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January, 28, 2013

The psychology of the friend zone

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Name: Adam Rogers
Member of: Student Panellist
Joined: Nov 2011
Occupation: Psychology student
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What is the friend zone? In a sentence, you became unattractive and needy. This is definitely applicable to the “nice guy” and is purely aimed at the male end of the courtship process, but I think there will be a lot of answered questions for the girls here too. We’ll throw a scenario out there now and then break it down.

The psychology of the friend zone

Photo by Casey Hussein Bisson

You met this girl through your social circles and there was mutual attraction the minute you met, you were introduced and you held eye contact that little bit too long – the first spout of sexual tension. You have things in common, you were having fun, being playful and teasing; you end the night and get each other’s numbers, just as you head off with your friends elsewhere. You’re excited about where this could go, and keep daydreaming of the possibilities in your mind, so a day or two later you set up a date, doing that “thing you both have in common” and by the end of the night you’re a little bit more infatuated and really liking this person, but as soon as you try to set up another date, it’s like getting blood from a stone to get a “yes”. Instead you get the “let’s just be friends” (LJBF).

So where did you go wrong? Well, first is aspect 1: we’ll start by breaking down the mentality; you came from a place of abundance and you went into a place of scarcity. Why were you abundant? Mainly because at first you didn’t need this person in your life, but you wanted them in there, hence the exchange of numbers and meet up. So how did I get to a mental state of scarcity? Well your mindset was probably unhealthy, and placing too much importance on getting this girl to like you.

You probably started laying out your qualities for her like a shopping list. You’re trying too hard, so it essentially becomes needy and unattractive. You need her to like you back. This comes across verbally and through your body language. A study by Pennebaker on speed dating analysed this.

“The person with the higher status uses the word “I” less. [. . .] We use “I” more when we talk to someone with power because we’re more self-conscious. We are focused on ourselves – how we’re coming across – and our language reflects that.”

So what does this sound like in a conversation and where does this shift come from? Firstly, you’ve put the girl up on a hypothetical pedestal. You somehow think “this girl’s so great, I don’t deserve her/what’s she doing with me, I need to get her to like me.” Actually you were doing fine in your initial meet with her, you displayed attractive qualities; you teased her, made her laugh, you found things in common, shared experiences and most importantly had a connection. But on the date you killed that, because your mentality dropped, and you started to almost disrespect yourself by acting scarcely, thinking she is better than you and placing too much importance on getting her.

So what if you did all of the above and still find “LJBF” on your phone screen. Then you’ve fallen foul of aspect 2: failure to escalate things physically. This doesn’t mean go around grabbing arse until you get a positive reaction, because that will rarely happen. What it means is carry on doing what you’re doing but don’t be scared to touch her. But make sure you’ve got compliance. You do that by making the physical escalation a natural progression, keep it low key. At first a handshake with your name, then touch on the upper arm to emphasise a point. Now test for compliance, the classic arm around the shoulder with a little pull in towards you to test for resistance. If there’s resistance, try again in a minute and if it’s still there then she’s not compliant to going any further with you so move on to another girl who is. If she is compliant, then begin to start touching her like a girlfriend, (after all this is what you want right?) Hands on lower back, hips and thighs, which frames it for a kiss to be next in the natural progression. If this sounds weird, then it’s even weirder to be expecting to go from shaking hands to kissing later on. Also it’s not a check list, you have to calibrate to the girl at hand. So if earlier she said, “I hate my thighs being touched”, then listen and don’t touch her thighs! (Of course, these are just basic examples.)

So what if you don’t do this, because you’re scared of losing her? Well you don’t “have” her yet so there is nothing to lose in trying. As the saying goes, it’s better to have tried and failed, than to have not tried at all. This shows confidence in trying and that’s an attractive trait. Take account of the ladies side of the situation, after a successful date and you’ve not tried to kiss her or at least hold hands, she might just take this as “well maybe he’s not interested.” (So girls you can help us out a bit there, it’s not that we lack intent, sometimes we just don’t have the guts.)

But you plead “No girl likes being touched up like that.” Wrong, a girl who isn’t comfortable with you doesn’t like being touched up like that and you’ve also been watching too much TV. Social conditioning has had you believe that girls hate sex and you have to reward them for it by buying drinks, dinner and gifts. When a person is rewarded external factors for something they already like doing, they’re going to lose motivation for these things. Ann Boggiano and her colleagues (1985, 1987) at the University of Colorado:

‘Pay people for playing with puzzles, and they will later play with the puzzles less than those who play for no pay. Promise children a reward for doing what they intrinsically enjoy (for example, playing with Magic Markers), and you will turn their play into work.’

What this also means is don’t start being tight and thinking she has to pay for everything for herself, but ask yourself would you do this for one of your friends? That’s a good enough gauge, but if you just simply want to buy something for because that’s who you are, then do it; just don’t expect anything from it apart from “thank you.”

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