reposting from Reddit
How can I be more attractive?
Let's have a conversation about attraction. We frequently see posts here (and in r/askgaybros & related subreddits) asking for specific info about what people can do to make themselves more attractive, are they attractive enough, do other people find them attractive, etc.
But what about the topic broadly and without respect to one person's individual situation? Anything interesting for us all to talk about?
Attraction encompasses a number of characteristics. On this (and similar subreddits), it generally gets narrowly focused to how your physical appearance is perceived by people you don't already have any relationship/connection with. That's a part of attraction, but a narrow part of it.
Let's focus on the situation that most people are probably interested in: where you want to be attractive to people you don't already know (e.g., on dating/hookup apps, at the bar, at parties, etc.) This is generally what guys around here are generally interested in when they talk about attraction. Let's call this 'Initial Attraction'.
(1) Initial Attraction = Appearance + Approachability
To attract someone to you, they have to see you as attractive and/or see that it's okay to approach you.
This is a fairly important nuance that's often overlooked by some folks. Some folks have the idea that "Attraction = Appearance", forgetting about Approachability. Approachability is a word not often used or discussed when talking about attraction. People may talk about charisma, which is a cousin of approachability. The difference is that charisma generally feels like an immutable and ephemeral sort quality, or 'je ne sais quoi', that people either have or they don't, but not something that can be cultivated or learned.
(2) Appearance is OVERVALUED in some environments
Physical appearance can be worked on in certain ways and has certain possibilities and limitations that vary for each individual. The mechanics of this have likely been discussed from many angles in many other threads, so we won't delve into that here.
Dating & hookup apps skew our thinking into putting far more weight on physical appearance because our approachability can't be conveyed in a profile. It's just the nature of these apps -- appearance easily comes across in a photo, but approachability isn't really conveyable in this environment. For many men, this leads to increasingly seeing their physical appearance as their only attractive element, and it's an easy slip to then see your physical appearance as your only valuable element (because we so often tie our attractiveness directly to feelings of value or self worth.)
Keep in mind the narrow-focus that dating/hookup apps have. Be careful not to tie your feelings of self-worth to how successful/unsuccessful your online-hookup connections are. It's a specific environment/app set up for a specific purpose that is only interested in specific characteristics. It's not a broad-based representation of human interaction or community. There's nothing wrong with dating/hookup apps, but remember that they serve a specific purpose and don't broadly reflect life or relationships.
(3) Where Is Approachability and What Does It Look Like?
Approachability is really valuable in real-time interactions between people. Think about situations in your life with people who have been approachable to you. This isn't relegated to people you're interested in romantically at all, it's applicable to everyone with whom you interact.
Assuming you went to high-school, a good pool of people for this sort of exercise is to think about your high-school teachers. That's generally a group of people with pretty diverse personalities with whom you had several years' exposure, and with whom you had to interact. They probably all had very different personalities. Some probably felt a lot more approachable than others. Some you might say "hi" to in the hall, or have a chat with, where you'd never dream of doing that with others. What was it about those teachers that you felt comfortable with that made them approachable & likable? Why did you want to engage them? Wouldn't you like to cultivate those attributes in yourself?
(4) Attributes of Approachability
(Not everything is covered here, but it's a start to thinking about what Approachability is)
(5) Caveat of Approachability
- Body Language: Do you smile? Is your body open and relaxed or closed and tight (e.g., arms crossed, eyebrows scowling)?
- Basic Engagement: Do you say hello to everyone you interact with? When you order something at McDonald's, do you look at the menu while responding to the cashier with "Uhhh... lemme get a, um, Big Mac meal widda Coke.", or do you look them in the eye and respond with "Hi (smile)! I'll have a Big Mac medium meal with a Coke please." I used to work in fast food, so the "Uhhh... lemme get a, um..."-with-zero-eye-contact was by far the most common way customers would interact with me. It's really easy for you to do better than average here!
- Remember People's Names: This is one manifestation of showing interest in others. Take a moment to remember someone's name when meeting them, and use their name later in conversation. It leaves a strong positive impression on people. You can do this in all interactions, even with a customer service agents on the phone. "Hi, thank your for calling BigCorp customer service, this is Jillian, how can I help you?", then have the call, then at the end say "Thanks so much for your help, Jillian, I really appreciate it."
- Take an Interest in Others' Interests: There's probably a lot about you that's very interesting and that you can talk about. Typically we really enjoy it when others take an interest in us and in our interests. Being interested in others increases our approachability and, consequently, our attractiveness. Apply this to your own interactions: take an interest in others; a genuine interest. Ask them about themselves. Ask intelligent follow-up questions. Remember their answers so that you can build on the discussion, possibly continuing it later if/when you see them again. Surprise! You've just started to build the basic foundations of a relationship with this person (maybe platonic, maybe dating/romantic, who knows?) You've got enough of a connection to easily resume talking with them in the future if you were to see them at a bar/party/etc., and further build on the relationship then.
- Focus on the Positive: Talking negatively about person D (who isn't there) with people A, B, and C? A, B, and C may talk and laugh with you in that moment, but they'll probably build some distance with you because they'll assume (probably rightly) that you'll talk about them when they're not around. Best to avoid speaking negatively about others. Positivity is itself also attractive -- people want to be around positivity, so it enhances your approachability in that way. Actively look for things to complement people on or be happy about. It could be very specific to a person, or it could be situational.
- PRACTICE and PATIENCE: It takes time to cultivate approachability. If you don't feel you're very approachable right now, take one or two small steps over the next week or two and apply them in your life. Keep track of how making these small changes impacts your experience in interacting with others. You can practice being approachable anywhere: at home, at work, out running errands, etc. Any practice you get in one place can be applied anywhere. Approachability isn't flirting. So if you practice being more approachable with coworkers at work this week, that'll probably translate into your being a bit more approachable at that party you're going to on Saturday. It takes time, you'll make mistakes, but it can be cultivated with patient and continued practice.
We're all well-attuned to disingenuous behavior. If you try to act selectively approachable, i.e., approachable only to people to whom you want to be approachable, it'll be obvious to everyone. And it'll make you less approachable and likely seem a bit fake. It'll be clear you're not genuinely an approachable person, but only using approachability as a tool for you to get what you want from others.
This isn't to say that you have to deeply engage with everyone that approaches you. No. But certainly you can share some positivity, however brief, with most everyone with whom you interact. Even if it's just a smile.
Let's Chat in the Comments: How has this manifested in your own life?
- What are some of your experiences with attraction? (Both as the attractor and as the attractee)
- When you look at interactions in your past, what impact has approachability had on your interactions with others? Compare your approachability with the approachability of others -- did it impact your interactions?
- In 'pick-up' settings like a bar or at party, how much of an impact has approachability had versus the impact of physical appearance? (Again, both as the attractor and as the attractee)