According to author Robert Greene, every romance is a psychological game, whether you like it or not. If you want to maintain the upper hand, or just get hurt less often, you need to learn the rules. In this Snapshot, you will learn these rules through historical examples of famous seducers who used them successfully. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to get what you want by leveraging other people’s greatest vulnerability: their desire for pleasure.
The Art of Seduction Book Summary:
- Want to get better at subliminally influencing people
- Want your relationships to be more exciting or dynamic
- Enjoy reading about historical love affairs
What does the word “seduction” make you think of? Most people think about sex, pickup games, or infatuation with extremely attractive people. But according to Robert Greene, seduction is really just a psychological game. Seduction can lead to sex, but primarily, it’s a method of persuading anyone to act in your best interest. The art of seduction has helped people from Cleopatra to Napoleon acquire power and achieve their goals for centuries.
Today, you see different forms of seduction all around you in product marketing, political campaigns, and even the music that you enjoy. Anyone who is charismatic or able to connect with people easily is usually able to successfully perform seduction, because they either consciously or subconsciously makes it a practice to seduce others. Whether you want to have a bigger impact with your career, negotiate a higher salary, or make someone fall in love with you, it’s worth learning the art of seduction.
So how do you seduce someone? It ultimately comes down to understanding both yourself and the person you are trying to seduce. This understanding will enable you to behave in a way that will get your target to let their guard down and start to trust you. In this Snapshot, you will get an overview of how to do that in a romantic context in three key lessons:
- How to identify your seductive character type.
- How to seduce your target.
- How to deal with the aftereffects of seduction. You will also learn about historical figures who used — or fell victim to — the art of seduction, and how to end a relationship without hurting the other person’s feelings.
How to Identify Your Seductive Character Type
Everyone inherently has something seductive about their personality. By determining what makes you uniquely attractive psychologically and physically, you can identify people who you are well-suited to seduce and capitalize on your innate gifts. According to Greene, there are nine seductive character types. As you learn about each, try to figure out which one you most identify with.
Sirens represent the powerful male fantasy of a highly sexual, confident, and alluring woman who offers endless pleasure and a touch of danger. If you are a siren, you probably wear elaborate or exotic clothing; speak with a mesmerizingly smooth and insinuating voice; and move as though you rule the world. Sirens today are more powerful than ever, since most men live in environments that lack the adventure and risk that they desire.
Cleopatra was a particularly well-known siren. Her bold energy, exotic looks, and unbridled passion enabled her to persuade Julius Caesar to depose her enemies and stay in Egypt much longer than he initially intended, all while his kingdom, Rome, was roiling in turmoil. After Julius Caesar was killed, Cleopatra went on to seduce one of his successors, Mark Antony, in a historic affair that has become culturally iconic.
Rakes are generally slightly wild or rebellious men with dubious reputations. If you are a rake, you are very good at making others feel desired and appreciated through dramatic gestures of affection.
Don Juan, a legendary Spanish seducer, was a rake: He would give women unforgettable displays of passion, daring, and commitment. His bad reputation made him all the more intriguing, since his targets felt as though they must be very special to have “captured” the heart of such a troublemaker.
Ideal lovers give people a taste of the unique romance they have always fantasized about, without all the complications of a serious long-term relationship. In order to be an ideal lover, you have to focus intensely on others, figure out what they are missing, and forget yourself as you provide it for them.
Casanova, perhaps one of the most successful seducers in history, played the role of the ideal lover: He would meet a woman, study her, go along with her moods, find out what was missing in her life, and provide it. Some of his lovers wanted adventure; others wanted serious conversation; and still others wanted to experience hardship or suffering to make their lives feel more real. In each case, Casanova adapted to the woman’s ideals and brought her fantasy to life.
Dandies attract others by showing what it means to be truly free. They refuse to be trapped in societal roles, defy expectations, and curate unique reputations. Oscar Wilde, with his green velvet suit and his disdain for convention, was a dandy. Andy Warhol, meanwhile, behaved however he wanted to and said whatever he wanted; and when the people around him got fed up with his abrasive nature or a scandal erupted, he would move on to a new circle instead of trying to defend himself. With their playful dissidence and detachment from societal norms, dandies are magnets for people’s unrealized desires.
