatever you do for a living, you probably will notice a lot more about it than what you did, like what a total beginner would notice. This is true for jazz. Jazz is a great example. Most people who listen to high level jazz, pick up maybe ten percent of what’s really going on. I did jazz at a high level for a teenager. You know, for like, I think it was for 12 years.

Most people used to tell me that they love jazz, really, like their ear training and truly just listening to music sucks. They’re not picking up a whole lot of things. That’s one reasons why Jazz is too complex for the untutored ear. Fashion is another great example… actually, since this is a video mostly for men, fashion is a bad example.

But any women watching this, you know what it’s like when you take a guy out shopping and he’s got no clue what to look for. Most guys just wear what feels comfortable. You know, baggy clothes. Stuff that’s not too tight. You know, just safe. So there you go, fashion. .

Another one is financial reports, and this is probably one that my viewership would understand more easily. People who know how to read the finance section of newspapers, can read the stocks, the reports and so on. I’m not, I’m definitely untutored on that.

I know enough to make my way through but some of my friends, man, they actually for a living give financial advice to corporations and so on. Their eye on reading those stats is insane. And they make split second decisions and the decision is a split-second. It takes a split-second but the lead up to the decision to qualify them to make that decision is of course in many years of experience and training and you know, millions and millions of like multi-millions of dollars right on one click of a mouse for them.

So that’s another example of the untutored eye versus the cultivated eye, or the expert eye. Oh and fashion right, just came up with these before I clicked the record button, is, I forgot to mention, in fashion, what’s that show with gay guys like 4, 5 gay men who give advice – Queer Eye for the something… can’t remember what it is. But it’s like gay men pointing, by doing make overs on dudes – straight dudes.

It’s pretty funny and entertaining. Also interesting to see what they pick up in terms of what they see. Again, fashion is a bad example for dudes because they won’t relate. Sorry. But the women who are watching this, I think you will understand. And then finally, I just thought of another one, in the military and the CIA, the people who have been trained in reading micro expressions.

I took micro expressions training, that was really fun and very useful but there are of course experts who have been doing many years, undergone much more rigorous training and they’ll be able to pick up these subtle cues on the face and in the body and even in the tone of voice, that will be, tells how a person’s thinking or feeling. What they’re thinking or how they’re feeling.

So anyway, lots of great examples of and how and day to day situations in every discipline, the expert eye plays a really big role and you should, like, when it comes to dating and attraction, which you see with your one or two years of learning as an amateur basically or as a student, I mean like for me, going back just like 5, 6, 7 years or even going back 3 years, what I pick up now is I would say exponentially more than what I picked up back then. I feel it, I read people much quicker, much more accurately.

I’ve picked up a lot of things that I didn’t pick up before, I have many more heuristics. Heuristics that help us…rules for making judgements quickly and it’s just like even me, compared to myself 3 or 4 years ago was just… you know, I would be a student to myself now. And that’s the way it should be, right? You’re always making progress in life. That’s an important thing.

So there’s always another level.

So understand that. Just have patience with yourself, a little impatience is good to drive you to move quicker. But to have patience in real life, this is the long game. This is your life. And it will take your life to get there.

Okay, my God, almost 20 minutes! Alright, so join the private Facebook group, I’ll see you in there. Until next time, man up!