Monday, December 9, 2013

How “Fake Flirts” Drive True Love Away

Do you feign interest on dates just to be polite? It seems that many singles do — and, not surprisingly, women are better at it than men.
According to an Indiana University speed-dating study published in the journal Psychological Science, when it comes to assessing the level of genuine romantic attraction between male and female daters, both genders are equally good at gauging how interested men are… and equally bad at judging the level of interest in women. In fact, the most deceptive women appeared to be incredibly flirtatious and engaged with their dates by the study’s observers; when these women later admitted to having no romantic intentions at all, it’s easy to see why these “fake flirts” were read incorrectly at a much higher rate than the most hard-to-read men overall.
So what’s the problem here? In a world where most daters are attempting to find The One, “fake flirting” can lead to complete confusion on the receiver’s end, which creates an even deeper rift in the male/female matching dynamic. Obviously, societal norms dictate that one should behave with a degree of polite interest as a matter of protocol when it comes to dates. However, faking interest when none exists wastes both your date’s time and yours — which would be much better spent looking for a match with whom you share some real chemistry.
How, then, can you spot someone who’s pretending to be into you but really isn’t — or, worse, determine whether you’re guilty of doing this yourself? We decided to dig a little deeper into this feigned-feelings phenomenon.

Why people feign interest when none genuinely exists
“There are a large number of people who feel pressure to flirt on dates just because it’s what is expected of them socially,” says Dr. Ish Major, a psychiatrist and author of Little White Whys: A Woman’s Guide Through the Lies Men Tell and Why. “Whether they’re really interested or not, it’s just a role they play socially — like applauding at a concert, cheering at sporting events, and so on.” Other reasons for feigning interest could include:
  • wanting to maintain a sense of decorum
  • trying to spare a date’s feelings
  • using a suitor’s amorous attention to bolster one’s own feelings of low self-esteem
  • having a “take one for the team” mentality (i.e., using the behavior as a coping mechanism to get the faker through a stressful, potentially awkward situation)
If these reasons or behaviors sound familiar to you, you’re not alone. “It’s just an easy way to get through the date when you were really just trying to gather enough information to confirm what you already suspected... ‘I’m not really that into this person,’” says Major.

The dangers of sending mixed messages on a date
On the surface, flirting out of politeness can seem innocuous enough, but it can actually be dangerous if you’re unconsciously sending out mixed messages. “Men are exquisitely sensitive to rejection, so you never want to have one thinking that a door is open only to have it slammed shut in his face at the end of the date,” says Major. “Unfortunately, I’ve seen men react very poorly in those situations — they become hurtful, mean-spirited and even worse. So for ladies who feel the need to do a little insincere flirting, make sure you only do so once you have clearly drawn your line in the sand and made it abundantly clear to your date exactly where this evening will — and, more importantly — won’t be going.” 
And while women may be better at feigning interest in someone than men, they can just as easily fall prey to it themselves. Major warns that some men will use flirting to get whatever they want from women, which can go way beyond a date. This includes gifts, money, asking you to co-sign for a loan or giving your sweetie access to your personal information. “These people use flirting as a ‘Trojan Horse’ tactic to gain access to your city (i.e., life) — and, once inside, they will pillage and plunder at will,” warns Major. In other words, beware of the charmer with an agenda; you could be dating a genuine player or scam artist without realizing it.

