Can you remember the first time you asked yourself that question?
You were just a girl the first time you cared about what a boy thought of you. The answer to that question mattered profoundly. If he liked you, your heart leapt with joy. If you weren’t sure, you schemed up ways to bring yourself to his attention.
Now you’re an adult. But that question hasn’t lost any of its power.
You still wonder whether a certain man likes you.
You wonder how you could bring yourself to his attention.
You wonder if he’ll ever think of you in that way.
Now researchers know that the way you think about questions like that can actually determine how successful you are at dating.
Putting yourself out there for rejection is stressful. It’s also the only way you’re ever going to meet someone.
The more comfortable you get with putting yourself out there, the more you do it. And the more you do it, the more men you meet, increasing your chances of finding someone special.
You’re never going to eliminate the stress of wondering whether a man likes you or not.
But what you CAN do is learn a different way to deal with that stress, turning it from something draining into something energizing.
We have two ways to deal with stress:
The threat response or the challenge response.
The threat response is what you might know as “fight or flight.” Your heart beats faster. Your blood pressure increases. You feel anxious. Your mind freezes. You start seeing danger everywhere.
Imagine walking on stage in front of a thousand people. They’ve all paid to come see you speak. There’s a huge video camera trained on you. You’ve got to hold everyone’s attention for the next hour, with no notes.
How do you think you would be feeling?
Terrified or excited?
If you answered, “Excited,” then you might already be a master of the challenge response.
The challenge response is a different way to deal with stress. Instead of feeling scared and worried about your performance, you feel energized by the challenge. You’re ready to do this thing! You may not be perfect, but you’re going to give it your best shot.
The challenge response spurs you to do your best, while the threat response paralyzes you.
Not surprisingly, women who use the challenge response in dating find the experience much more enjoyable.
Although making small talk with an attractive stranger at a cocktail party is nothing compared to public speaking, it’s still stressful. You want him to like you. You want to make a good first impression.
Put yourself in that scenario. You’re talking to the most gorgeous man you’ve ever met in your life. You’ve never felt this kind of chemistry before.
What do you think would be happening inside you?
Is your mind going blank? Are you rambling, speaking too fast, or laughing too loudly? Are you starting to sweat like crazy?
Then clearly you’re experiencing stress. But what kind of stress?
Are you feeling scared he won’t like you…
Or challenged by the opportunity to win him over?
If it’s the former, don’t worry.
You can turn a threat response into a challenge response by reframing your physical symptoms.
When you feel your heart beating fast, tell yourself, “I’m not nervous. I’m just excited!”
When you feel your cheeks flush, tell yourself you’re glowing, not betraying your embarrassment.
When you sweat, tell yourself that things sure are heating up.
Whatever you’re experiencing, reframe it in a positive way.
There’s one more component to beating the threat response:
Don’t let your mind jump ahead to the future.
Researchers have found that what makes an experience particularly stressful is not the experience itself. It’s the fear of what might happen.
So when you’re in a stressful situation, stay focused on the here and now.
Otherwise, the moment you start thinking about whether he’ll want to see you again…
Or whether there’s any chance of having a future together…
Or how embarrassing this will be if he doesn’t like you back …
You’ll lose any edge the challenge response might give you.
What’s hopeful about this information is that stress is okay. It’s okay if you feel those first-date nerves.
What’s important is how you interpret what you’re feeling.
And you’re completely in control of that.