You’ve heard those horror stories from your female friends, detailing the wildly inappropriate—and flat out crazy—interactions they’ve had with dudes on dating apps. It’s appalling and ridiculous, but have you ever wondered if perhaps you’ve come off creepy, without realizing it? Though you probably give yourself a five-star rating on digital flirting your way into the hearts of women, there might be ways you’re going overboard unintentionally. This is because reading someone’s nonverbal behavior is impossible without being face-to-face, explains licensed marriage and family therapist Courtney Geter, LMFT, CST. Without being in front of him or her, you can’t watch their expressions, how they shift during conversations or read their body language. Certain things you say or do could make someone feel really uncomfortable, but unless they speak up, you’ll never know you’re being borderline creepy. Until now, that is, since here, we outline how to avoid making these faux pas and keep your reputation on charming status—and not total creep-o vibe.
Don’t go overboard on the compliments.
A gorgeous woman you never thought would be remotely interested in you swiped right—and messaged you. Not only do you feel flattered, but you want to make sure she knows amazing you think she is. You’re tempted to shout it from the rooftops—or to that little bubble on a dating app—but multi-certified sex and relationship educator Anne Hodder-Shipp urges men to hold their horses. If you’ve never met her in person, it’s a red flag to gush on her to the extreme. How come? “It gives the impression that you think you know her already, and that you’re either trying to over-complement in order to get something from her (a response, at the least!), or you’re putting her on a pedestal with expectations that will be impossible for her to meet,” she explains.
If you tell how pretty, smart and incredible she is and then realize your mistake? Hodder-Shipp says a simple apology goes a long way. “Hold yourself accountable and acknowledge that you—unintentionally—came off as creepy. She’ll appreciate the awareness and honesty, and she won’t have to take on any emotional labor trying to explain to you why your behavior was a turnoff,” she notes.
Don’t forget to ask her questions.
When you’re having a convo at work and your colleague goes on-and-on about something, without ever asking your opinion, isn’t it annoying? Consider how you engage online—do you put so much effort into expressing yourself (and hopefully, impressing) your match that you forget to ask her questions? Hodder-Shipp explains this can come off macho, egotistical and at times, creepy, since it gives the impression you’re overly arrogant and sure of yourself. No woman (or person, frankly) would feel at ease being vulnerable with someone who didn’t seem interested in what they had to say. “Men can be so focused on saying what they think is the right thing that they forget to genuinely engage in the conversation. If she has asked questions, respond to them, with genuine detail. And don’t be afraid to ask the same questions in return!,” she encourages. “If she messages you asking about your hobbies and you reply with complements or trying to impress her with photos, you’re letting her know that you’re not present and likely not interested in anything more than an ego stroke. And stroking your ego is the last thing women want to spend their time doing.”
Give her time to respond to messages.
Eh, patience isn’t the easiest virtue for anyone—especially when you’re eager to chat with someone you’re into. But there’s a reason so many memes are created giving folks a hard time for sending messages back-to-back. And in new relationships (or rather, matches that haven’t even shared a ‘Hi, how are you?’)—Hodder-Shipp says there’s nothing creepier for a woman than opening her phone and seeing a stream of pings. This type of behavior can be perceived as attention-seeking, or lazy, if you merely write ‘Hi’, ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’, ‘Hey’, ‘You there?’—continuously. It seems sort of like a no-brainer, but if you need to be reminded: wait for her to reply! And if she doesn’t? Sorry, but she’s likely not interested. “Though ghosting is disrespectful and awful on the receiving end, it’s better to just accept it and move on then to continue trying to get her to respond,” Hodder-Shipp adds.
Don’t follow her on social platforms immediately.
In a world full of catfishers, wanting to fact-check your date is normal. Randomly friend-requesting her on all social media apps without actually getting to know her in real life though, isn’t. As Hodder-Shipp says, give it a few weeks of meeting up for drinks, going rock climbing, having dinner and ya know, falling for each other, before you invite Instagram, Facebook and the rest of ‘em into you relationship. “Let her control how much information she reveals about herself at the beginning – and at least meet face to face first,” she explains. And if you’re already made this creepy move? “If she hasn’t accepted your requests, or she hasn’t said anything to you about them, simply un-click the request and go about your merry way. Be prepared to be honest if she asks you about it,” Hodder-Shipp shares.
Don’t pretend you’re single, when you’re not.
Of all the creepy things, married men who try to pass it off like they’re single are among the worst offenders. This goes for those who are going through a divorce, but technically still married—and living with their soon-to-be ex-wife. Gross. “If you are married and living separately, then you need to state that you are still married though living apart and your plans for the future. If you are married and not planning to separate from your spouse, then you need to state that as well,” Geter continues. “This shows that you are not hiding information and trying to deceive another person as well as gives another person the autonomy to make their own decisions that could impact their life and relationship goals.” If a woman isn’t into being your side piece, or wants to wait to go out until your divorce is final? Respect her choice. “Don’t continue to talk to them or try to convince them why they need to talk to you. This comes across as disrespectful of their decision and boundaries,” Geter adds.
Don’t send any photos or videos—without permission.
And we mean any photos or videos, including ones with your clothes on, and especially those with your clothes off. “Unless it’s something you’re both doing, stick to texting and app messages until you’ve set a date to meet. She doesn’t need to see that much of you so soon, and assuming that she wants to comes off a presumptuous,” Hodder-Shipp explains. These type of messages might get to the point of what you’re looking for, but it’s better to be upfront with you words, rather than your mug. If you are in the market for a relationship, your time messaging will be better spend getting to know her—asking about her career, her interests, etc.—than sending a gym selfie that no one wanted.
And as for those below-the-belt shots? Geter says to calm down, buddy because consent is non-negotiable. Geter explains sending dick pictures is rude, but it takes away a person’s decision-making on sexual encounters. “If you are wanting to send a picture of your genitals, ask first and provide a reason why you are wanting this,” she encourages. “If you just want to hook up and looking to get a sexual encounter started, then state that and ask if they’d like to see pictures. It also lets them know you’re intentions for chatting and they can choose whether or not they want to continue communication.”
Don’t send messages at questionable times.
Your number one client right now is based out of Copenhagen, but you live on the East Coast, so a 4 a.m. wake-up call is nothing for you. This could be when you’re answering emails and getting into the flow of things, causing you to tend to your dating apps, too. Though it makes sense to you, it might not to a date who is receiving your reply or introduction at a random hour. Geter urges men who don’t want to come across as creepy to refrain from sending anything in the wee hours of the night or the morning. “Historically, this was a sign a guy was just looking to hook up and could be a turn off for potential matches looking for a serious relationship,” she explains. Once you get to kow your match and can explain your situation, then you’re in the clear. But until then, think twice before you fire away.