We’ve all been told that we should never come on too strong, and that playing it cool is the best way to get someone interested. But how much interest is the right amount to show in the early days of dating?
In today’s brand-new video, I share 5 tips on how to approach this in the early stages of dating so you can not only show the right amount of interest, but also encourage the same in the other person.
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How cool should you play it in early dating? There is a period of the dating process, isn’t there, where we’re so worried that we’re going to come on too strong and scare someone away, that we reserve the parts of ourselves that really want to come out, parts of ourselves that feel like they’re authentically us. Maybe we’re someone who loves affection, but we’re afraid to show too much affection because we don’t want that person to think it’s too much, or we’re worried if we get seen to be liking them too much, that we’re going to lose all of our power. We may love being the kind of person who’s expressive with our words, but we hold back our words and censor ourselves for fear that we’re going to say too much. We may love quality time, but we act like someone who doesn’t really care that much about seeing someone else because we don’t know whether they like us as much as we like them, and we’re worried they’ll like us less if they think we’re too available.
I had a question in recently from someone who said, “I am affectionate. I love quality time. I have so much I want to give, but I find myself holding back for fear that it’s going to be too much for somebody else, that it’s going to drive them away. And so when I show up to parties with that person, I’m afraid to be too all over them at the party. I’m afraid to ask for too much or express myself. And my anxiety is what’s making me hold back.” Now, I think it has to be said that there is this conditioning that so many of us have, that if a woman is trying too hard, that’s desperate. If a guy is trying really hard, then it’s romantic. The stereotype of the love bomber is one that often we see, rightly or wrongly, because women can love bomb too, but we see it as more of a male thing.
A guy love bombing, a woman showing he’s really, really interested, and then not backing it up. We don’t as commonly associate the love bomber as being the woman. We associate the woman as being the one who has to hold back in order to be attractive. So the question is, how much is playing it cool necessary? And I’ll give you a little bit of what I said to this woman who asked this question, because I know that I have, in my own past, been on dates with people who were holding back, and I didn’t know that on the date. On the date, all I knew was . . . I didn’t think the person was into me. I didn’t think the person was attracted to me at all, and then I was really surprised to learn, 24 hours or 48 hours later, that that person wanted to see me again.
They would send me a text and say, “I had such a great time. I’d love to see you again.” And I would think I was going crazy. I’d be like, but I didn’t get anything for . . .I didn’t feel you flirted with me. I didn’t feel you showed any attraction towards me. I certainly didn’t feel you desired me. And so I was really surprised to know that they wanted to see me again, we have to ask ourselves, “If I expressed a desire to see someone again, would it surprise them based on my experience or my interactions with them? So far?” A lot of the time, the answer is ”Yes.” So one of the things I say to people is, I’m going to give you five points today, but the first point is we have to encourage people to keep trying with us by the small things we do that communicate interest or desire.
Those could be very small things. It could be touching someone lightly on the arm. It could be telling someone that they look really good in that jacket. It could be texting someone after a date and telling them that you had a great time, or you’re really funny, or you looked really good tonight. It could be someone that you’ve met on a dating app and it’s not escalating to a date. And you’re having a great time with them and there’s lots of rapport, and you send them a message saying, by the way, in case you were wondering, if you asked me out on a date, I’d say yes. Little things that show people, “Hey, I’m giving you a green light to try more because I am attracted to you.” Sometimes we’re so afraid of scaring someone off that we don’t even give them the encouragement to actually try with us.
Now, when we’re showing someone a little encouragement, that can help to decrease our anxiety if we think about it like small baby steps of encouragement, instead of I’m immediately going to say and do everything I want to say and do, which isn’t always advisable at the very beginning of dating. What we want to do is invest, then test, give a little, see if they respond to that. And if they respond to our affection with some affection, then that’s great. We have confirmation that we’re both in the same place.
Point two is something that can really help with your anxiety. See, our anxiety about showing too much in early dating is often about this feeling of once you know how into you I am, I will have lost all of my power. I think that a big part of that is because we see our attraction as this constant, like it’s sort of just a universal truth. You are going to find out how into you I am.
But the truth is, attraction is an evolving thing. It can go up. It can go down. Interest in someone is an evolving thing. It can go up. It can go down. So I like to think of our interest in someone like a photograph. If you take a photograph of how interested I am in you today, that is only a photograph that represents that today. It’s a snapshot in time of how I feel. But next week, I might feel something different. If you take a new photograph a week from now, it might show a very different level of attraction. And if we get that way of thinking into our own minds, then when we’re showing someone interest, we’re not thinking I’m giving up all of this power, we’re just thinking, by giving you a little interest today, I’m showing you how interested I am today.
