Here’s how the dating progression is supposed to go: (1) You meet someone you find intriguing and (2) you get to know each other. Step number one usually feels like the hard part, while getting acquainted comes more naturally. But not always. For some people, dropping their guard long enough to let you in takes a concerted effort—and plenty of time.
Here are 15 tips for how to proceed if that describes your new prospect:
1. Go easy. A good place to start is to be sure you aren’t pushing too hard too fast. There is nothing wrong with letting the person you are interested in have the reigns and set the pace for a while.
2. Lead by example. Be open yourself—to demonstrate what you’d like in return.
3. Pay attention. Nothing encourages somebody to share better than having an active, genuinely interested listener.
4. Ask small questions. Find a conversational thread and gently pull. Never start by saying, “So, tell me about yourself…”
5. Be aware of body language. Your posture, eye contact, hand gestures—all of these communicate something important. Your nonverbal cues say either “I’m really interested” or “I’m bored and going through the motions.” Use your body language to promote rather than prevent openness.
6. Give yourself a gut-check. Ask yourself: Are you critical and demanding of others? Is your sense of humor demeaning or uplifting? Would you feel safe sharing your inner self with you?
7. Stay in the sweet spot. Put your date at ease by doing things he/she enjoys the most. The more the person is having fun, the more likely conversation will flow.
8. Seek safety in numbers. Suggest dinner with his friends, then observe what happens when his defenses are down.
9. Bargain. Make a game out of trading personal details. Start silly—favorite TV sitcom—and work your way up.
10. Employ top-notch “customer service.” Make sure your focus is on the other person’s needs, desires, and wishes.
11. Be informed. There may be legitimate reasons for a person’s reticence to open up as soon as you’d like. A little empathy goes a long way.
12. Avoid interrogations. Nobody likes bright lights and thumbscrews.
13. Know when to fold ‘em. Back off if he or she starts signaling discomfort.
14. Don’t take reticence personally. If your date is slow to open up, it’s probably not about you. It is a statement about who they are and what they need.
15. Put the ball in his/her court. If you’ve done all of the above and still feel that you are on the outside looking in, you are allowed to tell your date what you want (to get acquainted) and why (because you’re interested and attracted).
There is no “right” way for relationships to develop. Each one follows its own path on its own timetable. Still, it can’t hurt to give yours a little active encouragement along the way.