woman at a bar playing hard to get

Does Playing Hard to Get Actually Work?

Conventional wisdom tells women and men alike that playing hard to get improves their odds of attracting a mate. Acting coy, unattainable, unavailable, and uninterested can supposedly make you more desirable to the opposite sex. Acting indifferent and standoffish may make you more attractive and alluring because it gives the presumption that you have options and therefore are not desperate for the low hanging fruit. When you play hard to get you’re sending signals that you don’t care enough about your potential suitor because you have plenty others lined up vying for your affection. The confidence you exude gives you an upper hand in the relationship.

Playing hard to get is a form of manipulation where you feign aloofness and disinterest. You do this to create an air of mystery and unavailability so that your potential mate wants you even more. You play on their psyche, their ego, and the challenge presented by going after something or someone they can’t have.

Why Playing Hard to Get Actually Works

Believe it or not, many psychologists say that playing hard to get actually works…up to a point that is (more on that later). Psychologically, humans are inclined to want something when they think that it may be unavailable in the future. Something or someone that is limited is seen as having a higher value. It is the social theory of scarcity. When we believe that something or in this case someone is in limited supply, we may feel that we are being deprived of it or them and experience a threat to our choices. This is called reactance. So playing hard to get can work on a psychological level because humans perceive that when something is in limited supply they may want it even more because they perceive it to be valuable and may fear that it will not be around in the future. This is also how reverse psychology works.

Playing hard to get can also trigger the competitive spirit in women and the hunter instinct in men. When you are attracted to someone and you don’t know if the feeling is reciprocated, you tend to think about them more and see the conquest as a challenge that once accomplished represents a boost to your ego,  a notch in your belt, a feather in your cap.

When Should You Play Hard to Get

So now that you know that playing hard to get does work, it’s important to clarify that playing hard to get works only when there is already a bit of interest on the part of the one you want to attract. If you are in the beginning stages of romance and courtship, acting a bit aloof and challenging can work to your advantage. However, studies have shown that you can’t ignite a fire where there is no spark, to begin with. If the object of your dreams is not showing the slightest bit of interest, playing hard to get will do nothing to increase the odds he or she takes the bait and goes for the challenge.

Signs Someone is Playing Hard-to-Get

  • Acting disinterested
  • Acting aloof
  • Teasing and taunting
  • Overly confident
  • Withholding sex or physical intimacy
  • Being unavailable
  • Not immediately responding to texts or calls
  • Hanging up a call first
  • Saying you already have plans
  • Dating other people
  • Prioritizing other activities
  • Flirting and stopping
  • Giving mixed messages
  • Ignores you on social media
  • Keeps private life private

Playing Hard to Get or Not Interested?

young lady who is playing hard-to-get

The problem with someone playing hard to get is that many of the same signals are given when someone is not interested. So how can you tell if the girl or guy of your dreams is blowing you off or just manipulating you into liking them? There is ONE BIG DIFFERENCE: someone who is attracted to you but is playing hard to get will be flirtatious and provocative. They give enough to rope you in and to seduce you but then push back away from you. They will let you know in subtle ways that they are interested but will make you work for their affection by presenting the facade of unavailability and high demand. Remember that this is all a psychological mind game. 

When Playing Hard to Get Can Backfire

As I previously mentioned, many of the signals people give when playing hard to get are similar to the ones given when someone is not interested. If the one playing hard to get takes it too far, the partner doing the pursuing may be put off by their fear of rejection and give up on the relationship.  They may think the player is too complicated, inauthentic, and manipulative (which they very well may be!).

When to Stop Playing Hard to Get

Playing it cool and pretending that you are not interested in someone when you clearly are can have its advantages. People have always played hard to get with success. Playing hard to get can make you more enticing because you’re sending a signal that you have many choices and options for a suitable mate.

This is because those who play the game exude confidence. And confidence is a more powerful attractant than beauty and brains. When someone exudes confidence, others are drawn to them. This is why the happily single find love. However, one thing is being truly confident and another is playing manipulation games with other people’s emotions.

So one word of advice: know when to play the game because you do not want to come across as being desperate. But know when to stop because if you’re not careful you may end up alienating the person who may be a quality person and perhaps you’re forfeiting a future together or even hurting them and yourself in the process.

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