What sparks cold approach attraction? I have been to the dark side, and I brought a flashlight with me.
You see, I’ve thought a lot about attraction throughout the past couple of years as it has pertained to how I got involved with people and what I have seen out there with friends and strangers alike. There are a lot of schools of thought out there on what sparks attraction, what makes it last, if it can be created or if it’s organic, et cetera.
What I want to get into on this thesis is cold approach attraction. For those of you who don’t know (and for those who do and just want to know where I’m coming from), cold approaches are when you start an interaction with someone based on no prior contact or showmanship. What I mean by this is that it must be a stranger somewhat removed from your normal social circle (that is, unlikely to be introduced to you by a mutual friend) who you weren’t trying to convince you were awesome already, be it through conversation, dancing on them, or buying them a drink. Obviously these are just illustrations, but you get the point: by cold we mean no prior social interaction with them.
One of the best breakdowns of cold approach attraction came out of Real Social Dynamics, which Alexander~ lays down on his blog in great detail. The basic formula comes down to this:
In a nutshell, attraction is a function of displaying high(er) value plus or minus a potentially infinite level of either positive or negative emotion respectively. It’s this formula that I want to flesh out a bit more, because I think there are some different variants dependent on what type of approach it is.
No one likes to feel leeched upon. How many films have been made about underlings being treated like crap by their bosses or customers (Horrible Bosses, Waiting…, Clerks)? Those movies are borne out of this angst and anger about being taken advantage of. The same thing is true with attraction and relationships.
Ever spent time with a needy (boy/girl)friend? It sucks, it’s draining on your spirit. The same is true in a pick-up scenario. It can be a horrible feeling to approach or be approached and have the other person(s) go straight into interrogation mode or just gawk at you.
There’s a bit of a qualification process that happens in courting and meeting new people. What are you bringing to the party? Why are you around? It’s a key question that any stranger will be thinking.
On the flip side of the coin, the person who overqualifies is just as annoying. Only so much name-dropping, money-dropping, and ego boosting can occur before you alienate someone. Going crazy and super high energy can also be seen as a negative (somewhat dependent on the context of the interaction and level of energy in the venue and the group you’re approaching). This is what people in the field have dubbed the “Dancing Monkey Trap,” where you entertain the crowd for the night and then leave empty handed. Overqualification just appears like you have something you are compensating for, and that causes red flags.
It’s about the happy medium: don’t be needy but don’t be try-hard. If you have any resemblance of social acuity, you know how you talk to your friends. Any conversation should be a lot like that: back and forth, everyone committing some value and investment to the relationship without feeling like you need to pry.
So: why “higher value” instead of just “high value?” Thank the psychological principle of egocentrism. Most people have a higher appreciation for their skills and attributes than those of others, especially if the other people are strangers who they have no information on. Therefore, displaying higher value than the person you’re interacting with shows that you’re not just joining the party, but you’re building upon it. And bringing something new to the table is attractive.
Rule #1 of Male Pick-Up: Always be cooler than the girl. Ladies, be cooler than the guy. If s/he’s worthwhile, you’ll be challenged and intrigued.
The Friend Boost
In politics, candidates are always looking for endorsements. The edge of cold approach pick-up is some outside echelon where you know some of the same people potentially but not well enough to have one necessarily introduce you.
Imagine a house party. You came because you were invited by a coworker who you don’t necessarily hang out with but are chummy enough to be invited. Then you approach someone who isn’t a fellow coworker. This person you approached is a cold approach insofar as you weren’t introduced and it’s seems random you’re both there.
Now, you’re going to get a boost because you have a mutual friend which helps to establish your credibility as a respectable person (otherwise, why would someone that they are friends with be friends with you? It’s egocentrism again.) and someone that they can give a bit more time to. This can also work if you befriend the friend of the target on the fly (say, you walked up to a guy and a girl and made friends with the one you weren’t hitting on). It’s still your job to establish the other elements of attraction, it’s just that a social circle connection is like affirmative action points for attraction, as long as the person you approached has a favorable view of the mutual friend. Can this backfire? Yes, but if you establish your own value correctly, it isn’t a devastating blow by any means.
If you come off as a douche or very arrogant, it will work against you. If you come off as a confident person who is entertained by themselves, it will work in your favor.
In summary of this section: don’t try to be so smooth that you don’t invest in the interaction, but don’t overinvest and just focus on entertaining the other person. Don’t interrogate, but also don’t read your life story to someone. Be a person, vibe, provide and receive value, and you’re well on your way.
Let me run you through two scenarios to highlight the true importance of emotions as they pertain to cold approach attraction.
Scenario 1: Have you ever been to a wedding? Or just had someone get engaged? Invariably, there has to be some story told about how the couple met, and how they knew s/he was “the one.”
Is that story ever couched in “He had a good job, and so I made the choice to give him a chance.” No. Sure, it’s good to have standards in the long run and not just marry deadbeats, but this isn’t the reason why people initially get attracted. It’s always “It was in the kiss” or “The way they held me” or “I just knew.” All of these are emotionally driven.
