In typical Mark Manson (who is known for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck), this is a no-BS guidebook for men on dating.
More actionable than something like The Art of Seduction and less manipulative than The Game, I’d recommend for anyone looking to up their attractiveness and success with women without resorting to weird techniques or essentially becoming an actor.
One of the most applicable books I’ve read on love and dating.
Part I: Reality
Chapter 1: Non-Neediness
A man's attractiveness is inversely proportional to how needy he is.
Seduction is the process by which a man induces a woman to become as invested in him as he is in her.
The only real dating advice is self-improvement. Work on yourself. Conquer your anxieties. Resolve your shame. Take care of yourself and those who are important to you.
Chapter 2: Power in Vulnerability
I want you to think of vulnerability in a more broad way. Not just emotional vulnerability (although we’ll get to that), but physical vulnerability, social vulnerability.
Vulnerability represents a form of power, a deep and subtle form of power. It’s courageous, even. A man who’s able to make himself vulnerable is saying to the world, "Screw the repercussions; this is who I am, and I refuse to be anyone else." He’s saying he is non-needy and high status.
A non-needy man is comfortable showing his flaws because he’s more comfortable with how he feels about himself than how others feel about him.
So the catch is that everything you say must be as authentic as possible. There’s no shortcut. There are no tricks. You say it because you mean it and mean it because you say it. The more nervous it makes you, the better, because it means you’re being authentic and making yourself vulnerable.
Chapter 3: The Gift of Truth
Vulnerability requires honesty, and honesty only works if it’s given unconditionally, with no strings attached. That means everything you say and do must be done without any ulterior motive. You are simply expressing your thoughts and feelings as they come to you, without inhibition, without shame.
Friction is when a woman finds you to be an attractive man, but there are value differences or external circumstances that prevent her from acting on that attraction or being interested in you.
The uncomfortable truth is that the majority of women are going to have high degrees of friction and projection when you meet them. With most of the women you meet, things are simply not going to work no matter what you do or say. This is to be expected. And this is fine. You are going to be incompatible with most of the women in the world and to hold any hopes of being highly compatible with most is an illusion of grandeur and a figment of your own narcissistic tendency.
Part II: Strategy
Chapter 4: Polarization
If you don’t find her attractive, don’t pursue her.
For practical purposes, we can divide up all of the women you’re attracted to into three categories: Receptive, Neutral and Unreceptive.
Women who are Unreceptive are just that: they’re unavailable and/or uninterested in having a sexual/romantic relationship with you.
The next category is Neutral. This category can be difficult for men to understand because it’s not as common for us as it is for women.
The goal with Neutral women is to polarize them through your words and behaviors. This may mean flirting with them or teasing them. It may mean asking her on a date. It may be as simple as smiling at her from across the room. Whatever it is, the goal with Neutral women is to take an action that forces her to make a decision about how she feels about you. Which side she polarizes to is far less important than actually taking action.
Strategies for Each Category
The Friend Zone typically occurs when a man meets a Receptive or Neutral woman but never makes a move or expresses his interest.
At the bar, the first question out of my mouth is one of my favorites for Neutral situations: "What's your favorite thing in the world?"
This question will tell me two things: how passionate and self-aware she is about her own life, and secondly if we have anything in common. Women who are not passionate or self-aware I drop very quickly and go meet someone else. Women who share interests with me give me an opportunity to polarize them quickly to being Receptive.
The percentage of women who are Receptive to you will increase proportionally to the quality of your lifestyle, your social status, and your looks.
The percentage of women that you’re able to move from Neutral to Receptive will be proportional to how good your game is, or how well you’re able to communicate and express yourself with women.
Polarizing to Attract
Polarization is what occurs when you express your truth and make yourself vulnerable. When you tell a woman she is beautiful, you are polarizing her. When you tease her about her earrings and put your arm around her, you’re polarizing her. When you wear a custom-made suit when you go out, you are polarizing women. When you tell a woman who’s late to a date to never be late again, you are polarizing her.
Everything that is attractive is polarizing.
The biggest mental hurdle for many men is the ability to handle rejection.
Chapter 5: Rejection and Success
Business guru Dan Kennedy once said, "Your ability to deal with the failure will determine how much you get to deal with success”.
It’s Usually Not About You
As soon as you realize that 95% of this attracting women stuff has nothing to do with you, is the moment you become free to pursue what you want without hesitation or fear.
