When I was a kid, romance and relationships seemed like so much fun—a subtle smile here, lots of laughs, and (if you were lucky) the exchange of phone numbers on a folded-up piece of paper.
Unfortunately, the reality of the dating world has proven to be much more confusing. Often guys like me—who want to make a move but are unsure of how it will be received—just feel lost. Is she interested? I think so. I thought she was interested. But she wasn’t exactly flirting, so I don’t know. Maybe she just wants to be friends? I know this confusing internal dialog sounds familiar to women, too. But research suggests that men have an even harder time picking up on women’s nonverbal cues. This might also explain why women are so often left wondering: Why isn’t he making a move?
A 2013 study conducted by German researchers found that men more accurately interpreted male nonverbal cues than female. In another study published in Psychological Science, scientists found that men were more likely to misinterpret when a woman was sending signals that she was interested and when she was sending signals that she just wanted to be friends.
“Young men just find it difficult to tell the difference between women who are being friendly and women who are interested in something more,” explains lead researcher Coreen Farris of Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. In other words: Men are clueless.
I am privileged to know many amazing women who want to be pursued without having to spell it out for the guy, and rightly so. So what are women to do with this lost-in-translation dilemma?
For starters, don’t be discouraged. If you think he is interested, but he still hasn’t asked you out, try being intentional about planting a few subtle verbal cues that are encouraging and less prone to misinterpretation. Like these, for instance.
01. State the obvious.
“Wow, I really enjoy spending time with you.” I know it may seem totally obvious to you, but sometimes it just needs to be said. It’s amazing how easily telling a man what a great time you are having will put him at ease. After all, the point of dating is to spend more time with each other, so if you enjoy spending time with someone, why not say it?
If a guy knows that a woman enjoys his company, the prospect of asking her out isn’t so scary. I enjoy spending time with her; she enjoys spending time with me. It’s a win-win.
02. Compliments never hurt.
I still find it remarkable how a simple compliment can change a man’s behavior and attitude. One time I was getting drinks with a girl who immediately complimented me on my shoes and watch—let’s just say it was a great boost of confidence for the rest of the day.
So whether it’s his clothes, interests, something he says, or his looks, find a way to let him know that you think he’s great. “Hey, you know who you remind me of? That really cute guy from the movie Inception, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.”
Compliments can go a long way in making a man feel respected, appreciated, attractive, and loved. But fair warning ladies, if you use the JGL compliment, seven out of ten guys may bring up Batman (Yes, I made up that statistic, but I am still rooting for a Robin movie . . .).
03. Sound excited!
Sometimes it’s not even what you say but how you say it. I know many women don’t want to lay out all their cards on the table before they know how the guy feels. But one of the easiest verbal cues is to show that you are not bored to death by the conversation and what he has to say. If you both enjoy the same band or artist, share your favorite song and why you like it, and then ask him why he likes their music. Same goes for movies, hobbies, sports, books, or bucket lists.
Also, pay close attention to tone. Verbal cues of excitement—“I love that movie!”; “I have always wanted to go there!”; “That is one of my all-time favorite books!”—are contagious. Your enthusiasm will spread to him, and you’ll both be having a great time.
Find a way to show that you are genuinely interested and energized being with him. Talk about feeling a spark. If we share an interest in art, a date at the museum and dinner after is really exciting. If we both get pumped about baseball, catching a game followed by drinks and conversation sounds like an excellent evening to me, too. Finding common interests takes away so much pressure. Conversation flows easier, possible date ideas come to mind, and most importantly, uncertainty wanes.
Science may try to say that we men are a bit clueless, but I like to think that we just appreciate the simpler things. So the next time you think he’s interested, but he’s not picking up on the nonverbal cues, give him a little verbal encouragement, and see how he responds.
Photo Credit: Erynn Christine Photography