Naturals are honest, spontaneous, and playful. If you are a natural, you constantly remind other people of how they were as children, and provide a breath of fresh air to those who miss the innocence and spontaneity of days gone by. Charlie Chapin, with his infantile mannerisms and playful behavior, drew people in by offering them the taste of a beautifully simple life.
Coquettes know how to raise other people’s hopes, then shoot them down again and again — which, to some people, makes them all the more desirable. Josephine became Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife and the empress of his empire by oscillating between charm and warmth, and coldness and detachment. As a result, Napoleon expended enormous effort trying to win her over, and never grew bored of her as he did other women.
Charmers are good at making others feel comfortable by highlighting their best traits. They understand others’ moods, feel their pain, and adapt to provide whatever they need to hear or experience at a given time. Benjamin Disraeli, the prime minister of England in the late 19th century, for example, managed to win the dour Queen Victoria’s affection and political support by making her feel like she was clever, beautiful, and accomplished.
Charismatics radiate confidence, purpose, contentment, and eloquence. They are larger than life while also being willing to display vulnerability. They are also brave and adventurous. Vladimir Lenin is known to have walked openly on the streets in spite of receiving death threats. He publicly dedicated his entire life to building the ideal communist society, always spoke in a way that inspired others, and became regarded as savior figure among Russians. As such, he had a cult-like following long after his death.
Stars are people who have a unique talent for helping others live out their fantasies, or just escape from the banality of normal life. They recognize who people want to become, and make it feel possible for them. President John F. Kennedy, for instance, seduced the American public by promising to help them live out their dream of building a new society and recapturing America’s pioneer spirit.
How to Seduce Your Target
Every romance will be different, but there are four general phases of seduction. If you successfully execute each of these phases, you will become a mesmerizing and unforgettable figure in your targets’ lives.
Phase 1: Stir interest and desire
Which do you appreciate more: the things in your life that someone else chose for you, or the things that you chose for yourself? Most would say they appreciate the second more.
In line with this thinking, the skilled seducer knows that directly approaching a target might scare them away or come across as desperate. Instead of a direct approach, try making yourself noticeable while allowing your target to approach you out of their own interest.
The Duke de Lauzun of King Louis XIV’s court used this approach to win over the Duchesse de Montpensier — even though the duchess was in love with another nobleman. The duke did not display any affection, but instead engaged with her platonically. As they got closer, the duchess became overwhelmed with curiosity. How was the duke not interested in her, one of the most sought-after women in the court? Eventually, through this approach, the duchess became infatuated with the duke and expressed a desire to marry him.
Phase 2: Create pleasure and confusion
Most people are dying to escape the banality of normal life, so if you want to seduce someone, keep them in suspense, and do things that they don’t expect. If the target is very attractive, act as though you were infatuated by their intelligence. If the target is witty but not conventionally attractive, act overwhelmed by physical attraction for them. This will be a pleasant surprise to your target, and will make them feel as though you understand them in a way that nobody ever has.
Another way to keep things interesting is to alternate between unlike behaviors.
The Swiss noblewoman Madame Récamier seduced Auguste, the prince of Prussia and nephew of Frederick the Great, by combining saintly behavior with occasional flirtatious looks or comments. Because Auguste could not make sense of Madam Récamier’s behavior, he spent more and more time with her, and fell in love out of intrigue.
Finally, if seduction, not true love, is your end goal, you can keep your target interested by backing out of a commitment at the last minute with little explanation. After Auguste asked Madame Récamier to marry him, she enthusiastically accepted his proposal, and Auguste rushed off to Prussia to his family’s approval. While he was away, he received a letter from Madame Récamier saying that she had changed her mind. Several months later, she sent him a famous painting of her reclining on a sofa. For years after the affair, the prince spent countless hours staring at the painting, and allegedly thought of her obsessively until the end of his days. By remaining an enigma, a problem to be solved, you can be just like Madame Récamier, and take up an outsized space in another person’s mind for years.
Phase 3: Go off the precipice
Once you’ve captured the intrigue and affection of your target, you need to make the connection deeper through more extreme measures. During this phase, you should show how far you are willing to go for the other person. For instance, in 1810, Major Jules de Canouville won the lasting affection of Pauline Bonaparte, the sister of Napoleon, through demonstrating his commitment. Pauline was notoriously detached from men, and was said to have had so many affairs that doctors worried about her health.
