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Book Summaries Psychology

Part 1: The Charmer (The Art of Seduction)

As one English princess remarked, “When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.”

The Charmer is a type that plays on people’s vanity and insecurity to gain their affection. The best way to summarize this type is to think of Benjamin Disraeli.

He said, “Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours.”

Disraeli knew how to make people feel good about themselves. He understood that arguing, fighting, and complaining are not seductive qualities, they will not make you popular. But if you are indulgent, calm, and outwardly focused, then people will let themselves be influenced by you, they will put their guard down.

Benjamin had made great advances in social conversation since the days of Murray’s dinners. Faithful to his method, he noted the stages: “Do not talk too much at present; do not try to talk. But whenever you speak, speak with self-possession. Speak in a subdued tone, and always look at the person whom you are addressing. Before one can engage in general conversation with any effect, there is a certain acquaintance with trifling but amusing subjects which must be first attained. You will soon pick up sufficient by listening and observing. Never argue. In society nothing must be discussed; give only results. If any person differ from you, bow and turn the conversation. In society never think; always be on the watch, or you will miss many opportunities and say many disagreeable things. Talk to women, talk to women as much as you can. This is the best school. This is the way to gain fluency,because you need not care what you say, and had better not be sensible. They, too, will rally you on many points, and as they are women you will not be offended. Nothing is of so much importance and of so much use to a young man entering life as to be well criticised by women. ”

ANDRÉ MAUROIS, DISRAELI, TRANSLATED BY HAMISH MILES

We often mirror how others treat us. If someone is defensive or argumentative with us, we will respond in the same way. Don’t mistake people’s exterior for reality. Often, they are simply reflecting the people they spend most of their time with.

A gruff exterior may hide a person dying for warmth; a repressed, sober-looking type may actually be struggling to conceal uncontrollable emotions. That is the key to charm—feeding what has been repressed or denied.

The world has many self-absorbed people. When we are with them, we know that the conversation must be about them, their insecurities, neediness, and hunger for attention. This makes us close ourselves up, we become egocentric. Charmers disarm us because they don’t talk about themselves, which makes them more mysterious. And since they are interested in us – we relax and open up to them. Finally, they are pleasing to be around. They don’t have the ugly qualities that most people have: nagging, complaining, self-assertion.

They seem to know what pleases. Theirs is a diffused warmth; union without sex. (You may think a geisha is sexual as well as charming; her power, however, lies not in the sexual favors she provides but in her rare self-effacing attentiveness.) Inevitably, we become addicted, and dependent. And dependence is the source of the Charmer’s power.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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