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The secrets of pickup artists

James Norton and Ernesto Gluecksmann teach men how to flirt with women in Washington.

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James Norton and Ernesto Gluecksmann
Owners of Professional Pickup
Monday, February 14, 2011; 1:00 PM

Not every guy is a natural Don Juan. That's where James Norton and Ernesto Gluecksmann come in.

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The two operate Professional Pickup, a dating coach business in Washington that offers classes to single men who want to learn how to meet and flirt with women. In addition to seduction techniques, the lessons focus on building self-confidence and self-awareness in the students.

Norton, Gluecksmann and their classes were featured in a Washington Post Magazine cover story. The two of them, along with reporter Ellen McCarthy took questions and comments online on Feb. 14. The transcript is below.

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James Norton: Hi all, Thank you for joining us today. I look forward to answering your questions and clarifying some of the story.

Please be sure to ask about our 4 Rules: 1) No Lies 2) Take Full Responsibility 3) No Negativity 4) Have Courage

Also, we talk a lot about inner and exterior expression, social and life style dynamics, and a few other topics of interest.

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Ernesto Gluecksmann: Hi everyone, glad to be with you all today. I'm ready to answer your tough questions about dating and meeting people.

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Capitol Hill: Um, gross. Why can't you just tell men to say, "Hello, my name is such and such. What's yours?" What is with the constant and creepy need to trick, seduce, fool, etc. a woman?

James Norton: We believe they should be able to say "Hello, my name is..." Any one of our clients should be able to go up and say exactly that. We don't believe in lines, routines, or some other pickup gimmick. These don't work and convey that the person using these is of low value because is says that he/she has to be fake.

We are looking for people to be honest amazing individuals. Every person is different and they need to use their own passions and life.

This cant be further from the truth of what we teach. Our first rule is No Lies. We say this for multiple reason. First, is that you're betraying yourself when you do. Our Clients have be honest and truthful of who they are. We know that there are things that need to be changed within all of us and unless you're honest with yourself, you can't change. As far as lying to others, the same goes. It's sub-communicating that you are not worthy enough or have low self value as a person and have to fake that you're of higher value.

Let's face it. No one wants to be lied to, fooled, tricked, etc. We don't teach this. One of our 4 Rules addresses exactly this.

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Dearborn, MI: Why do we need "pick-up" techniques? Are not American women capable of looking at a guy and smiling at him if she is interested?

Ernesto Gluecksmann: Yes, American women are very capable of showing their interest. The problem is that some men are wallflowers and too shy to respond. We help guys emerge from their shells; it's tough to go up and talk to a woman you don't know. It's not about "memorizing lines," our instruction is a process of understanding how not to fear rejection and to approach women in a more confident manner.

You can't tell a guy, "be more confident." Rather, confidence comes from developing competencies in communications. For example, "techniques" that we teach are: projecting your voice, pausing to listen to the other person, and standing up straight in a relaxed manner. To some people, these steps are obvious. For others, you have to walk them through these things and explain why they matter.

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herndon, va: I recall Gene Weingarten writing last year about someone giving classes such as yours. He'd done an interview, but couldn't get the "teacher's" approval for an article. Was that you, or someone else?

washingtonpost.com: No, that was a different organization. Here's that column: Man of Mystery (Jan. 27, 2008)

Ellen McCarthy: One of the things that appealed to me about this story was that James and Ernesto were willing to let us use their full names. That seems to be a rarity in the pickup universe.

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Del Ray, VA: Can I just say - as a woman - how stupid are we? Really - women do too much drinking and not enough thinking sometimes. I'm married now, but still remember the days when guys would try this crap out on me and my girlfriends. The whole keep this one busy while I chat that one up, it's offensive, and we see it. If it's working, then those people are dumb enough to fall for your tricks, and would probably fall for something less sophisticated.

Why is the magazine continuing to cover this stuff? You wrote a very similar article a few years ago. Lets write something from the point of view of woman! How about - how annoying it is for men to try and "trick" us into bed? What things we'd like/respond to?

Ellen McCarthy: Hi Del Ray, Thanks for your comment. As a woman, I was interested in reporting this story because it was an opportunity to go behind the scenes to see what these men are being taught.

Whether we like it or not, the pickup scene is part of our society today. My intention was to pull back the curtain on something often kept in the dark.

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Washington, D.C.: While I do tend to think that many of these methods are manipulative, I can sympathize with the students in the class. When flirting and casual conversation and dating with the opposite sex seems to come so naturally to some, it's really hard for those of us who have a hard time with those things, despite being good, smart, interesting people otherwise. Some people get the gift of charisma, some of us don't. It sounded like the students fell into that second group and most were honestly looking to learn the basic social skills that others take for granted.

Ernesto Gluecksmann: Thanks for the comment; I couldn't agree more. Casual conversation and flirting are learned skills that need to be practiced and applied.

