Hi Dr. NerdLove.
I’m a 25 year-old dude who’s had an existent but inconsistent and not very spectacular track record with women over my life. I’ve read your blog in the past, but have only recently begun looking at it extensively as part of a massive self-improvement kick. Even though I’ve only been reading it for a few weeks now, and it hasn’t yet lead to me picking up women, I’ve been working on incorporating a lot of your advice into my general social interactions and I’m already finding myself growing in confidence exponentially the more I apply it. So thanks!
With that said, I need some advice for a situation that has popped up a surprising number of times in my life. I call it the ‘cockblock curse’; I find I might be chatting to an attractive girl who I’d like to have a shot with – usually in a small social event like a party or an outing with friends – then, as if God has sent an adversary purely to spite me, another guy neither I or the girl have met before comes up and starts chatting to her too, and next thing you know, there’s that awkward ‘I know you’re trying to gun for her but we’re not going to say anything and just act passive aggressive to each other’ vibe between me and the other dude. It feels like it happens almost every time I try to engage with a girl I find attractive, to the point where I’m almost genuinely starting to believe I’m cursed or have a big target painted on my back saying ‘easy competition.’
My problem is once that ‘competition’ – I hate using that word, but it’s the best one I can think of, I’m sure you could think of a much more respectful way to phrase it – is established, I don’t know where to go from there. I used to be super indignant when this happened, as it was my understanding due to bullshit concepts such as the ‘bro code’ that you never cock-block another man while he’s hitting on a woman. Once I actually brought the woman’s agency into account (i.e. the idea that just because I spoke to her first gives me exclusive rights to hitting on her), my attitude changed radically, but now I’ve gone the complete opposite way to the point where when competition arises, I don’t know what to do, so I back down completely and let the situation go; and as I said, since it feels like it happens every single time I try to talk to a woman, it feels like a lot of missed opportunity.
Part of this is definitely self-confidence; I just automatically assume I’ll be ‘second best’ in such a situation, so I resign myself to failure before I even begin. However, a lot of it is also just not knowing what the best way to handle the situation is.
Obviously the woman’s agency is important and the ultimate decision comes down to her, including the decision to tell us both to piss off, should she find both of us grating; in fact, part of my hesitancy in such situations is because I’ve been on the receiving end of that outcome in the past, and being told both me and the other guy look like dicks is almost as embarrassing, if not even more so, than being rejected in favor of the other guy.
Another big part of it is how to treat the third party; should I engage positively with him? Should I be dismissive? Should I simply continuing engaging with the girl (assuming I’m doing everything else right) and just ignore the other guy? When such situations occur I often find the third party being passive aggressive towards me or overly showy about themselves, and I usually subconsciously respond in kind. Of course, that kind of showoff-man-ship never seems to work, but I still don’t know if that’s even ‘fair game’ or not.
Essentially I need an etiquette guide for such a situation; one that allows me to continue to respectfully engage with a woman or even the other ‘competing’ man without making myself look like a dick, while not backing down at the slightest hint of competition. Any advice?
You’re definitely right about the confidence part, SB. If you’re seeing yourself as a second-rate option who’s always going to get shut out if someone – anyone – else comes into the conversation, then yeah, you’re going to keep getting squeezed out of the conversation. So one of the first things I’d recommend is working on building up your confidence. I’ve got a few resources on how to boost your self-esteem quickly and over the long term, which should help. The next thing I suggest is working on being more engaging; we prioritize engaging with people who make us feel good, after all. If you’re the one who’s making her laugh or telling amazing stories, she’s going to find you far more compelling than the other guy trying to muscle in.
Now you’re right: the last thing you want to do when someone’s trying to push you out of a conversation is to react directly to it and call him out. It makes you look petty and possessive – very unattractive traits in a man – and gives him the opportunity to flip it against you: “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about. We’re just chatting. Oh shit, am I stealing your girl? Oh, shit, I’m sorry! No, miss, you should totally date him; he’ll be like your BFF only a dude, you know?” Suddenly you’re on the defensive as he’s framed you as trying to pick her up while subtly mocking you. This is a bad place to be and unless you’re really good at verbal jiu-jitsu, it’s hard to come back from.
All that being said: you can squeeze somebody out when they’re trying to hit on someone you’re flirting with. You just have to know how to do it.
Now, don’t necessarily assume that he’s there to “steal” (for lack of a better term) the woman you’re talking to. You don’t necessarily want to start a competition where there isn’t one. He may very well just want to chat and bristling any time any guy comes near is going to make you look insecure. One of the best things you can do in this case is simply befriend the guy. Include him in the conversation and build rapport with him and find some commonalities. You’re going to have to split your attention a little so that you don’t end up ignoring the woman you were flirting with, but when handled well, you can actually turn a potential cockblock into a new friend – in fact, if you’re dealing with a large group of people, you can even end up recruiting your new friend into being an impromptu wingman, helping keep the others occupied while you focus on the woman you’ve been working towards hooking up with. Plus: hey, you’ve just made a new friend! How awesome is that?
But let’s assume that he’s rolling in with the intent on swooping in and cock blocking you. The easiest way to squeeze a guy out is through social dynamics. When he comes in and starts talking – especially if he ignores you and moves straight to the woman you’re talking to – make him turn to you instead. Say “Hey man, don’t be rude. Introduce yourself!” When he does, shake his hand, clap him on the shoulder and say “Cool, nice meeting you,” then turn your back on him, positioning yourself between him and the woman you’re speaking to. By doing so, you’ve effectively wedged him out of the conversation, putting him on the outside of your circle. Now his trying to get back in looks like a social violation – someone intruding on a private conversation.
Just don’t let him do the same thing to you; if he physically gets between you and the woman you’re talking to, he’ll have squeezed you out.
Another way of keeping from being cockblocked is to be sneaky and simply own the conversation. Guys who are going to try to squeeze you out will be counting on your being passive and quiet while they become the new center of attention. Much like just befriending him, you want to engage him and – critically – get him talking to you instead of her and then be the one directing the conversation. The easiest way to do that is to be willing to cut conversational threads and bring up new topics: “OK cool. Oh hey, that reminds me, have you ever been at a bar when X happened? Awesome, check this out…” Using little check-ins with the woman you’re talking to – “you’ve seen this before, right? You know what I mean?” helps keep her attention on you.
Occasionally you’ll get the more aggressive guys who will bust your balls – verbally speaking. The trick there is almost always “agree and magnify”. For example: if he implies you’re gay (or straight up says it) then agree that you’re suuuupa gay and ask him if he wants to make out in the corner. Other times it’s worth it simply to just move, especially if he’s being pushy. “Hey, let’s get another drink” or “I can barely hear what you’re saying, let’s move somewhere a little quieter” and escort your new friend away. But unless you’re in a particularly raucus bar or party, few people are going to be that dickish and you can squeeze them out either through controlling the conversation and body positioning.