If you don’t reciprocate, if you don’t meet me there, if I try to give you some affection or some nice words or show that I want to see you and you don’t give me the same back, I reserve the right to change how interested I am at any point. It can change overnight if I feel like, oh, you’re not here with me, you’re not consistent. Oh, I don’t feel safe with you. I don’t feel your attraction back. I’m going to take that energy and direct it elsewhere. And you’ll find that out. The next time you try to see me or the next time you want to hang out, the next time you want to give me affection, you’ll find out that you actually lost some of my interest and intrigue between the last time I showed it to you and right now when you suddenly want it again.
So if someone sees, through your actions, that your interest is not a constant, your interest is something that has to be fed and watered and reciprocated, you know that you’ve never lost your power by showing interest. All you’ve done is taken a photograph about how you feel today and given it to them. If they’re under any illusion that that photograph is just a constant truth, they will realize how wrong they are the next time they try to get your attention if your attention has moved on.
Number three, one great way to still maintain your personal power or “play it cool,” which is not a term I like, but a great way to not feel like you’ve given up all of your power is to show that you don’t need an emotional babysitter. I think of the example that this woman gave me where she said, “When I go to a party with someone, I don’t give them any attention or affection because I’m afraid that it’s going to be too much.”
But what tends to be too much for someone is when we never leave them alone or we show we can’t be alone. Now, that’s not me saying that a party, you have to just leave that person and go and talk to other people all the time, but showing you can is very powerful. Showing you have the ability to walk into a room with someone and truly enjoy being next to them, being in their company, but also be incredibly comfortable having another conversation, feeling like you are an independent presence in the room, that you can hold court on your own, that’s a really powerful thing. It’s a way of creating space for someone to miss us, for someone to observe us at a distance, which can be incredibly attractive, for someone to see that we are an autonomous independent person away from them and that our needs for affection, for connection, for proximity aren’t the same as neediness.
Neediness is, I have to be around you. Don’t leave me alone. Don’t leave me here. I can’t handle myself on my own. Needs are something very different. Needs are just, this is a requirement for me to give my time to someone, to give my energy to someone, is that there’s an appropriate level of affection, of interest, of stability, right? Those are needs. Neediness is I can’t be without you. I can’t be happy without you. I can’t be secure without you. I can’t make myself feel good. I’m making you responsible for that, and that’s one of the things we should explore. That’s a good place to get some self-awareness in early dating, is are we coming from a place of having needs, which is valid, or neediness, which is making someone else responsible for how we feel about ourselves?
Number four, we should be more afraid of getting someone who isn’t a match for us than scaring away someone with our interest.
Some of the things that were put to me by this woman is she said, “I’m an affectionate person. I really enjoy quality time. I really enjoy a touch.” Well, those are things that are important for her to know someone else can give, right? She has an awareness that that’s what she’s like. She needs to, at some point, learn whether that person can reciprocate those things. So yes, she doesn’t want to give all of her time to this person at once. Yes, she doesn’t want to suddenly give all of the physical affection to someone in date two that she would give to someone in month six of a relationship. But unless we start to bravely give some of the things that we ultimately want to get back, we’ll never see if that person’s able to reciprocate. Now, if we’re never being touchy-feely with someone or holding their hand, or giving them a kiss on the street because we are scared that by doing those things, they’re going to think we’re too much, we’re also never learning if they can be the kind of person that makes us happy.
Have you ever been in a relationship where you really like affection and the other person doesn’t? That’s going to make you miserable. You know it if you’ve felt it, if you’ve been there. So during the dating process, I’d be more concerned about, “Can this person be physically affectionate? Is that in them?” If my physical affection scares someone away, then I’ve scared away someone who’s not compatible with me. I can’t keep taking the lesson that, “Oh my God, I should never have given that affection because it scared them away.” That’s the wrong lesson to learn.
Number five, whenever you find yourself playing it too cool in early dating, remember that it is your standards that ultimately allow you to hold onto your power, not your indifference. When we communicate interest in somebody, there’s always the fallback of our standards. We communicate a little interest, we see what happens. And if that person shows that they cannot meet our needs, we can always have the standard of saying, this isn’t enough for me. I don’t get enough of my needs met in this situation.
And in early dating, we can’t have so many needs that someone says, “Oh my God, we’ve only known each other two weeks and you’re already asking for everything that you would get from a relationship from this situation.” That’s having needs that are out of context, needs that should be reserved for someone that we know better that are being placed on someone we don’t know very well at all. If we find that even our most basic needs aren’t being met, the need for respect, the need for a level of consistency in the way that this person is reaching out to us, or the cadence of seeing each other and talking to each other, the need for a level of affection when we are together, if our needs aren’t being met in that area, our standards is what are what saves us and allows us to hold onto our power.