There are a million extraneous circumstances completely outside of your control and at any given time, a large chunk of the women you meet and talk to are going to be experiencing one of them. The best you can do is to let it go and remember: it’s not about you.
I define success in a qualitative way: maximizing happiness with whichever woman/women I prefer to be with.
There are three ways in which we are honest. And those three ways will make up the bulk of this book. The three ways are:
1) living based on our values (lifestyle);
2) becoming comfortable with our intentions (boldness); and
3) by expressing our sexuality freely (communication.)
Lifestyle, Courage, and Communication: I refer to these as the Three Fundamentals.
Chapter 6: The Three Fundamentals
The Three Fundamentals are:
Creating an attractive and enriching lifestyle.
Overcoming your fears and anxiety around socializing, intimacy and sexuality.
Mastering the expression of your emotions and communicating fluidly.
Honest Living correlates directly with the quality of women that you will attract.
Honest Action correlates directly to the quantity of women you meet and attract.
I call it Honest Action because it is honesty in the strictest terms. If you see a beautiful woman and have a desire to meet her, to not take action and meet her is a form of being dishonest with yourself.
Honest Communication will determine the efficiency with which you are able to attract women who are compatible to you.
The third fundamental is Honest Communication, or learning to express yourself freely and effectively. This is what most dating advice sells and classifies as “game" — a good sense of humor, the ability to connect with people, telling stories, engaging people’s attention, having charisma, and expressing your sexuality openly.
Two Types of Men
In my experience, almost all men who struggle with relationships fall into one of two categories: socially anxious or socially disconnected.
Part III: Honest Living
Chapter 7: Demographics
Which women do you want to meet and what kind of relationship do you want to have with them?
This question of where and in what context you meet women is what I call demographics.
The theory of demographics is simple and easy to remember: like attracts like. You attract what you are.
When demographics don’t match up, then it causes friction.
Sit down and think about what you value most in a woman, and then figure out where to find those types.
Beliefs and Self-Selection
To put it bluntly: whether you realize it or not, the results you get with women are always your fault.
Age, Money, and Looks
You should be as good-looking as you can possibly be. And you should be as financially successful as you can possibly be.
All things equal, looks and money always increase your odds.
But I would just add the caveat that you should be as good-looking as possible for you. You should be as financially successful as possible for you.
The more money/looks/success you have, the less attractive behavior you need. The less money/looks/success you have, the more attractive behavior you need.
It’s all relative. The key is to 1) recognize your personal interests and strengths, and 2) build upon those personal interests and strengths to quickly attract women in your preferred demographic.
The goal is to cultivate as much social proof within your demographic as possible.
Don’t just pursue your interests, become a leader in your interests.
Being Something Versus Saying Something
If there’s one takeaway from this chapter, it’s that it is far more powerful to be something attractive rather than to say something attractive.
Chapter 8: Lifestyle and Presentation
The first and obvious step involves grooming and general maintenance. That means regular showering, shaving and haircuts, wearing deodorant, brushing and flossing your teeth, keeping clean fingernails, and wearing clean clothes.
There, now let’s move on to the two biggest factors on your appearance, the two F’s: Fashion and Fitness.
Bar none, fitness and fashion will do more to attract women in a shorter amount of time than anything else you can do. Being in decent shape and dressing well will make every phase of the process easier and smoother, from meeting women, to attracting them, to getting physical with them, to dating them, to staying in a relationship with them. There literally is no downside to either one.
There are a few rules to dressing well:
Wear clothes that fit.
Wear clothes that match.
Dress to your personality
Exercise, no matter what
Clean up your diet
Stand with your shoulders back, chest out, and back straight.
Walk with some swagger.
Always look straight ahead (instead of down). Look people in the eye as they walk by, and be the last to break eye contact.
Be expressive, and louder than you think you need to be with your voice. Talk from your chest.
You want to be someone with depth and character who has opinions and openly expresses those opinions.
As you go through life experiencing art and media, keep these concepts in mind:
Assume everything has a form of value; it’s your job to find it.
When expanding your horizons; start with what’s generally considered the best.
Think: “What would make me stand out from other guys?"
Part IV: Honest Action
Chapter 9: What Are Your Stories?
What are your stories? What do you tell yourself to justify that internal resistance inside you? And what stories can you tell yourself instead to remove as much of that resistance as possible?
