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Ask Dr. Norman Brown Your Own Question

Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1144
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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My question is about a really lovely guy whom Im not sure

Customer Question

My question is about a really lovely guy whom I'm not sure likes me. I recently moved into a block of flats and one morning, walking out the main entrance, I turned to notice a very attractive guy walking behind me, whom it turns out lives two floors above. Completely flustered (as I am no good at approaching men) I tried to think of the first thing that came into my head to speak to him, which was 'I've just moved in, o you know what day the bin men come?' to which he replied 'Wednesday, have a good day'. Feeling really stupid at my attempt at a chat-up line, I bumped into him on the way into our block a week later and he asked me how I was settling in and introduced himself. I was so excited that he spoke to me I just replied with my name, and said goodbye.

A couple of weeks later, whilst off, a delivery man rang my bell to ask if I would sign for a parcel on someone elses behalf as they were out, and I did. When I looked at the name on it, it was the name of the guy who had introduced himself to me, John. I couldn't believe it! What a coincidence! The next day a note was pushed under my door from John asking to call him so he could arrange to collect it. I called and he came down, mentioned he wasn't expecting it, said thanks and went.

My friend later suggested I follow things up by asking to borrow a screwdriver as an excuse to speak to him again. So I texted his number to ask if he had one to save me a trip to a hardware shop and he replied that he had and would bring it around the next day as he was wouldn't be back until late that night. He already knew my name from our previous meeting and had texted my name correctly twice but then the next day he texted me to say he was going out shortly and was I in so he could drop the tool off. However, he texted the wrong name which made me think that he was hinting to me that either he wasn't interested or was trying to fob me off.

Anyway he came down to me and quickly gave a demo at my door of the different sized heads on the screwdriver and how to turn it and said to bring it back whenever. The next day I texted offering to drop it off to him as I had finished with it and he said he would come and get it on his way in as he was out again, but again, got my name wrong! I corrected him and he replied saying that he was sorry, but had been working with a girl all week with that name (Jenny). I jokingly replied that he had Jenny on the brain and when he did arrive, he looked quite serious, and apologised immediately for getting my name wrong, even though he knew my name and had texted it about 4 times before! We made small talk, me freezing up and not really knowing what to say, then he stood for a few moments - I felt a bit awkward - and then he just said 'well if you ever need to borrow it again then let me know' and walked off, and I replied with something cringey and embarassing related to the screwdriver i.e. yes, I need more practice (cringe).

My friends have said I should have asked him in for a drink but I think he was just being a friendly neighbour. Seeing as he got my name wrong he can't be that bothered can he? I'm too scared of rejection and asking him in for a cup of tea seemed like a weird thing to do as I might have got it wrong. So, does he like me or not? If so, have I blown it?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Shirley Schaye replied 4 years ago.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Thank you for contacting Just Answer. There was nothing wrong with your approach. I do, however, agree with your friends to invite him for tea, drink, whatever. Even if he was not interested, it would have been a neighbourly thing to do and if he was interested, you would get to know him better.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

There is no way to know whether he likes you or not --- don't have a crystal ball. But perhaps you can stage another situation --- find some reason to borrow something or have a friend mail something to you but put his flat no. (by error), so he can sign for it and that way you can have more contact with him. The next time he helps you out do invite him over.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Just checking if you have been back online and entered anything in this chat. I'll pause here and await your response.

Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 4 years ago.

I'm a man who's taught psych of relationships for 21 years and mostly heard about the trials of young men who couldn't figure out how to get a woman to be interested. So I'm feeling your shy-self-torture and thinking, "Wait a minute, it shouldn't be that hard. He already knows how awkward you feel around him, even if he's not sure of what to call it. But he knows you're interested in him."


What's he going to do about it when you finally get around to popping the question, or spend two more weeks trying to get him to make an unmistakable move? He's going to think/say "She's cute, she could be interesting. It's fun to flirt around, and it's worth some time to see what could develop--I like the mystery, since I don't know anything about her."

OR "I can't afford ANY more feelings/involvements now. My life's too complicated and stretched thin as it is. I don't want to hurt her feelings, cuz it takes guts to stick yer neck out like she has done. So I have to just not act very interested, so she'll get the hint to back off without thinking she's done something wrong. It's pretty flattering that a complete stranger would want to get to know me that much."

OR "Oh no. Now I'm going to crush this young spirit if I don't handle this right. I should have already made it obvious that I'm already involved, so she doesn't get really hurt and think I'm a slimeball for leading her on."

OR--well the other possibilities are in the less than 2% ingredients list at the bottom of the label, like I'm gay, I'm a serial killer, I'm an undercover CIA agent, I'm a professional con man, I'm an alien hiding out from the intergalactic police in a human body, etc.


Notice that thinking you're a silly fool would not show up in his thoughts at all, and he's just as concerned about doing the wrong thing as you are. That comes with the difficulty of first approaches for both sexes. If you can face all 3 of the likeliest responses from him, then there's not as much to worry about when the conclusion of this phase actually arrives. It's mainly in the waiting period before one of those outcomes that your awkwardness, worry and self-doubt can go higher and higher until it's too uncomfortable

to stand. So why not shorten that waiting period?


You're in a situation in which American cultural rules don't cover how to approach well enough, except to practice "plausible deniability," which means 'you do your best to test the other person's readiness to proceed to the nitty gritty of auditioning each other for a possible romantic relationship, but WITHOUT tipping him off that you're really interested, so that he could still think it's just accidental and you're just being friendly like you always are with most anybody. You try to get him to show you his "interest" card without showing him yours first,' But plausibly deniably flirting always risks the target person misunderstanding the gestures and assuming you are just being friendly the way Americans are supposed to be with everybody, so he won't risk showing you anything that's not plausibly deniable romantic interest either. And you're both stuck in a holding pattern while the intrigue and the awkwardness build up in equal amounts.


But women have another tool in their arsenal that is much less awkward, and that's "Proceptivity." That means she gives some signals that she'd be interested in talking with him if he wanted to knock on her door, or like waving the green flag at the racetrack so he's invited to rev up his engine and make a rush for her whenever he's ready. She's using her body language, her words, her rapt attention, etc to signal "I'm ready for a test drive whenever you are." Then she just waits, because her answer will come soon enough, unless he's too inexperienced or stressed out to notice..


We already know how to do that thru the dating sites and facebook etc. There's way less awkwardness & shyness because nobody can see you when you put up your notice. So why not do the equivalent in apartment complex ? Put a note on his door: "You seem like an interesting person, somebody that could be a good friend. Can we meet for a walk in the park, an icecream, coffee, or your coounterproposal. You can respond to my email: (but a real email , not a joke).


That should get you over this what-if-I-blow-it self-torture phase a lot quicker. What do you think? Shirley, you're welcome to disagree with me.


Norman Brown, Ph.D., LMFT



Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thanks Norman, that is a brilliant answer. It sounds like what you are saying is that he may be interested then?I didn't want to invite the guy in for coffee as he may get the wrong impression so do you think suggesting a coffee/walk the next time I see him would be ideal?Or should I just concentrate on saying hello a few tiwmes more when we bump into each other in passing to get more familiar with him? Thanks so much for your advice!
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 4 years ago.
I heartily agree with greeting by accident. But I'm suggesting that you could get the suspense over much sooner by putting a note asking him if he'd like to do something outdoors or cafe-ish. That way he sees it when you aren't around so he can think it over without pressure to make or break your heart right away. Norman

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