Forget ‘The Art of War’. The 21st Century Needs ‘The Art of Woo’
A modern-day, 61-point romance treatise that guides you through the greatest war of all: love.
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is perhaps one of the most well-read and often quoted books available today. With more than 326,000 ratings on Goodreads, The Art of War has been deemed extremely important, so much so that Time Magazine wrote, “1500 years old, this ancient Chinese text is still utilized by both militaries and business schools around the world.”
But here’s the deal in the 21st Century. We aren’t at war. At least not from a military perspective. Comparatively, very few people today are gearing up to go to battle. Of course, Sun Tzu’s principles go far beyond the battlefield, which is why his treatise has become immortalized far more than what he even likely intended for it to be.
I’m not bashing Sun Tzu. The man was a brilliant tactician and leader. But I am saying that instead of teaching our young minds The Art of War, we’d probably be better off giving them a much more relevant and needed discourse, something I call The Art of Woo.
Get this, according to Bustle, in the 21st Century, it has gotten harder, not easier, to be intimate. Conflict management skills have decreased, as psychologist Nicole Martinez points out, “People often do not get past the point of getting to know each other, learning how to resolve conflict, and truly learning to work on their communication skills with their partner.”
Expectations are at an all-time high. Technology has made romance into a 24/7 entertainment-driven experience, with apps and dating sites that are constantly available and updating. We are more distracted, more anxious, and more entitled than hardly any other generation previously. For many, romance has become a near-impossible terrain to navigate.
Which is exactly why we need The Art of Woo more than ever.
During Sun Tzu’s time, war wasn’t avoidable, in fact, it was rather common. Within the Chinese Empire, battles were raging day and night. War was coming from every angle. As a result, Sun Tzu penned a treatise outlining core principles, strategies, and beliefs about war that would help his commanders and other leaders win the battles they faced.
Sun Tzu outlined his maxims in 13 different sections including areas such as: laying plans, waging war, attack by stratagem, tactical dispositions, weak points, and strong, and terrain.
Today, romance is our battlefield. Love is our war. We need good, solid principles to guide our journey towards one another. Without The Art of War, the Chinese wouldn’t have won their battles. Without The Art of Woo, we may likely not win ours.
Before we dive in, a quick note to say that this article is meant to be a fast-read. It’s meant to be one that you bookmark and come back to. Just as you can’t absorb every maxim from The Art of War in a 3-minute read, you won’t be able to master The Art of Woo in a similar time span. Instead, this is meant to be a grow-as-you-go type of reading. You can take this line-by-line or section-by-section.
This won’t give you all the answers, because no one has the answers. Love, like war, is complicated, unpredictable, and constantly evolving. What this will give instead is principles, some timeless, some new, that if adopted will help you strategize and navigate the unfamiliar and seemingly insurmountable hurdle of modern romance.
Many of these principles come from my own marriage or my own experience counseling the younger generation (typically 18–25-year-olds) through the day-to-day woes of romance and love. Many principles also come from the research of various psychologists and counselors, of respected journals, and peer-reviewed articles.
The ideas behind The Art of Woo aren’t always difficult, but that doesn’t mean any of these principles are easy. Romance hasn’t slipped away from this generation on accident, we’ve disregarded a lot of good advice, and as a result, we’ve got some work to do if we want to turn the tide and take back the fight. I’m not down in love. In fact, I’m quite literally the opposite.
I believe in you. I believe that you can win in the battle of romance. You currently have more at your disposal, more resources, more ingenuity, more possibility than you likely give yourself credit for.
I believe in us. Even though the enemy is strong and the odds may be stacked against us, we will not go as the loveless generation. We won’t be conquered by division or distraction. We can win this war.
We just need to know The Art of Woo.
Why woo is an art
You can win in the battle of romance. You currently have more at your disposal, more resources, more ingenuity, more possibility than you likely give yourself credit for.
I first really began studying woo through Gallup and the CliftonStrengths test. Though I’m not associated at all with Gallup, I would recommend that if you haven’t taken a Strengthsfinder test to see what your aptitudes are, I think it’s worth your time.
Woo is one of the 34 CliftonStrengths that every person shares. Gallup defines woo as: “Woo stands for winning others over. You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you.”
