Imagine this: You call a girl to say hi, and she says she has an extra ticket for a show that night — would you like to join her? The show isn’t really your style — it involves showtunes, and you’re a heterosexual male — but you offer to meet her afterwards for drinks when the show gets out at 9.30pm. She says sure — can she call you after the show to tell you how she feels, and if she’s not too tired, you can get together?
You say “Okay.”
Big mistake, buddy. Why? You just got put on hold. You weren’t able to make any plans for your evening. Would seem wrong to do something else while you’ve committed to her, right? In the meantime, you’re waiting, waiting…
At 10pm, not having heard from her, you text her to ask what’s up. You get a text back saying “Show just got out — tired. Think I’m going home. Rain check?” And you’re left a-hangin’.
What exactly went wrong here?
She suggested that you two get together, so that’s good. But then she didn’t make firm plans with you, effectively putting you in limbo until she renders her decision.
People (both women and men) will do this all the time. Especially in this age of mobile communications, everyone’s waiting for the best possible offer before committing to anything. Heck, you probably do it, too.
So the behavior itself is not a problem — it’s ubiquitous as smog in LA and bad hair in hipsters. Your acceptance of this behavior is a problem. Why? Because it puts you in a position of zero power. Once you accept a ‘maybe’, you’ve put yourself at the whim of the maybe-generator.
In game theory, this is called a two-player sequential game. Once you’ve made your move — “Sure, I accept your maybe” — then you’re committed. But the other party is free to do whatever she wants — and she will usually pick the option that’s optimal for her, regardless of your fate.
You’re stuck; she’s not. You’ve made her a priority while she’s made you a mere option. This is a power asymmetry.
So how to restore the symmetry? Or even better, give you the upper hand? So glad you asked, my friend.
First, never, ever accept a maybe. Simply refuse to be put on hold. Imagine this: you ask a girl out on Tuesday for a date on Friday. She’s full of enthusiasm, would love to get together — can she call you Thursday morning and tell you if she can make it? No, non, na, laa, nej, nyet, bu shi and no way, Desiree.
This is harder than it sounds — especially if you’re into the girl. Because you get so excited about even having the option to go out with supercute dreamgirl, you may very well buckle and agree to her maybe. And then you wait all week with no other plans for Friday night, and she cancels on you at 2pm on Friday.
Stay strong, brother. Don’t accept the maybe.
The reason comes from my observations about real dating behavior. Note that these numbers apply to the early phases of courtship, when you’re first getting to know someone — i.e., when both parties have little to lose and bailing out has a low perceived cost.
When a woman commits to a date, says she’s going to show up for sure and says so even upon your confirmation call the day before, she will show up 40-60% of the time. The rest of the time she will cancel at the last minute.
When a woman gives you a maybe, you should count on her showing up 0% of the time. Pure and simple. A note of maybe is not worth the paper it’s not printed on.
Also, when you accept a maybe and she doesn’t show up, a cognitive dissonance mechanism kicks in which makes her subconsciously think, “Well, I probably didn’t like him all that much anyway.” This makes it much less likely that she’ll show up again, especially if it was a first date. So don’t even allow an opening for the cognitive dissonance — just turn down the maybe.
Second, communicate your stance calmly but firmly: “Look, if you’re not sure if you can’t make it on Friday, that’s cool — we can make plans some other time. I’m willing to make you a priority, not an option, so when you can do the same, let’s hang out.”
If she can make a credible promise of showing up, great. As an aside, you should not make plans with a woman if she’s already doing something else that night — the logistics usually don’t work out. Don’t be her Plan B.
Third, establish a reputation. When it becomes known that you simply won’t brook any of this maybe baby nonsense, then you’ll get less of it in your life. In fact, formerly flaky females may straighten up in your presence just because they know that you have higher standards. Project steadfastness, and you’ll get more of it in your life.
All the best,
AB what a theory sir you are really magician in this love you for such an important tip
Hello Doc, excellent article – thanks! I would like to order the e-book, but I cannot see a PayPal payment option… Any way of paying by PayPal?
Thanks! I’m glad you gave some words on how to handle this situation. It’s rude and yet your are right, people do it all the time. Very rarely have I said that to someone and never with the intent to put them on hold, but I always make sure to make the person know that I am willing to meet on another day when i can commit
Excellent advice for men, but also for women :-) I was on the receiving end of such behaviour and tolerated it a couple of times…until I finally understood that nothing good can come out of this.