The Psychology of Attraction
Do people find you attractive?
Attraction isn’t only about looks. It’s about a certain primal magnetism. Of course, we can be physically attracted to someone, but we are more often drawn to their confidence, passion and personality. Being attractive is about more than just appearance. In fact:
Let me explain. Not only is attraction the basis of finding a romantic partner, but we are also attracted to work with certain people. We are attracted to certain friendships. We are even attracted to certain coffee shops because we like their vibe, their menu or their location. Attractiveness is an essential part of understanding what motivates people.
If you want to make people want you, if you want to be attractive, if you want to understand people, you need to learn:
The Rules of Attraction
#1: Stop Being Boring
Our brains are like really hungry toddlers–they are easily bored and demand to be fed with entertaining nuggets. Being “hot” simply isn’t enough.
New York Times best-selling author and developmental molecular biologist, John Medina discovered that the brain has a very short attention span. Our brains are attracted to intriguing, interesting, engaging people and things. Luckily, you are an intriguing, interesting, engaging person!
Yes, I have met thousands of people at speaking events, conferences and networking parties and I have never met a boring person.
Sometimes we act boring because we are afraid of being seen as “weird” or “different”. So we have the same the mind-numbingly boring social script of “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?”. We don’t share how we really feel, we hide our quirks and try to fit in. But you know what? Fitting in sucks. It’s dull and unattractive.
Scientific research has shown us that there are tools we can use to fight the boring, increase our attractiveness and make us more memorable. Read on…
#2: You Have 30 Seconds, Go
Don’t let anyone tell you different. People judge you the moment you walk in the room.
If we get rid of social niceties and get down to the science, attraction happens in the first 30 seconds. And, as much as we don’t like to admit it, our brain decides if we are attracted to someone else almost instantly.
Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher studied hundreds of couples in love and found that the human body knows within one second whether someone’s physically attractive or not. We might not realize it, but our brains make incredibly accurate and long-lasting snap judgements in the first few seconds of meeting a new person.
In the non-dating world of attraction science, research shows we get a little bit more time to make a first impression, but not by much. The scientific term for first impressions is thin-slicing, a coin termed by Nalini Ambady of Tufts University. Ambady wanted to test how accurate our first impressions are. She videotaped 13 teachers and showed 30 second clips to participants. She asked the participants to rate the teachers effectiveness. Ambady then compared these ratings to the teachers’ end-of-semester evaluations from actual students.
The participants accurately predicted which teachers would be the most successful–from just 30 seconds of video.
Ambady even shortened the clips to 15 seconds, and then to six. Again, the students could correctly predict the most successful teachers. So, you have six seconds, what will you do with them?
#3: The Single Hottest Trait
What turns you on? Eyes? Humor? Legs? Research shows that a person’s most attractive trait is their availability. Yet, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of how people work. And this is important for every area of life.
In dating it is about physical availability “Will this person mate with me?”
In friends and long-term romantic partners it is about emotional availability. “Will this person open up to me?”
In business it is about economic and intellectual availability. “Will this person work with me?”
The best way to show availability whether it is at a networking event, party, business meeting or date is by demonstrating availability. Show people you want to connect, talk and start a relationship. A woman at an event once asked me: “Isn’t it obvious that I’m available to connect? I’m here aren’t I?”
Try This: At your next social event make a point of telling people why you are there and what you are looking for. Something like, “I’m excited to meet you because I was hoping to make some really interesting connections at this event.” Or, “This event is going great, I came wanting to stir up some business and I have already passed out a few business cards. May I give you one?” We don’t realize that our availability isn’t as obvious as we think. Try showing it and you will be pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and curious people are in return.
The other way you can show availability is nonverbally. Read on:
#4: Sexy Body Language
Open body language is more attractive than any outfit, hairstyle or dance move.
Female and male body language also differ. Here is an overview of female body language to watch out for:
You can also use body language to show availability and increase your attractiveness in interactions.
- Open Torso: Body language research has shown that keeping your torso, chest and abdomen open to the world is best way to show availability. Crossed arms, clutching a wine glass in front of your stomach, checking a phone in front of your chest or hugging a purse to your center are all ways we close our body language and seem unavailable. Studies have shown that we actually close our body language when we are feeling mentally closed off.
- Hands: We love to see people’s hands. Studies have found that when we can’t see people’s hands we have trouble trusting them. When you put your hands in your pockets, tuck them under the table or hide them behind a coat, you’re attractiveness decreases because people can’t open up to you.
Image #1: Blocked Torso and Hidden Hands Image #2: Open Torso and Hands Visible
An interesting story about how open body language and open-mindedness go hand in hand: I was people watching at a networking event and watched a man and woman chatting. At the beginning of the conversation the woman was holding her purse in front of her chest and the man was holding his wine glass in front of him. At one point the man made a joke and both of them began to laugh. You could see them emotionally relax and open up. At that moment the woman swung her purse over her shoulder and opened up her body language. In the very next second the man placed his glass on the cocktail table next to them and pulled out a business card. They continued speaking the rest of the night.
*If you want to add sexuality to the attractiveness you can also expose your neck (think Marilyn Monroe tilting her head back and laughing). From a body language perspective an open, exposed or stroked neck is not only more sensual but also releases tantalizing pheromones. See more about this in the video above.
Try This: Be honest with yourself. How often do you stand with your arms crossed at an event? Check your phone out of nervous habit? These make you seem unapproachable and unavailable–and therefore unattractive. On your next date or at your next event challenge yourself to not check your phone, keep your hands out of your pockets and uncross your arms.
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