Trying to make people think you are really wonderful, particularly in a romantic context, is hard enough—you’re not actually that wonderful all the time, or maybe not even at all. But just being yourself won’t work, because we all need that seductive sheen of our best selves to fall in love. Somewhere between being actually you and the best version of you is the sweet spot for making a real connection, but this is not the breeziest intersection to occupy. But some advice from London’s School of Life, a hybrid bookstore and “self-realization center” manages to distill this down in the smartest way we’ve probably ever heard.
Writing at HuffPost, the School of Life explains that if a date is really an audition for you as a dateable person, there are two parts to straddling this: One is conveying weakness in a strong way.
For example, it can be hugely seductive to drop in, with an air of confidence and wit: ‘You know, coming here made me a bit nervous’. That’s a sign both of insight and strength. We’re not simply being nervous (gulping down a cocktail or frantically insisting that the decor is wonderful); we are vulnerable but have an overview on our anxieties and the capacity to handle them lightly.
It can be equally seductive to mention, in passing: ‘As you can imagine, after that, I had a little temper tantrum with myself’ but in a profoundly calm and smiling tone that indicates both an accurate ability to dislike oneself at points and a mature ability to digest and learn from one’s less impressive moments. At the heart of seductive self-revelation is the idea: ‘I’m a touch crazy, of course, but very much sane enough to tell you about it in a modest and un-hysterical way.’ We’re indicating that we have the best possible relationship with our own shadow sides.
It seems so simple and obvious that the most likable thing we can be is self-aware with a sense of humor, but you’d be surprised how few people seem to be able to master this. If you think about the people you like the most, though, they probably do it well.
The other aspect of seduction, the piece argues, is showing the other person you seem them affectionately—but clearly. Rather than telegraphing total adoration, talking up how good-looking or successful someone is, you try instead to show them that you see them as a person, just like yourself, only a particularly appealing one. They write:
One might, towards the end of the evening drop in a small warm tease that alludes to our understanding of some less than perfect side of them: ‘I suppose you stayed under the duvet feeling a bit sorry for yourself after that?’ we might ask, with a benign smile.
Such a gesture implies that we like another person not under a mistaken notion that they are flawless but with a full and un-frightened appreciation of their frailties. That ends up being powerfully seductive because it is, first and foremost, reassuring. It suggests the ideal way that we would like someone to view us within the testing conditions of a real relationship. We crave not admiration, but to be properly known and yet still liked and forgiven.
This is compelling advice because it’s so unlike the gaming aspects of what other dating advice tends to traffic in — ask questions, keep it light, follow the two-day rule! And because it’s realistic. If you want to get it going with someone, you need to be yourself in a considered way; otherwise, whoever you pretended to be for the night might very well get another date, but not much else.