Scenario 2: Ever had a long fight? One of those that last so long that you forgot how the fight even started
Somehow you kept fighting, though. At some point, the emotions of the moment overran even the rationale for your actions and just created an emotional inertia.
It is a no-brainer that emotions are ever present and have strong pull. People often just forget this when doing a cold approach, or at least forget to tweak the card. The problem with a lot of approaches is that it leads to an interview or interrogation. “What’s your name?” “What are you drinking?” “What do you do?” Where is the emotional stimulation in that?
The stimulation is there, but it’s not positive. Boredom is not positive.
Let’s jump into this positive and negative issue. Obviously you want the person to have a net positive reaction, since that is by definition necessary for attraction. All of your long-term relationships of either a romantic or friendly nature have been filled with ups and downs on the emotional scale. Sometimes you butt heads, sometimes you are having the time of your lives. Cold approach attraction relies on both these positive and negative feelings just like other relationships do. It shows a well-rounded person with multiple layers to their personality. Again, it’s just a need to come out net positive.
This is a bit perplexing for most people, so let me break it down this way. If I walked up to a girl and just commented on how attractive she was and how I like everything she does, that would get old and annoying quickly, if not make me just sound like a stalker. However, if I approach the same girl and we get to talking about sports or her hometown or her alma mater and I start a little rivalry or tease her a bit about it, she may be a bit annoyed at the moment, but I erase that by moving the conversation onto some other stuff that’s positive and we return to the rivalry later on, a sort of good cop/bad cop dynamic within our relationship.
Another way to think about this: going through a range of emotions in an interaction with someone makes it seem like the two of you have accomplished more than if only one emotion was stoked the whole time. More emotional energy was used, and so it is like an accomplished sense of being tired.
Conversational stimulation is great. But conversations never got anyone pregnant.
The common wisdom is that the first kiss is powerful. Physical attraction starts before the first kiss. Sure, someone can be attractive, but that actually falls in the “higher value” component of the equation. Long story short: attractiveness signals health and good genes, which is desirable for a mate.
Physical attraction comes heavily from touch. Cuddling? Sex? Both are appreciated because of their intimacy and touch. To properly consider getting involved with a person, you have to cover whether you are attracted in all of the key arenas, including the physical realm.
Touch is all based on feeling. It feels right or it doesn’t. It could be subtle, or it could be a strong reaction. There is no real magic with the touch. If it isn’t creepy and you don’t ask if it’s okay to touch them, then it’s completely circumstantial.
Just don’t take forever to initiate the first touch! A while back I saw the most appropriate graph on the subject, and it was just a diagonal line that showed that the more time that passes, the more awkward that first touch is. If you’re talking to someone for half an hour and then try to put your arm around them all of a sudden, that’s just going to be a bit confusing. Why? Because that relationship has already been placed in the friend zone. The longer it takes to initiate the first touch, the less attraction will be built by its occurrence.
Cold approach is almost identical to warm approach when it comes to touch, with the exception that people are practically strangers in cold approach. To completely burst through the space barrier and initiate physical contact without any knowledge of a person is a bold move. The benefits far outweigh the costs, it’s just a point that must be recognized.
Why is the emotional aspect of the cold approach attraction formula put to an infinite power?
MOTHERS HAVE LIFTED CARS OFF OF THEIR KIDS! If that’s not a sign that emotions are more powerful than you can imagine, I don’t know what is.
Okay, so the infinite power may be a bit extreme, it is more of “up to infinity.” Bringing it back down to attraction, it goes back to what I previously said about net positive emotions being elicited. Any positive number to a positive power will be a larger positive number.
What goes into this exponent? Any number of factors. Some of it just comes down to luck, timing, and the like. Consider it the logistics and “how tight was the interaction” component. It’s what sets one person apart from another in the attraction game. Most anyone can create a positive interaction, but not every one of those will develop into a romance.
In Summary of this Section : Emotions are the lifeblood of relationships. Attraction is based on the interaction being net positive, not just because feelings of love or lust were stoked, but because a variety of emotions have been covered. Touch is vital to establishing a sexual vibe, so initiate it early and often. Just calibrate the touch to what is appropriate for the level in interaction, venue, et cetera. Emotions have the power to override rational thought, but what causes them to peak differs from person to person, day to day. If the emotional outcome is net positive, it’s a great jumping off point.
Wrapping It Up
I’ve broken down the original formula from Alexander~ pretty thoroughly and added some components to flesh it out a bit more, as seen below.
Attraction = [(Higher Value + Friend Boost)/ Perceived Arrogance] ± [Emotional Range + (Touch – Time to Initiate Touch)]∞
Attraction is not a choice. It can, however, be manipulated. Hopefully as a result of the depth of my insight, you can see how it can be used to your advantage and allow you to put the best version of yourself forward.