People usually want to know how to attract attention, be noticed, and spark someone’s interest. So, naturally, advice on the subject abounds. A quick Google search will deliver tips on body language, what to wear, how to smell, what to say or not say, even ice-breaker jokes. Except, learning a few tricks to capture someone’s attention for a moment is not the same as cultivating qualities that keep them hooked. First impressions matter only until people get to know you. And they will, probably faster than you’d like them to.
So, if you don’t want to be just a fancy book cover, you’ll have to demonstrate your worth on the pages, or you risk the chance of getting left behind on a nightstand in a cheap motel.
A few years back, I met a handsome devil who seemed eager to get to know me. He had the looks, made a fun first impression, and was persistent. Despite my better judgment but encouraged by a friend, I decided to give this guy a chance. I figured what could go wrong between two consenting adults wanting to have fun. How about everything that did! I was barely two pages into his book. The ensuing drama killed the allure and ended the relationship before it started. Then the drunk midnight calls began. Oh well. I blocked his number and filed the whole thing under “lessons learned.”
This experience made me more cautious around people that appear perfect from the start. I am sure a few lucky ones exist who immediately hit all the right notes, and the more you get to know them, the more you admire their presentation and love their substance. They legit check out, and they inspire me. Or, more accurately, they are an idea that inspires me because I have never actually met someone so perfect. I am not sure if I just don’t hang out with the perfect crowd or the odds of someone like that are worse than winning the lottery. Most of us are kind of on a spectrum of imperfection. Most of us try to do better. Most of us have some blemishes and challenges we have to smooth out and work out. It’s what makes life more exciting and worth living. I am not sure what perfect people do with their time without any blemishes and challenges.
Also, this experience showed me the power of first impressions to overwrite rationality and intuition. So tricky are those first impressions. You don’t want to be the stick in the mud raising concerns about a perfect first impression. But you also don’t want to be blinded by bling, wishful thinking, and showmanship. And you most definitely do want to make an excellent first impression!
So, let’s start there. Making a good first impression requires skill. You could learn how. That’s where body language comes in handy, smiling, smelling good, dressing for the occasion, showing interest in the other person, exhibiting confidence but not arrogance, listening well, remembering people’s names, but most of all, appearing available - for a conversation, for a job, or a relationship. If people perceive you as unavailable, unapproachable, unfriendly, you are out. No one likes you or wants you.
Rule #1 – Make yourself available!
All that verbal and non-verbal communication must portray you as available. You are present, willing to play, wanting to listen, interested in contributing, ready to engage. Period! Next time you are on a date, at a party, or an interview, ask yourself what other people must see when they look at you. Are you coming across as available? Your significant other complains about you? Ask yourself if you’ve been available? Availability trumps openness. Openness runs on curiosity which may or may not go anywhere. Availability runs on readiness which always takes you somewhere. It could be the bedroom, or to a nice restaurant, or a promotion at work.
Now that you know about portraying availability remember to do it from the heart. It’s not something you can fake. At least not for long. If you fake availability when you don’t like someone or something, you could find yourself driving the runaway car in a murder case or tipping cows in Iowa at midnight. Be selective and deliberate with your availability. Know thyself. Know your values, needs, desires, goals, ideas, and limitations. Know your deal-breakers. Know when to say “no.” Then work on your presentation. Even if you fumble the presentation part, people can sense if you are authentic and honest. Some will even find your awkwardness endearing, even sexy. Think Hugh Grant. You cannot go wrong with Hugh Grant. Unlike Leonardo DiCaprio in “Catch Me If You Can.” That would be the exact opposite, eloquent and deceitful. Conning people – bad. Charming people authentically, even if you’re clumsy – good.
Rule #2 – Make an emotional connection
Emotions fuel existence. Without emotions, life flatlines. When you emotionally connect with something or someone, you willingly invest your time, energy, and resources in it. People who love their jobs stay there longer and work harder. When in love, we make time to be with each other. Passion pulls us. Excitement drives us. We want more of whatever we desire and gravitate away from people, places, and things that frustrate us, make us sad and uncomfortable, confuse us, and bore us.
We create an emotional connection with someone when we give them our undivided attention. We become the person they can talk to and feel heard. The stories we tell each other drive us closer because of the feeling we get from telling them and hearing them. They become a shared experience.
Rule #3 – Share experiences and interests
Psychology tells us that we gravitate towards what is familiar. This could be bad or good, depending on the context. But if you want to be and stay attractive to someone, you must find common ground, mutual similarity, and shared interests. You must share experiences. Planning and doing things together that you both enjoy will help you weave your story of togetherness and create the unique shape of your life or work together. I keep saying love, life, and work. That’s because these are universal principles you can apply to all your relationships. So, open up and share. Speak up about your interests, hobbies, dreams, and curiosities. Share your ideas. Have brainstorming sessions together. Solve problems. Build things. Explore.
