What Not To Do
I’m somewhere outside. It could be anywhere, the streets, the underground… but for the sake of argument, let’s say I’m in a more appropriate setting for approaching strangers. I’m in a bar. I might be alone, but often enough I won’t be. I’ll be talking to a female friend, or several for that matter, and at some point, we’ll be interrupted.
The first step is an intrusion. It’s not always verbal. Sometimes they stand there, occupying the space next to us, looking at us, knowing it’s going to stop the conversation. I’ll enjoy pretending they’re not there for a while. But of course, eventually, I’ll turn my head towards them, raise an eyebrow, all the while wearing a fake smile they won’t miss and ask ‘Yes?’. If we’re lucky, they’ll at least say something funny or interesting. Most of the times, they won’t though. They’ll be taken aback because this isn’t starting well.
1. Forget to assess our ‘openness’ to external interruptions.
They’ll be too absorbed by their desire to meet women, that they’ll completely ignore the fact women may not be interested in meeting them. Or anyone for that matter. Read the situation. Observe our body language. Try to make eye contact. If we’re completely closed off and don’t look, or we see you but avoid your gaze, this is not a good sign. If you decide to try anyway, it might still work, but expect it to be difficult.
We don’t owe you anything, least of all our time. It’s the only truly finite resource any of us has. That makes it the most valuable. Don’t assume we’ll welcome any interruption. Make it interesting — I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m saying it’s required.
An upside is, most women aren’t as ‘rude’ as I am. People don’t enjoy denying other people stuff. Nobody enjoys saying ‘No’ — not even me — and women have the added disadvantage of having been taught to be agreeable. Which means even if you’re not saying anything of interest, a lot of women will be bothered, but still respond to your approach in a nice enough way. And of course, that works in your favour. Often, if a man’s approach isn’t too aggressive, I’ll do that too. It doesn’t mean I won’t try to show it to them in subtle ways, by restarting my conversation as if they weren’t there whenever they stop talking. Or by answering any of their questions in very few words, and not asking any questions back, for example.
2. Ignoring all the signs of our annoyance.
The second mistake is ignoring that. How often do we reply with monosyllable answers, avoid looking at men, start using a cold tone after a while — because, well, frustration — and still they keep trying? They can’t possibly miss all that unless they aren’t looking. I don’t know which it is, but either they’re not observing our responses, or they’re deciding to ignore them. That’s the worst kind of communication right there.
How do you expect to go anywhere with us if you’re not even listening to us? Not the words. Words are scripted. Plus, words represent what, 10% of face-to-face communication? What we say can’t be your defence. That we haven’t told you how much of a bother you are can’t be your defence. The usual way of communicating to someone they’re bothering you isn’t to actually say the words « You’re bothering me. » because that’s awkward for everyone. We say it with our tone of voice and our body language.
3. Getting angry at women for voicing their disinterest.
But, yes, in the end, when nothing else works, we use words. And the funny thing is, men will get defensive. Offended. How could we be bothered by them? They didn’t do anything to us, apart from wanting to talk. They didn’t mean anything wrong, why so much aggression? Well, no matter how bad you want to speak to me, it doesn’t justify ignoring every single way I’ve tried to tell you I wasn’t interested in talking back.
I was once alone in a bar, waiting for a friend, when a guy started sitting next to me, either saying nothing or asking dumb irrelevant questions. I used all the tricks in the book: monosyllables, not looking at him, sending all the texts I’d meant to send for weeks. I went outside to smoke without telling him — he still felt invited to follow me. I kept up with the texting and avoiding… In the end, I even took out a magazine. In a bar. I read a magazine in a bar, and he still tried to find an opening there. He asked me what I was reading, and I got pissed. I almost lectured the guy for being so clueless. He played the victim, of course.
Sometimes I’ll even break it to men they’re bothering me at their own request. They’ll ask me outright « Am I bothering you? », and when I say « Yes », they’ll get pissed. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know the answer, mate. I know you asked out of politeness, but it’s only deemed polite to ask that because it shows you care. If you don’t, that’s not you being polite. Plus, if I say you’re not bothering me, I’m stuck with that response for the rest of our exchange. I’d rather cut it short. It’s alright, it’s a smart strategy, however, don’t act innocent when it backfires.
4. Trying to guilt-trip us into accepting your presence anyway.
Worse than getting pissed at me for not aligning with their expectations though, is when they try to use my guilt at saying no to up the game. As I said, we don’t like saying no to people. They take advantage of that. They’ll say something like « I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you, what do you say I offer you a drink as an apology? » or even try to touch me as they say sorry. If I was bothered by the first interruption, I don’t want your ‘apology’ to be more painful than what you’re apologising for.
This is what I like to call the door-in-the-face technique applied to dating. Except sometimes it doesn’t work as well because instead of de-escalating, they’re escalating. But the principle is the same. You use the first refusal to guilt me into accepting a second, or a third proposal. You’re overpolite in order for me to apologise and let you stay. You’re making it very difficult for me to keep brushing you off and get you to leave. For that, I’ll need to keep fighting my human instincts to respond positively. But I will.
What’s Wrong With This Approach
My interpretation of all those issues is as follows: men think of flirting as a way to get from a ‘No’ to a ‘Yes’. That’s why they’ll ignore any negative sign, any small rejection, until you make it so obvious that they can’t ignore it. The thing is, men feel like this is the normal way to do things, this is what they’re supposed to do. And they’re not exactly wrong, it’s been a big way we talk about seduction. Which is why they’ll be taken aback by women saying no too directly. On the flip side, however, it’s the only ‘no’ they’ll actually hear.
