Hope is out there for shy men who don’t know how to talk to women, writes Joanna Mathers. And it comes in the form of one man's guide to becoming a 'Guy Who Can.'

Women live in their hearts. Within the dark chambers and pulsing valves dwells our essential nurturing and emotive self.

Men, on the other hand, live in their heads. Simple, matter-of-fact men - with their straight-to-the-point strategies and one-dimensional methods of communication - often find it hard to connect with women's heart-based colourfully complex natures.

They may miss the point or don't take the right cues. This makes genuine connection nearly impossible even for the most confident males. But throw shyness into the morass of miscommunication and you have a recipe for awkward and ongoing conversational misfires.

This is the world according to "Guy Who Can" Lance Hastie. Christchurch-based Hastie spent years perfecting the art of speaking to women and he has drawn on these experiences to create an online resource for men who lack confidence with women.

Advertisement

Picture Hastie's target market. The geeky guy who spends his evenings hidden behind computer screens, the bloke who wants to converse with the hot receptionist at his IT job but can't summon the courage.

The online tutorial "How to Talk to Women" on Hastie's Guy Who Can website can be downloaded for $47. It provides a three-step programme that is meant to help transform insecure men into conversational masters.

Hastie, 42, a former motor racing media and PR pro, is passionate about his mission because he used to be a shy guy.

"I spent many years being the 'nice guy' women ignored," he says.

"I used to ambush opportunities for connections with women by trying to be clever or smart and came across really badly."

But a few years ago, a "eureka moment" occurred when he was commissioned to photograph promo girls at the racing track, women he would usually be too scared to approach.

"It was like a life-or-death moment," he says. "I had to photograph these beautiful women and it was terrifying. But I was more scared of failing in the job, so the fear of talking to these women was replaced a worse scenario - work failure.

"All my earlier strategies went out the window and I talked to them like they were friends. By the end of the photo shoot they were all interested and engaged.
"It was a life-changing moment."

Me - that guy who used to struggle to talk with womenn

The face behind Guy Who Can Coaching: Lance Hastie. My journey at being that guy and now being the guy who can and does.

Posted by Shy Guy Guide Coaching on Thursday, 3 September 2015

This life-changing moment underpins the Guy Who Can venture. That day taught Hastie important facts about talking to women: be real and "treat her like the friend she could be".

Hastie wants to take shy guys "back to age 5" to relearn the fundamentals of communication learned in the school playground.

To help them summon the courage to say hello to women who catch their eye.

"The digital world is taking away our basic communications skills," he says. "Most communication is now non-verbal; the internet is a safe haven for shy guys who don't want to face the real world. If this trend continues and we stop interacting, we are setting ourselves up for extinction."

Hastie has also drawn on lessons learned when working with a life coach this year.

"This guy really walks the talk," he says. "He has a systemised method of the steps needed for success in life. And he taught me that if you're fishing without the right bait you won't catch anything."

The fish in Hastie's analogy are women, the bait his online tutorial.

Tips for baiting the hook include "connecting with the heart", "approaching women in the right way" and "leaving the conversation at the right time" (or before the woman gets too creeped out). He feels these steps will help blokes strike up a successful conversation with any woman and leave them wanting more.

Edmund McWilliams, a recently single Auckland musician, completed the course.

Unfortunately, he felt the bait wasn't really up to the task when it came to women-catching.

"I found the course simplistic, almost quaint, and outright bizarre in places. It was like stepping back in time, to when men took the reins in matters of love. It just felt weird."

But one of Hastie's acolytes, who didn't want to be named, disagrees.

Hastie's wife, Jackie Chant, also fully supports Hastie's venture. She says his conversational wizardry and honesty drew her to him.

"I didn't typically go for 'nice' guys," she says. "But Lance's confidence shone through. He was open and honest and paid attention and supported me through some hard times. From the beginning we talked so openly it was like we'd known each other for years."

Chant is a qualified Parelli Natural Horsemanship teacher and says communication is a key component of her job. She believes Lance has learned a lot from her, and her experiences of communication with horses and their owners helped inform the development of the course.

Chant is assured of Lance's genuine desire to help men talk to women. "So many guys are incredibly shy and don't have a clue. Lance is passionate about helping these guys."

Hastie took Chant's experience with animals quite literally as he recommends men approach women as they would a pet. "It's useful to think of women as escaped pets," he explains.

