How social skills, can transform your milonga experience

Story | Opinion | Chrisa Assis | 13 Jan 2017 | 0 comments

Taking advantage of some free time during the holidays I spent some time reading on social skills.  During some basic research I found a podcast hosted by Tim Ferriss, talking about how you can become the best version of you.

At some point Ramit Sethi,  an established author an owner of  goes on to explain how he deals with angry people on the web.
Based on Ramit, the best way to respond is with calmness, politeness and readiness to listen.

So, you know, when he gets these super angry emails, saying things like: “F… you Ramit! You are just scamming people…”etc
He responds with something like: “Why would say that?”
Interestingly enough 50% of the people won’t even respond back, 25% they will just insist…
To whom he jokingly responds by saying something like: “What’s going on, are you having a bad hair day?” attaching a picture of someone with really bad hair..!
Last 25% will reply back, stating that they didn’t even expect an answer.

If you listen to the podcast, you will hear another great guest Josh Waitzkin,  a chess prodigy and a jiu-jitsu black belt, supporting this attitude, of responding to angry/ aggressive/ dirty opponents on real or cyber rings, with a “smile”!
Are will still talking about Tango here or is this becoming a social skills site?
Well, I heard the podcast, while I was receiving your comments on the last two articles on milonga etiquette.

Lets see some of them together:
When a leader asks me verbally (I much prefer the cabeceo!) what is wrong with, “no, thanks”?” Colette

“(…)as a leader we have to turn down dances as well and it’s horrible sometimes. Arran

In a little over 4 years so far I’ve only had one lady directly turn me down for a dance and it was quite tactless of her as an instructor to claim “not feeling well” and then dance the next tanda with another instructor. That lady will never make 10 cents from me or my wife ever again, but I guess she really wasn’t thinking in those terms at the time. (…)”

The flip side is that the men whom you decline to dance with are unlikely to ask you to dance again. Most men have a mental ‘blacklist’ of women they will not ask. (…)” Daniel

(…) In my local Tango community, leaders are a precious commodity. At house milongas, followers readily decline invitations, ending up sitting side by side on a sofa while spurned leaders explore wine-bottle dregs in the kitchen. But the music is great!” Max
We have TWO major Tango/social skills problems here

  1. People who are asking–leaders or followers–you can’t tell the difference between rejection and basic human interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I have been there. Standing in front of everyone asking for a dance, and hearing NO..! I get it. It is shameful, hurtful, maybe even unfair, but it is NOT a failure, it is a test. A test that you need to work more to pass!
  2. People on the receiving end, having to decline a dance. As you can see “no thanks” is not received very well…So if you don’t want to end up sitting through every milonga or dancing with the same people for the rest of your life, you either need to start saying yes, or become a bit more communicative.
  3. For both. Blacklisting people,  is a BAD idea.
    If you are the one being “rejected” and you are blacklisting people, you will be the one being bitter, you will end up dancing with a very small, specific group of people, and you won’t even consider taking up the challenge to ask someone different.
    For the  rejecters, consider this,  what will happen if the person, you’ve just eliminated, gets so good after a while that you really WANT a dance from them, you think they will say yes to you..?

What can we do to fix it?
Well, first things first, aside from social skills, you need to start using the cabeceo. I have some great tips, and guidelines for you, in Part 8, of the Ultimate training guide for leaders and followers, which is offered with your subscription to

Secondly, you need to build on your social skills…haha
So,  lets make some good use of the insight offered by the podcast above.

For the people on the asking end:

  • When you hear: “No!” or “No, thanks!” or some lame excuse.
    What have you been doing, up till now? You got angry, disappointed and/or frustrated, and walked away.
    Smile and say: “Thank you! Enjoy your night!”
    And say it, LIKE YOU MEAN IT.

50% of the people, will be completely unfazed by this. 25% will think, you are being sarcastic and another 25%, will change their attitude and will respond nicely in return.
Which takes us to the next step.
Use your social skills set to establish a better connection with them. Saying hello when you see them, or good night on the way out, for example. At the same time, work on your Tango. When you start feeling that you have made measurable progress, you can ask them again, or they might even ask you!

  • When you are dancing with someone and you realize that something is wrong.
    What you have been doing, up till now? You ignore it, and then you make a new addition to your blacklist.
    If they are insulting or physically hurting you, you wait for the song to end, and then you say:
    “Thank you! But I am sorry, I don’t think this is working out. Lets take a break” And you start walking away.
    Do NOT engage in a conversation on the dancefloor, if your partner wants to talk about it, do it OFF the dancefloor, making sure you are firm but still calm and polite.
    If it is just a dance that has gotten a bit off track:
    If you are a leader, slow things down, you can even come to a gentle pause without completely stopping, soften the embrace, readjust and start over. Use simpler steps, making sure tension is not recreated between the two of you.
    If you are a follower, soften the embrace, gently try to slow things down using technique tricks and/or embellishments, without tensing up and blocking your partner.

Again, 50% will not even notice, 25% will think you are unable to lead or follow properly and the remaining  25% will realize that something is wrong and will try to help as well.

For the people on the receiving end.

  • I strongly recommend, you reconsider who you decline. Often times, the person asking might be just an ok dancer, but he/she might a very nice person, with a true passion for the dance and something different to offer than advanced footwork.
  • How you decline an invitation, is not getting processed ONLY by the person asking BUT also by the people watching.
    So instead, of just saying: “No, thanks!”, which looks like you are dismissing them.
    Say: “Thank you! Unfortunately, I have to decline this one, I hope you will enjoy the milonga. ”
    Add “maybe some other time” if you think there is a chance he/she will become a better fit for you.
    This way, people hear something positive–thank you–first instead of no. Plus, you spend a little bit of your time gently declining their invite, instead of bluntly saying no, which will put at ease the people who are watching, making them more comfortable asking you themselves.

50% of the people who approach you, will still blacklist you. 25% will think that you are playing nice and the remaining 25% will nicely respond back to you and will try to keep a nice relationship with you, which mind end up in a good dance.

  • When you are dancing with someone and you realize it was a bad idea, saying yes to start with.
    If they are insulting or physically hurtful, don’t think that because you said yes, you have to endure and stay until the end of the tanda.
    Just like mentioned above, calmly but firmly disengage yourselves, using the script above–or something similar to that.
    If, on the other hand, your dance just got a bit off track, use the tricks mentioned above to find some comfort and give your partner a second chance.

Improving your social skills, can actually transform your milonga experience. Just imagine, walking in a milonga, guilt free, with the ability to politely decline an invitation without loosing your charm, AND be in control of your dance without hurting peoples feelings.
Try the tips above and send me an email with your answers, questions and experiences or leave a comment below.


P.S: Stay tuned as, very soon,  I will be releasing a guide on social skills for milongueros and milongueras, which I think you will love!

Photo credit: Peter Forret via / CC BY-NC


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Published: 13 Jan 2017 @ 13:27


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