We recently published a list of ways to make yourself more attractive while doing virtually nothing to alter your physical appearance.
One of the most intriguing pieces of research we came across was a recent small study that found women tend to be more attracted to men who are high in mindfulness, which is the ability to be fully present without judging the difficult thoughts and emotions that arise.
For the study, a team of Australian researchers analyzed the results of a speed-dating experiment involving 91 undergrads. As the students arrived, researchers took their photos and independent raters decided how physically attractive each person was.
Before the speed-dating session, all participants completed a questionnaire designed to measure mindfulness. They indicated how much they agreed with statements like, "I perceive my inner feelings and emotions without having to react to them," and "I drive on 'automatic pilot' without paying attention to what I'm doing."
The speed-dating session itself was pretty standard: Participants rotated until all the men had the chance to speak individually with all the women. Immediately after each interaction, they indicated privately how attractive they had found their partner -- how "sexy" that person was, how much they'd like to date that person, and whether they'd like to get to know that person better.
Results revealed a stark gender difference: While men were more drawn to physically attractive women, women were more attracted to mindful men.
These findings jibe with other research that suggests mindfulness is a key predictor of relationship satisfaction. Individuals high in mindfulness are generally less angry when they fight with their partners and more empathetic in general. So the women may have been picking up on the fact that the mindful men might make better partners -- although the researchers can't say that for certain.
The researchers also suggest that men high in mindfulness may have been more attentive to their partners, and better able to manage any anxiety that would otherwise interfere with their communication.
The takeaway here isn't that men having trouble finding a mate should sign up for an emergency meditation retreat. Future research needs to examine what exactly mindful men are doing that makes them more appealing to women.
In the meantime, it might pay to adopt the communication habits of mindful people -- like listening carefully and showing empathy for the other person. Those habits could not only make you more attractive when you first meet someone, but could also help you sustain the relationship if sparks fly.
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