Be Clear From The Beginning
If you are interested in somebody, regardless as to whether you’re interested in them sexually or as a potential romantic partner, you need to be absolutely clear about your intentions. You can’t simply assume that your desires are so obvious that they can’t possibly be mistaken; I can’t keep track of the number of letters and comments I’ve received from people who couldn’t understand why the person they liked had no idea they exist despite giving what they thought were unmistakable indicators of interest. Unfortunately, one person’s “glaringly obvious” is another person’s “insanely subtle” and prone to misinterpretation. In fact, you will find that some people – nerds, especially – are prone to picking up on indicators of interest and actually rationalizing them away because they don’t believe that somebody could possibly be showing any sort of interest in them.
If you want to avoid any potential confusion, you have to be blatant. If you are asking somebody out, you need to make it perfectly clear that you are asking them out on a date. Not to “go hang out some time”. Not to “grab dinner, if y’know, you don’t have any plans”. Not “get coffee some time” or study together. You need to actually use the word “date” – anything less and your outing is subject to interpretation; you may think that you’re going on a date but she may think that you’re just hanging out because you enjoy each other’s company.
One issue that comes up, especially in the world of online dating, is that some people will want to be friends first; in fact, you’ll find many people – mostly women – will have “I want to make friends, if something more happens, then great!” in their dating profile. More often than not, this is an indicator that they want to take things slowly -all well and good. As I said, I do believe that strong relationships can and do bloom from friendships. However, you still have to be clear: you are communicating with this person because you are interested in this becoming something more than just platonic friendship. To do otherwise is not only dishonest but also runs the risk of causing them to misinterpret your interest. You also run the risk of losing out to somebody who is willing to make the connection happen rather than hoping that it just occurs naturally and without any input on your end of things. If you aren’t willing to take the initiative from the very beginning, you risk having any emotional potential grow stagnant.
Know The Difference Between Friends And Lovers
Most instances of The Friend Zone can easily be avoided, but it requires a willingness to take risks. Getting stuck in The Friend Zone is almost always the result of playing things too safe; it’s the end result of being too passive and too unwilling to put yourself out there in such a way that you couldn’t possibly be misinterpreted.
In short: you acted too much like a friend and not enough like a lover.
It’s an easy trap to fall into; many nerds assume that the best way into a woman’s heart is to be a nice guy and act like her new BFF. They make a point of being available at all hours, they want to talk every day about everything and nothing, they want to hang out all the time. This is friend behavior; the same behavior, when mapped onto a potential suitor1, would scream needy and no life whatsoever. Not only is this unattractive behavior in a potential lover, it’s misleading and will inevitably cause a misunderstanding of intent. When your behavior is incongruous with your intentions, it’s very easy to round down to friend rather than up to lover.
If you’re interested in wooing somebody, you need to be willing to be unavailable at times. This means not leaping to the phone as soon as you see your crush’s number flash on the caller ID screen; you can text her or call her back later. It means not dropping all your plans just because they called you up and suggested getting together – tell her that you can’t make it today but (and this is critical) you are free this other day and you would love to see her then. Keep in mind however: this does not mean playing games out of “The Rules” – you’re not making shit up just to keep the supposed “upper hand” in the relationship by being artificially unavailable, you’re just establishing that you have your own life and you’re busy living it.
By the way, don’t get me wrong: this is not to say that you can’t be friends with someone you’re attracted to or want to have more than just friendship with. Friendship and attraction are not antithetical binary states where you can only be a friend or interested in somebody with nothing between them. However, there are decided differences in behavior when you’re offering someone a platonic friendship and when you’re letting them know that you are interested to them as being more than friends. Part of avoiding the Friend Zone means knowing the difference and, critically, making sure that you’re not sending out the wrong signals.
Break The Touch Barrier
One of the ways that we signal our intent is with touch. Touch is an incredibly important part of how humans communicate with one another, and it’s one that we frequently cut ourselves off from. A lot of people are hesitant to touch the person they’re interested in, whether it’s for fear of repulsing them or because they’re afraid of the potential intimacy. Still others will avoid doing any casual touching for fear of actually signaling that they’re interested – even when they are wishing that the one they like would touch them, taking the responsibility for the action off of their shoulders.
The fact of the matter is, you need to be able to touch the person you like – if they’re not comfortable with your touch, they are definitely not going to be comfortable with hugging you, kissing you, or having sex with you. So you need to learn to be comfortable with touching and using that touch to signal that you like them as more than friends.
This means that you need to be willing to make bigger moves, both playful ones and moves with greater implied intimacy, not just little, timid gestures. You can’t just be touching somebody on the arm and assume that you’ve clued them into how you feel. You need to be willing to put your arm around them.You need to be able to give them a side hug when they make a joke and push them away like they were your bratty sibling. You need to take their hand when you’re walking together and give a hip-check them for a playful greeting. You need to be able to touch with implied intimacy in subtle ways as well; think of the times when your thigh brushes up against hers while you sit together on the couch, or your feet touch under the table as you talk.
Touch is also a good way to guage her level of interest as well; if you put your arm around her, does she put hers back around you? If you take her hand and walk with her through the bar to get drinks, does she squeeze your hand? If you hug, do you get the full body hug or the a-frame?
When you’re touching, by the way, you need to also know when to break the touch as well. If you put your arm around her, for example, and you feel her muscles tense – even if she’s otherwise showing that she’s having a good time – then you don’t want to leave it and risk making her uncomfortable. You also don’t want to yank your arm back like you burned it; hold it for a second then pull back instead. Being in control of who breaks the touch – by being able to read her response and avoid discomfort – will help build the intimacy that you both want.
- rather than someone who is already her boyfriend [↩]