"All they see around them is predators. They see men as out to hunt for prey when all they want is to be treated like a friend. When approached like a piece of meat the instinct is fight or flight."

A key concept is teaching men to connect with their hearts.

In Hastie's analysis, women communicate from their heart and men from their head - if a man learns to connect with his heart through visualisation techniques outlined in the tutorials this will immediately put a woman at ease.

This head/heart dichotomy has been used as the basis of many a self-help book, most notably the best-selling Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. But it's not without controversy, seen by many as an awkward combination of pop psychology and antiquated concepts of male/female differences.

Vivienne Elizabeth, senior lecturer in the school of sociology at Auckland University, says there is little basis to claims that men and women are inherently different and questions Hastie's assumptions.

"This idea emerged during the late 1700s and 1800s, and has become influential in popular -understandings of gender," she says.

"We used to think that women were an inferior copy of men. The idea women and men are inherently different privileges biological explanations and encourages investigation into biological differences between women and men to thereby justify social differences: biology as destiny."

Positing women as "heart-based" and men as "head-based" is problematic in other ways.
"The distinction is not value neutral," she says. "As a society, we place greater value on rational -reasoning and have used the cultural association between women and emotion to restrict women's career opportunities."

She says this distinction has been used to silence women in conversations between couples as well as in work environments. She questions Hastie's motivation for drawing on it.

"Does he really believe in such differences or does he think the use of this distinction will provide an opening through which he might recruit men to his online coaching videos?"
Hastie, however, is committed to helping men connect with their hearts. And he is developing strategies to help transform shy men into assertive winners in all areas of their lives.

Meanwhile, he is ambitious about the role "How to Talk to Women" will play in the lives of shy men.

"Good communication is fundamental to the success of society," he says. "I really hope this coaching will help transform the lives of men who struggle with self-confidence."

Edmund McWilliams - a Guy Who Can

Edmund McWilliams has written a first-person piece about how he tried out pick-up techniques from the book. Photo / Michael Craig
Edmund McWilliams has written a first-person piece about how he tried out pick-up techniques from the book. Photo / Michael Craig

The "Guys Who Can" course is to equip shy heterosexual men with the confidence to talk to unfamiliar women face-to-face.

I have read Lance Hastie's course and try his strategies in the field on Jervois Rd, Herne Bay, on a Tuesday afternoon.

The manual outlines how a woman should be approached and the allowance for escape routes. I spot a woman in the fish and chip shop. She is facing the menu blackboard. This is all wrong, this would require me to approach her from behind, and the instructions are very specific about such angles.

Further along I see a woman on her own in a cafe. She is seated at a table typing into her phone.

It is hard not to feel like a stalker, and the course repeatedly advises against predatory behaviour. However, this is an experiment.

Approach angles? Check. Escape routes? Check.

The manual says the woman needs to see the man approaching, so as not to trigger her primordial fight or flight response. I edge toward her and she glances up as I pass. I seat myself at the table next to hers. Stage one completed.

The next step is to "connect with the heart". Lance suggests this can be achieved by conjuring up the thoughts and feelings of talking to a friend or family member.

I hold an image of my mum in my mind and swivel, making sure I'm at the ideal distance.

I wait for her eyes to lift from her phone and say, "Hi." She says "hi", then her eyes return to her phone.

I feel a bit sick. In these situations, Lance suggests radically changing one's body position, so I stand up and sit down again.

I resist the temptation to repeat this movement.

The woman looks at me, and I manage to say something about coffee. I tell her that I had to quit a month ago to help me to quit smoking.

To my relief, some chit-chat begins.

The course explains regions on a woman's face that a man should direct his eyes towards at various points in a conversation. While she is talking I focus on "the gaze zone".

But I sense she thinks my interest in her is a bit odd, although her eyes have not closed or started darting worriedly from side to side - indications a woman is not comfortable, according to the manual.

I introduce myself and shake her hand. She tells me her name is Nikki. Lance suggests once a woman's name is known, the man should link it to one of his friends or a family member, but I can't think of any, so I tell her I have an aunt named Nikki.

She makes a noise and looks at me in a slightly concerned way.

I tell her that it was nice to meet her.

On the advice of the manual, I try a larger-than-normal smile that veils a mysterious thought I'm having about her, before marching uncomfortably out of the cafe along the charted escape route.