For the past few months I’ve been posting semi-regularly on Reddit in the various dating and relationship forums. Believe it or not, for some reason, I’ve gotten many compliments on the advice I give, and thanks from people who say I’ve helped them with their problems and pointed them in the right direction. Crazy, right? So I thought I’d create this new Relationship Advice category to occasionally expand up certain issues that I see raised over there. First up, a real common question, is in regards to flirting.
Specifically I often see men (and sometimes women, but mostly men) coming to ask if someone they like is interested in them. If you think about it, this doesn’t make sense. They come to ask a bunch of random strangers on the internet if another person, whom none of us know, is interested in them. But they always present a list of things the woman does that makes them think there’s mutual interest. It’s always the typical stuff. Y’know she smiles at me, she plays with her hair, we make eye contact, DOES THAT MEAN SHE LIKES ME?!? My advice is always the same: just ask her out. There is no 100% sure-fire guaranteed way to figure out if someone is interested and/or attracted to you, no matter what you’ve read or heard. There are tons of articles online and whole books written about how to tell if a woman likes you. But, ultimately, it’s all bullcrap.
I’m not saying that there’s nothing too it. Sure, body language and other non-verbal cues can reveal what someone is thinking. People like psychiatrists and law enforcement officers are trained to try to recognize this sort of thing, it helps them do their jobs. But the problem is that many guys fall back on this too much. And that’s not good because our subconscious minds can play tricks on us. We often see what we want to see. When you like somebody you are more likely to mis-read certain signals in hopes of confirming your viewpoint. You’ll start thinking that anytime a girl shakes your hand, it means she’s flirting with you. I see this so often, guys show up with the most innocuous examples of “flirting”. One guy was convinced that a woman he never spoke to was interested in him, because she was working the cashier at a store that he went to and he was sure by the way she smiled at him that she was interested in him (as opposed to just trying to look cheerful because he’s a customer and that’s her job). There’s also the same type of guys who, when they get turned down, will often complain that the woman gave or is giving them “mixed signals,” because that’s an easier explanation for them instead of considering that they just got it wrong in the first place.
That men often misinterpret women’s interest in them is actually backed up by science. This study explains it:
The gist of it is that there was study performed where a group of men and women were put in a “speed-dating” scenario where they’d make contact with a different member of the opposite sex and where then asked to rate whom they thought was attracted to them. When the results were checked, men were more likely to incorrectly assume that a woman is attracted to them.
Jezebel.com had an article about this
WHY DO MEN ALWAYS THINK YOU LIKE THEM?
88 percent of women reported having experienced at least one incident in which their friendliness was misinterpreted as sexual interest by a man, and on average it had occurred about 3.5 times in the last year alone. Men also reported experiencing sexual misperception, but the rate — 70.6 percent — was far lower. These rates were pretty similar to what was found in the original, U.S.-based study, which found that around 90 percent of women reported that their friendliness had been misperceived at least once in their lifetimes, on average 2.7 times in the last year, with about 70 percent of men reporting having experienced this.
Reading some of the comments from random women in response to the article is both funny and enlightening.
There is nothing worse than the guy who desperately stares at you in an effort to make eye contact, and if you look back at him, immediately assumes “she looked at me! That means a one way ticket to pound town, whoohoo!” Eye contact doesn’t count as flirting if she can’t avoid your gaze, dudes!
OMG I hate that. I literally study the subway floor if I don’t have a book in front of me to avoid this exact thing. “OMG! She looked at me! Does she want my penis? Maybe she wants my penis. I should go over there and offer my penis, just to be sure.”
Both articles allude to this being part of evolution. The theory is that men are more prone to misinterpret a woman’s attraction to them because that gives them confidence to enable them to approach women, which is how our species survives. That could be true, because it always seem to me that the guys who come to the site to ask about this are asking for the same reason: they’re scared of getting rejected. So they obsess over a woman’s “signals” trying to figure out if it means anything. I’ve seen guys literally say things like “I just want to make sure that I know she’s interested in me before I ask her out.” Well, DUH, who wouldn’t want to be able to figure that out? That would make dating a LOT easier for everyone, wouldn’t it? But until someone invents a mind-reading machine, it will never be that easy. So if you really want to know, you’re just going to have to ask them, and risk getting rejected. That’s the advice that I always give men.
As I said, women do this too. But I generally cut them some slack because I know that many women still tend to expect men to always make the first move. So women will come and also give similar examples of a man’s behavior which they think means that the man likes them, but they’re unsure because they figure “If he’s really interested in me, he’d ask me out.” And that’s not a completely unreasonable assumption. So women will ask for advice on the best way to let a man know that she’s interested without actually saying it. They just want to give the right “hints” so the man will ask them. But I give them the same advice: just ask him out. It’s not the 1950’s, women can make the first move and ask men out. I tell them that some guys are just shy. Or clueless. Sometimes it seems like there are only two types of men, those who assume that every woman who looks at them is attracted to them, and men who are unable to tell if a woman is actually attracted to them unless they tattoo F***k ME on their foreheads. So sometimes women are the ones who need to take the initiative. And that’s cool too.
There will always be the risk of rejection. But that’s part of life. And, really, it’s almost never as bad as you imagine it to be. If you ask someone out and they say no, just be casual about it and move on, like it’s no big deal. You’ll forget about it in no time, and the more you do it, the easier it gets. So forget about waiting for the perfect signal, just go for it. And good luck!