Catching those flirty little white lies
Learning to distinguish between fake and sincere flirting is actually easier than you might think. Interestingly, when people are flirting disingenuously (or covering something up), they tend to overcompensate behaviorally to distract from the deception itself. Examples of overcompensating behavior include: laughing too hard at jokes, trying to dominate the conversation with humor, becoming overly animated when asking or answering questions or being excessively polite to strangers. Remember: Any behaviors or gestures taken to excess should be viewed with suspicion.
Still not sure if it’s just a case of nerves and nothing more? Give yourself a gut-check: if you’re inhaling and exhaling deeply, it’s a good indicator that you’re relaxed, which is a sign of having made a true connection with your date. “Chemistry is that thing that lightens the mood and makes hours feel like minutes without you even noticing,” says Major. “The number-one way to tell if the chemistry is legitimate has nothing to do with the other person, but more to do with you… if you are breathing deeply, it’s your body’s way of saying you are relaxed and comfortable and having a great time!”
Major also offers the following clues that you’re dealing with a fake flirter. Watch to see if your date:
  • Stares at his or her food for a little too long. (This could indicate that your date is struggling to think of what to say next.)
  • Talks for long periods of time with no breaks. (He or she is probably looking for a way to fill the silence until the date ends.)
  • Forgets to ask many questions about you.
  • Points out the things going on around the two of you instead of trying to have a deeper, ongoing discussion in which you both participate equally. (When people run out of topics to talk about, they tend to start commenting on their surroundings.)
  • Rushes or hustles the date along faster than you’d originally planned.
Recognizing your own tendencies to lead other people on
Think you’re ready to start monitoring your own flirting behaviors now? Start paying close attention to how your date reacts to you once you know you’re not really interested in seeing that person anymore — and curb your come-ons accordingly. “A proper flirtation consists of two participants — the ‘flirter’ and the ‘flirtee’ — but it’s difficult, because one can never be 100% sure how the ‘flirtee’ perceives the message being sent,” says Major. “If your date seems to be responding to you in an increasingly romantic way, that’s a good sign you’re laying it on a little too thick and may need to check the level of the ‘warm and fuzzies’ you’re emitting,” warns Major.
Another noteworthy tip? The less interested you are in someone, the better you’ll be able to recognize your own insincere flirting techniques and how they affect your date’s level of interest in you. Emotions can cloud perception and color your reality, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman. But if you’re worried that you’re flirting without even realizing it, try having a friend watch you from a distance on a real date (or set up a practice date, if you prefer) and have that friend point out any flirty moves that you might not even be aware you’re doing. Knowledge is power!

Strive to be an authentic dater instead of a manipulative one
If you find yourself on a date and realize it isn’t going anywhere, then it’s time to reign in the flirting. However, a distinct lack of romantic intent doesn’t preclude you from generally showing some interest in your date as a person. “If that’s the case, it’s OK for the conversation to follow F.O.R.M., which is an easy acronym to remember,” instructs Major. “Ask general questions about your date’s Family, Occupation, Recreation and Motivations.” Following the FORM rule helps you show a casual, pleasant level of interest in your date, but you shouldn’t get too personal — which helps prevent him or her from feeling led on afterwards.  Additionally, if you know you’re not interested in seeing your date again, you should definitely avoid:
  • Making any physical contact. (Touching someone plays a huge part in establishing a romantic connection.)
  • Asking about his or her daily routine. (Expressing interest in another person’s schedule signifies that you want to be included in it.)
  • Showing off too much of your body. “I often suggest that women bring a wrap or light sweater along on dates — that way, if the interest fades over the course of the evening, they can cover up,” says Major. “Remember, guys take their cues from what they can see, so this sends a not-so-subtle clue that you aren’t giving your date a preview of any coming attractions.”
  • Saying you will call, text or email each other or agreeing to a second date if you don’t mean it.
  • Talking up how much you enjoyed the date in a way that implies you’d like to spend more time together. (“It was so great to meet you and this place is amazing. I can’t wait to come back. Who knows, maybe we’ll run into each other!”) A better way to end things? Be polite, but noncommittal. (“Thanks for introducing me to this spot. Maybe I’ll check it out again sometime.”)
  • Letting the date linger on longer than you’re comfortable. Instead, simply bid your date a polite farewell and go on your way; no need to make outlandish excuses.
Bottom line: A loving and lasting relationship begins with two people who can be honest with each other. “While ‘little white lies’ may be socially acceptable, they only get you farther away from what you want when it comes to dating,” warns Major. “Being transparent and forthcoming in the beginning gets us to the ‘happily’
part in the ‘ever after.’” 

Kimberly Dawn Neumann ( is a popular New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Redbook, Maxim and frequently online. A certified dating/relationship coach, she’s published The Real Reasons Men Commit and is the founder of (Article courtesy of

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