But Major Canouville did something extreme to show just how committed he was, and it jolted her into truly caring for him: Pauline had a toothache and was afraid of letting the dentist pull the tooth. To encourage Pauline to be brave, Major Canouville told the dentist to pull out a perfectly good tooth from the back of his mouth and kept a brave face as the painful procedure was completed. No man had ever done anything like this for her before, so instead of dumping him after just a few weeks as she usually did with her lovers, Pauline continued to see Major Canouville for a longer period of time.
Eventually, Napoleon — who did not like Canouville — sent him to Spain, thinking he would take weeks to get there, and that, during that time, Pauline would find someone else. But Canouville rode day and night, not stopping to eat or sleep, and arrived in Salamanca within just a few days. He risked his life by cutting through enemy territory on his way back to show that he was willing to risk his life just to be with Pauline. As a result, Pauline remained uncharacteristically loyal to Canouville until he was sent to Russia, where he died in battle in 1812. Because of Canouville’s extreme devotion, he ended up being the only lover who Pauline ever mourned.
Phase 4: Move in for the kill
So far, you’ve let your victim approach you, stirred interest and desire, and demonstrated your commitment to them. Next, you’ll want to make your target realize just how much you mean to them. At this point, you should pull back and demonstrate some coldness or disinterest in order to spark panic and make your target start pursuing you. Once your target begins pursuing you, it’s time to let things take their natural course — and finally make a bold, romantic move, such as directly declaring your undying love for your target. After all the twists and turns in your pursuit for one another, both you and your target should find this moment an extremely satisfying and memorable climax to the affair.
In Søren Kierkegaard’s The Seducer’s Diary, the protagonist Johannes used this method to seduce the young, beautiful Cordelia. He began by slowly building intrigue by initiating intellectual conversations while remaining emotionally distant; then, Johannes began sending Cordelia romantic letters, but continued to remain reserved when they met in person. This vexing combination of behaviors made Cordelia fall in love with him: She felt certain at first that Johannes felt the same way she did because of the letters, which put him at risk of becoming boring to her. But suddenly, Johannes started writing purely abstract, intellectual letters and abandoned his romantic statements, which caused Cordelia to fear that Johannes was more interested in ideas than he was in her. She became consumed by her desire for him, and started pursuing him more aggressively, at which point he made his affections to her clear, and the two of them consummated their love.
Dealing with the Fallout of Seduction
After your seduction journey is over, you’ll have to confront the risk that disenchantment will set in and ruin your hard work. If you want to have a relationship with your target, you will need to remain somewhat mysterious to them, because as soon as familiarity sets in, they will get complacent and fall out of love with you.
But believe it or not, the art of seduction can also help you end a relationship — without hurting the other person’s feelings. One technique for effectively ending a relationship is to deliberately become predictable.
For instance, in Choderlos de Laclos’s novel Dangerous Liaisons, the Marquise de Merteuil seduced Chevalier de Belleroche, a handsome man who was significantly younger than her. She used her unpredictable moods to gain his attention, alternating between showering him with undivided attention and quarreling or flirting with other men. After the marquise grew tired of her lover, she deliberately broke the spell of seduction by overwhelming him with attention for several days, making it clear that this was the new “normal.” Now that things were predictable, the Chevalier de Belleroche quickly snapped out of his seduced trance, left the marquise, and never spoke to her again.
In this summary, you’ve learned:
- How to identify your seductive character type.
- How to seduce your target.
- How to deal with the aftereffects of seduction.
Although you might interpret The Art of Seduction as a Machiavellian how-to guide to manipulation, you don’t have to. You can instead view it as a useful guide to human behavior that can be used for good or bad purposes.
By recognizing patterns of behavior in yourself and other people, you can become more confident at initiating relationships, or adapt these lessons to attract the attention of others to yourself and your ideas.
About the Author
Robert Greene is an author who shares lessons in strategy, power, and seduction from historical “masters.” Greene has authored numerous international bestsellers including The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, The 50th Law, Mastery, and The Laws of Human Nature.
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