As Gallup goes on to point out, every strength has a focus and an area of weakness. If you have the skill of woo, you’re great at meeting new people and forming connections. However your weakness comes in the way of quick connections, or as Gallup says, “Once that connection is made, you are quite happy to wrap it up and move on. There are new people to meet, new rooms to work, new crowds to mingle in.”
Although Gallup focuses more on woo from a leadership perspective, it’s a good place to start when talking about a romantic version of woo. In a relationship, we can start with the idea of woo as “winning others over,” but to see the true power of woo, we need to go a few steps further.
Here’s how I define romantic woo:
The vulnerable, intentional effort to show affection to another person (while you pursue a long-term relationship).
The same tactics of woo don’t work the same way in every stage of a relationship. Charmaine Flanagan, the founder of Woo Forever, points out that in her experience, “new relationships hardly need any work in the wooing category” while “with more established couples when the butterflies settle and commitment ensues, the wooing (typically) slows down.”
I’ve written often about the idea of pursuit and the importance of continually pursuing your partner. If you’d like a few examples, I’ve linked a few articles at the bottom of this post. Once you’re done looking through the treatise on The Art of Woo, check out one of those posts for more on pursuit.
Pursuit or the continued practice of pursuit is just one, albeit very important, aspect of romantic woo.
If you want to learn how to win in romance, your definition of woo will also need to include a few other aspects including, but not limited to: vulnerability, honesty, adventure, friendship, perseverance, and conversation.
Put together, it can sound like I’m asking you to be perfect. But don’t disguise a call to more effort as a call to perfection. Your romance will never be perfect, just as no war was fought with perfect execution. Romance, like war, is messy and requires constant adaptation and revision.
If you want to be a student of The Art of Woo, you need to know that you’ll hit some bumps along the way. This is why we’re more focused on progress than perfection. You grow as you go.
Sun Tzu got it right in The Art of War when he said, “the ability to gain victory by changing and adapting according to the opponent is called genius.”
If you’re on board, here are some principles that can help you win the battle of romance by teaching you The Art of Woo.
Weak points and strong
- Woo takes longer than lust.
- Woo can easily be compared to flattery or sucking up. It’s neither.
- Woo can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. Money doesn’t dictate your ability to woo.
- Woo is premised on the idea that it can be rejected, which can be scary.
- Specific examples of woo are hardly ever repeatable (the same effort, in the same way, won’t give you the same effects).
- Woo is hard to do well but easy to do fair. There are a lot of average examples of woo to copy. Avoiding these mediocrities is tricky.
- Woo doesn’t always have instant results. It’s long-term investments, not short-term payouts.
- How you receive woo isn’t necessarily how your partner receives woo. You each have different woo ‘languages.’
- How someone receives woo can change over time. Popular marriage advice says that if you are married for 50 years, you’re practically married to 5 different people. The same is true with woo.
- You’ll seldom regret the effort you spent wooing your partner. People rarely bemoan actions that were selfless, generous, or kind.
- Woo doesn’t jive with the ‘bad boy’ trend. Woo isn’t overtly sexy. It’s solid.
- However, woo done right can be incredibly sexy. It has all the right ingredients: passion, desire, sensitivity, specificity.
- Woo is not a bandaid for a bad relationship. It’s not super glue. It won’t fix all cracks, but without woo, cracks form faster.
Laying plans (preparing for woo)
- Wooing someone else is not an excuse to not take care of yourself.
- You cannot truly know what you want in a romantic partner until you learn to know who you are.
- No romance is ever a 50/50 split. If you are looking for the opposite side of your coin, you need to pause and reassess the value of your currency.
- Whether you admit it or not, your view of love and woo is greatly shaped by your childhood and the experiences and examples of love you witnessed.
- As such, if you have never spent time thinking about how romance was demonstrated in the lives of the adults around you as you grew up, it is a necessary tactic to set aside time before you pursue your own romance to properly identify your pre-conceived perceptions.
- To be worthy of love and woo means to be worthy of sacrifice, worthy of celebration, and worthy of forgiveness.
- If you plan to engage in romance with another human being, you must understand the pre-existing worth of that person and agree to build upon and act per those inherently deserved truths from principle (6).
- Woo is affected by distance. Being in a long-distance relationship doesn’t completely negate woo, it just changes the way that woo is executed.
- Although the methods change in different cultures and different periods of time, the majority of romantic expressions involve some core similarities: engaging both physical senses (sight, sound, smell, touch) and emotional senses (love, affection, excitement, hope).
