Ethical pick-up tips: art of the approach without deceit

My quote to you, for ethical pick-up – first of all I do not like the word pick up. It’s a stupid American word, and it’s been hung onto way too long – the art of approach, call it anything you want…but my quote to you, and this should be for anything in life – whether it’s the team, or people you work with, or people you engage. Leave people, or leave her, in a better place than you found her. Leave people in a better place than you find them, and you can’t go wrong. Add value- add huge value from an abundance positioning. So leave her in a better place than you find her.

Shaun, 3 Second Rule Social skills/ PUA Training/ Dating coach

Man gets phone number from two women.  Good pick up skills?

Pick up and art of the approach

Firstly, I completely agree. The terms pick up and PUA have been around for a long time to describe what is basically the application of some fundamental common psychology and manipulation of social instincts to do better for ourselves, but has developed some unfavourable overtones. What is a pick up artist? Fundamentally, the term boils down to what is perceived as someone using trickery to obtain casual sex.

This is certainly how it is often used and taught, but is not really the essence of the craft. With the rise in public knowledge of the Incel (involuntary celibate) groups, one might justifiably feel that such attitudes and behaviour are simply flip sides of the same coin. The Incels’ rage about not having access to the ‘Staceys’ for free sex, while the PUA’s (pick up artist) have learnt methods to obtain it from HB’s (‘hot babes’). Both would therefore be fundamentally rooted in some very unpleasant misogyny, with conventionally attractive women being simply the gatekeepers of the resource they are after.

man looks at two women at a concert.  Are you wondering how to do pick up in an ethical way?  The art of the approach is about meeting people and creating a safe space.  A positive space

Ethical pick up?

Coming from either such attitude, most pick up would therefore be rightly perceived as pretty unethical. Tricks such as the ‘Neg’ (use of words or actions to heighten the insecurity and lower the self-esteem of your target) mentioned in ‘The Game’ by Neil Strauss, and widely picked up on by the media, probably don’t do much to dispel the notion that pickup is a pretty unethical game all round, involving pretence, deceit and a level of disregard for human beings who happen to be women one is attracted to, in order to utilise them for sex and inflate one’s own ego in a way that could be classed as narcissistic or even sociopathic.

Yet is this fair?

Ultimately, ‘the art of the approach‘ is a much more positive reflection of the basics of this social skill-set, and moves the focus from one potential result (easy, casual sex such as is classically expected as the goal of pick up) to learning mastery of a social toolkit that enables one to present one’s self confidently, engage easily with strangers, make friends, progress in business and add value to your interactions with everyone on a daily basis.

smiling people socialise with drinks.  Night game and day game are classic pick up terms for where you re approaching people and how to adjust your style to suit the mood

Art of the approach

With this in mind, let’s strip away the ‘unethical’ aspects of pick up theory, the questionable incentives and attitudes of people who sometimes choose to acquire these skills, and look at the glowing kernel at the centre of ‘the art of the approach‘.

Firstly, this isn’t going to be a simple 1-2-3 pick up trick that is going to win over every person, while leaving your halo untarnished. If we change our perception from that of ‘pick up tricks‘ to ‘the art of the approach‘, we need to look at it more as a process of learning, personal growth and endless refinement.

Secrets to pick up and making a safe space

We need to learn to love the act of learning and of interacting, without any clear goal in mind, and consider our progress in the same way we might if we learn to play a new instrument, take up a martial art or learn a new language. It takes time. It takes practice. If the only reason you take up a sport is to look amazing in a bikini (or speedo, I suppose) and you have no other motivation, it will always be a results-focussed measure of achievement that gives no joy to the process. If you learn to love the sport, work hard at it and practice regularly, the body-goal becomes a side-effect, and the process is where you find the joy. This is a much more sustainable, enjoyable and effective way to undertake any new self-improvement project.

fingers and hands.  What does your body language say

Without overt psychological trickery, measures to trigger insecurity, artifice, lies, misrepresentations and concealed motives, how does one approach and flirt with someone you’d like to get to know better?

The people say:

I generally drop my profession into the conversation. It tends to earn a lot of trust and is easily verifiable, which goes a long way towards breaking the ice.

Straightforwardsimon, FabSwingers, 39
man in suit and tie.  Is pick up all about looking good?

The best ice breaker is getting someone to introduce you, then using funny pickup lines because serious ones only work on people who take themselves too seriously, and it lets them know you are not afraid to laugh at yourself.

In an orgy though, interestingly just asking to perform sexual acts with someone attractive gets better responses if you’ve already chatted to them before.

I taught a lonely but really nice guy how to pick up women when we were training together. He didn’t know how to approach women without coming on too strong or weirdly. I taught him the bar approach and just talk like normal because so many people try things out, or get weird trying to get laid. So talking and forgetting about trying to get laid is the best way I’ve found.

Mr. C, married ethical polyamorist and swinger
women laughing with drinks.  Can you hold a conversation and engage strangers?  Would learning some ethical pick up improve your life?

Listen to what the person has to say and don’t just focus on yourself the whole time.

Nikonrope, photographer, 20’s

man and woman talking side by side

Top pick up tips from a professional

1. Be authentic.

2. Spot something you like about the person. Make a comment about it. Don’t reference looks!

3. You’ve got to learn to be witty. That’s very hard to teach. Read about everything, and practice. Footballers and team sportsmen are some of the wittiest men I’ve ever met- constantly at it in the changing room, so are just natural.

4. The PUA scene has moved on so much that their ethos has changed. The Mystery method and Strauss are very effective. Charm is essential.

