Treat ’em mean, Keep ’em keen

by Jake McMillan

It’s a well known phrase, but there is some unfortunate truth to the notion of ‘treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen’, especially when it comes to flirting.

Us humans are complex beings and rather annoyingly we are not attracted to someone who is really nice to us, who says lovely compliments and doesn’t have a bad word to say about us. We don’t like this as it seems like the person is kissing our arse, perhaps being a little desperate and also the fact we don’t want pulling someone to be too easy.

In all areas of life, we only put value in things we have to work hard for or struggle for. If it is just handed to you on a silver platter then we put less meaning or significance into it. The same is for flirting, we want to have earned the person we have pulled. The person becomes much less attractive if it is all too easy. Although, the idea of Cheryl Cole lying on a silver platter does have a certain appeal.

Think about your own experiences, isn’t someone who seems like they are not interested in you romantically somehow far more attractive and desirable than someone who is obviously attracted to you and very keen? It’s a bummer isn’t it?

So, to make yourself more attractive whilst flirting it is actually much better to be mean than to be nice. This is not to say you should endlessly insult the person you are chatting up, but peppering the conversation with little teases about them will make you seem confident, that you are no push over and that they will have to work to pull you.

Expert pick-up artists have perfected this into almost a science with their own theories and nomenclature. Neil Strauss’s excellent book ‘The Game’ explores the world of pick-up artists and early on describes what is known in this world as a ‘neg’.

Neither compliment nor insult, a neg is something in between—an accidental insult or backhanded compliment. The purpose of a neg is to lower a woman’s self esteem while actively displaying a lack of interest in her—by telling her she has lipstick on her teeth, for example, or offering her a piece of gum after she speaks.’ Neil Strauss, The Game

Whether we like it or not, negs are much more effective in flirting than being nice will ever be. So, to keep ‘em keen, you gotta treat ‘em mean.

2 responses to “Treat ’em mean, Keep ’em keen

  • Lali

    You see? My intuition was right on the money…

    Our theories on what’s desirable in a partner usually reveal a lot about how we were treated a long time ago. You make here the apology of meanness, what does this tell you?


    • jakemcmillan

      Hi Lali (again) 🙂 and thanks for you comment.

      I think you are right that the attributes of the people we desire in a long term partner can reveal things about our own nature. However, the point I was making in the article is that it seems quite a universal feature, rather than an individual one, amongst humans that we are initially attracted to people who do not seem so obtainable because they are not so nice to us or make jokes about us compared to those who kiss our arses. This is why pick up artists are so successful at picking someone up but are not good at holding a relationship.

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