People often think of standards as this very kind of aggressive thing, like, “I am telling you this is what you have to do, and this is what I need from you.” And often, standards can seem a little over the top, and even entitled for someone that we don’t know very well. It’s like, “Why are you asking me for all of this? We don’t even know each other very well.” Standards, to me, in early dating are often quieter. Standards are just where we direct our energy. And if I don’t get enough back from you, then I am going to take my energy and direct it somewhere else, to other parts of my life or other people, other dates. And when you feel that, I can explain why that is if you are asking me that question. But you’re quickly going to realize that if you don’t give me more, you are not going to get more.
That’s a standard. A standard doesn’t always have to be spoken. And that’s why I was talking about with the idea of the photograph. Just because you gave attention to someone last week, just because you showed interest last month, it doesn’t mean that they still have it. And your standards are what show someone that they don’t still have it in the same way that they did before. Because when they come back asking for what they got last month, they’re going to quickly realize there are consequences to not meeting you where you are at. And a standard is a much better way to hold onto our power than just indifference. Ultimately, playing it cool is a form of indifference. I’m holding onto my power by being indifferent to you, but we all know it’s bullshit, because we’re not indifferent. We actually like the person. We actually want to see where it could go. And unfortunately, if we’re not vulnerable with a person, we’ll never see how far it could go because we’re not actually giving what we want to get from someone else, which is vulnerability, letting our guard down, actually showing up, being affectionate. So we have to be willing to be vulnerable and let our guard down, but our standard is what ultimately saves us. If you don’t meet me there, I can move on with my attention.
And what we have to do is trust ourselves to move on with our attention if we don’t get it back from them. That’s what really allows us to be bold and confident in showing someone we like them, is that we realize the moment I feel like you are not there with me, I can start to move on. And I trust myself to do that, and not to keep chasing your approval, your attention, trying to get more of you when you are not giving me the same as I’m giving to you. And in order to do that, in order to have that self-trust, we have to root it in something real. That always is, I know that I can be happy without you. I know that I don’t need you. You could be an incredible addition to my life. Building something with you could be amazing. Seeing where this goes could be amazing, but I do not need you. See, when we don’t need someone, we’re free to enjoy them. When we need them, we can no longer enjoy them.
Because when we feel like someone has our happiness in the palm of their hand, we can’t be ourselves because we’re constantly under threat. I’m constantly trying to appease you and make you happy and second guess what you want because I’m afraid that you’re going to take away my happiness. If you can’t take away my happiness, then I can really be myself with you, and we can really see what this could be.
Now, for those of you who know deep down, you haven’t got to that place where you can feel safe and secure, and happy without someone . . . And be honest with yourself right now. I’m really asking you this, because people love on Instagram to say, “I’m good on my own. I love my own company. I’m happy just with me.” People will love saying things like that because they sound good, but most people don’t actually behave like that.
Most people, the moment they come across someone they think is super attractive, someone who represents a level of charisma or charm or sexiness, something that makes them very eligible, immediately that goes out of the window. And it goes out of the window because you start to see people chasing people that aren’t worthy of that chasing. They start to overvalue someone, to get anxious around them, to fear their abandonment. They get anxiously attached. I’m asking you honestly right now if you identify with those feelings. Because if you do, that’s not your fault. That comes from something in your life. It comes from somewhere in your life, a time where you thought you had to chase people to get their approval, or just growing up and feeling like you weren’t enough on your own. You had something to prove, or other people were better than you, or that you’d never be okay on your own, that you’d never survive, so you go looking for someone that can make you feel safe.
Somewhere along the way, we learned this wiring that we are not safe, that I’m not okay on my own, that I’m not enough unless I’m validated by somebody else. And those are the root cause of the reasons why we end up chasing people. And in order to protect ourselves, rather than be vulnerable in a constructive and powerful way, we feel like it’s safer just to be indifferent and to numb ourselves, and to detach ourselves and keep someone at arm’s length. If you know this is you and you relate to this, the kind of work that gets people to feel safe in their own bodies, to feel happy on their own, to feel like they don’t need that approval or that validation from other people is exactly the kind of work I do on the Virtual Retreat.
And I’m doing one final Virtual Retreat this year in June from the second to the fourth. I also have incredible support in this. Dr. Ramani is joining me for this, and she’s going to be helping you as well, overcome the trauma of your life. So this is a team of heavyweights coming to you on this Virtual Retreat. This is a moment in time that I don’t want you to miss, especially if you know there are patterns that exist for you that have not and will not go away on their own. And after 15 years of coaching people, I’m here to tell you they do not go away on their own. They go away by us doing the work, and the work is what we are going to do in June. So to apply, come to MHVirtualRetreat.com.
And if you get there and you have questions and you want to know, “How does this program apply to me? What will it do specifically for me in my situation?” I have a very small family of people that I love and trust who can talk to you about it and talk you through the process as well in a tailored way to your life. You’ll find all of that information on the page for how to book your call with one of them. But go over there now before you forget, plug this date in your diary, the second to the fourth of June, and go find out about it at MHVirtualRetreat.com. Thank you for watching. And like always, I’ll see you next week.