5. Calm is also very effective. Let no ribbing affect you.

6. Laughter is important

7. Natural confidence is very important

8. I think it’s about knowing yourself and owning it, without being a d*ck to others.

9. Small steps. A 1000 mile journey starts with a single step.

10. Start reading. Everything. Physics, biology..

11.Start nice conversations with strangers.

Mr. Z, 30’s, former pick-up artist tutor
three men smiling together

This all sounds like good advice for how to get on with people in general, and is pretty far from the sleazy image pickup artistry (now ‘the art of the approach’) has sometimes been tainted with. Perhaps 10 commandments wouldn’t be out of place?

The Ten Commandments for the Ethical Art of Approach

1. Thou shalt treat each person as a valuable individual human, not a resource

You may not know what you will eventually want your interaction with someone to lead when you first meet, but do not categorise them as ‘for sex’, ‘for money’, ‘for connections’. All people have intrinsic worth, and the more you get to know them, the more you will see what a complex, multi-faceted individual they truly are.

2. Thy word is thy bond

As with knights of old, treat the things you say, in person or online, as a binding oath of honesty and respect. If you can’t live up to it, don’t say it. It is not about how much you value the other person- it is a point of honour, for yourself.

3. Thou shalt not make assumptions about who someone is

Though we all express our individuality, culture and tribal identities in the way we choose to present ourselves, all people are individual and nobody is all on the surface. Using appearance alone as a decision as to who to talk to, what they will be like and what their attitudes are to sex and relationships is beyond unwise- it is discriminatory. Conversely, taking the time to talk to someone and showing interest in finding out about what makes them tick, their attitudes, opinions and priorities, while showing respectful curiosity and appreciation will enrich your interactions beyond measure.

4. Thou shalt not behave in a way, in the pursuit of sex, that you would not want someone to behave towards your mum

Respect your potential playmates in the way you would wish to be respected by anyone. If you wouldn’t want someone to treat your mother, sister or daughter that way, then why would you do it to someone else?

5. Thou shalt not harm

Many people enjoy sex a great deal, and engendering a happy, respectful arrangement where they perceive both you and themselves as attractive and worthy is no bad thing. It is not necessary for such arrangements to be harmful to anyone, whether psychologically, financially or emotionally.

6. Thou shalt not set out to ruin the relationships others already have

Whether it is a non-monogamous relationship, a friendship, or something that is important to the object of your desire for their life or work, you should not commit acts that are knowingly going to be detrimental to them. Such as isolating them from their friends, seeking to cause problems with their primary partner, making them late for work or causing issues between family and friends by seeking to seduce them all. To do so is simply to try to make yourself more important in their life by destroying the things that mean most to them.

7. Thou shalt not take more than thou give

Manifesting abundance‘ is a key phrase of recent years that is seen in everything from spirituality guides to self-help books, and is also often in PUA literature. What does it actually mean in this context? Specifically, it is the opposite of having a ‘scarcity mentality’. A notion of having limited options or prospects, which appears to others as desperation.

Abundance mentality is typically shown by: an attitude which is independent of the outcome of the interaction. Such as enjoying social interaction, and a lack of neediness. A person with an abundant attitude does not need to keep score with a person’s initial reaction to them, how much approval they get back or be stingy with making their conversational partner feel valuable (not to be mistaken for misuse of compliments). You have in your power to make everyone you speak to feel happy and valuable, and you are undiminished by doing so.

8. Thou shalt not bear false witness

Don’t tell lies about who you are. Your relationship status, pretend you are interested in the type of relationship with them that you are not, or mislead them with discussion of what your wedding would be like, what names they’d pick out for your kids, or other conversation that is about scenarios you have no intention of ever enacting.

9. Thou shalt not select unethical targets

There are clearly people who are not appropriate to use the art of the approach on with a sexual intention in mind. Though the social skill set itself is morally neutral. Minors, subordinates at work, family members, partners of friends and family who are not ethically non-monogamous are not suitable. Also those who you discover are especially vulnerable, in a position where they are overly intoxicated, emotionally unstable, devoid of support or otherwise very prone to being misled or make decisions they later regret.

10. Thou shalt not compare thy success rate competitively against others

Focussing on results and numbers, and comparing oneself to others, leads to a dehumanisation of those you intend to use ‘the art of the approach‘ on. Focus on your own journey and development while practicing your social skills widely. When you do encounter someone you have a lot in common with, this will not be a barrier to getting to know each other and discovering your similarities.

men and women talking.  Ethical pick-up is rooted in conversational arts

Is pick up artistry, or better yet, the art of the approach, inherently unethical?

Of course not. The ability to charm and entertain, to approach strangers you want to know better? To be a benevolent social force for fun and entertainment doesn’t need to be rooted in misogyny or unethical attitudes. Present yourself in the best possible light. To carry yourself with confidence, to use your vocal tone, expression and body language to the most positive effect, is all just a skillset that can be learnt and applied to all sorts of situations.

That is not to say that the pursuit of connections for casual sex is inherently immoral either. Ultimately, it really all depends how you use it. Whether or not you are hurting the people you practice on or target. If the top instructors for the art of the approach can tell you to add value and leave people better-off for their time with you than when they started, what more incentive could you possibly need? Get out there and turn on the charm, making people feel valuable and attractive?

Will dropping the unethical tricks and tips from your repertoire damage your success rate? It might, on an individual basis. But those who you couldn’t charm ethically are those who wouldn’t have agreed had they known. Ultimately, certain social circles, particularly the swinging scene, become a small world very rapidly. Who will you be remembered as?

*With thanks for the discussions and quotations from the wonderful people of the ethical non-monogamy scenes, professional ‘Art of the Approach’ tutors and photography from

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