- Your past experiences with woo and romance are not indicative of your future experiences.
Waging war (how to woo)
- Each person can and should be wooed specifically and purposefully. There are strategies, but no exact formula, to properly woo your intended partner.
- Woo derives from your sense of honor to both yourself and your inherent worth and to honor the other person and their dignity.
- Woo is a tangible action, driven from intentional thought. Efforts to woo that are never put into action are not beneficial. There is no result for a desired action, only for the action itself.
- Woo without kindness is often manipulation.
- Woo is most effective when it is most selfless. Many approach romance like a scientific formula looking to plug in the right set of variables to get a hoped-for outcome. To desire love is not a fault, but to be driven by one’s own perception of love often makes for a dangerous strategy.
- Woo is both small and large. If you refuse to do small things, your large demonstrations of woo will slowly lose their authenticity.
- On the counter, if you refuse to do the large demonstrations, the small examples of woo start to grow stagnate and common.
- For woo to work, you can only offer your partner what you have yourself. You cannot offer the romance of someone else, but only that which is inside you.
- This isn’t a disadvantage. Rather, it is your greatest strength as you are significantly positioned to offer something special and unique to you. You are the only one that can offer your particular woo.
- Woo is most effective if employed over long periods of time. Short bursts of woo are like fireworks. Fun and enjoyable but ultimately, woefully short-lived.
- Woo even if when your partner doesn’t woo you in return. Don’t allow reciprocation to be the driving factor in your willingness to woo your partner.
- Woo isn’t always successful. If you are afraid to lose a few battles (be rejected), you won’t ever win the war.
- Woo is not a feeling, it’s a choice.
- It’s hard to tell if someone will woo you on the first date, but it’s easy to tell if they won’t.
- Woo is best done in private. It’s not something you brag about, so you have to be comfortable not getting external praise for your efforts of woo.
- Woo is best done in person. Technology can be helpful, but nothing beats face-to-face, heart-to-heart.
- Woo done over text messaging is hard. Your best tactic is to focus on clear and consistent communication.
- If you’re testing the waters of a relationship, look for small examples of woo (does he hold the door open for you? Does he call when he says he’ll call).
- There are guys out there that will woo you. If you haven’t found him yet, keep looking. Settling down with a guy who refuses to woo is a one-way ticket for misery.
- Judge woo on effort, not always on success.
- If you expect someone to woo you, you must be willing to be gracious in return (You shouldn’t ask for their progress then answer with your perfection).
- Woo will not solve every insecurity your partner has. It is a salve, not a savior.
- It is fully acceptable to desire that woo continues (or increases) the longer you date someone. Keep in mind that you often ‘get what you accept’.
- If you feel like your partner keeps missing opportunities to woo you (or just missing the mark in general), communicate with them. Sometimes, it’s less purposeful negligence and more rookie-in-training.
- Aim to woo first. Act like the type of person you want your partner to be.
- Don’t fake woo. It’s dangerous and deceitful.
- If you refuse to woo, you shouldn’t be dating in the first place.
- The world will often exaggerate efforts of woo to make it a heroic practice. Don’t listen.
On woo and other strategies
- Giving woo is completely in your control.
- Receiving woo is also in your control. You can’t force people to woo you but you can choose to accept or reject their efforts
- Share your woo on Instagram half as often as you feel you should.
- Woo hinges on adaptive learning. Every iteration can inform the next.
- If you’re completely comfortable with your efforts to woo, you likely aren’t being vulnerable enough.
- Despite what you may hear, woo is not old-fashioned, out-of-touch, irrelevant, or dead. The people who say that either haven’t ever been wooed or have never wooed someone else.
- The anticipation of how you are going to woo your partner can be just thrilling, much like the anticipation of giving an awesome Christmas gift.
- The more you woo, the more you’re inspired to keep wooing your partner.
- Being wooed can be a difficult thing to accept at first for someone who has never been experienced love without conditions before.
- Romantic woo is not a skill you are born with. Anyone can woo. You just have to know the guidelines and commit to giving it a shot.
**This list is continuing to grow and evolve periodically updated from time to time.
Articles on Pursuit
Men, What Does Pursuing a Woman Really Look Like?
How To Stand Out and Keep the Girl of Your Dreams
5 Habits of Emotionally Intelligent Husbands
Because strength and sensitivity don’t have to compete