James Norton: Much of what we deal with is anxiety and basic fears of rejection which all of us have. It's important to get to the core truths of all of these matters and help our clients see through their self-limiting beliefs. We all have them, but it's important to start addressing them. From, there we can be more honest of who we are and where we need to go.

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Arlington VA: Why do you think it is the responsiblity of a man only to approach a woman, introduce himself, make small talk, ask her out, pay for a date etc...?

Don't you think women are equal partners in this and they would approach a man themselves or show interest if they are interested? So why do men need to spend 600 bucks for this?

Ernesto Gluecksmann: I love this question. This is 2011, and women are just as capable of approaching a man and making "the first move" as men. However, the old rules of dating have been thrown out and people might be confused about who should make the first move, so often, no one does out of fear of making a mistake.

YOU should be the one to take full responsibility for your social life, man or woman. We're the big brother/guy friend that some guys have never had. We are spelling out, better late than never, that they can take action, not fear rejection, and get the relationship that they want.

Our workshops are 4 weeks long, and this includes one night a week of in-person instruction, plus emails and phone calls during the week if someone has questions.

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North Little Rock, Ark.: I'm curious as to whether you guys have offered dating advice to women - and whether you believe you could give honest counsel to them rather than coaching them to react positively to what you've coached your guy clients to do? And do you know if there are any people offering similar coaching for women who are looking for ways to avoid the very tactics you're teaching men?

Ernesto Gluecksmann: First, we don't teach "tactics." This is a common misconception about Professional Pickup. We teach men how to express themselves authentically and honestly so that they can relate to women. We know that women will want to meet the guys that we are instructing because they are going to be better at communicating their true intentions in a relationship. What we teach is universally applicable to all personal interactions; it will improve people's lives both professionally and socially.

James Norton: Just to add to Ernesto... We teach people how to effectively express themselves. It's about conveying who you really are as a person. Also, Being full and present at the time of the interaction.

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Fairfax, Va.: Good article. But women today are more sexually active and sexually aggressive and they themselves initiate or start the conversations themselves. They are not interested in jocks now, but the dorks, geeks and nerds who have the money.

Ellen McCarthy: Thanks for reading. This is a pretty big generalization about women, though. The women I know are interested in all different types of guys and have very individual approaches to relationships.

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Washington, DC: What are your thoughts on "wing men"? Are they necessary and if yes, how so?

Ernesto Gluecksmann: Wingmen and wingwomen are a great idea. We recommend when you're with a wingperson, be positive and build each other up. The better your wingman looks, the better you look. So, compliment each other, especially in front of the people you're trying to meet.

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Re: Um Gross: The reason men don't just walk up and introduce themselves is because in a typical social setting like a bar or party modern, urbanite women laugh, sneer or belittle anyone who does that unless they look like Brad Pitt. That is a fact. Yes there are exceptions but feigning hostility to being approached is what most women do.

Ellen McCarthy: Reporting this story gave me great empathy for how hard it is for some guys to approach a new woman. But I think your assumption that the reception a man gets is based solely on appearance is off base. In my experience, if a guy gets a negative reaction, it's more likely because the woman he approached sensed something creepy about him, not because he lacked Brad Pitt's physique.

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Not just socially awkward: It sounds like many of your students are just trying to work through some social awkwardness. But have you ever encountered a student who had a more significant hurdle (such as Asperger's)? Or have you ever refused anyone from your class for being too predatory?

Ernesto Gluecksmann: Yes, we've worked with guys who have speech impediments and Asperger's, as well as other physical challenges. We focus on the guys' strengths; a positive, confident attitude is incredibly attractive and a critical foundation for everything that we teach.

Thus far, we've never had to refuse anyone from a class. Most of the guys that sign up become self-aware of the good things about them and the bad things that they need to fix. This type of class forces guys to address some of those dark aspects of their personality and really put effort into being a more positive person.

I don't know about you, but I don't really like creepers.

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Falls Church, VA: Do you teach men to look for an opening before approaching? What would that be?

I see women usually come with their girlfriends and keep talking among themselves- I have noticed that in bars, nightclubs....It is hard to approach someone and start talking if they are not even looking at you.

The bottom line: how do we know if someone is interested?

Ernesto Gluecksmann: The women are probably talking to each other because you haven't approached them and given them a reason to talk to YOU. Most people, in any social setting, are just waiting for someone to start a conversation. It's called "breaking the ice" because it's not easy.

Once you start talking to women, it will become apparent quickly whether or not they are feeling your vibe and are there to meet single guys. You can ask them, "are you here to meet single guys? Because I am one." It's a fun way to start a conversation.

Without talking to them, you won't know whether or not they are interested.

(Of course, we don't recommend interrupting women when they're trying to pay the bill ...)

