Arguably, one of the leading contributors to creepiness is trying too hard for too long. This is why many people who feel as if they’ve done literally everything to stop themselves from coming across as creepy still end up failing in the end. You can modify everything else from your word choice to your mannerisms the length of time between sent text messages and still get bad results if you don’t know when to stop doing all of that.
Many people, guys in particular, may innocently fail to let go at the right moment because they don’t expect to ever have to let go at all. They simply don’t see it as part of the process. This is understandable. Movies and TV are full of guys who eventually end up getting the girl after being turned down over and over and over again. Even the ones who don’t end up with the girl of their dreams still seem to get to try indefinitely or at least for long enough to be part of a running joke or a subplot that lasts through the entire series. However, in this case what looks like comedy and drama on screen often translates to harassment and stalking in real life.
With this idea in mind that perseverance will eventually win out, many guys just can’t seem to let go of their desired outcome even in the face of the most obvious of signs that they aren’t gaining any ground. To them, giving up is what ensures failure, not mistakes made in the process or even the fact that the object of their affections is clearly uninterested. A telltale sign of this mentality in action is a thought process that goes something like this:
“X didn’t work, so I’ll try X times 2.”
“She hasn’t responded to my message so I’ll send more.”
“She said she wouldn’t go out with me so I’ll be extra nice and ask again next week.”
“She doesn’t seem interested in this conversation I’m trying to have with her. I’ll just keep bringing up different topics until she is.”
“She won’t date me so I’ll be her friend until she sees how great I am.
The obvious answer here to someone who is not in the midst of this situation and desperate for a certain outcome is to replace the second half of each of those sentences with “…so I should stop.” This isn’t a case of missed social cues. If your first approach was failing, you would have to see the cue before deciding to alter or escalate your course of action. You saw it. You just took it as a green light instead of a stop sign. When you start ignoring signs of annoyance or discomfort in order to give yourself more time to prove yourself, that quickly becomes creepy and is not helpful to you. The problem for these persistent creepers is quite simply that stopping means they can’t continue.
There can be other forces at work besides boneheaded persistence when it comes to not letting go. Anxiety and self-imposed pressure can also be a factor. Some people set themselves up to believe that failure is not an option. If you believe that a particular person simply deciding against dating you would mean that something is terribly wrong with you or that you’re automatically sentenced to a life-shattering creep-shaming, it makes some sense that you may want to keep trying if only to undo any real or imagined damage. The problem is, this is not how you undo damage.
In the kinds of cases I’ve described so far, many guys seem to exhibit a strange, sudden lack of object constancy when it comes to a woman’s thoughts and feelings. It’s as if her opinions of him don’t continue to exist and change unless he is currently influencing them. In addition to the jangling-keys-at-the-baby approach some guys take in their courtship (Hello, deluge of likes and comments on social media), this idea can produce a kind of harassment-by-apology. Making amends becomes the new thing that Must Not Fail and leads to more counterproductive, creepy persistence. The problem with trying incessantly to make her forgive you is that in doing so, you aren’t allowing her to forget, which she’d have likely done without your interference if you’d only have quit while you were ahead.
So how does one get better at letting go?
Step 1 – Alleviate the pressure
Treating one interaction like a matter of life and death only makes the whole thing more stressful for her and for you. It’s not a referendum on your desirability or your non-creepiness. Remind yourself that even if she doesn’t decide to date you, everything will probably be fine and before long, that moment won’t even matter anymore.
Step 2 – Aim for speed
This is by far my favorite anti-creepage technique. This is perfect for guys who can’t seem to break the habit of badgering women for extended periods seemingly never wanting it to be over. In this case “over” is exactly what you’re aiming for. The idea is to elicit a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ (of whatever strength) for you to act on in a timely manner. Next time you feel like you want to ask someone out, try to make it so that the process is over and done with as quickly as possible. If you want to approach someone, don’t delay. Get to it. Ask them out. Leave nothing in limbo. That means no “sometime”. Have a specific time in mind beforehand. And most importantly, if you get anything other than an affirmative answer for THAT day/time or a specific alternative that they provide, politely disengage and stop pursuing. It’s possible to do all of this in a matter of minutes. Persistent creepers make this exact same process torturously drag on for weeks or months or more. Remember: Unless you’re being really inappropriate, a brief interaction is rarely a creepy interaction.
And finally…Step 3 – Move on
Go do something else. Just about anything will do. This is also why having a life is important. The more full and engaging your life is, the less time you’ll have free to spend perseverating on someone who’s not into you.
Don’t worry about how disengaging might affect things in the event that she changes her mind. If she does, she’ll remember that you were interested and come back around. Until then, please just leave it be.