Robert Greene: The 4 Steps of Seduction

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What is Robert Greene’s seduction process? How do you let your victim’s guard down and drive them to obsession?

According to Robert Greene, the aim of seduction is to bring the other person under your control—not necessarily sexually or romantically. There are four steps to it: 1) lure your target, 2) sink your hook, 3) reel in your catch, and 4) devour your prey.

Here’s a look at Robert Greene’s four seduction steps and what each entails.

1. Lure Your Target 

The first seduction step, according to Greene, is to spend some time learning more about your potential target to discover what target type they most embody. This will determine your specific seductive strategy. If done well, you’ll intrigue your target in this step.

1: Create a sense of security. According to Robert Greene, seduction begins with creating a sense of security. To that end, act like you’re just interested in your target as a person and want to be friends. This way, they’ll relax and let their guard down. They’ll then feel comfortable opening up to you, which will allow you to learn their vulnerabilities, cluing you in to the type of seduction that will work best with this person. 

2: Create intrigue by appearing desirable. Making your target think other people want you will make them think there must be something desirable about you, and they’ll want to find out what it is. Greene advises trying to surround yourself with other people to make yourself look popular. (Shortform note: Be selective about who you surround yourself with. Psychological research shows that both men and women found potential mates less attractive when they were surrounded by good-looking people of the same sex, but more attractive when they were surrounded by good-looking people of the opposite sex. So, for a successful seduction you may want to find some attractive opposite-sex friends to surround yourself with.) 

3: Create a need that you can fulfill. As we’ve discussed, Greene emphasizes this as the most important element of seduction. The target must think you have something they need, which means they need to believe there’s something missing in their own life. You can create this sense of deficit for them by subtly pointing out things that are wrong with their life. For example, you may hint at the lack of adventure and excitement in their life or mention how dull their friends and family are. Then assure them you can give them what’s missing. 

4: Play to your target’s vanity. Imitation is the most seductive form of flattery, and flattery will often get you everywhere, Greene says. Subtly mirror your target’s mannerisms, tastes, moods, and beliefs. Make them believe they’re the person they think they are by mirroring their ideal self back to them. For example, if your target sees themselves as a devout spiritual practitioner, present yourself as that too, and let them believe you admire their faith and devotion. 

5: Create a tempting “taboo.” People are drawn in by what they think is forbidden, so give your target the sense that you’re unavailable in some way. Be flirtatious and flattering, but let them think they can’t have you yet. Greene says it’s very important to be patient—remember in this phase you’re just creating intrigue.

Step 2: Sink Your Hook 

The next step is to take your target from being intrigued to being “hooked.” This means their attention will be focused on you alone. According to Greene’s process, the key to this hook is to play a role and create an illusion that you’ll lure the target into.

1: Create surprise and unpredictability. Most people find predictability boring, so you’ll need to come up with ways to occasionally surprise your target. Try giving them unexpected little gifts, or arrange a spontaneous trip, to keep things interesting.

2: Use the power of language to create an illusion. Words can have power over people, so use them deliberately. Greene reminds us that regular people say what they really think. The seducer, however, crafts their words to direct their target’s thoughts and feelings. There are a few ways to use what Greene calls the “demonic power of words” to manipulate:

  • Use flattery specifically about whatever your target feels insecure about. Compliment them on things nobody else does and feign emotionality, as if you’re truly impressed.
  • Be vague and ambiguous often, so the target gets confused. For example, give the target vague promises of future adventure, without being specific. Greene asserts that this will put you in a position of power as they grapple with trying to figure you out.
  • Don’t argue with your target—it’s anti-seductive. Instead, regularly repeat and affirm whatever your target says, and try to use humor when you want to lighten the mood.

3: Never let them see the real you. You can’t present yourself as an ordinary person when you’re trying to seduce someone. You must be the ideal this person fantasizes about. According to Greene, this means that rather than expressing preferences of your own, you’ll want to cater to what your target likes—in the way you dress, where you take them, what you talk about, and so on. 

4: Manipulate using moments of weakness. Occasionally let your target see a vulnerable side of you. Greene suggests confessing some secret to them, expressing deep emotion. Cry if you can. This disarms the target and makes them feel close to you. Wait until you’ve gotten to know them a little first, though—don’t do this too soon, and don’t overdo it.  

