During a recent speaking engagement at the University of Central Florida, I was asked a question that I had heard quite a few times before. If we are encouraging men to be gentlemen, to be chivalrous and kind, then how can we ensure that they don’t end up being seen as the ‘nice guy’ and fall into the dreaded friend zone?
Some say that the friend zone is a mythical concept, but it is very real to men who have ever experienced the heartbreak of wanting to be with a woman who did not have similar feelings towards him. While the title we give it may not be the most mature, it is effective in the fact that everyone knows what it means when they hear it: The woman you want to be with just sees you as a platonic friend, nothing more.
I think there is a reason that so many self-proclaimed nice guys find themselves in this predicament and become confused as to why. Perhaps they expect a woman to just assume he is into her and will make a comment to him about it. Maybe they just haven’t gotten around to telling her yet. Maybe they are working on building up the courage…putting your ego on the line is a difficult thing for a man to do when it can so easily be broken.
How can men avoid this heartbreak? There is one simple thing we can do better:
Clearly express your intentions to her.
While men often say that we are not mind-readers and should not be expected to automatically know what a woman is thinking or feeling, this goes for women as well. Some men think that the mere fact that they are present in a woman’s life is enough of a sign of interest; but if you do not show her or tell her how you feel, she will never know.
While it may be awkward to sit down with someone and just tell them how you feel (especially if you’ve been spending time together previously), there are more indirect ways to do it that can save your confidence from being bruised along the way.
– Give her small compliments. If this is a woman you know and value, it is likely you know enough about her to tell her what you appreciate about her. Don’t overdo it, but this is a good way to see how she reacts to you making small advances towards her. If she is receptive, enthusiastic, and reciprocates – you can slowly become more forward and invite her on a date.
– Use the word date. If you make a plan to go to dinner or do something fun together, using more intimate words such as this will clearly state that you are not interpreting this as two friends just hanging out. Friends hang out. Friends go to the bar together. Friends go out in groups. But an intimate couple goes on dates. If she cringes or steps back when you mention the word, you will know where her feelings are as well – but at least you will know now and not down the road.
– Be flirty with her physically. Respectfully. Small things like putting your arm around her for a few seconds playfully while walking down the street or mirroring her body language will give you non-verbal cues to how she feels about you. If she visibly pulls away or seems to be made uncomfortable, cut it out immediately, forcing the issue will make it worse, not better.
But one thing remains consistent with any way you work to try to gauge her interest in you: Analyzing can only take you so far. Action is the only way to move forward. An invite on a real date is one of the best ways to determine how a woman feels because of the connotation of the word, but if you wait too long to ask after a friendship has been developed, it may seem like it’s coming out of nowhere and make your friendship awkward.
The bottom line is this, gentlemen: If you do not make her aware that you are interested in something more, she will never know. We have to take risks in life and in love if we want to find happiness.
“It is a risk to love. What if it doesn’t work out?
Ah, but what if it does?
– Peter McWilliams.
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