The only important “skill" in dating is learning how to stop buying into your own bullshit, to stop believing your own stories. The resistance is constant. You must fight against it, and ultimately take action.
Most of us have a lot of fear and shame bundled up in our sexuality. These fears usually manifest themselves in a handful of very specific scenarios:
Fear of approaching and starting a conversation with an attractive woman.
Fear of stating sexual interest either directly or indirectly (by asking for a phone number, calling a phone number, asking her out on a date, etc.)
Fear of initiating sexual contact (typically the first kiss situation).
Fear of actual sexual intercourse.
Whenever I’m confronted with something I’m afraid of, I pretend — or scratch that, I convince myself — that I don’t actually care. Here are some of the most common patterns that I’ve noticed:
Blame Game — The Blame Game is where, when confronted with something he’s afraid of, a man blames someone or something else for his fear.
Apathy and Avoidance — This has always been my Achilles’ heel, and it’s quite common. Experiencing apathy and avoidance is exactly as it says: it’s when a man convinces himself that he doesn’t care or that it’s not important to him.
Intellectualizing — I guarantee that this is part of the reason you’re here: you have some sort of fear, anxiety or pain related to women, and instead of actually doing something about it, you got online and decided to look up an answer that you could study.
Chapter 10: How to Overcome Anxiety
The proper way to handle your fear and your anxiety is to accept it, recognize that it’s normal and a part of who you are, and to not even try to hide it from the woman you’re meeting.
The way to attack anxieties is through incremental, consistent exposure. Not single, extreme exposure.
So for instance, you could take an afternoon or your lunch break each day and make a point to approach a few women just asking for the time.
Then the next week, you go out and ask women what time it is followed by, "How is your day going?"
And each day, you slowly make it harder and more intensive.
Slowly work up until you’re able to approach women by telling them you think they’re attractive and asking them out on a date. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can get comfortable doing this.
The last thing I’ll say about this method before moving on is that you should only “focus" on one thing at a time. And when I say focus on one thing at a time, I really mean only quantify one aspect of your interactions at a time.
Courage and Boldness
Feeling fear and acting despite it builds courage. Anytime you’re afraid to do something and feel some invisible force holding you back, yet you push through it anyway, you’re building courage within yourself.
Courage is a habit. Courage is a form of discipline. It’s taking a certain action even though you feel like doing something else. The difference here is that courage involves acting against fear, whereas discipline involves acting against laziness or fatigue.
Courage is built like a muscle.
Whenever you’re in doubt of what you should do, err on the side of assertiveness. Choose the bolder action.
Part V: Honest Communication
Chapter 11: Your Intentions
How something you say is received depends on the intention behind it.
Paradoxically, the way to interact with women in a vulnerable way and, therefore, the way to combat creepiness, is to accept that some women will find you creepy some of the time. Just as with rejection, the more you’re willing to risk it, the less it will happen.
Flirting is expressing your sexuality to a woman in a way that makes her feel secure expressing her sexuality back towards you.
For the sake of time and space (and boredom), I’ll be grouping most methods of flirting into two different groups: teasing and boldness. Both teasing and bold types of flirting (whether it’s negging, false takeaways, or roleplaying) follow the same basic formula: they all involve breaking rapport in order to generate sexual tension.
Teasing type behaviors generate sexual tension because they generate uncertainty as to whether or not you’re actually interested in a woman.
For instance, let’s say you meet a woman and just come right out and say, "I think you’re beautiful, I’d like to take you on a date."
But in reality, it’s one of the most powerful and practical things you can say. Not only is it vulnerable, as we’ve discussed at length, but it also builds far more sexual tension.
Developing an Emotional Connection
Your ability to connect with a woman emotionally is proportional to how self-aware you are of your own emotional processes and motivations.
How to do it? Here’s the basic pattern, and you should recognize a lot of overlap here with Chapter 2:
Becoming aware of your own emotions, motivations, and life story.
Taking the lead by sharing those emotions, motivations, and life story first.
Sharing first creates trust and encourages her to open up and share herself in return.
Ideally, the more this goes on, the more personal the stories become and the deeper the emotions are by which you connect.
And the most important rule of emotional connection is to relate to feelings, not facts. Seduction is about feelings, not facts.
Chapter 12: How to Improve Your Flirting
First impressions are crucial. Studies show that we base the majority of our perception of people on the first few minutes we spend with them.
