Social Engineering 101: A New Definition and 9 Quick Tips


March 20, 2013   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

I know the official definitions of Social Engineering. According to Wikipedia, there are two:

“Social engineering (political science), influencing society on a large scale.”

“Social engineering (security), obtaining confidential information by manipulating and/or deceiving people.”

This always felt off to me, so I’d like to add my own definition:

“Social engineering (social skills), influencing perception and increasing social status by changing your self image and consciously using body language and manipulative techniques to your advantage.”

If you do not agree with this definition, let me know in the comments. I’ll probably disagree and we can have a long-winded, emotionally draining discussion about it.The following tips are the absolute fundamentals of Social Engineering, the underlying concepts you need to start on a crazy adventure of self improvement and increased confidence.Let’s rewrite some aspects of your life, shall we?


1) The Facebook Fallacy

Happiness is the ultimate form of success.

Human beings are wired to show off their best aspects and hide their worst.

And social networks make this so incredibly easy.

That girl posting crazy photos of her and her friends having fun, Eiffel tower in the background? She’s completely miserable because her boyfriend just broke up with her.

That cute guy posting pictures of him skinny dipping at sunset in Costa Rica with his girl? He thinks of killing himself because his mother is a hardcore alcoholic and his father doesn’t care about him.

And the guy showing off his new Porsche holding a glass of champagne? He’s depressed as shit because his friends are showing off their wealth on his Facebook wall. All. The. Fucking. Time.

We look around and see happy people. We get depressed because we feel “just okay”. We post more pictures of us being happy and try harder to look happy. And we stop interacting face to face. We don’t laugh, we don’t actually have fun any more. It’s a vicious cycle. You don’t notice it at first but it’s definitely there.

Snap out of it. Call a friend and go hang out. Realize life’s not about showing off how much fun you’re having, it’s about having fun.

It’s the difference between watching the sunrise in a state of complete bliss and contentment (living in the now) and watching the sunrise and snapping pictures of it to post them to Facebook so people can see how much you’re enjoying the sunrise.

2) Your passion is real and it’s GOOD ENOUGH

The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.  –  Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch

You don’t need results, you don’t need anything to show off, you do not need to be making money before you can talk about your passion.

The idea that you first need to validate your passion before talking about it is wrong.

Yes, even if you’re obsessed with gaming, riding roller coasters, knitting, navel fluff collecting or competitive dog grooming.

You know what, I’m passionate about writing on my blog. About personal development and marketing.

About building and analyzing stuff (I’m a mathematical engineer). And I was always afraid of talking about these subjects because I thought they were lame and boring. And because I didn’t make any money off of them. They weren’t “real”, “valid” occupations of my time.

Fuck that! I’m proud of what I’m doing now. It’s what I love doing. It doesn’t need validation. I’m chasing my dreams. And that’s okay. More than okay.

When I now talk about what I’m doing, I don’t whisper. I don’t immediately say “So, what about you?”. People see the spark in my eyes and they ask me to tell them more!

3) Confidence comes from Within

There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.  –  Buddha

Think of the world as one big playground. It’s a game and you control the main character with your brain. All characters are in your imagination. You are the world, and the world is you.

“Woah Woah, stop right there. What’s this fluffy bullshit?”

Bear with me for a second.

This subjective world view is actually a really healthy mindset. It helps put things in perspective. Don’t you see? You can do whatever you want! You can interact with every object or character in your life. You can meet new people. You can experiment and see what happens.

If you think like this, the fear vanishes. There is no reason to be afraid because you are just playing the game. You are the main character in a wonderful dream and you can do the craziest stuff and live the life you want. Remember all those amazing dreams you had where you can do whatever the fuck you want (like flying, having sex, inventing crazy shit, …)?

Remember that exhilarating, adrenaline-pumped, thoroughly happy feeling you get when you wake up from a dream like that? You can have that!

But it has to come from within.

If you keep looking for external factors to make you happy or confident, you will fail miserably.

Having better friends will not make you happy. Having more money will not make you happy.

Becoming successful will not make you happy. You can choose to be happy and confident, right now, right here. You do not need permission, no external triggers.

The world is at your feet once you grasp this concept.

4) Habit Over Impulse

Your habits determine the quality of your life.

I’m not sure people get this one. Your life is shaped by your habits. And the good news is that you can actively change them. It’s not even that hard.

Use a habit tracker based on the Seinfeld technique (basically you build a streak of good days and after a while you don’t want to break the chain so you just keep going).

A small, stupid positive habit can already have a huge impact on your life, just because it gives you a feeling of control in your life. You’ll notice that you have more willpower than you think.