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Washington, DC: Enjoyed the article about you guys. I know cheesy lines are out regarding approaching someone, but have you got anything for me besides "Hi,how are you doing?" Thanks.

Ernesto Gluecksmann: Hi - thanks for the question. We'd love to have you in our class. :) Here's a tip: it's not what you say that matters, it's how you say it. We tell students when they approach people, say the first thing that comes to mind and work from there.

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Cleveland, OH: Is this a lucrative business? How many clients do you get year and how much does your business earn a year?

James Norton: To be honest, we don't make much money on this. We do this because we are looking to make better people and help them see a world bigger than their current hidden selves.

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Rockville: Do you think most of your clients are really into the game part of it; or are many truly and shy and awkward guys who need a few lessons just to raise their love life to average?

Ernesto Gluecksmann: I think that by walking into any social setting in the U.S., we see lots of guys who need some help socially. Most of the guys that take our class experience that moment, "ok, I need to get a handle on this because what I'm doing now isn't working for me." Then, they sign up.

Many guys need us, but most guys will never admit it.

If guys are into the "game" part, they'll realize quickly that there is no quick fix.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm a woman. I'm not a perfect 10, but I'm reasonably good looking, I'm fun, I'm friendly. I go out to a wide variety of social spots. So how come I never get hit on? Friends who are less physically attractive, or shy, or already dating someone get approached by men and I don't. Am I cursed, or missing something?

James Norton: There could be a variety of reasons. Many of my women friends ask me the same thing. The first thing that people see when they look across a room is body language. Is your body language closed off, do you or your friends look hostile?

Approaching for men can produce a lot of anxiety. Say for example you are out surrounded by men. Most guys won't approach out of fear that they are going to get a beat down from one of the guys or look stupid. The more people or friends around the more they have to contend with. So go out more by yourself or just a friend. If you're meeting people at a place. Show up early and wait for them by yourself. See what happens.

Also, if you're a good looking woman, most guys assume that you're out of their league. Give them subtle hints that you want to talk to them. Smile, or even ask the time or something else that reduces the anxiety of approaching you. Situational comments are great too: "Wow did you just see that 3 pointer?"

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Your clients: If much of what you teach is self confidence and awareness, it seems that this would be valuable to many women as well as men. Do you ever have female clients? Gay men?

James Norton: We have had women clients, but most of our interest has been straight men. It is about learning how to effective express yourself which, obviously, can work for both men and women.

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Wash, DC: Ever thought of creating and teaching workshops in helping the homeless, rebuilding Haiti, etc? Why focus on women?

James Norton: That's a great question. My talents are in helping people... and in this instance. It is helping mostly men discover their selves and remove their self limiting beliefs. These individuals become more active in the community. Have more self confidence in dealing with hurdles at work, school, and home. I think one of the worst things in the world is to be hidden and alone. I know I can help these people.

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Burbank, CA.: How does a guy who does not have the confidence to ask a woman out get the confidence to admit that to another and sign up for your class?

Ernesto Gluecksmann: This is a great question and it's one of the toughest issues that we work to resolve. We understand that it can seem "unmanly" to admit that you need some help on the art of being "manly." Therefore, we offer one-on-one sessions for both men and women if they do not want to participate in a group session. We recognize that people who sign up for our instruction have already taken a big step forward and are ready to learn what we have to teach.

James Norton: Also, to a degree, you have to admit that you are at a certain point in your life and you want to get better.

It takes a lot of courage. I always appreciate our clients because they are dealing with a lot of issues that most people avoid.

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Arlington, Va.: Several times in the story, the guys mention looking for "better" or "higher quality" women. I'm guessing that just means "hotter." How ironic, given that the class seems to be geared toward guys who probably aren't super hot themselves.

Ernesto Gluecksmann: "Hot" is definitely a relative term and in the eye of the beholder. I can't tell a guy who to think is hot, but I can definitely teach them how to respond appropriately to a woman's energy and positivity. We actually had guys in our class who could easily be models for GQ and they had some of the toughest challenges with meeting women. Why?

Because it starts in how each of perceives ourselves. Looks alone don't go very far, especially in this town. Professional women in Washington, DC are some of the smartest and most fascinating women in the world with varied interests. What does that mean for guys? We need to step up and be passionate, ambitious, and positive men because that's what women in DC will find attractive.

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Bowie: Do you ever get feedback from women thanking your for helping get some guys into the dating pool, or do the ones who've learned about your existence all think you've just taken some men who might have been decent and turned them into gamers?

James Norton: We get thanks from women all of the time for helping guys out. We both have many women friends and acquaintances. They know and appreciate what we do. We speak to them on how they would like to be approached, loved, cared for, etc. Many times they ask us for advice.

When the truth of the matter that we are here to make these guys better, they love the idea and even help talk us up to their friend. Every woman that we know "knows" one guy friend who could use our services and the women want us to help him out.

