With Tila Tequila booze-hounding on MTV, Bret Michaels collecting groupies on VH1 (along with, most likely, the occasional venereal disease) and Flavor Flav all but putting Solomon’s Biblical harem to shame on “Flavor of Love,” it would seem as if the adage “chivalry is dead” hardly stands upon skanky – er, shaky – ground.
But if cable television has killed chivalry, Jordan Harbinger plans to bring it back — and then some.
The 29-year-old Michigan Law School alum is one of the founders of The Art Of Charm, a New York-based program claiming to be, as described on its website, “The World’s Authority on Dating and Relationships”. That’s a rather bold statement, but the company has some credentials to back it up. With a bevy of popular programs and seminars, a Sirius satellite show reaching 24 million listeners and a clientele that Harbinger said includes Abercrombie models, a millionaire and gold-medal-winning Olympians, The Art Of Charm seems to be doing something right.
The “charm school” – or at least the first inkling of it – originated in Ann Arbor. While in law school, Harbinger realized that the majority of his acquaintances didn’t necessarily make friends out of choice but rather out of circumstance — they formed “proximity-based” relationships with other students in his classes.
From here, the first cogs of The Art Of Charm were set into motion.
“There’s got to be a science behind this,” Harbinger said. “There’s got to be a science behind meeting people and getting them to like you.”
Looking online, Harbinger stumbled upon a self-described “underground community of guys” trying to figure out the “science” of attraction. Citing Neil Strauss’s pickup manifesto “The Game” as an impetus, Harbinger began to apply his research to his own interactions with women. He features his findings on a podcast show, “Pickup Podcast”.
“People started asking us, ‘Hey man, can you teach me this in person? The podcast changed my whole life,’ ” said Harbinger of the podcast’s initial success.
As a lawyer on Wall Street, however, Harbinger hardly had time to branch out beyond the radio waves. Harbinger reeled in two relationship coaches he had met through work, and combining his system with theirs, cultivated the rapid growth of a popular coaching business.
The Art Of Charm, simply put, stems from unconventional — and, some might say, brash — wisdom.
“If you ask your mom – which you probably never do – how you would meet women, she’s going to tell you to just be yourself, be nice to the woman, buy her some chocolate … that type of advice is ineffective,” Harbinger said.
The self-promoted master charmer knocked the aforementioned motherly advice, which he said hides one’s “true self” from a woman and consequently leads to a shaky relationship.
“It’s not just keeping the girl interested and reeled into you, it’s about understanding what motivates people at a primal level,” Harbinger said. Armed with a team of “highly trained social dynamists and psychologists,” Harbinger and his company have analyzed many types of human interaction to see which types of relationships are most likely to succeed.
According to Harbinger, The Art Of Charm “fixes people’s insecurities at core levels”. This leads to higher confidence and better communication, two intangibles that greatly factor into the success of relationships. The program’s curriculum, for example, stresses the importance of body language. Harbinger said women are five to ten times more perceptive than males, and consequently, poor body language from men alerts women of uneasiness.
“If I can teach you how to communicate that (self) value to other people more effectively, and to check in with those people to see if they are actually on the same page as you, that’s going to fix your insecurity,” Harbinger said. “So instead of giving you a fish so you can eat for a day, we teach you how to fish so you can eat for the rest of your life.”
As expected, The Art of Charm is not without criticism — but despite what one might expect, it’s not from the women who are the target of pursuit, Harbinger said.
“It’s from guys who don’t want to admit to themselves they can change,” he said.
Still, one cannot help but wonder whether social interaction can really be boiled down to a science. With a website advertising programs called things like “Get Her Number,” “Three-Day Boot Camp” and “One-Week Live-In Program”, The Art Of Charm sort of comes off like a “get chicks quick” scheme aimed at gullible shy guys.
“I don’t think charm is something you can be taught, no matter how much money you put out,” LSA sophomore Jamila Sharif said. “It’s something you’re born with.”
Students of The Art Of Charm pony up a considerable sum of money for supposed social enlightenment. While “Get Her Number” seminars start at $97 (as listed on theartofcharm.com), the One-Week Live-In Program, which invites clients to “live the charismatic lifestyle with all of the executive coaches at The Art Of Charm New York City Headquarters,” comes at a cool $3,997. Admittedly, the program’s premise is unique, but should top dollar be spent to essentially learn romance?
“I don’t know if I would respect (a male client) any less,” LSA sophomore Melissa Brown said. “I would just hope we connected on some other level than just what he learned.”
Sharif, though, finds the whole idea of a charm school-trained lover creepy.
“Some women would be happy with a guy who got trained to be the way he is,” she said. “But I just wouldn’t.”
Perhaps most disturbing is the website’s promotion of the “Window Shopping for Women eBook,” which teaches Internet users how to set up their Myspace or Facebook profiles to catch a woman’s attention — which the website says allows clients “to meet tons of high quality women from the comfort of your own home.”
Regardless of what you think of Harbinger’s science of seduction, you at least have to respect his confident, life-affirming philosophy that has helped him create a successful online business — even if he profited off of other people’s insecurities.
“Go for what you want,” Harbinger said. “And take it to the max.”