pickup artists
Pickup artists turn to nightclubs as pickup hotspots | © Stockbusters / Shutterstock

Let’s get this straight – nightclubs are the go-to territory for lurking pickup artists. Surprise? Maybe not. The club’s steamy and boozy atmosphere often displays the perfect place to meet your match.

But pickup artists aren’t your average Joes looking to meet someone on the dancefloor and establish a genuine connection with them. Instead, they’re a community of individuals who have premeditated and deliberate strategies to get with possible partners as their core mantra. 

Which begs the question – how can you spot one?

What’s a pickup artist?

It’s one thing to build communities aimed at promoting men’s confidence by sharing experiences and giving advice to boost each other’s social poise – we’re all for that! 

But collectives like pickup artists (PUAs) are built upon targeting insecure men and monetizing off of their lack of social skills with women. Not to mention that the entire procedure is focused on women’s objectification by turning the dating scene into a calculated hunt. 

The PUA arena goes beyond men meeting privately to discuss their endeavours. There is a wide array of online communities, self-help books, and monetized courses – all dedicated to spreading the lessons of The Game

To get down to the nitty-gritty – The Game is a book published in 2005 by Neil Stauss, a now ex-pickup-artist who created the ultimate manifesto for the seduction industry. 

The book acts as a how-to guide for men willing to convert to the pickup artist lifestyle. 

Things changed and now Strauss is a reformed man who distanced himself from the pickup artist lifestyle he once promoted. 

But the influence of his work continues.

When manipulation is your mantra

PUAs function on a deeper level than just giving out dating advice. They have a set of rules and tactics that are shared in the trial period. After that, they are tested ‘on the field’ in what is known as a ‘sarge’. 

The game book
This book became the manifesto for PUAs around the world | © Neil Strauss / Amazon

A literal excerpt from an online PUA advice forum reads: “When you add structured, prepared lines to your interactions, you get consistent results”.

The strategies are pretty much rooted in psychological manipulation. Conversations feel disingenuous, pre-planned and ultimately insulting to whoever they’re trying to seduce.

And people say romance is dead nowadays. 

best pickup artists
PUAs often implement an emotional push and pull method | © MART PRODUCTION  / Pexels

Usually, these techniques are stacked on top of one another in an interaction, where PUAs will jump between different routines in an attempt to have ‘a structured game’.

So how can you spot a pickup artist from someone who is genuinely interested in you?

A pickup artist will put you down

We know, this sounds like the complete opposite of what you’d expect from someone trying to get with you. But that’s a common tactic that’s popular among PUAs. 

Called ‘negging’, this is a method used by pickup artists to make women less confident about themselves. 

The outcome? The ‘prey’ will long for his approval. The targeted victim is usually perceived to be more attractive than the pickup artist, or simply out of his league. What the hunter of this equation wants is to overcome feeling threatened by her self-assurance. 

Disguised as teasing, ‘negging’ comes in a lot of different forms, like backhanded compliments, pointing out your flaws,  or even comparing you to other women in the club. 

For the well-refined PUAs, this tactic can come off completely undetectable. Sometimes, it can be mistaken for playful flirting that eventually ends up hurting both your feelings and confidence.

He’ll also push and pull 

If your conversation kicks off as a dodgy game of cat and mouse, then you’re probably getting in the ‘push/pull’ trap. 

The whole idea behind this is to emotionally push you away from him, and then pull you back in – which pretty much paints a picture of toxicity. In a twisted version of playing hard to get, the PUA actually applies psychological techniques to make you constantly doubt his interest, hoping that you will chase him back. 

If he feels he’s pushed too far, he’ll just bounce back with a sneaky compliment and pretend to play nice again.

Pickup artists might be more toxic than your ex | © StockSmartStart / Shutterstock

He’ll overtake an uncomfortable conversation 

Buckle up because this one has a weird tone to it. Mainly because the PUA isn’t actually trying to save you from your uncomfortable situation, just trying to one-up the guy you’re already talking to. 

Picture this: you’re getting chatted up by a guy you’re not interested in, so you feel annoyed by the interaction. What do you do? You look over to your group of friends so they can get you out of it. 

In pickup lingo, the term ‘save-me-eyes’ refers to the look a girl gives her friend(s) when she’s uncomfortable during a conversation with a guy, hoping they’ll come to the rescue.

PUAs will spot this, and rather than helping her out of the situation, they will swoop in and take the opportunity to chat her up themselves. 

pickup artists crossword
Experienced PUAs can easily fit into the crowd  | © Will Stewart / Unsplash

By doing so, the PUA hopes he’ll be seen as the ‘alpha male of the group’, making him the more desirable opponent. Totally a knight in shining armor, right? 

Pickup artists reflect your emotions

This mirroring technique is high in the book of manipulative tactics. It’s basically used to create a false sense of rapport. ‘Pacing’ is when the PUA copies your emotional or mental state to make you more inclined to open up.

Pacing is a way for him to lead the interaction by making you feel understood. It’s a tactic to get you to open up and feel at ease with a total stranger approaching you. 

He’ll outwardly address the fact that it might be weird to talk to strangers, but that he ‘just had to come talk to you’. Later on in the conversation, if he senses you feeling uncomfy, he’ll address that emotion as if it was his own as well.

In many cases, PUAs will actually mirror the body language (and even breathing) of the other person to establish a deeper sense of familiarity. 

He’ll test your boundaries

And this can happen in a number of (very uncomfortable) ways.

PUAs will basically do certain actions to test your limits to pinpoint how easily you can let your guard down. One method is progressive touching, also known as ‘kino escalation’ – which is usually used to get physical contact established from the very beginning. 

women pickup artists
© MART PRODUCTION  / Pexels

The whole point is to assess your reaction and see if they should progressively push further, while giving you a false sense of security at the same time. 

Another method is to make suggestive and inappropriate jokes in the first few minutes of conversation. This allows him to study your reaction. Later on, he will assess his tactics throughout the ‘game’.

And the list goes on, and on…

Thing is, there are hundreds of techniques used by pickup artists on a global scale. Sadly, these condescending performances reduce women to a bunch of hit-or-miss games. But still, their popularity doesn’t seem to wane.

The connector between all of them is that they’re rooted in psychological manipulation. And they’re all working towards the same goal – to score a quick hookup. 

It’s no easy job to spot these PUAs when they’re out on the field. But when you become aware of some of their tactics, you’ll start picking up on a few red flags and go running for the hills – as you should.