This is because they’re an important component of chemistry and attraction. Ask somebody about what initially attracted them to their boyfriend or girlfriend – you’ll hear about how “we had so much in common” as often as you hear about their cute butt or how much they made her laugh.
We like people we have things in common with; we feel instinctively that they understand us because they’re so in sync in these other areas. Commonalities help build rapport and comfort – critical qualities when building chemistry.
How do we find those commonalities? Well, it goes right back to being interested in your date. You find them by asking questions. Take my friend the social butterfly: part of what makes her able to charm people so well is that she makes a point of relating how similar they are. Whenever she asks questions, she’s always on the lookout for points of commonality, where she can point out how their views or interests intersect.
Now, commonalities don’t have to be a one-to-one match. If your favorite movie is The Return of the King and your date’s is My Dinner With Andre, it doesn’t mean that you haven’t got any common ground; you both like movies after all. If you drill deeper, ask why they like what they like, you can find other areas of commonality. The more you can relate her interests to your own and vice versa, the more you will feel that you have in common together.
Another way to build an emotional connection is to ask someone to justify why we should like them.
It seems a little Jedi Mind-Trick-y and manipulative but there’s a point to this. Stick with me for a minute.
Everybody, no matter how confident or secure they are with themselves wonders why the person they’re on a date with would be interested in them. Women especially are prone to this: society has taught them that men are going to see them as sex-objects first, potential partners second. It can be hard to break someone out of this mindset, especially if they’ve gone out with a few assholes who thought they could manipulate their way into getting laid. When you’re trying to build that emotional connection, you want your potential partners to know that you see them for more than just superficial qualities whether it be money, looks, sexual desirability, status, etc.
The best way to do this is to ask them to explain why they’re awesome. We are asking them to, essentially, qualify themselves to us.
There will be some people who use this as a way of trying to frame the situation as “you are seeking my approval, proving you are worthy of being attracted to me”. This isn’t the approach you want to take; your attitude should be wanting to find out more about what makes this person awesome and then agreeing with them that yes, it does make them awesome.
(Side note: another benefit to using qualifications is that you can screen for traits that you like in your relationships. If you’re an adventurous type, you don’t necessarily want to be trying dating someone who is more of a homebody; you want someone who wants to go jumping out of planes and exploring jungles with you.)
Qualifications are easy to work into the “getting to know you” stage of dates. You start off with low-investment questions – “Are you adventurous?” – that lead to reasons to compliment them – “Awesome, I love adventurous people because they’re so exciting and into trying new things” and then taking it a bit further; “So what’s the most exciting, whacked out thing you’ve ever done and please don’t tell me it was something lame like sneaking into a movie you didn’t pay for…”
See what you did there?
Right there, you’ve asked them to tell you that they’re cool (because they’re adventurous), complimented them for being cool (because you like adventurous people), and engaged them a bit further with a challenging, flirty tease… tying back into building a physical rapport via sexual tension, while also showing that you find their experiences interesting.
You can change the subject with another question (“What are you passionate about” “So is $JOB something you’ve always wanted to be growing up, or did you want to do something else?”) or take it further by making an observation and turning that into a qualification – “You know, I can tell from $INSERT_QUALITY_HERE that you’re $INSERT_DESIRABLE_QUALITY HERE and that’s really cool; I like people who are $DESIRABLE_QUALITY because…”
As a general rule, you want to keep your questions – and the resulting compliments – non-physical. The message you’re sending someone when you use qualifications is that you understand them as a person, that you can see that there’s more to them than what’s on the surface – a pretty face, a hot body, outward signs of wealth or status, etc.
One of the surest ways to kill chemistry is through ambiguity.
Nobody likes sitting through a date with “Does she like me?” going through their heads. The more mental energy your date has to spend trying to figure out whether or not you actually are interested in them, the less time they’re spending actually enjoying themselves. In fact, if they’re interested in you but you’re so worried about showing interest back – whether it’s a mistaken fear of being seen as creepy1 or for fear of losing “power” in the interaction – that you never display any… well, they’re going to feel rejected and hurt.
So yes, you want to let your date know that you are, in fact, interested in them. Now, this isn’t to say that you want to declare your undying love right then and there – that demonstrates a lack of boundaries and low social intelligence. However, you can indicate that you like someone in a way that is non-threatening or intimidating. You tie it into a compliment about them – a “this is why I like you” statement, as it were.
For example, let’s get back to the question of “What’s the craziest, most exciting thing you’ve ever done?” When they tell their story – and they almost always have one – then you take that as an opportunity to be direct and show that you’re interested. “You know what, you really are $DESIRABLE_QUALITY, and I like that about you. People who are $DESIRABLE_QUALITY are more $OTHER_DESIRABLE_QUALITY, and that’s always awesome.”
When you demonstrate interest, you still need to keep the push-pull dynamic I mentioned in the previous article. Sometimes, for whatever reason, your date may be a little uncomfortable with being complimented or told so directly that you like them. When this happens, you want to give a release as a way of making them more comfortable – a socially acceptable way of dropping the subject and moving on to something else. As a general rule of thumb, I recommend a gentle, playful tease: “It’s too bad that you’re X,” especially if I can call it back to something we’d mentioned earlier. It works to prick the bubble: you’re not hitting on her now, you’re joking with her and the moment passes, allowing her to become comfortable again.
… But I Want You For Your Ass
Keep in mind: chemistry is a mix of physical attraction and emotional engagement. You need to make sure that you have the right balance of sexual tension and emotional connections. Too much sexual tension and not enough emotion and that spark becomes purely physical – great if that’s all that you’re both looking for, but there will be plenty of people who want more than just a physical connection. Too much emotional engagement without sexual tension, on the other hand, is one of the ways you end up in the Friend Zone.
Find the right balance and the next thing you know, your date will be telling their friends about how you just had that “spark” from the very first date.
- Showing interest isn’t inherently creepy, people. It’s the manner in which you show it. Creepy isn’t about “how dare you presume to think you have a chance”, it’s about “the way this person acts is the way someone who might hurt me acts.” [↩]