Is He Just Not That Into You? Or Is It Social Anxiety?

“I don’t get it, James,” Melanie said.

“I thought we were really connecting. I was so excited about meeting up. But then it was like… he was a different person.”

My heart went out to Melanie.

When I’d seen her last week, she was brimming over with enthusiasm about this new guy she’d met on a dating site. She told me she’d never met anyone she clicked with so well.

Now she looked defeated.

“I couldn’t get him to open up. He wouldn’t look me in the eye. It was so stiff and awkward.”

She smiled wanly. “Is it me? Am I just that hideous in person?”

The Mystery of the Aloof Date

Maybe you’ve had an experience like Melanie’s.

You met someone you thought you got on well with.

But when it was just the two of you sitting across from each other, the conversation stuttered and died.

No matter how hard you tried to bring up interesting topics, he didn’t engage. He gave you one- or two-sentence replies. He didn’t meet your eyes.

He didn’t even seem to want to be there.

And maybe that’s true. Maybe he didn’t want to be there.

Maybe you should chalk it up to experience and move on.

But there’s another possibility most women don’t consider.

Maybe your aloof date wasn’t rejecting you.

Maybe he has social anxiety.

How Social Anxiety Affects Dating

Anxiety is on the rise.

It’s incredibly common, affecting about 1 in 10 of us over our lifetime.

Most people first experience social anxiety in childhood or their teenage years.

It’s not the same thing as being shy or introverted. Shy kids and introverts feel comfortable in the right social situations, such as a one-on-one conversation.

Social anxiety, on the other hand, manifests as a general fear of social interaction. It becomes a problem when it leads to losing out on opportunities and self-isolation.

How does it feel to have social anxiety?

People with social anxiety are often hypervigilant. They can’t silence the critical voice inside their head that comments on the latest “dumb thing” they did or said. They often feel tense and unable to relax, because they fear they’re being judged.

As a result, they shut down. They appear aloof. They may seem distracted or like they’re not enjoying the other person’s company…

Much like Melanie’s date!

Anxiety or Rejection?

You might be wondering:

“But how can I tell whether he’s anxious or just doesn’t want to be there?”

The first thing you can do is check in with your body.

Sometimes you can feel the nerves radiating off your date. You can feel your own body tense up sympathetically.

Nerves feel different from boredom or hostility.

The second thing you can do is change the environment.

If you’re sitting at a table, suggest getting your drinks or food to go and going for a walk.

Walking can help relax someone with social anxiety, because they don’t have to maintain eye contact.

Activity-based dates are best for easing anxiety. The activity gives you something to focus on and talk about.

The third thing you can do is talk about your own nerves.

You might say, “First dates are so awkward, aren’t they? I don’t know how you felt getting ready for our date, but I was so nervous I changed my outfit 5 times.”

That comment might even get a smile out of him.

By talking about how you feel, you normalize the feeling of awkwardness and discomfort. You let him know he’s not the only one feeling this way.

Why Anxious People Come Across Better Online

“There’s something I still don’t get,” Melanie said.

“You said that he might be worried he’ll say something stupid and that’s why he’s quiet. But he wasn’t like this before! When we were chatting online, we talked about everything under the sun. Was he faking me out?”

It’s natural to wonder if you’ve been fooled when your date seems different in person than he did online.

You assume that the person sitting in front of you is showing their true colors.

However, that’s not necessarily the case with people with social anxiety.

Many people with social anxiety find it easier to be their true selves online.[1]

Because they have time to think through their responses, they feel more in control.

They don’t have to maintain eye contact or read body language; they can focus on words on the screen. That buffer makes them feel safer.

How Do I Know If He Likes Me?

Even though Melanie felt her date was a dud, she was still disappointed that she didn’t hear back from him.

“Do you think he even liked me?” she asked.

I urged her to trust her intuition.

If she felt they had something special and the bad date was just a fluke, it might be worth giving him another chance.

When a date goes that badly, most guys know there’s no point in asking for a second chance. They won’t reach out because they don’t want to be rejected again.

I suggested that she message him online.

“Address the elephant in the room,” I told her. “Tell him you’re not sure what happened, but did it seem to him like you were two ships crossing in the night? Ask him if he would like to give it another shot. But try an activity this time, like a walk through the park or a farmer’s market.”

Melanie nodded.

“I guess I’d hate to get judged solely off a bad first date,” she said. “We all mess up. And I like the thought of being the kind of person who gives a good guy another try.”

(Do you struggle with dating anxiety? Try these 7 highly effective strategies.)


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