5: Alienate the target from their world and bring them into yours. Green says that your target’s friends and family will be your biggest enemy in the seduction process. They give the target comfort and security and may also try to sway them against you if they see through your tactics. This means you should try to get your target away from their friends and family as much as possible. Convince them that their friends and family are jealous of the time they spend with you or that they’re paternalistically controlling. Greene notes that this last point works particularly well with very young people who feel confined by parental control. Keeping the target from all forms of comfort creates a fear that only you can “save” them from. 

Step 3: Reel in Your Catch 

The third step is to intentionally manipulate your target’s emotions using psychological tactics. They’ll become infatuated with you and totally fixated on wanting to be with you. 

1: Play the hero. You need to prove your devotion to your target, so Greene suggests you find a way to “rescue” them. Be ready to spring into action to help them with anything they need, at all times. Even if it’s not something you want to do, remember that this will work to your advantage. When you do help your target, he says, be sure to play up how much it cost you—in time, effort, or money. If nothing comes up naturally, you can create a scenario where you put them in an invented danger or crisis situation that you have to help them out of.

2: Add an element of danger. Make your target feel like there’s something a bit dangerous about you. Break some social rules or taboos. Greene says married people are particularly susceptible to this tactic. Play up the fact that you share a “dirty secret.” 

3: Take advantage of childhood trauma. Get your target to talk about their childhood and play the role of “therapist.” Listen intently and notice where they express something missing in their life, then fill that for them. For example, if they didn’t get enough encouragement as a child, become encouraging. Or if they had uninvolved parents, become parental toward them by being loving but also sometimes “scolding”  or “punishing” them.

4: Combine spirituality and physicality. To make your target feel that your bond is deep and meaningful, incorporate an element of spirituality into your seduction. If you portray yourself as being spiritual in some way, Greene says they won’t suspect your manipulation and will trust that your intentions are pure. Expose them to sublime art, poetry, music, or theater, so that they associate you with that soulful feeling.

5: Alternate between giving pleasure and pain. Always keep your target on an emotional roller coaster. According to Greene, people get addicted to that kind of excitement. So he says you should try to elicit feelings like jealousy, insecurity, and anger, so you can then relieve those feelings for them. Niceness is only attractive in the very beginning, but people get easily bored with it. Creating a cycle of alternating pain and pleasure causes dependency. Your target will be addicted to you. 

One warning Greene offers about this tactic: be sure not to use it too early on. Wait a bit to introduce the pain. And don’t use this on people who already have too much pain and suffering in their lives—it will turn them off. 

Step 4: Devour Your Prey

Finally, you’ll bring your seduction to its desired conclusion, which is usually (but not always) a sexual relationship. You have your target at the point of knowing they want you now, so you’re in the perfect position to make your big move.

1: Back off and appear to lose interest. To get to a full physical seduction, Greene says you should wait until you are certain the target wants you and then withdraw your sexual attention for a bit. Back off and appear to lose interest, perhaps subtly hinting at your interest in someone else. Act neutral around them like you don’t really physically want them. This will force the target to make the move, allowing them to feel that they need to seduce you. They’ll be more excited and invested this way. 

2: Give occasional bouts of focused attention. When you do spend time with your target, Greene says to put all of your intense focus on them, making them forget all their cares in the world. Be fully present and use your eyes to express desire, giving intense seductive looks. Act carefree and confident, so they’ll feel safe, relaxed, and open to advances. 

3: Take action. Learn to read the signs that the target has totally fallen for you—for example, they may act nervous around you or mirror you. When you notice this, Greene says it’s time to create an atmosphere for the final move of your seduction to occur. Make it memorable or theatrical in some way. For example, create a romantic setting with candles and music. The target will be putty in your hands at this point. 

4: Stave off disenchantment. After the release of this long period of sexual tension, you must consider your next steps. According to Greene’s template, this will go one of two directions:

  1. If you’re feeling satisfied and done with this person, end it abruptly and unapologetically. Just move on to your next target. 
  2. If you want to continue some form of relationship with this person, you must keep the seduction going, or they’ll get bored with you. If you slack and appear to not be trying as hard, they’ll get disenchanted and see through your manipulations. So, Greene emphasizes that you need to start the seduction process over again, or keep it up, by going back to previous steps. Inflict more pain, then pleasure. Withdraw for brief periods, inciting jealousy. Stay playful and offer adventure. Never get negative. Your subsequent seductions can be quicker cycles of the initial one, and you can keep this up for as long as you want. 
Robert Greene: The 4 Steps of Seduction

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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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