“Don’t act too into him.”

“Wait a few days before calling him back, or you’ll seem desperate.”

We are constantly bombarded with advice about how to approach our dating lives. Our friends, family and the media all affect how we interact with and relate to others. The very advice that people may think helps us when trying to meet others can actually put us at a disadvantage when it comes to dating. This faulty advice may even drive a wedge between us and our potential match.

I’d like to take this opportunity to unpack one of the most problematic pieces of advice that I’ve heard: play hard to get.

Playing Hard To Get

Playing “hard to get” is often aimed at women, as they are told not to appear too easy for potential suitors. If they appear to be too accessible, they seem in need of attention. Worse than that, if the woman is too easy to secure a date with, perhaps it is because she isn’t desired by others. Instead, the more aloof the woman appears, and the quicker she is to brush off men, the more popular and important she must be.

This belief may be more common than you think. In fact, a study conducted in 1973, by Walster, Walster, Piliavin and Schmidt, demonstrated that college men believe that a hard to get woman is actually more desirable. In their study, college students were asked what they thought of a woman who plays hard to get. The male participants recounted that they enjoyed the challenge, thought that she was more valuable, and believed she must be popular, which is what afforded her the ability to be so choosy.

However, before you think that we should follow this advice and rebuff the advances of people we may potentially be interested in, there was a disconnect between what men thought and their actual behavior in picking a date.

What The Research Shows

Walster et al. (1973) told 71 college students that they would be matched up with women who already looked at their profiles (along with the profiles of four other men). The researchers manipulated the situation so that the women appeared to be easy to get (the participants were told she said she would date all five men she was provided with), hard to get (she would not date any of the men she was presented with), or selective (she would date the participant, but did not rank the other men she was presented with as high). Overall, the participants largely preferred the selective woman. Basically, the men wanted the woman who wanted to date them, but seemed less interested in other potential matches.

What This Means For You

For the women out there, this means that the “wisdom” that was passed down to us to not act interested in someone that we may potentially like is inaccurate. If you like someone, appearing to be uninterested or too hard to get may actually be a turn off. You should let the person know that you are interested so that he or she has a clear signal that if they should ask you out, you would agree.

To relate this back to online dating, you should respond to the messages of people you are interested in, return texts and agree to meetup if you’re interested in a potential match. Acting as if you are too busy or too in-demand may stop a potential relationship in its tracks.

Personally, I advocate for taking it a step further. Instead of waiting around for the person who are interested in to contact you, make the first move!

You may also be interested in 8 Signs You & Your Date Have Great Chemistry



Walster, E., Walster, G. W., Piliavin, J., & Schmidt, L. (1973). ‘Playing hard to get’: Understanding an elusive phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology26(1), 113-121. doi:10.1037/h0034234

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