How to Pick Up Women: Techniques from The Game

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Game" by Neil Strauss. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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How did Neil Strauss learn how to pick up women in the book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists? Was he successful?

Neil Strauss learned how to pick up women by immersing himself into the PUA community. Strauss learned several strategies from several different gurus. Here are some of the lessons he learned on how to pick up women.

How to Pick Up Women: Mystery’s Strategy

Neil Strauss dove headfirst into the seduction community and quickly learned how to pick up women.

Mystery developed techniques that incorporated magic with the lessons he’d learned. His strategy—which he dubbed the Mystery Method—broke down into these steps: 

  1. Walk into the club with a smile. A smile indicates that you’re confident, fun, and, above all, an alpha male. 
  2. Select a target (a woman you want to seduce) in a group. Don’t pick up women who are standing alone. 
  3. Follow the three-second rule: When you see a woman you’re interested in, approach her within three seconds. If you wait longer, you risk either overthinking it or staring at her too long and looking like a creep. 
  4. Approach the group confidently and start conversation with a scripted pickup line, such as, “It looks like the party’s over here” or “Did you see those two girls fighting outside?” The lines are simple; they’re just meant to get people talking. 
  5. Ignore your target. Instead, make her friends like you—especially anyone who would be likely to try to interfere with your pickup attempt (such as male friends). Winning over the group makes you seem like the life of the party, while ignoring your target makes her more eager for your attention. 
  6. Further provoke your target with a neg, which is a backhanded compliment or vague insult—for example, offer her gum after she talks, or tell her that her hair would look better if it were up/down. The neg reinforces your lack of interest and further injures the woman’s self-esteem.
  7. Isolate your target. Use an excuse to get her away from the group, such as saying that you want to show her something. 
  8. Look for indicators of interest (IOIs). For example, if she asks you a question about yourself, or if you squeeze her hands and she squeezes back. 
  9. Demonstrate an interesting skill, like a magic trick or an ESP test, to impress and intrigue her. 
  10. Once you get three IOIs, try to get her to kiss you by saying, “Would you like to kiss me?” This question is fool-proof: If she says, “yes,” you get a kiss (PUAs call this a kiss-close). If she says, “maybe,” you can say, “let’s find out,” and go in for a kiss. If she says, “no,” then you can deflect and say that you weren’t asking for one. 
  11. Keep her wanting more. Create a false time constraint and say that you have to leave, but that you’d like to continue this another time. At this point, she should give you her number (PUAs call this a number-close). 

In The Game, to pick up women was the only marker of success. Mystery’s whole strategy was designed to pick up women subtly. Rather than coming on directly and forcefully, Mystery instructed men to take their time and build the anticipation so that the woman would want to be hit on.

Mystery had developed countless theories and principles that dictated his tactics while sarging in the field (while hitting on women). The strategies were all meant to make the PUA seem like the most interesting person in the room, while simultaneously appearing disinterested in the woman he was hitting on, so that she would essentially pursue him. 

In The Game, to pick up women meant you had to follow some rules. The main one was that PUAs don’t do what everyone else does. For example, if every man in the club was gawking at a particularly beautiful woman, the PUA practically ignored her. When the PUA did approach the woman, he never acknowledged her beauty—he may have even subtly downplayed it. The effect was that the PUA stood out among the crowd. 

Two dominant theories balanced the goals of standing out and laying back: 

  1. Peacock theory stated that men should take a cue from peacocks and make themselves eye-catching in order to attract desirable women. This involved wearing loud, colorful clothes and accessories, such as bright or shiny shirts, outlandish hats, and light-up jewelry. 
  2. Cat string theory proposed that women act the same way with men as cats did with string: A cat would chase a string feverishly when it was just out of reach, but if the string dropped right in front of the cat, the cat instantly lost interest. This was why PUAs had to avoid appearing too eager or available. 

Per cat string theory, Mystery advocated an indirect approach. He advised students to: 

  • Approach women from an angle. Avoid walking directly toward her, which appears confrontational, and avoid approaching her from behind, which may startle her. 
  • Speak over your shoulder when speaking to a woman, as if you’re about to walk away. Don’t face her directly.

Another Tactic

In The Game, how to pick up women was an activity all PUAs bonded over and learned about. Another top guru Strauss learned from was Ross Jeffries.

Jeffries was considered the godfather of the seduction community ever since he introduced Speed Seduction in 1988. Tens of thousands of disciples followed Jeffries’s method of seduction, which blended psychology and hypnosis. 

Specifically, Jeffries used a technique called neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). NLP was based on the concept that words, movements, and suggestions could tap into a person’s subconscious to affect her thoughts, emotions, and actions. 

Using NLP, a PUA would steer his conversations with a woman toward the subjects of attraction and arousal. Then, he would use questions and suggestions to connect those feelings of attraction with a physical sensation, in order to make the woman subconsciously associate the PUA with those feelings and sensations. 

Was Being a PUA Good For Strauss?

Shortform note: Even though Strauss got an intense education in how to pick up women, in the years after this book’s publication, Neil was treated for sex addiction, among other mental and emotional conditions. While in rehab for this addiction, a doctor told him that his years in the seduction game had deeply ingrained his dysfunctional behaviors.

After receiving treatment, Neil got married in 2013 (not to Lisa) and had a son. In 2015, he published another book about his recovery from the seduction community, titled The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships. He no longer leads seminars on seduction techniques, but rather on how to be happier and more confident.

Neil Strauss had an intense education in how to pick up women. In the end, he found that learning how to pick up women actually didn’t lead to the life he wanted, despite benefits like building confidence.

How to Pick Up Women: Techniques from The Game

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Game summary :

  • The secrets of the Pickup Artist community in seducing women
  • How key Pickup Artist leaders fought with each other and split the group apart
  • What author Neil Strauss took away about women from his years of training

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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