The exact words you say are far less important than your intentions and level of anxiety.
Ninety percent of the time when I meet a new woman, I simply say, "Hi, I’m Mark." I then follow it up with, "I wanted to meet you." And if I’m feeling particularly bold, I’ll say, "I thought you were cute and wanted to meet you."
You can ask a woman how her day is going, or say the most perceptive and witty thing to her in the first minutes, but her first impression is largely going to be based on how you present yourself, your level of anxiety, and your ability to communicate clearly.
With that in mind, here are guidelines for making a good first impression:
Do not startle or scare her when you approach her.
When in doubt on how to approach a woman, simply walk up and introduce yourself and explain to her that you wanted to meet her. During the day, I often preface the introduction by saying something like, "Excuse me, this is kind of random…” Also during the day, I usually tell them that I think they’re cute.
Don’t linger. Imagine a straight line between you and her, and when you’re ready to go, follow that straight line until you’re standing right in front of her.
Smile. Always smile. But smile like you’re a nice, friendly person. A comfortable smile. Lean back. Stand up tall. Speak loudly yet clearly. Make strong eye contact. Introduce yourself and stick out your hand. Give a firm handshake. This is called being a confident human being.
Use effective language: eliminate filler words.
Instead of asking questions, use statements - cold reading is best (ie. instead of asking the question, make a guess to the answer and state it).
Get better at jumping off to related topics to keep the conversation going (word association).
Get better at telling stories, and keep the three main points of a story in mind: set up, content/conflict, and resolution.
Everything you talk about should be, in some way, revealing your identity to her or vice versa.
Making a connection requires three steps: 1) being open about yourself, 2) getting her to be open about herself, and 3) relating to each other’s experiences.
Be willing to share any part of yourself to anyone at any time and on any level. You have nothing to lose by sharing yourself.
Humor is important, and you should work to get better at it (watch more stand-up comedians).
Avoid self-deprecating humour.
It’s only useful if used in conjunction with leading her in a dominant manner and pushing things physically with her.
Chapter 13: The Dating Process
The Perfect Date
Don’t do lunch dates, and never make an afternoon date the first date if possible. 6-9pm is ideal.
No movie dates for first or second dates.
Good date locations are locations that are active, participatory, and allow for touching and flirting. Some good examples include comedy clubs, dance classes, museum exhibits, walks in interesting places (plazas, parks, etc.), concerts, or just grabbing a drink somewhere.
Once you’ve researched and found 4-6 venues and activities near your place that you enjoy doing, that are good date activities and are easily accessible, it’s time to start putting them together and do multiple things on each date. You should be doing 2-4 things on every date.
The underlying concept to have on a date is that you should try to constantly be leading.
Every decision should be yours and she should be expected to follow it. Remove, "What do you want to do now?" from your dating vocabulary. Never say it again.
Chapter 14: Physicality and Sex
I’m going to say this point-blank: getting physical with women, and getting physical quickly and comfortably, is ultimately the difference between having a lot of female friends, and having a lot of girlfriends and dates.
There are two reasons for being physically assertive with women. The first is polarization. You want to establish whether she’s sexually interested in you as soon as you possibly can. The second reason is that being physical is bold and, therefore, a highly attractive form of flirting.
Studies have shown that people being touched by somebody when they first meet them not only have a much higher probability of thinking favorably of them, but they also were shown to trust them quicker.
The best way to touch is to integrate physicality into your conversation. For example, using games such as thumb wars, twirling her like a ballerina, or giving high fives are great ways to initiate physical contact.
When it comes to kissing a woman, there’s an old adage amongst dating coaches: if you think you can kiss her, you probably could have ten minutes ago.
When it comes to sex, more important than any physical technique — some cool angle or position or whatever — is being dominant.
The most important habit to develop, by far, is to talk and be expressive in the bedroom. There has to be an open forum of communication when you sleep with a woman, especially the first few times you’re together.
Have a sense of humor. Be understanding. Relax.
One of my favorite jokes in the bedroom, when stuff goes awry, is, "They make it look so easy in the movies."
Conclusion: Moving Ahead
This is a long-term process. Take things step-by-step, and continue improving.
Whatever happens to you, no matter how bad, no matter how bleak you feel, ask yourself, "What if it was a gift?" and then try to rationalize a way it could be so.