You do not have to overlap completely, as differences create novelty, and we love novelty too.
While finding common ground, notice the differences. Unless they are deal-breakers, lean into them. It will be your chance to be supportive, learn something new, and experience things you may not have considered but could very much enjoy. People open worlds for each other. Let them. Spice things up with new exciting adventures. This also builds trust and solidifies you as a valuable team member.
Rule #4 – Be awesome.
No one likes a complaining loser. Shine in your element. Delivering a speech or working on a project, when others see us fully immersed in something, they also see you just out of reach. They can be proud of you, marvel, and vicariously live through you. They can also have their own time to do what they like and not worry about entertaining and taking care of you. Competency, confidence, and mastery are sexy. Arrogance is not. Losers are not. You don’t have to be rich and famous. You just have to have something you are great and passionate about, an area in your life where you command attention because you’re engaging, inspiring, wanted, and needed for your skills and knowledge. When others look up to you with admiration and respect, so will your boss and your significant other. You’re a keeper!
Rule #6 – Take care of yourself.
You can’t start a relationship looking like a fitness model, just to end up like Jabba the Hutt a couple of years later and complain that your significant other doesn’t want to touch you. That’s a “bait-and-switch.” Not fair. Some things may be out of your control. You may end up in a health situation, not of your own making. Getting old is not easy either. That’s a different conversation, though. Good hygiene, grooming, and healthy habits should be constant. The same applies to your work environment. If you sell them on your productivity and problem-solving abilities but end up doing nothing and creating problems, you can’t complain when they fire you.
Keep doing what you did to get selected in the first place, or you will end up unselected!
Rule #7 – Dish out the goodness
From complimenting to showing your appreciation and sharing good news, keep spilling out the positivity. Everyone has bad days. You just don’t want to be the person having them all the time. People that spend a lot of time together become invisible to each other. So make sure to see your people and let them know! Encourage them to shine. Dress up and play. Point out the best in them. Never put them down! There is absolutely no excusable reason to put someone down. Even when angry, watch your mouth. One of the best predictors of a relationship ending is how partners speak to each other. Those who use condescending language find themselves single sooner than later.
Don’t use others as a garbage can for all of your daily frustrations. Get a diary. Join a support group. Talk to a therapist or a life coach. Be self-sufficient for your emotional well-being. Interdependency and sharing with people you love are different than dumping on them all of the negativity of your life, all of the time, especially when all you want to do is vent but take no action to change anything. I get paid to listen to people, and I still get tired of hearing it.
Rule #8 – Keep updating your relationship(s)
Pay attention to where you and your partner are in time, priorities, and desires. Relationships are fluid as the people involved constantly change and evolve, hopefully, into better versions of themselves. You may not always be moving in the same direction at the same rate. It does not mean your relationship has to end. It may mean upgrading it, re-inventing it, re-defining it, re-negotiating it. Business teams have goal-setting retreats, periodic evaluations of what works and what doesn’t. Personal relationships have inertia. We let them snowball into an avalanche of despair. It’s avoidable with a bit of proactivity. Discuss where you are and where you want to go. Make it a journey together, keep correcting course as needed, and take side-trips based on your curiosities for some fun and variety.
Stay connected to your partner, relevant, and valuable. We tend to think about what others give us rather than what we contribute to others. As a result, people say things like, “I am not getting much out of this relationship.” Or “I got a bad deal.” We neglect to ask, “what am I here to give.” Even me! I know this stuff, and I forget. You don’t have to be Mother Theresa, just a reciprocating human being who values making others happy and better off.
I always say, if I treat people the way I treat my dog, I will have the absolute best relationships anyone can imagine. I love my dog and show it on an hourly basis. She gets hugs, cuddles, pets, and I am always available for more! I tell her how cute and sweet she is. I compliment every haircut she gets, even the choppy ones. I play with her. I buy her new toys and never get upset when she takes them apart looking for the squeaker. I encourage her to explore, take her on new walks, and let her chase critters. She gets the best food, sleeps on the bed, and has her spot on the couch (the entire couch). I make sure she has all her needs met, stays healthy, and is up-to-date on her shots. She travels with me. She’s never left behind, forgotten, neglected, and unappreciated. She has at least 50 endearing names. I use them even when I am mad at her, which rarely happens because it’s almost impossible to get angry and stay upset at someone you dearly love. I am proud of the three tricks she knows, and love her independent sassiness. I let her be herself and teach her with gentle guidance and bribes of cheese and other tasty morsels. I don’t tell her about my problems because I don’t expect her to solve them even though I am always ready to solve hers. I always think of what I can do for my dog, not what my dog can do for me.
Treat others the way you treat your dog (or pet), and they will always want you, love you, and want to play with you!
Happy adulting. May the attraction gods be with you!
V and Lulu B (the dog)