How can you show interest without coming off as desperate?

It’s hard to find a balance between showing someone that you’re into them, and not coming off as desperate. There is a thin line between showing interest and coming off as overeager. Take it from someone who struggled to find a balance between coming off as way too chill or being an overly interested goob, that middle ground can be tough to stand on.

One of my biggest issues with finding the balance between what I thought was just showing interest and realizing how that actually came off. It was all a matter of realizing that what I perceived as normal ways to show interest weren’t things that others might consider normal. I’ll spare you the embarrassing details, I’ll just focus on some themes.

Let’s stick to three to keep things simple. Theme 1 is Reciprocity. Theme 2 is Appropriateness. And Theme 3 is The Friend Test.

Let’s start with Reciprocity.

It might be better to call it Reciprocity and Assumed Reciprocity. I’m taking Reciprocity to mean mutual action and Assumed Reciprocity to mean that you assume that someone would take mutual action. Both are important, and here’s why.

When you’re interested in someone, and you want to show them you’re interested, a great way to do that (without crossing into desperate territory) is to do so in a way that could and likely would be reflected by the person you’re interested in.

Have you ever struggled to find a gift for someone? You worry about spending too little, or too much, because you want to show them you care, but don’t want them to feel like you spent too much? It’s basically that concept but applied to how you show interest. You want to be able to show someone you dig them, without going overboard.

Want to show your interest in someone by texting them every day?Want to show your interest in someone by buying them cute gifts? Think it’s a good idea to show your interest by writing them love poems? For each of those scenarios (or any other actions you’re considering), give some thought to whether those are things the person you’re  interested in are likely to reciprocate.

In cases where I crossed from interested to desperate-seeming, it was because I showed my interest in ways that would never have been reciprocated by the person I was interested in. Lots of cases of too much, too soon.

Let’s move on to Appropriateness.

This can be looked at in a simple and broad way and in a more nuanced way. Let’s start simple and broad: Ask yourself if your show of interest is appropriate. Getting someone flowers is generally considerate an appropriate way to show interest.

Where things can become more nuanced is when you add a bit more complexity. Let’s take that flower example, but add the complexity of a first date. This would be a toss-up, I’ve met people who said that they would immediately assume someone was desperate if they showed up to a first date with flowers. It’ll be a bit harder to gauge whether an action is going to be appropriate the more complexity and nuance you add to the situation but, here’s one thing that goes without saying: It’s inappropriate to send pictures of your naked body to people without asking first.

Finally, let’s talk about what I like to call The Friend Test.

Do you have a friend who is impartial? Someone who tells it like it is, who has no problem giving honest feedback? Good! Here’s what you do: Whatever way you’re considering showing someone you’re interested, run it by them first, and see what they’re reaction is. My friends have saved me from so many embarrassing situations simply by saying “Bro, that sounds desperate”. There’s value in getting a second opinion, and I can promise you that if you have a friend whose opinion you trust, they’ll steer you away from making a decision that makes you look desperate.

One final thought: If someone isn’t interested in you, or is on the fence about you, showing interest in mostly benign ways could easily come off as desperate to them. We tend to give people we’re interested in leeway. What may seem desperate when you’re not interested in someone can seem quirky when it’s done by someone you like. If you do something like, text someone you’ve been dating for awhile “Good morning” and they call that desperate, that’s on them, not on you.

If you take nothing else from this piece, it should be that when you’re in doubt, ask a reasonable friend for advice…and don’t send pictures of your body to people who haven’t given you the okay to do so.

Good Luck Out There.

Also published on Medium.