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Playing hard to get

The Truth About ‘Playing Hard to Get’: When It’s a Game and When It’s Not 

If you’re genuinely interested in someone, ensure your actions reflect that.  
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I’m sure you’ve heard the word “playing hard to get” a couple of times. In fact, someone recently told me that I was playing hard to get and you can imagine how surprisingly dumbfounded I was!

The age-old tactic of “playing hard to get” has been in the dating culture for decades. It is a strategy that involves a person feigning disinterest or unavailability to create a perception of being in high demand.

While it might seem like a surefire way to spark interest, the truth is that playing hard to get is far more complicated. This article dives deep into the psychology behind this tactic, explores when it might be a game and when it’s not, and ultimately offers alternative approaches for fostering genuine connections.

The Psychology of Playing Hard to Get: The Allure of the Chase

The core idea behind playing hard to get is to create a sense of mystery and intrigue. When someone seems unavailable or disinterested, the “player” hopes to trigger the pursuer’s desire to chase and ultimately value the potential reward – the player’s attention.

This strategy taps into the basic human psychology of wanting what we can’t have. Likewise, in economics, we are taught that scarcity breeds value, and the perceived difficulty in obtaining something can make it seem more desirable.  

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Perhaps you genuinely have a jam packed schedule<br>Image credit freepik

When someone we are interested in seems less interested in return, it creates a mental discomfort known as cognitive dissonance, a theory developed by social psychologist Leon Festinger.

This dissonance compels us to justify our initial attraction and our effort to reduce the psychological tension. We might question our initial feelings, increase our efforts to win them over, or reinterpret their behavior to lessen the clash.

However, it’s important to distinguish between genuine emotional responses and calculated manipulation. Sometimes, playing hard to get can be an unconscious reflection of self-esteem issues or a fear of intimacy. 

Out of past experiences, someone might be hesitant to appear too eager, fearing rejection or appearing clingy. Alternatively, they might be unsure of their own feelings and pull back to avoid getting hurt.

When Playing Hard to Get Isn’t a Game: Navigating Mixed Signals

There are situations where playing hard to get isn’t a manipulative tactic but rather a natural consequence of setting healthy boundaries or simply being busy.  

Perhaps, like me, you genuinely have a jam-packed schedule and can’t always respond to texts immediately. Or maybe you prioritize quality time over frequent, superficial interactions. These are not games; they’re simply expressions of your values and lifestyle.

However, it’s crucial to be mindful of unintentionally sending mixed signals. If you’re genuinely interested in someone, ensure your actions reflect that.  

While it’s healthy to maintain your own life and interests, consistently canceling plans or being emotionally unavailable can create confusion. Open and honest communication about your needs and expectations is key to any developing relationship.

When Playing Hard to Get Backfires: The Downside of Games

While playing hard to get might spark initial interest, it can often backfire in the long run. Here’s why:

  • Wasted Time and Missed Connections: Playing games can prolong the initial stages of getting to know someone, leading to frustration and missed opportunities for genuine connection.

  • Miscommunication and Hurt Feelings: Mixed signals and calculated tactics can create confusion and emotional strain. The person you’re interested in might interpret your behavior as a genuine lack of interest and move on.

  • Unrealistic Expectations: The foundation of a healthy relationship is built on authenticity, not manipulation. If a connection is built on the idea of “winning” someone over, it breeds insecurity and anxiety in the relationship and sets unrealistic expectations for the future.
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Someone might pull back to avoid getting hurt<br>Image credit freepik

A More Effective Approach: Building Genuine Relationships

Instead of resorting to manipulative tactics, here are some ways to foster authentic connections:

  • Honest Communication: Be upfront about your feelings and intentions. Clear communication is key to building trust and understanding.

  • Confidence and Self-Worth: Projecting confidence and self-worth is more attractive than playing games. Focus on being comfortable in your own skin.

  • Authenticity: Be yourself and let your genuine personality shine through. People are drawn to those who are real and relatable.

  • Emotional Availability: Be open to emotional connection. Let the other person know you’re interested in getting to know them on a deeper level.

  • Invest Time and Effort: Building a connection takes time and effort. Put in the effort to get to know the other person and make them feel valued.

Conclusion: Honesty and Authenticity Over Games

Playing hard to get is sometimes a game. It might create a temporary illusion of interest, but it’s a recipe for confusion and disappointment in the long run. 

Building a fulfilling relationship requires honesty, clear communication, and a willingness to be vulnerable. By focusing on building genuine connections based on mutual respect and interest, you’ll be far more likely to find someone who values you for who you truly are.

For some of us, we find it very difficult to define our relationships. We can’t even tell if we are in a relationship with the other person or if we are dating ourselves by ourselves

Read this article to understand the concept of one-sided relationships, the signs that you might be in one, and the strategies to protect your emotional well-being.

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