Sexuality is extremely disruptive. The insecurities and emotions it stirs up can often cut short a relationship that would otherwise be deeper and longer lasting. The Charmer’s solution is to fulfill the aspects of sexuality that are so alluring and addictive—the focused attention, the boosted self-esteem, the pleasurable wooing, the understanding (real or illusory)—but subtract the sex itself. It’s not that the Charmer represses or discourages sexuality; lurking beneath the surface of any attempt at charm is a sexual tease, a possibility. Charm cannot exist without a hint of sexual tension. It cannot be maintained, however, unless sex is kept at bay or in the background.
Charm can be applied to a group as well as to an individual: a leader can charm the public. The dynamic is similar. The following are the laws of charm, culled from the stories of the most successful charmers in history.
Make your target the center of attention.
Charmers fade into the background; their targets become the subject of their interest. To be a Charmer you have to learn to listen and observe. Let your targets talk, revealing themselves in the process. As you find out more about them—their strengths, and more important their weaknesses—you can individualize your attention, appealing to their specific desires and needs, tailoring your flatteries to their insecurities. By adapting to their spirit and empathizing with their woes, you can make them feel bigger and better, validating their sense of self-worth. Make them the star of the show and they will become addicted to you and grow dependent on you. On a mass level, make gestures of self-sacrifice (no matter how fake) to show the public that you share their pain and are working in their interest, self-interest being the public form of egotism.
Be a source of pleasure.
No one wants to hear about your problems and troubles. Listen to your targets’ complaints, but more important, distract them from their problems by giving them pleasure. (Do this often enough and they will fall under your spell.) Being lighthearted and fun is always more charming than being serious and critical. An energetic presence is likewise more charming than lethargy, which hints at boredom, an enormous social taboo; and elegance and style will usually win out over vulgarity, since most people like to associate themselves with whatever they think elevated and cultured. In politics, provide illusion and myth rather than reality. Instead of asking people to sacrifice for the greater good, talk of grand moral issues. An appeal that makes people feel good will translate into votes and power.
Bring antagonism into harmony.
The court is a cauldron of resentment and envy, where the sourness of a single brooding Cassius can quickly turn into a conspiracy. The Charmer knows how to smooth out conflict. Never stir up antagonisms that will prove immune to your charm; in the face of those who are aggressive, retreat, let them have their little victories. Yielding and indulgence will charm the fight out of any potential enemies. Never criticize people overtly—that will make them insecure, and resistant to change. Plant ideas, insinuate suggestions. Charmed by your diplomatic skills, people will not notice your growing power.
Lull your victims into ease and comfort.
Charm is like the hypnotist’s trick with the swinging watch: the more relaxed the target, the easier it is to bend him or her to your will. The key to making your victims feel comfortable is to mirror them, adapt to their moods. People are narcissists— they are drawn to those most similar to themselves. Seem to share their values and tastes, to understand their spirit, and they will fall under your spell. This works particularly well if you are an outsider: showing that you share the values of your adopted group or country (you have learned their language, you prefer their customs, etc.) is immensely charming, since for you this preference is a choice, not a question of birth. Never pester or be overly persistent—these uncharming qualities will disrupt the relaxation you need to cast your spell.
Show calm and self-possession in the face of adversity.
Adversity and setbacks actually provide the perfect setting for charm. Showing a calm, unruffled exterior in the face of unpleasantness puts people at ease. You seem patient, as if waiting for destiny to deal you a better card—or as if you were confident you could charm the Fates themselves. Never show anger, ill temper, or vengefulness, all disruptive emotions that will make people defensive. In the politics of large groups, welcome adversity as a chance to show the charming qualities of magnanimity and poise. Let others get flustered and upset—the contrast will redound to your favor. Never whine, never complain, never try to justify yourself.
Make yourself useful.
If done subtly, your ability to enhance the lives of others will be devilishly seductive. Your social skills will prove important here: creating a wide network of allies will give you the power to link people up with each other, which will make them feel that by knowing you they can make their lives easier. This is something no one can resist. Follow-through is key: so many people will charm by promising a person great things—a better job, a new contact, a big favor—but if they do not follow through they make enemies instead of friends. Anyone can make a promise; what sets you apart, and makes you charming, is your ability to come through in the end, following up your promise with a definite action. Conversely, if someone does you a favor, show your gratitude concretely. In a world of bluff and smoke, real action and true helpfulness are perhaps the ultimate charm.