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Washington, DC: Are there any courses out there for women to learn how to spot these gross PUAs immediately? I admit that as soon as I realize someone is "neg-hitting" me, I run the other way, but it seems these jokers have come up with some brand new "tactics" to up their "game."

Tip, guys: we're not prizes.

Ellen McCarthy: I didn't spot any in the course of my reporting, but there are some Web sites to this effect, like www.puahate.com

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20071: Ya know, I'm torn. On the one hand, I totally get and appreciate what you guys are doing. I'm a female and I can't imagine having the confidence to go up to a random guy at the bar and strike up a conversation. Confidence and self-esteem building is a good thing. On the other hand, though, I tend to doubt your true intentions when your advice consists of ordering the girl to do something ("I can't hear you, come closer") and if she doesn't, then move on because she won't obey you. If I was interested in a guy and he said that to me, I'd tell HIM to move to ME, since he's the one with the hearing problem. Would that be grounds for my dismissal, too?

Ernesto Gluecksmann: That is not grounds for dismissal your dismissal. :) If he's interested, he'll move over to you and you're good to go. What we're telling guys is that they should have a plan to lead the interaction. They are inviting someone to join them in their life for a brief moment. If one person can't hear, get closer.

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McLean, VA: As a young woman, I am appreciative that such a service exists for men. Not only are you helping to breed confidence (a trait that almost all women are attracted to), but you are also helping to eliminate the long pauses, and other awkward moments that women are subjected to when men approach. Tactics or otherwise, if a man can spark my interest, we both win!

Ernesto Gluecksmann: Great, thanks! Tell those shy, single guy friends to sign up for a course with us!

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introversion quest: some excellent men are introverted. they do not "show" well in intense social situations like crowded bars. regardless of looks, wallet, etc. these guys are tucked away in bike groups, sci-fi festivals, wine tastings, etc. but it is hard to FIND them. I for one am sick of the smoothies @ bars. I want a nice, low-key guy. (I am a straight woman...)

Ellen McCarthy: Thanks for chiming in. Good luck with the quest!

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Fredericksburg, TX: Hi James, I notice--as the article points out--that you aren't in tip-top shape. With respect to meeting the ladies, is that intentionally so? I've observed that beautiful, fit women (the ones I'm very interested in) a lot of the times don't end up dating fit men themselves. Sometimes I attribute this to these women not wanting to have to "compete" against the man in terms of fitness, or even live up to his standard (as his standard is obviously much lower). Maybe even, the girl wants to receive all the physical beauty attention and likes the look in pictures that this is the guy who's "taking care" of her (notice that she chooses older, heavier, and generally taller men who have more of a fatherlike appearance than a younger, fit guy would have). At other times, I think it may just be one of those complementary things that happens that way without any calculations or insecurities driving females toward such pairings. What do you think about why beautiful, fit girls end up with more portly dudes? If a guy is already confident, would you suggest he get in good shape or get some flab if he wants the beautiful, fit ladies? I know that last question will seem counterintuitive to a lot of readers, but maybe we should all be trying to resemble the girl's teddy bear rather than her Ken doll?

James Norton: Ha. Had to answer this.

Really it comes down to being comfortable in yourself. I like me. I like what I do, who I am, and how I interact with individuals. My self worth doesn't come from my "overgrown teddy bear" image. I know that I have a lot that I can share and give to others. My value is based on my ability to interact and to help others out. My value is not based on my weight or some other arbitrary number.

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Alexandria VA: What's your advice for approaching women outside of the typical bar/club situation? Some guys just aren't into that type of scene but still want to feel comfortable approaching women without looking like a creepy stalker type.

Ernesto Gluecksmann: We instruct our students to go to art exhibits, openings, embassy events and other places that are not the bar scene. We don't like creepers, either.

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Bethesda, MD: It seems like there's this undercurrent of assumption that women are these magical mythical "creatures" that you need to decode. If the genders were reversed, it'd read like an article out of seventeen magazine.

It's childish and dehumanizing. Women are just normal people and shouldn't be treated as any more or less than that.

Teaching a class in how to be comfortable in your skin and approach people in social situations would be fine, even admirable. But that's a class you could offer to women, too. It's when you insert "kino" tips and coaching on how to be the "alpha" in a given scenario that you turn creepy and come across as deeply misogynistic.

Ellen McCarthy: Thanks for your response here. I think it's an interesting question as to how we would respond to something like this if the genders were reversed. Any other thoughts out there?

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Ernesto Gluecksmann: This has been great - thanks for all of the feedback and questions. You can also email us at advice@professionalpickup.com or just visit our website http://www.professionalpickup.com.

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James Norton: Thank you all for taking the time to participate with us in this. Best of luck on your journey of finding you.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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