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wundayatta's avatar

What is "playing hard to get" really about?

Asked by wundayatta (58709points) July 3rd, 2011

Have you ever played hard to get? Have you ever tried to date someone who played hard to get? Based on your experience, do you think “playing hard to get” is a conscious game, or is it just a subconscious thing? Or does it not even exist and the people who accuse others of playing it are just complaining about sour grapes? How can you tell the difference between these options?

What are the characteristics of this game? How did you decide it was being played? What was your response?

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20 Answers

Uberwench's avatar

Playing hard to get can be all of those things, but it is primarily a test of someone’s willingness to invest. In that way, it’s often subconscious. Your willingness to invest time and effort into getting with me is a signal that I am more than a passing fancy for you. This is important if I’m looking for more than just a night of sex.

zenvelo's avatar

I think it is an adolescent/early adulthood game that most people grow out of when they are ready for mature relationships.

WasCy's avatar

It’s a fundamental human behavior. It’s reach and withdraw. It’s what flirtation is based upon. It’s what marketplace negotiation and haggling are, too.

The game can be played very subtly with romantic overtones, or it can be played very obviously as it is in some street markets (and stock and commodity buying and selling, too).

jerv's avatar

Personally, I have always considered it a dick move. I can kind of see how some people may consider it a way to build suspense and make someone long for forbidden fruit, but maybe I am just too straight-forward to see how that actually works.

Whenever I’ve had someone try that with me for more than a couple of minutes, I’ve just lost interest and wandered off. If I wanted to play games, I would grab my bag of dice.

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athenasgriffin's avatar

I’ve never played hard to get in an attempt to attract someone. It seems counterproductive. But if I feel someone is not paying me enough attention, sometimes I will wait for them to make the their move. Not because I think it is going to make them want me more or something stupid like that, but because I would like to see how they feel about me. If they are not willing to put themselves out there, if they expect me to do all of the work, it probably isn’t going to be a good relationship. I would rather know that sooner than later.

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RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I’m easy to get. Hard to keep.

jerv's avatar

@athenasgriffin Pretty much how I feel. Whenever I put myself out there and got the impression that I wasn’t going to be met halfway, I figured it better to stop right there than start something that was doomed.

athenasgriffin's avatar

@jerv Yes. It is frustrating, however, to watch someone playing that card and having the potential relationship crash and burn because I am unwilling to play cat and mouse.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Damn. You come late to the party and you miss all the fun. What happened to cause all the flame-bait??? I don’t think most people actually play hard to get, but rather we tell people that others will play it as a way to soothe our ego after getting rejected. I don’t play hard to get, although I’m not necessarily above sending mixed signals, especially if many of the contradicting signals weren’t meant to be signals but were rather just there. However, if you ask me straight out if I like you, or if I’d like to go on a date with you, I’ll be upfront and honest. If, for whatever reason (usually a lack of sobriety) I say no when I mean yes, I assume the onus is now on me to say something like “Look, I don’t know why I said no, but I did, and I handled it poorly, for which I am sorry. However, the truth is, I do want to go on a date with you, if you’d still like to go on one with me”. But I really hate “games”, and not meaning what you say and saying what you mean and generally acting like an adult is a huge turn off for me, as is you not respecting my “no”. On the off-chance I did say no, and meant yes, but you didn’t respect that, you would actually turn my yes into a no.

I don’t like it when people play hard to get. It’s a power game, and I’m more about relationships that are two-way streets, and both partners are putting in equal work and respect into the relationship.

poisonedantidote's avatar

I don’t know, but if you find out let me know.

Based off my recent experience, I would have to define it as “not hooking up at the drop of a hat”. or is that just actually being hard to get? maybe there is a difference.

Based on my experience when I was a young teenager, it can certainly be a consious game, and is usually done in a very obvious manner. When I was a teen I had to chase a couple of girls quite hard a couple of times before I finally got them, but in these situations it was obvious that both parties were only interested in casual sex.

If it happens when trying to develop a proper long term relationship with someone, I would say it’s more a subconscious doubt.

When I think some more about my personal situation, and what happened to me last night, I think that what is happening is that she is interested in me and likes me, but, she has known me for so long, that it is simply easier for her to say no. She could go out with me, we could get on well together, we could maybe even end up married, but to get there, we will need to turn a lot of heads, raise a lot of eyebrows, and therefore, it is easier just to not go down that path.

In about an hour I will arrive at work, and my co workers are going to all gather roung and ask me how I got on with her. When they ask me, I am simply going to tell them that she told me no. Claiming that a girl is playing hard to get can certainly be a little ego protection at times, but in this case, for me it is a genuine doubt.

lonelydragon's avatar

It is a means of assessing interest. If you back off, will the other person do the same, or step up their efforts to be with you? This strategy plays on a psychological truth, that people desire what is not easily attainable. In small doses, I believe that playing hard to get can be beneficial for a relationship. If you are too readily available, you may come off as desperate or needy, which will make you less desirable. Of course, if you are too remote, the strategy will backfire, as others have pointed out.

jerv's avatar

@lonelydragon There is a difference between “taking it slow” caution and “playing hard to get”, at least in my mind. The former is a sign that you might actually get somewhere if you are interested enough to keep up the pursuit whereas the latter often implies that you just like screwing with people. It’s a fine line.

WasCy's avatar

I think she has it exactly right, @jerv. But as always, the devil’s in the details. In this case, we need to define what “playing hard to get” means. I think that some who are answering this question the way that you are think that it equates to “being impossible to get”. But @lonelydragon, I think, and I know that I for certain believe that it means “you have to make an effort”, which might be successful.

What’s the value in something that comes too easily?

jerv's avatar

@WasCy No argument there. And there is little/no value to things that come easy, but there are also many people that take it too far or just outright aren’t interested and merely like to see how far they can push things.

Maybe my own experiences are different, which in turn means that my thoughts on the matter are also different?

Coloma's avatar

It’s about games.
Games, games and more games.

Forget that crap, just be a straight shooter. Bah!


I never play hard to get. Life’s too short to start enjoying life and its immediate pleasures. I suppose I am sort of a “roue” in the game of life.

jerv's avatar

@Coloma High five!

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