I’ve used this technique for about half a year now, and these are the habits I’m forming along with the current streak length:

  • No Corn Flakes: 145 days
  • Don’t Party too Hard: 71 days
  • 40 minutes of Exercise: 42 days
  • No Alcohol: 42 days
  • Stretch: 16 days
  • Empty Inbox: 13 days
  • 40 minutes of Reading a Book: 2 days


You have to recognize that every ‘out front’ maneuver you make is going to be lonely, but if you feel entirely comfortable, then you’re not far enough ahead to do any good. That warm sense of everything going well is usually the body temperature at the center of the herd.  –  John Masters

1) There’s only one way to get better

And that’s practice.

I know it sounds dumb. I know you’ve heard this a million times before.

I studied engineering for 5 years. As you can imagine, I had to sit in front of my books a lot. To be able to succeed, I had to lock myself up for about 2 periods of 2 months each year. During this time, I studied about 12 hours per day. I rarely saw other people.

While I’m a pretty social person most of the time, after these periods I was worthless. It was like I had to relearn how to communicate with people. Even basic conversations were hell. Awkward silences all around, a lot of looking down and not making eye contact and generally being shy and awkward. It was like the first few years of high school all over again.

What the hell? How does that even happen? Apparently, socials skills can be unlearned.

After about a month or so of normal interaction with people, I’d be used to it again. And there were of course a lot of periods where I was interacting a lot with people, partying, meeting new people, travelling. During these times, I felt like a God.

I could do anything. The difference was like day and night. So get out and practice, practice, practice. Stop surfing the Internet for hours a day and get out the door. There’s a magical place waiting for you.

2) Speak with Confidence

For the love of god, don’t whisper!

Just don’t do it. Seriously. It makes you sound weak and pathetic. If you don’t know someone’s name or if you don’t know how to pronounce it, DO NOT whisper the name and act like nothing happened because people WILL notice. Just tell them:

“I’m sorry, I forgot your name” or “Mind telling me your name again? Didn’t quite catch it the first time”

Make a big statement out of not caring about your mistakes. Don’t be shy about them, laugh them away and be confident anyway.

Don’t let people interrupt you. You’ll sound like a pushover.

Finish your sentences. Don’t let them die out. The last word of each sentence should be just as loud and strong as the first.

Don’t let people hijack your ideas. Oftentimes, people with a lot of social or psychological skills will reformulate or rephrase your exact idea a few moments later, taking all credit for it. This is very, very common and you’ll start noticing it from now on. If you do, just tell them:

“Yes, that’s exactly what I said a few seconds ago” or “Umm yeah, why are you repeating what I just said”

Make it clear that you do not allow this kind of behaviour. I recently wrote an article called 6 Quick Hacks on Becoming a more Likeable Person. It features concrete examples of things to say and do to increase confidence.

3) Monkey See, Monkey Do

Smile! Make eye contact!

Yeah, yeah, it’s generic advice. It’s really not worth your time reading this over and over again.
So go put it into practice!

Get in front of a mirror for just 5 minutes a day and smile. Make weird faces. See which emotions you can convey. This makes a HUGE difference after a while.

It’s direct feedback you can use to improve yourself. It’s free and easy.

Use the mirror.

And when you’re comfortable with this, get out and make eye contact with everyone you see. Smile genuinely. People will smile back.

4) Clothing Makes the Man

Is this true or what?

A few weeks ago I was walking around in old, dirty sneakers, an uncomfortable, ugly sweater and the ugliest jacket you could possibly imagine (Seriously, at least 8 people told me to Please Get A New Jacket). I looked like a hobo.

I had long, unwashed, out of style hair and a beard. And you know what? I always thought my skills are so much more important than my appearance. But I didn’t feel very comfortable when going out.

Not extremely uncomfortable, but still.

Then, a few weeks ago I decided to completely change it all. I went to the barber shop, got new clothes, learned a lot about male grooming and got out of the door.

Boy, was I wrong about not caring about my appearance.

It felt amazing. I got a lot of compliments. My confidence soared. I really, really felt so much better with this new appearance.

5) Consider Quitting Drinking

Of all vices, drinking is the most incompatible with greatness.  –  Walter Scott

I’m mentioning this because it seems like drinking is the obvious thing to do these days. It’s almost a social obligation. I won’t say a lot about this, but I want to let you know that drinking is entirely optional. You can actually make a conscious choice about this. Just think about it.

For me, stopping worked wonders. My mental clarity, memory and motivation all went through the roof since quitting. It’s probably the best decision I ever made.

That’s all. Get your ass moving and make something happen today 🙂

In this life, being extraordinary has to take a collision of talent, drive and passion mixed with a certain amount of dysfunction and insanity, an almost-perfect storm that makes one person a star and another just a plain old fuck up. In other words, it takes a lot to be a lot.  –  Corey Taylor, The seven deadly sins.

Written on 3/20/2013 by Thomas Boogaerts. Thomas Boogaerts is a writer at He is a personal growth blogger, mathematical engineer and travel-addicted entrepreneur. Connect on Facebook or Twitter Photo Credit:

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