If you read about ‘negging’, or ‘bitch-shields’ or anything Julien Blanc has ever done, you’d be forgiven for thinking that pick-up artists are, to a man, terrible, punchable people. This is sort of true: anyone who actually calls himself a pick-up artist (or PUA, to use their own vernacular), is quite likely to be a dreadful human being who sees women as trophies or (best-case) problems to be solved rather than, you know, actual people. But is everything discussed in PUA forums and PUA books and those insanely expensive PUA seminars a despicable waste of time? Well, no. Because at heart, at least some ‘pick-up artists’ are teaching their awkward charges to just get better at talking to people, or be more confident about themselves. And at least some of them are quite good at it. So what can you learn from the people making lucrative careers from studying how people interact – without becoming an awful person? Here’s what.
5. Most people aren’t judging you
One of the most common fears among – well, anyone – is that they’re being constantly judged or made fun of by people around them. ‘This is half right,’ points out Neil Strauss, author of The Game. ‘People may notice you, but most of them are too busy worrying about what people are thinking of them to judge you. Once you realise that most people are just like you, you’ll start to become socially fearless.’ PUAs ‘learn’ this by relentlessly approaching groups of girls – you can do it more easily. From now on, when you’re worried about people judging you, just think about how infrequently you worry about what anyone else is doing. That ought to fix it.
4. Some people are just naturally better at X – but that doesn’t matter
Let’s not get into a nature/nurture thing and just accept that, yes, some people seem ‘naturally’ better at talking to members of the opposite sex, just like some people are ‘naturally’ more confident in job interviews, presentations, or BAFTA acceptance ceremonies, or ‘naturally’ better at maths, running fast, or kicking a ball into a net. Maybe they are. But that doesn’t matter, because if you aren’t ‘naturally’ talented, it’s not about who you are – it’s just about what you do and how you present yourself. Fix that – even if you have to fake it at first – and soon (well, at some point) you’ll have people envying your ‘natural’ talent. At this point, you can charge them two thousand pounds for a seminar, or break the cycle by, y’know, acting like an actual human.
3. ‘Being yourself’ is overrated
You’ve been told by dozens of films, cartoon animals and bitter X-Factor exit interviews that ‘being yourself’ is the highest ideal you can aspire to – but is it, really? Yes, it’s great if you’ve got a strong sense of who you are, what your strengths and values are, and how to convey them effectively – but no, it isn’t, if you’re using it as an excuse not to improve. Or, as Strauss has it: ‘What most of us present to the world isn’t necessarily our true self: it’s a combination of years of bad habits and fear-based behaviour. Our real self lies buried underneath all the insecurities and inhibitions. So rather than ‘being yourself’, focus on discovering and permanently bringing to the surface your best self.’ Seems legit.
2. Outcomes aren’t everything
Yes, it’s possible to be too outcome-focused. Life is unpredictable: even if you do everything exactly right, you aren’t always going to get exactly what you want: whether that’s a phone number, a date, a marriage, a specific job, a six-pack or a book deal. Being too outcome-focused, as most PUAs learn, can turn into a form of self-sabotage. Instead, emotionally detaching from the outcome – while taking rational steps towards smaller goals – can keep you focused. It’ll happen sooner or later – the important thing is doing everything you can to get the process right, and not beating yourself up over missteps.
1. ‘Inner game’ is better than ‘game’
At some point, all ‘PUAs’ make a distinction between ‘outer game’ – ie all the pre-prepared lines, routines, magic tricks and general bullshit that most ‘gurus’ teach – and ‘inner game’, which is basically shorthand for ‘being a slightly better person.’ Ultimately, the theory goes, confidence is difficult to fake, and so becoming genuinely more adventurous, curious, sociable and confident is much, much better than pretending. Instead of faking it until you make it, the idea goes, fake it until you become it – an idea which, like all the ones above, goes far, far beyond hitting on ladies in bars.