Seduction, convincing a person to yield to your advances, isn’t only used in the pursuit of a love interest. Influencing others is how we get jobs and promotions, win negotiations, sell products, and gain notoriety.
In “The Art of Seduction,” popular author Robert Greene explores the ruthless tactics of some of history’s greatest seducers, from Cleopatra to Casanova.
We’ve summarized Greene’s 24 rules of seduction below, adapting them to situations you may run into in your career:
1. Choose the right victim.
Your target may be a hiring manager, a potential client, or a boss in a position to promote you. They should be someone “for whom you can fill a void,” Greene says. Don’t try to get the most out of those who are too eager to please you, because they are usually looking to get something in return; instead, find those who give subtle hints, like shyness in your presence, that they are open to your influence.
2. Create a false sense of security — approach indirectly.
If you want to network with an influential executive or potential client, for example, you risk forcing them to raise their guard if you approach them and immediately ask for something. Before making a proposal, reach out to them via a third party, or develop a neutral or friendly relationship before making it about business.
3. Send mixed signals.
Once you’ve got someone hooked, give yourself an air of mystery to keep their interest. When meeting someone with a professional network that you want to have access to, for example, try making yourself appear intellectual and sophisticated, but throw in a sarcastic comment or two that adds depth to your character.
4. Appear to be an object of desire.
In the same way that millions of people lust over the most popular celebrities, clients and customers will be drawn to the hottest companies and executives. Don’t make a fool of yourself, but don’t be humble when you’re trying to win someone over. Show off your most important connections and successes.
5. Create a need — stir anxiety and discontent.
Someone cannot be seduced if they’re content. Sell yourself by illustrating ways in which the other party is lacking in some respect and then reveal how you can make up for that deficiency. Perhaps you illustrate for a business the many ways in which it is wasting its money, and then how a few changes could transform the company.
6. Master the art of insinuation.
If you’re too straightforward with people you’re trying to influence, you may scare them away or even turn them against you. The best way to get people to work in your favour, Greene says, is by subtly dropping hints over time without revealing your true intentions. That way you can make your target think they’re acting on their own initiative.
7. Enter their spirit.
If you’re trying to change someone’s mind and bring them to your side, first play by their rules. If you want to do something like using a meeting with a client to get them to invest in your company further, begin by becoming a mirror for them, behaving as they behave, and they will open themselves up to you.
8. Create temptation.
Determine what your target’s weakness is, and play to it. Find an ideal that they are trying to realise “and hint that you can lead them to it,” Greene writes.
20th Century Fox
Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in the 1963 film of the same name. The real Cleopatra was able to maintain power by seducing both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
9. Keep them in suspense.
The moment people think they know what to expect from you is when your hold over them is broken. Keep their interest in you with the occasional surprise.
10. Use the power of words.
If you are giving a presentation, for example, goad the audience onto your side by telling them what they want to hear. Make your argument convincing by making it enjoyable.
11. Pay attention to detail.
Entice your target by making painstaking decisions look effortless. For a job interview, pay attention to every detail of how your present yourself, down to your smartphone case in the event that you use it in their presence. Follow up with a formalized thank-you note to complete the image you’re trying to sell.
12. Poeticise your presence.
You will not win someone over if you are a nagging constant in their lives. Associate yourself with enjoyable experiences so that your target misses you when you’re gone. To use the hiring example, make sure each interaction shines but don’t overdo it by following up your thank-you note with another email or phone call the next day.
13. Disarm through strategic weakness and vulnerability.
Rather than overpower your target, set aside your ego and communicate how the other side is in a dominant position, even if it isn’t exactly true. You will not rise through the corporate hierarchy by appearing arrogant to your superiors.
14. Confuse desire and reality — the perfect illusion.
“Remember: people want to believe in the extraordinary,” Greene writes. Make whatever you’re trying to sell, whether it’s an idea or an actual product, sound dramatic yet rooted in reality.
15. Isolate the victim.
People are most vulnerable when they are shut off from everything around them. When you are applying to a job, write and speak as if that job is the only one you ever wanted to apply for; when pitching your services, make your client feel as if they are the only one that matters.
16. Prove yourself.
If your target begins to become insecure and pulls back from you, demonstrate your value by going out of your way to help them in some way.
Anton Raphael Mengs (1759)
Giacomo Casanova was an adventurous Italian socialite who wrote about his many affairs with women.
17. Effect a regression.
No matter what relationship you are trying to strike, whether it be with a boss, employer, client, or anyone else, your target will have had similar relationships that worked well for them. Figure out what they liked most about these previous experiences with your predecessor and do things to evoke memories of them.
18. Stir up the transgressive and taboo.
Even the most clean-cut people have a curiosity of the forbidden. You do not need to be doing anything wrong to make the other side feel as if they are working in a nebulous area — that can mean something as simple as hinting that a deal you are offering someone is so great that it is unprecedented and needs to be kept secret.
19. Use spiritual lures.
You run the risk of cheapening your words if they all lead to a singular goal, whether that be getting a job or selling a product. Supplement them with moral ideals that make your aim seem more important than it is. For instance, you could connect the prospect of a job with a company as the logical next step in your professional journey, or align your company’s mission with a higher purpose.
20. Mix pleasure with pain.
In a business situation, this means that you should avoid being overly polite with your target, which can have the unintended consequence of making yourself seem insincere and insecure. Mix complimentary language with blunt, straightforward insight.
21. Give them space.
When the other side is on your side but has become used to you, recreate interest by taking a step back and having them chase you. If you have been going for a promotion and get a job offer from a competitor, for example, bring it to your boss as if you are strongly considering leaving, even if you are not interested.
22. Use physical lures.
Keep your target focused on you by making yourself as attractive as possible, dressing nicely, smiling, and speaking with confidence.
23. Master the art of the bold move.
When your target has demonstrated that they are definitely interested in you, make a final offensive move, stating your intended goal. End with a natural, bold finish, rather than awkwardly or timidly avoiding what you really want. State outright how you would be a great fit for the company you’re applying to; tell your client that they need your services in order to beat their competition.
24. Beware of the aftereffects.
Once you have succeeded in your seduction, employ variations of the above tactics to certain degrees to keep the other side from taking you for granted and making you disposable.