Dear Captain Awkward,
Hallo, Warm Heart! CommanderLogic here.
The Captain sent me your letter and I immediately conducted a bit of Netflix research and re-watched Ang Lee’s 1995 Sense & Sensibility. I highly recommend you do the same, because I think the contrast between Elinor and Marianne is going to be more illustrative of your (and for a long time my) “problem” with being subdued. Also, Alan Rickman… HUMMINA. I’ll wait.
You back? Great. So! First things first, did Marianne’s effusiveness with Willoughby stop him from dumping her ass? No. No, it did not. Did he dump her because she was effusive? No. Did Edward dump Elinor (initially) because he wasn’t sure she liked him? No. In both cases there were other things going on for Willoughby and Edward (Money problems, sekkrit agreements, jerky family, etc.) that had nothing at all to do with how much or how little they showed their affections. How does this relate to your situation? Those people who thought you would be okay with them dating other people were ASSHOLES. Their assholery has exactly nothing to do with how much or how little you showed your affection, and everything to do with them wanting to date other people for [reasons] which they expected you to know through telepathy.
But you did cotton to the basic “I don’t know what you’re thinking” side of being reserved, and want to do some work there. Well done! Way to take those asshole lemons and make super lemon-powered robots! Let’s do a brief primer in how to show people you like that you like them.
Say stuff out loud because people are terrible at reading minds. Even if you think “I like you” REALLY HARD at someone, they are not going to know that you like them unless you say “I like you!” You’d mentioned wanting to practice more positive assertiveness, and that’s all about just saying the nice or pleasant thing that you’re thinking out loud. Other messages you can deliver by voice rather than brainwave or “evocative” facial expression:
- Your hair looks great.
- You smell good.
- Thank you for [doing thing], I really appreciate it!
- I’m so glad you chose [activity] to do.
- I’m having a great time with you right now.
- You are amazing!
If you’re anything like Elinor or younger-CommanderLogic, you’re probably going to think something along the lines of “But what if I say something TOO FORWARD. It’s rude to say that stuff out loud!” Wrong, Elinor and YoungerMe! It’s a little weird if you’re not used to it, but as we covered in the first positive assertiveness post, it’s an over-filtering problem. You’re having awesome and positive thoughts all the time, but they’re getting caught in your “potentially rude and awkward” filter. Replace that filter with a new one that says: It is never rude to compliment, thank, or share a positive thought, so when in doubt, ask yourself if it’s a compliment, thanks, or a positive thought. Work on letting those things through.
Now that’s all Level 1 stuff. Some advanced Like Showing includes:
- Physical contact. Sexy if that is the level you’re at, but hand holding is a good physical version of saying “I’m happy!” Hugs. Cuddles. Sitting close in a booth. Gentle head butts in the shoulder.
- Actions. Do little things for them. Or big things! Notice and speak up when they’ve done little or big things for you. (Col. Brandon is a goddamn loving actions ninja! He just observes and then gives you the thing you need at the moment you need it; knife, piano, a curacy, HE IS ON IT OKAY?)
- Check in. “I’m feeling like this. Are you feeling like that too, or like something else?” (Example from early in the CL/HL relationship: “You were only gone for two days, but I missed you. Is that weird?” “Nope. I missed you too!”)
What was most difficult for me was figuring out that different people are… different. (Duh, right?) And! The same people are different depending on their moods. There isn’t a single formula that works every time, but if you speak up, you’ll find out what works. Some people want to be praised. Some people want to be held. Some people want you to demonstrate your affection. And some people don’t want the same like messages that they send out. Just watch for reciprocity – does this person act like they like you? – check in with each other, and carry on!
Finally, Showing Like is as much about saying “I received your message of liking me!” as it is about saying “I like you!” If someone is throwing Like your way – whether verbally or through actions - they need to know that you heard them. Bonus: telling someone they’ve been heard is a combination of complimenting, thanking, and a positive thought. That should get through your filter, no problem!
- “I like to be told that I look pretty!”
- “You put so much work into dinner, and it is just beautiful and tasty.”
- “Since we’re hanging out and websurfing together, can we websurf kind of cuddled up?”
- “I love it when you pop up in my IM window in the middle of the day. It makes my afternoon!”
- “I found this fancy tea that tastes like almonds, and I know you love almonds. Here!”
- “You are such an amazing kisser. Speaking of… [smoochings].”
- “You remembered [thing that I said I wanted three weeks ago] and got it for me? That’s amazing!”
Every one of those things is code for ‘I like you and you make me feel good’ for someone.
I guarantee you, if you are temperamentally an Elinor, you will feel initially uncomfortable providing all this feedback to people in your life – and I do recommend practicing with your friends. Tell your friends when they look great. Tell them you noticed when they do something super cool. Tell them you saw the CUTEST otter video the other day and it made you think of them right away. Let the people you like know in no uncertain terms that you like them. It will get less weird and more awesome as time goes by, I promise.
Best of luck!
CommanderLogic, recovering Elinor