The course of getting better at dating never runs smoothly. It’s inevitable that you’re going to run into mistakes, problems, plateaus and roadblocks as you progress; it’s a part of the learning progress that everybody has to go through. Sometimes it’s just a brain-fart that screws you up for an evening. Sometimes it’s something that leaves you hung up for weeks or even months while you try to work your way through it.
But just because it’s a part of the process doesn’t mean that it’s not incredibly frustrating. When you’re pounding your head against the same damn wall over and over again, it’s easy to start feeling as though you’re never going to do any better and there’s no point in trying any more.
Fortunately, you’re not alone in this. I’ve had to work through my own sticking points when it came to getting better at dating, and I’ve helped many, many people through theirs as well. In fact, over the years, I’ve found certain issues come up over and over again. So rather than letting a plateau cause you to backslide to the person you were before, let’s examine some of the most common sticking points in dating.
Unless you’re just naturally a social butterfly who can talk to anyone without fear or reservation, you’ve felt more than your share of approach anxiety. Sometimes it’s just the voice of your jerk-brain telling you all the ways that things could go wrong. Sometimes you rationalize all the reasons why you can’t go up to talk to someone you’re interested in, leaving you hovering in the corner, nursing your drink and wishing other people would come talk to you instead. Sometimes it’s a full blown panic attack, leaving you absolutely convinced that you’re about to die right there on the spot.
Now, approach anxiety is one of those areas where the best cure is a program of graduated exposure as you slowly start working your way towards getting comfortable with talking to people. Unfortunately this is a process of weeks, if not months… and sometimes you want a more immediate solution. Some will turn to a little booze to act as a social lubricant in order to try to overcome their anxiety… and that’s a mistake. At best, you’re just trying to paper over your fears by numbing yourself to them; at worst, you’re actually dulling your social skills even further as you keep slamming back shots in hopes that you can make that clenching sensation in your stomach disappear. By the time you’re feeling bullet-proof enough to say “hi”, you’re going to be half in the bag already and acting like a huge jackass… which isn’t going to help you at all.
Instead, what you want to do is warm up before you go to the party, the bar or the meetup. You wouldn’t start a race without stretching out first, so why would you try to leap head-first into a party without getting into more of a social mindset? Trying to dive into meeting people when you’ve spent the better part of the day lost in your own head is going to cause you to lock up, the social equivalent of your hamstrings cramping up. So before you head out, make a point of just talking to people with absolutely no agenda outside of just being chatty. Go up to people and just ask for directions or a recommendation for an awesome thai place. If you’re going out to eat before going to the Skee-Ball Afficionado’s meet-up, chat a little with your server: what’s good, what’s not. Call up a friend or a family member and just shoot the shit for 15 or 20 minutes.
You’ll still have those twinges of nervousness, yes… but you’re also going to already have the emotional momentum that all of that practice brings. By the time you’re out with your friends, you’ll be in the social headspace… so why not go talk to the brunette across the way who caught your eye?
Running Out of Things To Say
So you’ve been able to get past that initial rush of adrenaline and actually go introduce yourself to some people… except it seems like every time you end up talking to somebody, the conversation turns into awkward silence punctured by the occasional “so…” as you both scramble for something, anything to fill the conversational void. As a result: you end up saying something unbelievably stupid and inane and you’re kicking yourself even as you say it. All that’s left is for you to leave, dig yourself a hole and pull the dirt in after you.
Sometimes the key to not saying something stupid is to let the other person do more of the talking… so ask some leading questions. Interested is interesting, after all, and everybody appreciates someone who is showing that they find us so fascinating that they really want to know what we think. This is where active listening comes in handy – when you’re using what she says as a springboard for more topics, you’re showing her that you’re actually paying attention instead of just waiting for your turn to talk, like so many other guys she knows do.
If you want to switch things up from just asking questions, consider using the “assumption method” – instead of asking, you make an observation instead and ask for confirmation. For example, when I’ve met people, instead of asking where they’re from, I’d say something along the lines of “You’re not from here, are you? You seem much more like you’re from the East Coast… you’re much more direct and focused than Austinites are.” When I’ve been right, they’ve been amazed by my perceptiveness and insight. When I’ve been wrong, I’ve still indicated that I think that the qualities I mention make them cool… and it leads to a conversation about where she’s from either way. It’s related to cold-reads – it’s open-ended enough that you’re likely to be right, but even being wrong doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve fucked up either.
