When you’re on a date (or in a relationship), do you focus more on how much you like the other person or on how much they seem to like you? For a lot of people love is mixed up with approval, and trying to be liked becomes more important than their own feelings (or lack thereof).
Wanting people to appreciate you is obviously not something inherently wrong, but rather very human. The problem is that wanting to be liked is not what will actually make you liked, and it will seriously mess up your chances of being loved. In fact, that kind of behavior will only attract people who might take advantage of the fact that you’re dimming your light and softening your boundaries for them.
Trying to present a likable facade with someone on a date will ruin your chances a lot. When someone only gets to see a polite and almost professional side of you, you create a social environment where no spark, feeling or chemistry can happen. Instead, what could have been will most likely just fade out, or you become friends or even business acquaintances.
But going on a date or being in a romantic relationship is not like doing a job interview (although it may feel like it at times) or having a business together. Dating is in fact not at all about showing off the most impressive parts of yourself, overachieving or bragging about your life. Dating is about connection. Authenticity. Showing each other who you really are.
But this is not how most of us have been taught to behave, especially not if we want people to like or even love us. So we put on the please like me facade as a way to get people to approve of us, instead of giving ourselves a chance to find someone who’s a genuinely good match with the person that we truly are.
Trying to make a good impression on a date may seem like an obvious and innocent thing to do, but if that version of you is too far away from the authentic you, there is a big chance it will backfire, in a number of ways. Here are five of them.
1. You get stuck in your head
When you’re trying to be pleasant, formal, and polite rather than authentic, it will send a message to the other person about what kind of things you are comfortable talking about. That message is to keep it safe, intellectual, and polite—and you’ll end up talking about practical things instead of getting to know each other for real. Knowing how many siblings someone has isn’t really the kind of thing that makes anyone go, “Wow, they’re so sexy and interesting.”
2. Lack of emotional connection
The other side of the same coin is that trying to make a good impression will also give others a hint about what you are not comfortable talking about. You’re avoiding the very topics that would make magic happen, since nice and polite conversations usually don’t involve much vulnerability or talk about emotions, dreams, fears, and passions. Unfortunately, you’re avoiding exactly the kind of things that create a genuine emotional connection, and attraction.
3. You risk unnecessary rejection
If you are not willing or able to open up more on a date than you would in a business meeting, people will most likely assume that you are not interested in them. You might in fact be really into the other person—that is probably why you are trying so hard to make a good impression—but how are they going to know that? All they see is that you’re being polite instead of emotionally open and authentic, and that will easily translate into lack of interest in their head. So they assume you don’t like them and start dating someone else who does.
4. You’ll have pleasant dates with anyone (yes, that’s a problem)
When someone is on a date with you, how much of yourself are you sharing with them? Do you give them a chance to find out who you really are, or are you just showing them the “nice” side of yourself? If you’re being really agreeable and palatable in an effort to make sure everyone likes you, the vibe will be so innocently pleasant that you’ll have no way of discerning who is actually a good match for you. Making sure that nothing too controversial comes up and that everyone is always having a good time and something to talk about will make you more of a host and less of an actual person with preferences and a personality. This keeps you stuck in the nice-but-nothing-more dating mode forever.
In order to know who is right for you, you must allow room for people to not be right for you. Forcing everyone to like you by being super pleasant will make it impossible to tell the difference.
5. It kills attraction
Most people who are concerned with being liked have at one point or another heard the words “You’re really great, but…” often followed by something about how the right spark just isn’t there. And that makes sense because pleasant, nice, and likable, however great those qualities are, are not the sexiest things about you. In fact, they are what make you a great friend—but you’re not trying to make friends when you’re dating, are you?
To make your dates more than just nice, you have to show more of yourself than just the polished parts. Let people see who you really are—and make it optional to like you.
Give people the freedom to decide for themselves if they’re into you instead of forcing them by being someone you’re not. This will create a much greater connection and a way more exciting dating experience with the people who stick around because they genuinely find you intriguing.
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Photo courtesy iStock.
This post previously published on Elephant Journal and is republished with the permission of the author.