Where do we go from here? Well, the first thing men should do is stop thinking of seduction this way. First off, because this is problematic. Very much so. I’m reminded of Jessica Jones’ answer to ‘I don’t take no for an answer’: ‘How rapey of you’. Thinking a ‘no’ isn’t in fact a ‘no’ equates to you knowing better a woman’s mind than she does. When you’re deciding to ignore a woman’s refusal, it means you think you know better. Most of the male seduction coaching sites and communities out there will give you this sort of advice and will present women in this way. They’ll say you need to show confidence (arrogance) and show women what they ‘really’ want. But this view deprives us of our agency. And it leads to harassment, predatory behaviour, and sometimes, yes, to rape.
Now of course, if it’s something that every seduction coach out there claims to work, it’s because it can actually work. On some women. With time, however, it will work less and less. And when it doesn’t, it will backfire in your face. Because many of us don’t appreciate being negged, or patronised, or have relationships with people who won’t respect our own judgement. It’s not a good or healthy start. More importantly, my point in writing this isn’t to tell you how you should approach women effectively. I only aim to tell you to approach us respectfully, which might or might not be effective.
Because again, seduction isn’t about getting from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’. It’s been this way because we’ve been forcing women to think of themselves as ‘reluctant’ to be ‘captured’ — why would you be reluctant to be captured, right?
Granted, some women will still say ‘no’ when they think ‘yes’. What would a decent (even if horny) guy do in this situation? Stop there. Yeah, she might be too shy to say ‘yes’ and be hoping you’ll insist and free her from the guilt of saying ‘yes’ too quickly. It’s possible. But is the tiny possibility of her meaning ‘yes’ when saying ‘no’ worth risking predatory behaviour? Is your sex drive worth risking a ‘bad date’ situation? (I hear it’s how it’s called these days.)
So, stop there and leave. If she wanted you to insist, chances are, she’ll tell you afterwards. Men have told me about this several times. Women texting them and asking why they didn’t go for it anyway. Well, in the end, they had to admit they wanted it. Isn’t that better for everyone? Now you can go ahead with it, and know that’s what she wants.
How To Do Better
If seduction isn’t a ‘no to yes’ trajectory, how might we picture it? Well, when flirting, my approach has more or less been pretty basic: showing interest to invite a guy to do the same, and trying to assess reciprocity. If reciprocity is confirmed, I go for it. My aim is never to try to get a guy that doesn’t want me. If he doesn’t want me, why should I want him to still have sex or a relationship with me? What’s the point of that? If I get no response whatsoever, I drop it before it gets awkward. It’s more of an ‘unknown to yes’ trajectory. You don’t know, you try to assess if it’s a yes, and if it is, you’re golden.
The truth is, when you’re observant, you can tell if people are interested in you or not. I’ll admit it might come more naturally to some than others, so if you feel lost, you can read about the body language of seduction. Some things are pretty straight-forward. But you have to be willing to take ‘no’ for an answer. If you don’t accept a ‘no’, your interpretation of women’s reactions will be skewed. Picture yourself, dealing with a woman who’s approaching you or flirting with you, and you have literally no interest in doing anything with her. How would you communicate that to her, if you didn’t want to offend her by being too mean? How would you break it too her if she ignored all the signs and kept going at it? Chances are, your reaction won’t be very different than women’s.
Your point shouldn’t be to get the one who isn’t interested in you. Your point should be finding someone who is.
And that’s where women generally differ from men. I’m sure some women approach flirting the way men do and don’t take no for an answer. I haven’t met many of them. The vast majority of the women I know don’t flirt very much or will flirt only as long as they get a response. A few of them will be direct in their approach, but then if they get brushed off, they’ll drop it. They won’t think ‘He said no, but he meant yes, I have to persevere.’
My view isn’t an essentialist one. It’s not ‘people either want you in the first five seconds, or they never will, so just figure out what that first impression was.’ Women will sometimes spend hours choosing ‘the right outfit’, and sometimes men will, too. We do this because we think it might nudge the other person into noticing us or making a move. We try to appear our best selves, physically and in terms of personality, because we want the other person to want us. But we don’t do it as part of a strategy to change someone’s mind from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’. We do this because we think we have a chance, and we try to turn indecision, a ‘maybe’, into a yes. And sometimes it was a yes all along. But the process of making an effort to appear your best self will signal your interest and encourage things to proceed.
However, sometimes we know — as I’m sure it’s happened to you — we’re not interested. For this same reason, realise that some people won’t be interested in you, no matter how much you try. They won’t be. And what I’m saying isn’t that people can’t change their minds, or that you can’t get attracted to someone if you aren’t attracted to them in the first place. I’m a believer of the opposite. But it generally won’t happen when it was a strong ‘no’ in the beginning, and it won’t happen solely because you will it to.
Often, people who know you and appreciate you still won’t develop any further interest in you. Furthermore, when you end up developing an interest towards someone you weren’t into in the beginning, it’s generally because of personality. And by personality, I don’t mean ‘He kept acting like he knew better what was good for me and I found this so seductive’. You might think if you don’t insist you won’t get a chance to dazzle her with your personality. And you won’t. But if you do insist, chances are you’ll only dazzle her with your unwarranted arrogance.
Context matters and the way you meet people has an influence towards how receptive they’re going to be to your advances. It’s also going to influence how much of an opportunity you’ll have of getting to know them. You need to adjust your expectations and your approach accordingly and pay attention to the other person’s reactions, verbal and non-verbal.