The other thing that helps is to have a couple of stories pre-loaded that you can bring up as needed with a simple segue. It doesn’t need to even be related to the conversation, just something that occurred to you or a way of finding commonalities. If I want to talk about crazy things that’ve happened when I’ve been travelling, I’ll nudge the conversation in that direction. “Hey, have you ever done $THING_I_LIKE? Dude, check this out…” Beyond being a chance to brag subtly about yourself, it’s also a way of filling in the space without having to tax your brain; I’ve got some stories I’ve told enough times that I could repeat them in my sleep. If I can’t think of something to say, then hey, pretty good time to bring up nearly getting run over by an elephant in Tanzania. To be fair: your stories don’t have to be that level of exciting; they just have to be entertaining and end with her saying “cool!” “awwww” or a laugh.
Remember, you don’t want canned routines, you want to tell stories that actually happened to you. Using somebody else’s material’s an inelegant substitute for having a personality and a life.
You’re Constantly Getting Rejected
Occasionally I’ve had people who report to me that they have given up on dating because everywhere they go, they’re encountering nothing but bitchy women who won’t even give them the time of day.
Others are perpetually bemoaning how dating is impossible unless you’re one of the rarified 20% (or 10% or 1%… depends on which meme is currently filtering through PUAHate, RedPill blogs and related sub-reddits) of alpha males/bad boys/high-status men and whining about how women have stacked the deck against them and they can never compete because evidently, women rule Bartertown and that’s just not fair. This usually descends into whinge-fests about hypergamous women, the eeevils of feminism and why foreign women (especially Asian women) are so superior to Western women and why can’t these guys get the pussy they deserve, man!
Now obviously, not everyone who’s dealing with constant rejection is this bad. But it does illustrate the common cause for this sticking point. If you’re getting nothing but rejection, then the only common denominator is, frankly, you.
Sometimes it’s a simple matter of appearances. You may not be the walking reincarnation of Clark Gable, but it’s easy enough to be more attractive with some very basic changes. Other times it’s simply a matter of skill, which will improve over time with practice.
But more often than not, it’s a matter of unresolved personal or emotional issues that need to be addressed before you can move any further.
The most common issue I’ve seen in people who get rejected constantly has been neediness – these people have a desperate need for validation from others, especially from the women they’re attracted to. Whenever they’ve approached a woman, they’ve been alternating between being worshipful and begging, hoping that they’re going to stumble upon the proper mix of “Nice Guy” that will melt her stony heart and open the doors to the Promised Land.1 These men are willing to sublimate everything about themselves in hopes of getting a woman – any woman – because in the end, they’re looking for someone to plug the hole labeled “Girlfriend” and give their lives meaning.
The next most common tend to be the guys with entitlement issues, who believe that they’re owed sex, or a girlfriend, or even just the time of day. These are often the ones who ignore women’s signals because hey, if you’re gonna approach, you gotta know you’re the prize and make them respect that so get in there and show them you’re the leader, bro. These are also the people who are most likely to encounter the fabled “bitch shields” that women throw up supposedly to test men and weed out the undesirables. Except bitch-shields aren’t a thing. If you’re consistently encountering bitchy women, then the odds are that your approach is what’s putting them off, whether you’re coming across as rude, inconsiderate, or inauthentic or else showing that you are incapable of understanding when you’re not wanted.
There’s also a frequent parallel sticking point that crops up with constant rejection: a simple refusal to change or accept feedback. Either the individual refuses to take responsibility for their own complicity in their difficulties or even acknowledge that there’s a problem in the first place. On occasion they will make their obstinacy a point of pride, even in the face of constant failure. Other times they will place the blame anywhere else- on women, on society, on the locale, even on their own supposed superiority. It’s only when they are willing to be brutally honest with themselves and own their involvement and control over their lives will they begin to progress.
