Mark Manson on Dating With Honesty

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Models" by Mark Manson . Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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In the modern world, how can a heterosexual man successfully attract women? Should you be honest with women about your intentions?

According to Mark Manson, the key to dating success is to communicate your objectives with honesty. If your objective matches your behavior, she’ll trust you and will be willing to explore further. But if there’s a mismatch, she’ll grow distrustful of you.

With this in mind, here’s Mark Manson’s dating advice for attracting women through honesty.

Attract Women Through Honesty

In his book Models: Attract Women Through Honesty, Mark Manson argues that women gauge a man’s value based on his confidence. To judge your confidence, women decide whether you’re expressing vulnerability—which they do by reading your “intentions,” or objective. If your objective doesn’t match your behavior (e.g., if you try to communicate vulnerability, but your true objective is to sleep with her), you’ll turn her off.

(Shortform note: Studies support Manson’s contention that women are innately able to read your objective and determine whether you’re being authentically vulnerable. Studies suggest that women are better at mentalizing, which is the ability to judge what another person is thinking, and that they’re better at empathy, which is the ability to judge what another person is feeling. Studies also support Manson’s contention that it matters that people perceive you as authentic: People judge men as more physically attractive when told that those men are honest.)

However, Manson notes, it’s not enough to be authentically vulnerable; you must also be able to convey yourself effectively. So, how can you convey your attraction? Manson suggests several techniques for the four stages of attracting a woman: the introduction stage, the conversation stage, the dating stage, and the physical intimacy stage.

1. The Introduction Stage 

Manson recommends that you calmly walk up to her from the front (you don’t want to scare her). Smile and introduce yourself with a simple opening line, like “I’m X. I think you’re hot so I wanted to say hi.” Don’t stress over the exact words! At this stage, she’s merely deciding whether you’re confident and have an honorable objective; a needlessly complicated line will make you seem unconfident and seedy. If women regularly don’t give you the time of day at the introduction stage, something’s wrong. Double-check that your objective is honorable, that you’re expressing confidence in your approach, and that you look good.  

(Shortform note: Manson assumes that you’re introducing yourself to a woman in person—but how do you introduce yourself to a woman you’ve matched with online? In How to Not Die Alone, Ury warns against simple opening lines because they’re too generic: Women are more apt to ignore lines like, “I think you’re hot so I wanted to say hi,” that you could have sent to anybody on your list. Instead, Ury recommends that you send a message that sparks conversation by highlighting something you’ve read on her profile. And if you’re constantly getting ignored online, it may not have anything to do with your individual choices: For example, as Ury notes, Asian men have a much harder time dating online than do men of other races.)

2. The Conversation Stage 

To converse well with a woman, Manson suggests that you master three main skills. The first skill is sharing information about yourself. To grow comfortable with sharing information about yourself, practice talking for a minute about several topics on which you two are likely to connect—such as your background or your future goals.

The second skill is getting her to share information about herself. Manson suggests that you learn to make declarations instead of asking questions. For example, don’t ask where she’s from; guess where she’s from based on an observation. By doing so, you practically guarantee that the conversation continues. If you’re wrong, she’ll correct you or ask why you guessed that; if you’re right, she’ll be impressed and want to know how you got it right. Making declarations also allows you to direct the conversation with potentially off-topic statements, which helps ensure that the conversation doesn’t stop because you can’t think of a new question. 

The first and second skills help you because they provide you with more opportunities to find something in common and increase the intimacy between you. 

The third skill is showcasing your sense of humor. This conveys that you’re confident enough to laugh without obsessing over others’ opinions. People enjoy different types of humor, so just try to be funny in the way that you think is funny—for example, some people enjoy sarcastic comments, while others enjoy puns. Focus on finding a woman whose sense of humor complements yours rather than trying to convince someone else that you’re funny. If you’re not funny, study famous comics to improve your ability to make women laugh.

3. The Dating Stage 

According to Mark Manson, the dating stage begins when you ask a woman for her phone number. Manson notes that some women will give you their phone number but not respond to or go out with you—either because they’re not genuinely interested or for other reasons (like they’re busy at work that week). You can reduce the possibility of getting the number of a woman who’s not interested by only asking for her contact information if she seems to like you—which she’ll demonstrate via signs like stroking her hair or paying more attention to you than to her friends. But after your first meeting, it’s hard to tell whether she’s lost interest or she’s genuinely distracted.

Therefore, Manson recommends giving every woman three chances. After meeting someone, message her within 24 hours to say it was nice to meet her. The following day, text something relevant to your previous conversation. Build a little rapport if you can, but focus on scheduling a date. If she blows you off at any point (such as by not texting back or missing a date), you can try again (like by texting again)—but if she does so three times in total, move on to someone else.

Assuming you do successfully schedule a date, how should you proceed? On your first date, Manson suggests that you schedule four to six consecutive activities—most of which involve something active and opportunities to touch. For example, you might get hot chocolate, walk through a holiday market, go ice skating, then grab donuts. The more activities you do with someone, the greater intimacy you build—and the greater your chances of having sex. You can also improve your chances of having sex by scheduling your date at night and doing the activities close to either your or her place. 

4. The Physical Intimacy Stage 

If the date is going well, how do you take things further physically? Manson explains that women are turned on by being wanted. Therefore, it’s essential that you demonstrate how much you want her by touching her. So take the lead and push forward unless she asks you to slow down or stop (or is clearly incapable of doing so because she’s incapacitated in some way). 

Manson recommends that you start touching her during the conversation stage. Start by touching the outer edge of her body (like her shoulder), and pay attention to how she responds. If she’s smiling a lot, looking at you, and putting herself nearer to you than she needs to be, she’s likely into you.

(Shortform note: When should you start touching a woman if you met her online (and thus skipped the pre-date conversation stage)? Experts warn against touching her too sexually on the first date, as this may make her think that you’re overly touchy and promiscuous. Instead, touch her only in ways that aren’t overtly sexual—for example, touch her lower back gently to guide her, but avoid wrapping your arm around her waist. And, as Manson says, pay attention to her reaction, since women differ on whether or not they like being touched on a first date: If she’s smiling a lot, looking at you, and putting herself close to you, she may like you, but that doesn’t guarantee that she wants to be touched.) 

The next step is to kiss her. Manson explains that if she’s interested, she’ll likely touch you or purposefully manipulate the situation so that you’re alone together (such as suggesting that you get some air and leaving her friends in the bar). That said, men are mostly oblivious to female signals of desire—so if you do perceive that she’s open to you kissing her, she’s likely sent you several signals already and so you should just kiss her. When you kiss her, be gentle and caress the rest of her body as well. And if she turns the kiss down, ask why—she may not be ready or she may merely be uncomfortable with your location. 

Finally, escalate kissing into sex. Manson suggests that you start by touching her breasts—if she’s enthused, she likely is willing to have sex. To be good in bed, Manson suggests that you do three things. First, during foreplay, create anticipation, which will heighten her arousal: For example, brush your fingers against her nipples before pinching them. Second, dominate her: Giving up control turns women on. Try physically moving her around or talking explicitly about what you’re doing. Finally, communicate with her: Be open about what you like or dislike, and learn to laugh if things go awry. The better your communication, the more intimate you’ll feel—and the better sex you’ll have.  

Mark Manson on Dating With Honesty

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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