Jane Austen, author of six completed books and numerous short stories is considered a literary expert on love and relationships. She possessed an insight into the human heart that few have since matched, and two hundred years after her death, we still turn to her for wisdom about love. But what advice can we glean from Ms. Austen's books on the specific topic of meeting men?
The dating landscape has certainly changed since Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth met. Let's just say it's no longer a universally acknowledged truth that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife. Still, Jane Austen's books are more than just unattainable love stories of yesteryear; she provides solid advice and life lessons to guide us toward a meet-cute with our very own Darcy, Knightly, or Wentworth. Here are some solid lessons we can put to use today.
01. Don’t underestimate the power of eye contact.
While perhaps less applicable in her books, one of the most swoon-worthy aspects of Ms. Austen's film adaptions are those intense stare downs, especially between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. In Austen's romances, eye contact appears to be key in establishing interest and conveying a message of attraction and respect between individuals, and it turns out there is some science behind that.
A study from the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that making direct eye contact is a way to communicate nonverbally with others. Research done by psychologist Monica Moore of Webster University (and reported in Dr. Gottman's book, The Man's Guide To Women) found that eye contact is the most important signal a woman can give a man to let him know she would like his attention. Mr. Darcy found appeal in Elizabeth Bennet's "fine eyes," presumably because she threw him a glance or two.
02. Find a friend willing to make a proper introduction.
Dating burnout is real, especially after months of swiping profiles and awkward first dates that don't turn into second ones. In times like these, nobody knew better than Jane Austen, that one introduction from a friend can give you a fresh start.
When looking to meet a gentleman, proper introductions are key—it's not always a smart bet to be a Mr. Collins, who skipped all protocol and opted for self-intros. More and more people feel they would rather meet someone through a friend, than on an app, so matchmaking is making a comeback! See a cute guy at church? Ask around and find out who knows him. Set your happily coupled friends on a mission to introduce you to someone new.
03. Take a turn about the room.
Austen heroines unfortunately have to suffer through many a boring sitting room gathering, talking to the same person for great lengths of time. But things always get interesting when they decide to switch things up for a bit, taking a turn around the garden or breaking off to play piano or read a book. Those are the only opportunities their suiters have to woo them, and it's the same for us, too.
When you go out, don't let yourself get stuck in one place too long. Sure, enjoy conversation with your friends, but look for opportunities to be alone. Grab a drink at the bar for a friend or go re-apply lipstick (but take your time getting there). If you find yourself alone for a moment, don't pick up your phone. Instead, relax and face outward, letting any watching gentleman know you would welcome conversation.
04. Attend more balls—I mean, social events.
So many key female-male interactions in an Austen novel take place at a ball, and as Austen wrote, “To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love." While dancing does encourage intimacy and allows couples to show a form of affection, it isn't the only type of social event available.
As painful as it might be for the introvert, attending parties, happy hours, and any other social events are essential to meeting new people. Not only that, observing someone's character in a large group can be incredibly telling—there's a reason we always hear the advice to watch how our love interest treats others. However, avoid making a snap judgment—a fault of nearly all of Austen's female heroines.
05. Try looking at your oldest friends differently.
Take a page out of Emma's book—Mr. Knightly was her dear friend. They knew each other so well that "Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them." Mr. Knightly knew Emma inside and out, and he would call out her weaknesses while encouraging her strengths.
Emma's perfect match was literally right in front of her all along. Sometimes our friends end up being our love matches, and it takes a change in perspective to help us see this.
If you’re in a romance rut, look no further than Austen for a new approach and some positive perspective. Here’s hoping your Mr. Darcy isn’t far off!
Image Credit: Local Embers