how to impress someone you like (and should you even try)

How to impress someone you like

Someone asked me an interesting question the other day. How to impress someone you like? Or should you even try to impress someone you like? Should you try to impose yourself on them, or should you let them try to impose themselves on you? Do you only present the best sides of you, or is it better to be a completely authentic version of you.

My answer is both, neither, it depends, something else, and everything all at the same time. I think the real answer lies in thinking completely differently about what we mean by the self?

What if we just show our authentic selves?

If you don’t present yourself at your best, there’s a danger that the other person will pick up on that. If you’re not into yourself, then why should someone else be? Do other people like you only because of your flaws? That doesn’t sound like a very authentic you. Only talking about the things about you that aren’t that impressive (to you or anyone else) can tip you into telling a story about why you are unattractive. Or that in some way, you want to be unattractive. Also, as we will find later, you have no idea what your ‘authentic self’ is. Everything is up for grabs.

Should we only try to impress someone?

If you’re trying to impress someone by imposing yourself on them you might: wear your best clothes, smell really great, and tell all your best stories. This may be impressive to the other person but they are getting the supercut or powerpoint version of you, not necessarily you. Also if you are speaking and not really listening, you aren’t going to learn very much about the other person. You may also not be able to notice any spark or chemistry, because you’re presenting yourself rather than being yourself. It’s also very, very tiring.

If someone just tells us all their stories, we will only get to hear a presentation of themselves rather than any glimpse of who they might be. We also might not get to say anything about us, or feel like we are contributing to the conversation. Listening and paying attention to them if they are presenting themselves, trying to impress us, can also be quite tiring. It can also be boring. 

So should you both try to just impress each other instead?

It might make sense that instead of it being one person doing it to the other person, you might both want to do it to each other. If you both are trying to impress each other there’s a risk that because you are both on transmit, rather than receive, that you both kind of talk past each other. So you both were imposing yourself on the other but without really making an impression because you both couldn’t really hear it, or feel it. 

This way still feels like you are trying to ‘win over’ the other person, or ‘win over’ each other. Dates aren’t really about winning or losing, or convincing someone. They are much more like win wins. Seeing if you can work together, or what kind of fun or connection you might create together.

There’s a gendered aspect to this of course, in a similar way to how we are supposed to think about being a top and a bottom.

More like table tennis

Maybe see a date as more like a friendly game of table tennis. (The best kind of tennis: don’t fight me on this.) You’re not keeping score and you are both trying to keep the rally going for as long as possible. Being really impressed when someone makes a great shot to hit the ball back, and really encouraging each other as you play. Instead of you competing against each other, you are both on the same team, trying to find out how much fun you can have playing table tennis. This means conversations, stories, opinions, would be more ‘yes and …. ‘ rather than ‘no, but ….’. Imagine commas, and ellipses …,  instead of full stops. So instead of trying to impose yourself on someone, you’re seeing what might emerge between you. 

But I would like to complicate this a little bit more with some philosophy. 

[ T H E  S E L F ]

Everything I’ve said so far is based on a very particular idea of your ‘self’. That is, your ‘self’ is this clearly defined individual (or thing), which exists in the world independently of other individuals or things. Your ‘self’ have these deep down qualities and values that are you. That you have a soul, or an internal life, which is your essential self. 

In this version of ‘the self’, you exist first and then interact with other individuals. You either try to impress them, by imposing your ‘self’ on them. Or you try to impress each other with your stories, jokes and political hot takes.

 …. ¿  t h e  s e l f ?  …… 

What a multitude of  philosophers and (more recently), quantum physicists, and neurobiologists, think is that your ‘self’ doesn’t exist like this. What if it’s the interaction that comes first, and then your ‘self’ emerges as a result? Everything which you think of as your ‘self’ is in fact the accumulation of all of the interactions you’ve ever had with everything around you. This means that you’re an ever growing and changing ‘self’ who continues to emerge because of the relationships you have with world around you. 

This means thinking differently about interactions. There is no ‘self’ which exists before the interaction. The ‘self’ emerges as a result of the interaction. The interaction (the relation) comes first, from the first moment you’re born, to now. This is also called intra-action. You may want to let that sink in for a moment! Yes I know this is a lot to get your head around. If you like this kind of thing you might like this module from my Teach Yourself Sex Ed course, which like everything here is free.

So how should you be when you flirt / date someone?

I think this philosophy is useful because it makes your sense of your ’self’ much more active and fluid. ‘You’ are an assemblage of different relations (friends, family, pets, hobbies, your body, ethics, nature, clothes etc).  You don’t really know what your authentic or your best ‘self’ is. So you’re flirting with someone to find out who you are and what (else) you might be.

Crucially, because ‘you’ are this assemblage of different interactions, it takes the pressure off ‘you’. You’re trying to see if something might emerge between you and the other person. Which means that you might feel less like ‘accepted / rejected’ or ‘success / failure’.

So how to do this? Definitely take some of the (old) advice I have here about how to date: get dressed, smell nice. If you’re feeling like you need a bit of a confidence boost you could try this resource about how to feel (a bit) better about yourself. You could also try this resource about how to big up yourself. Even better, you could ask your friends to do it for you. Ask them to pick 5 really great qualities about you and give you examples of why.

Then when you’re flirting / chatting with someone, just try to be really relaxed and as in the moment as you can. Some mindfulness practice, or destressing strategies, might be useful, just to regulate your heartbeat and to help you tune in to the date. But also pay attention to those little moments of joy that you both might be experiencing and notice how you both feel them at the same time. These are the kinds of connections which we might look for on a date. Smiles and laughs. How your skin tingles or how you might feel a jolt of pleasure from eye contact. Noticing how, as you get more comfortable, you might hear or see each other a little bit better. Taking pleasure in what you say, or any ideas that you share together. 

You might also find this helpful about how to get a girlfriend, boyfriend, or themfriend.

Comment below if you like. I moderate all comments before they appear, just so you know!

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© Justin Hancock, 2024 Find out more about me and BISH here.

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I’ve been a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (with a background in youth and community work). In that time I’ve taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. I’ve worked with many charities, local governments, schools and youth organisations facilitating training and workshops. My two books, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and If You Want To) and Can We Talk About Consent? are widely available around the world. I’ve been on the telly and the radio and have written articles for newspapers and magazines. I’m also a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Read more about me and BISH here. Find out about my other work here Justin Hancock

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