Win Anyone Over

The secret? Make ’em feel special and we all but guarantee the feeling will be mutual. Here’s how to convince your date he or she is one of a kind.

By Caitlin Ascolese

ure, being good-looking and charming will certainly make you more of a catch. But there’s an even more crucial component to attracting others that’s so simple we almost feel weird saying it: Make your date feel good-looking and charming. Do that, and trust us, this person will be back for more. In a day and age when the romantic options out there are seemingly endless, it’s easy to feel like just a number. Prove you think the cutie sitting across from you is one of a kind, and it can make a huge difference. Only how do you make someone feel, well, special? It’s not as hard as you think—just try some of these tips and watch your love interest light up.

Flattery strategy #1: Get specific
Since online daters often feel like they’re just one in a parade of people having coffee with you, demonstrate a genuine interest in your date to help erase that fear. “We studied the relation between reciprocity and romance and found that if someone thinks you’re
To make your date beam, show you’re impressed by a feat he or she is proud of.
attracted to them, it increases their attraction to you,” says Eli Finkel, Ph.D, psychology professor at Northwestern University. On the other hand, “If someone’s attracted to you but they get the sense that you’re attracted to lots of other people, they’ll tend to dislike you.” The upshot? Prove you’re picky — and that this person fits your high criteria — and you’re well on your way to making this potential amour pick you, too. Reread his or her profile right before you meet up and tell your date exactly why it stood out from the rest and what you noticed first. And nix any mentions of past bad dates or online experiences, which can make it inadvertently seem like you’ll give anyone the time of day.

Flattery strategy #2: Create insider info
You don’t have to be old friends to cultivate a comfortable rapport. “Make references to things you’ve discussed or emailed about,” says Annie Dennison, Ph.D., dating coach and founder of “It creates a sense of intimacy and shows your date you’re really listening.” To really drive home that you find your date fascinating, ask for more information on details he or she mentioned in passing (“I know you like Jay-Z. Which album of his do you think I should download?”). Or tie together stories (yours or your date’s) with a follow-up line like, “Wow, that reminds me of what you were telling me about your trip to Costa Rica/your overbearing boss/football obsession.”

Flattery strategy #3: Give congrats
If you want your sweetie to really beam, show you’re impressed by a feat that he or she is proud of. “We did a study and found that when people told others about something good that happened to them and the person responded positively, it improved the whole experience,” Shelly Gable, PhD, professor of psychology at University of California, Santa Barbara. So don’t just go “Cool!” when your date mentions a win like getting into grad school, finishing a 10K, or just getting an amazing deal at an outlet store. Get into it and ask what he felt when he got the news, how she reacted, which person he told first, or how long she’d been hoping for it to happen. Answering the questions will let your date relive some of the excitement—and associate you with an unexpectedly happy buzz.

Flattery strategy #4: Compliment qualities
When you admire a not-so-obvious trait that your date has, it makes you seem super-insightful. An easy place to start is by connecting his or her job to a quality you appreciate. Tell an accountant that you’re always especially envious of detail-oriented
Thinking someone is attracted to you is great.
people; tell a teacher you’re in awe of people who can motivate others. If you like what your date is wearing or this person decorated his or her home, “don’t compliment the ‘thing’ — anyone can buy a thing — but call out what it says about him or her,” says Susan Rabin, author of Lucky in Love and founder of Instead of the tie itself, praise the person’s individual style; instead of going “nice couch,” say you’re wowed by people who have an eye for color and design.

Flattery Strategy #5: Name-call
When someone shares an anecdote, most of us fall back on interjections like “Unh-UH!” or “Wow, that’s crazy!” The problem, is, lines like that sound like clichés—especially once you’ve used them several times in one evening. A way better way to punctuate your partner’s story? “Use his or her name,” says Dennison. Hearing their names — whether it’s “Wow, Sheila, you’re so brave!” or “Way to go, Jeremy, I’m impressed!” — will make dates think you really get what’s so “them” about the tale they just told, which is way more flattering than wondering if you were listening at all.

Flattery strategy #6: Be a tease
If you saw The Departed, you probably remember the scene when Matt Damon asks his date something like, “What makes you think I want a second date with you?”—then bursts out laughing. It turns out those childhood playground tormentors (“Ew, you have cooties!”) were onto something. “Thinking someone is attracted to you is great, but our research also suggests that not being sure they do actually heightens the excitement,” says grad student Paul Eastwick, Finkel’s research partner at the Northwestern Relationships Lab. Hearing that kind of rejection spikes anxiety—then fills us with relief when we realize it was a gag. So if you’re sure your date has a good sense of humor, give him or her a little ribbing like, “Oh no, you’re an Aquarius? Shoot, I have a rule about that.” Not only do you get an instant inside joke, it sends a subtle message that you’re into your date enough to be comfortable joking about it. Just make sure you don’t tease about something the person’s sensitive about—that’s not flirting; that’s an insult.

Caitlin Ascolese is a freelance writer in New York City.
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