I come across them every time I search YouTube for videos to share on my website for teenage guys: the endless videos claiming to answer the question, “how do I get a girl to like me?”
I don’t even need to watch them to know that most of them have the wrong answer.
I can tell because they ask the wrong question.
I understand why young men are asking that question. I remember what it was like when eros first made its appearance inside me: the churning, unquenchable feeling of need for a person’s presence and attention.
This energy is important. In Plato’s Symposium, Eros is given a vital place in keeping the cosmos from flying apart, mediating between the divine world and the human one. It’s the creative force of the universe concentrated in our tiny human bodies and focused on another person.
So I understand wanting a girl to like you. But asking the question this way isn’t likely to lead to the answer.
The question every man interested in women should be asking himself is “how do I make a woman happy?”
Now, I don’t have all the answers to that question (just ask my wife!), but I do know some basic prerequisites that, surprisingly, don’t make it into the repertoire of tips and tricks that some guys seem to think are necessary for interacting with women.
If you want to have a good relationship with a woman (and by good, I mean mutually beneficial), the way to do it is to be of benefit to her. If she consistently finds that she not only feels better but is better after spending time with you, she’ll probably want to spend more time with you.
Simple, right? But not easy.
Here are six ways to benefit a woman:
1. Be okay with Yourself.
The foundation for treating others well is treating yourself well. When we don’t have a sense of our own basic dignity, our own value and vitality, relationships are really hard.
We can wind up replacing our own sense of self with the opinion of the person we’re infatuated with. But when we do this, we get so attached to what we want her to think of us, that it’s hard to hear what she really thinks about anything.
If you’re not already okay with yourself, how do you get there? The answer is that there’s nowhere to get. Just by being, you’re already okay. If you think you’re not, that thought is okay, and so are you.
If you can respect your own basic dignity, you can do the same for a woman, and that is the most essential way to benefit her.
If you want to know what will make a woman happy, the best way to find out is to listen to her. Listening is not just letting her talk, but really trying to understand what she’s saying and why it’s important to her.
Listening requires some talking, too. There are formulas out there for what to say to let someone know you’re listening, like saying “I hear you” or repeating back what they just said. The irony of these is that you can use a formula without actually listening.
When I’m having an argument with my wife, I know I’ve started listening when genuine questions arise in my mind about what it’s like for her to be in this situation, why she thinks or feels what she’s expressing, and what exactly it is she’s trying to express. I know I’m listening when it becomes more important to me to get those questions answered than defend myself from the bad things I think she’s saying about me (which I often find weren’t what she really meant when I actually listen).
3. Respect her and her boundaries.
Most women get a lot of attention, especially the women that most men find attractive. What women don’t get as much of is respect. If you give it to her, she will be better off for it.
Respect means seeing her as an equal. It means valuing her agency: her capacity and right to make her own choices.
This means that if she asks you not to do something with her, or says she doesn’t like it, don’t do it! It may sound insulting to state this so bluntly. You may be thinking, “of course I won’t do something to a woman after she’s asked me not to.”
But if we really take respect seriously, it can actually get pretty difficult.
If I really love and respect a woman, I want for her what she wants for herself. This means that if she wants to be with someone else instead of me (or just doesn’t want to be with me), her choice is more important to me than the relationship I want with her, even if I also really want her to be with me.
Also, being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t really want to be in it is not going to give you the experience you’re trying to get.
But my whole point is that trying to get an experience is a self-defeating way of approaching relationships.
4. Seek to give, not to “get.”
The language I see a lot of guys using about women seems to use the word “get” an awful lot. I started with one example: “how do I get a girl to like me?” In movies the hero “gets” the girl. And of course, there are the many and varied phrasings of “getting sex,” “getting laid,” etc.
Rather than wondering how to get the girl, how about asking what you can give her? And I don’t just mean stuff. Yes, buying or making thoughtful gifts can give a woman a nice experience. But to truly benefit a woman in the deepest way possible, we need to do more than this. True benefit is helping a person grow further into their potential, become more what they truly are.
The more we know what that is, the easier it gets to foster it, so a good first step is listening.
But once you have a sense of her deeper self, her potential self, her essential self, the best way to nourish that is with qualities that emanate from your own.
Another word for these qualities is virtues.
5. Cultivate virtue.
Virtues are those qualities that are already within you, already spilling out of you to make the world a better place.
It can be hard to recognize our own virtues. Explicitly recognizing good things about ourselves is, bizarrely, frowned upon in our culture, even as we’re constantly extolling “self-esteem.” But think about it: what are the things that other people say they like about you? What are the energies that are spilling out of you to make the world a better place? What are the things you can’t not do?
I asked a group of teenagers this question last week, and their answers amazed me: empathy, presence, drive, an ability to synthesize ideas, sympathy with nature… One young man described a light blasting out of him and dissolving all the bullshit in the world.
Once you have an idea what your virtues are, all you need to do is point them in a woman’s direction. Let them spill out of you and benefit her.
If a woman really likes you, it will be these qualities she likes. If she’s not seeing your virtues, then the person she likes isn’t actually you, it’s someone she’s pretending you are.
6. Open up.
Share your inner experience with her. Share how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what challenges you’re facing in your life, what brings you unspeakable joy. Give her a chance to listen to you, and to give you all the things you’re giving her. Just don’t think she owes it to you.
The hard truth is, you can give a woman all of these things, and she still might not want to reciprocate. And that’s okay. It sucks, but it’s okay. It’s ultimately up to her whether she wants to take you up on the amazing offering that you are, just as it’s up to you which relationships you put your energy into.
So if she’s not interested at this point, don’t waste your time. If you can do all the things listed above, and she still isn’t into you, there are tons of other people you can make very happy, who will make you very happy in return.
The moral of the story is that the way to treat a woman is to value her flourishing as much as you value your own, to place her—not the relationship you want to have with her, but her herself—above your own desires.
Isn’t this just the way we should treat anyone?
You got me. The game is up. Yes, the way to treat a woman is with exactly the same ethical standards with which we’d like all humans to treat each other.
But not easy.
Author: Asa Henderson
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: public domain