In short: if you’re constantly getting rejected, you need to take a long hard look at yourself and make some changes.
You Never Get A Second Date
As you get better, you may notice that while old sticking points have vanished, new ones have taken their place. Where you might have never been able to even get a phone number or had a problem with women consistently flaking on you, now you’re getting solid numbers and even dates regularly… but never a second.
In a perverse sort of way, this is a quality problem to have – it’s a sign of how far you’ve progressed. If you’re getting first dates, you’re actually doing a good job at attracting and intriguing women… now you need to build on that success. The trick is to determine just why you’re not getting those second dates.
On occasion, it’s an internal, emotional issue – much like those who are forever getting rejected, there are attitudes and beliefs that are poisoning your game. When you’re letting self-limiting beliefs and negativity get in the way, it’s going to show in everything you do, from the way you talk to the way you interact with your date to the way you sit and stand. Even the most self-disciplined poker player is going to find that his unexamined need for external validation radiates from him like a lighthouse in the fog.
Often it’s simply a matter of just not connecting with your date. It’s easy to get caught up in the need to impress her, to want to prove that you’re amazing and that she should be attracted to you just because of how awesome you are, but this misses the point of the date in the first place. She’s already at least somewhat interested in you, otherwise she wouldn’t be there; your job now is to make that interest grow. The best way to get into her heart or her pants is to get into her mind first. Find the commonalities that the two of you share. Show her the passion you have – people who have passion in their lives and can express it are much more attractive and desirable than those whose lives are a hum-drum march into old age and death. Connect with her emotionally by making her feel – someone who can inspire feelings of joy or awe or fun is someone she’s going to want to see again.
You Keep Getting Stuck In The Friend Zone
We’re going to make an important distinction here: this is when you’re consistently finding that people you’re interested in romantically or sexually only like you as a friend, not the results of the Platonic Friendship Back Door Gambit. If you’re trying to get a woman to fall for you by pretending to be her friend, then a) you already know what you’re doing wrong and b) you deserve what you get, fuckknuckle. Friendship under false pretenses is a shitty thing to do to someone.
The Friend Zone is simply a short hand for “she’s not attracted to you”. That’s it. If you’re consistently hearing the dreaded “Let’s Just Be Friends” speech, then what these women are telling you is that somewhere along the line, you’ve messed up. More often than not, this comes down to one of two problems. Either you weren’t up front about your interests – in action as well as in words – or else she simply isn’t attracted to you and is trying to be nice about letting you down.
Getting stuck in The Friend Zone tends to be a problem when you’re younger and have a harder time being up front and honest about what you want. It means being willing to be polarizing; you’re making a definitive stand and demanding a response rather than hanging in the more comfortable haze of plausible deniability and unrealized possibilities. It means being willing to risk rejection, instead of trying to play it safe and getting nowhere… and frankly, you’ve usually earned your failure.
You can’t just say “I like you” and leave it there; if your mouth is saying that you’re interested in her and your behavior says “keep your distance”, then all that’s going to happen is that you’re going to leave her feeling confused and uncomfortable. The incongruity will ultimately lead to her giving you the LJBF speech for her own comfort, if nothing else. Better to default back to platonic friendship rather than keep in this uncomfortable Limbo. You have to be willing to back up your words with action; you need to be willing to touch her, to flirt with her, to build sexual tension. Otherwise, you’re showing that you’re not that interested in her after all – or that you’re hoping that she’s going to do the hard work of seducing herself for you.
If you’re interested in someone, you have to commit. You have to be willing to own your desires and act on them if you expect any chance of actually fulfilling them. By trying to hedge your bets, you’re implicitly saying that either you don’t believe that you can succeed or that you don’t deserve to. Yes, you run the risk of rejection… and that’s fine. Rejection is a sign that the two of you were incompatible in the first place. It’s better to get shot down early, so you can move on and find someone who is into you, rather than to linger for months – sometimes even years – and missing golden opportunities because you’re hung up with a case of Oneitis.
Fortune favors the brave. Taking more risks means you’re going to get shot down, true… but better that than constantly getting stuck in The Friend Zone.
- AKA: Vagina-town. [↩]