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The Minimalists
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Balance of Attraction: Simple Thoughts on Dating for Men and Women

Dating Tips Are Often Misguided

Have you ever experienced a migraine headache? A thousand years ago a doctor would treat your migraine with bloodletting—the removal of blood from a patient to cure illness—believing it would restore balance in the body. Of course bleeding won’t help your headache, but physicians swore by the practice well into the 19th century.

Why did so many people support such a useless, harmful remedy? Because afterward, patients felt better. Everyone attributed the relief to blood loss, failing to understand the many thousands of variables at play.

That’s sort of how dating advice works, too.

Over the years I’ve learned that men and women can improve their love lives with straightforward changes in habits and conversation techniques. Such growth can be achieved without sleazy pickup routines, without objectifying other people, and without any of the bloodletting of the so-called pickup-artist industry.

In romance there is an elegant interplay that takes place. I call this harmony the Balance of Attraction, which is the basis for everything I talk about when I teach men and women how to improve their dating lives. The Balance of Attraction is comprised of four components: personal investment, reciprocated investment, comfort, and tension. These ingredients are present in every romantic interaction.

Personal Investment

Attraction cannot happen without first investment. We tend to place value in the people, places, and things we spend time on. The goal is to insure that the person of interest is thoroughly engaged in the dialogue. The best way to garner his or her full investment is to first invest yourself.

Once I was unwinding with friends at a pub when a drunken bar patron asked if we could light his cigarette. None of us smoked, but that didn’t stop him from requesting to borrow our nonexistent lighter five more times over the next few minutes. Needless to say he was a nuisance, and we didn’t want to share our time with him. Fast-forward to later that night when a jovial gentleman entered the bar offering to buy everyone a round of drinks in celebration of his new baby’s birth—everyone wanted to talk with him and offer congratulations. Why? The first guy was taking value, while the second had something to offer, which encouraged us to give something back.

I’m not suggesting you purchase alcohol for people at a bar. Your personal investment doesn’t require money. My favorite way to start a conversation is humor. Most people enjoy good jokes, and they usually appreciate the person telling the jokes. Maybe you’re not a natural comedian. You might try something as easy as holding a door or complimenting someone’s karaoke performance. The point is to initiate the interaction with something pleasant that encourages the POI to reciprocate.

Reciprocated Investment

Of course there’s more to romance than simply making sure you’re both talking enough. You need to establish rapport. Uncovering shared interests and values can achieve mutual comfort. Your commonalities give you conversation topics, and you’ll become relaxed in each other’s company.

A great example of reciprocated investment is when the man or woman you like starts to talk more than you. Perhaps he or she shares stories from their youth or talks about her dedication to local volunteering. The goal is to get him or her to share themselves. Also look for instances when the person of interest asks questions about you such as, “How do you feel about dating an ambitious person?” or, “What does your boyfriend think about your art work?” Intimate questions are a strong indicator of interest.


It’s impossible to create romance without first building rapport. Failing to establish comfort with your love interest is like trying to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the bread. It can’t be done. Comfort helps you earn trust. That trust comes in handy when you amp up the tension later. Your potential lover won’t stick around when things get tense unless they already enjoy talking with you.

The best way to establish a comfortable connection is to uncover commonalities you share with the other person. Aim for niche areas of interest. Almost everyone enjoys listening to music and watching movies, so interests like that don’t help create bonds, but what if you both share an affinity for Russian literature? Clearly the latter would spark more interest. Try to find something unusual you share in common.


Comfort is good, but you shouldn’t get too relaxed. Sexual tension is absolutely necessary for healthy romance. Intensity can be built in a number of ways, including simple actions like sustained eye contact and appropriate physical contact at opportune times. Like comfort, you don’t want your exchange to become too tense, which can happen when one person is too aggressive. All things in good time. Enjoy the journey instead of rushing to a destination.

Looking for a great way to create tension and encourage someone to open up? Try saying something like, “I enjoy chatting with you, but I worry that most conversations between strangers ultimately fall into the same tired patterns. Let’s go off script. I’m curious about what makes you tic. What are you passionate about?”

Diagram: Balance of Attraction

Here’s an illustration to clarify:
BOA Graph

As you can see, a good interaction will fall somewhere in the middle. Healthy romance typically has equal balance from all four components. This system is based on simplicity. You needn’t memorize scripts or buy fancy clothes to impress your potential sweetheart. Understanding these concepts will help romance form naturally. Obviously, there’s much more to fulfilling courtship than a Venn diagram, but this is a good start. Next time you’re in a potentially romantic interaction, ask yourself, “Where are we in the Balance of Attraction?” Simply being mindful of these variables will go a long way toward improving your dating life.