I have a hard time reading social interactions accurately. I think I see signs of interest where it turns out there are none. I keep talking when others would like me to stop. Politeness, in particular, confuses me.
This comes to the fore when asking for dates. I get turned down frequently (I rationalize this by appealing to the Law of Large Numbers, but honestly it’s probably mostly my choice of partners). I’ve noticed three types of turndowns.
- “No, thank you” really means “…and not ever”. I say “would you like to join me for dinner?” and I get back “can’t tonight because a friend is visiting”. This means “…and not ever”. A turndown without an alternative is just “no” and I really should stop asking, it’ll save us both a bunch of hassle.
- “No, thank you, but how about…” really means “I’d like to, now’s not good, but try again”. The explicit alternative is the signal that the future requests might get a different response.
- (This one kills me.) “I’m flattered” really means “…and not ever”. Whether the woman is actually flattered or not is irrelevant. The politeness is a cover for “…and not ever”. Similar phrases: “you’re terrific” [fill in more later, god knows I’ll have the data soon].
From my experience, women mostly don’t want to be asked out, at least not by me, or at least the women I’m interested in asking out don’t want to be asked out. Their responses are in code, at least to my way of thinking. I can reliably stop bugging women who don’t want to be bugged if I take 1) and 3) as flat rejections and move on.
Being human is complicated.