Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Want Better Dating Success?

Change your way of asking people out.

Key points

  • Asking people out on a date using yes-or-no questions can lead to heartbreak.
  • The alternative to asking someone out with yes-or-no questions is to say where one is going and invite the other person to join.
  • Avoiding yes-or-no questions when asking someone out shows confidence.

In the days before cellphones, text messages, and dating apps, people asked each other out in a more personal way, either over the phone or face-to-face. The electronic way is certainly faster, more to the point, and easier, doesn't involve having to make eye contact, react to the person's tone of voice ("Am I boring him?"), or interpret body language ("Did she just cross her arms because she's cold or not interested?"). The face-to-face way still comes with many perils related to the rejection that happens when the person doesn't want to go out for coffee, a drink, a movie, lunch, dinner, or any other reasonable social activity (no hot air balloon rides, skydiving adventures, or river rafting journeys). It's easy to feel fully rejected because it has turned into a do or not-do event, started or ended by their yes or no decision.

Source: Pixabay

Follow these examples and see where the dating question leads to either an outright "no" or a "not-no but really it's no" excuse:

Asker: "Would you like to get a cup of coffee at that new shop on Monroe Street on Saturday afternoon?"
Answerer: "I usually don't drink caffeine after 2, so no, but thanks anyway for asking."
(Asker trudges away...)

Asker: "I love this band and this is a great song! Would you like to head over to the dance floor with me?"
Answerer: "No, not really, but thanks."
(Asker slinks back to the bar...)

Asker: "I was was wondering if you want to go see the new James Bond movie with me on Friday night?"
Answerer: "I'm not really into those spy movies with all the car chases, so no, but thanks for asking."
Asker: "Well, how about the new movie [goes through a long list of currently running films at the mall multiplex: romantic comedies, sci-fi thrillers, around-Halloween horror movies, documentaries about dead celebrities, or comic book super characters]?"
Answerer: No, none of those sound good. I'm kinda busy with work and stuff. I'll let you know if I get more time."
(Asker walks off...)

The theme of these polite rejections often leads the Asker to scramble to find new combinations of requests, possibilities, and a better version of the previous word salad that will actually combine itself into a "yes" from the Answerer. This is tedious and heartbreaking, especially when it happens over and over, with different people, during the quest for a starter date.

The trick to the dating game? Avoid yes/no questions

The trick to playing the dating game more successfully is not to play it at all. Stop asking questions of the other person that can be answered yes/no, especially that set you up for an easy no. Change the structure of the question by changing the way the other person can decide. Let's run through some scenarios where how you ask is changed:

Asker: "On Saturday, I'm gonna try that new coffee place that just opened on Monroe Street. I'll get there about 2 and it would be great to meet you there if that works for you?"
Answerer: "I don't know my schedule that far in advance, but we'll see."
Asker: "Well, okay, no worries. I'll be there at 2 on Saturday, so if you want to come by, that would be great. I'll be there, either way, so please call or text if you're coming and I'll look for you."
Answerer: "You said 2? I think I can make some time to get over there by then."

Asker: "Great band, great song! I'm heading to the dance floor. Would you care to join me?"
Answerer: "Not right now, no, but thanks."
Asker: "Okay. If you change your mind, you know where to find me!" (Heads to the dance floor.)
Answerer: "Wait for me!"

Asker: "I just ordered two tickets to the new James Bond movie on Friday night at the 8 p.m. show. I'd like to take you if you're interested in seeing it?"
Answerer: "I don't know. I'm not really into those kinds of movies."
Asker: "No problem. I'll be there on Friday night at 8, either way, so if you change your mind, can you let me know by Thursday? Otherwise, I'll invite another friend."
Answerer: "Which theater? At 8, you said? Do you want to meet there?"

The solution to getting past asking hard dating questions is to simply tell the other person that he or she is not in charge of your plans; you are. "Either way," you say, "I'll still be there." If the other person says no — because he or she really doesn't want to go with you or is still testing the waters and may say yes if better convinced — your plans should not change. You'll still be at the coffee shop, the dance floor, and the movie theater, no matter what. Your happiness and social life are not tied to the other person's control; it's up to you to make your own date. If he or she decides now or later to come along, that person can confirm it with you now or later, but you'll still be there either way.

When you change the semantics of the request and tie it back to your own desire to participate first with yourself ("Fine with me") or with the other person ("Great, thanks for coming"), you take the pressure off yourself to have to come up with the perfect magical mystery words to "convince" the other person to say yes. Make it easier on both of you and don't connect your happiness to their decision. Your desire to have fun — with or without them — shows your confidence. Flip the usual script the next time you want to ask someone out.

More from Steve Albrecht DBA
More from Psychology Today