Moving from just friends

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Being considered someone's friend is always an honour and a privilege. Not only is friendship good for the soul, it bestows considerable health benefits, too. Some of your best memories and most cherished moments involve friends. Your friends may also provide a delicately balanced system for nurturing each other. These are the benefits you have to weigh up when considering risking converting a friend to a lover.

Sweet as Candy

Candy had a huge crush on a colleague. They'd enjoy friendly banter in the office, but she never got the feeling it was anything more than an innocent flirtation, the same as he enjoyed with the other girls in the office. However, she didn't see that the feeling of attraction was mutual. He actually fancied her as much as she secretly lusted after him. Unfortunately this mutual attraction was masked as they mirrored each other's body language. If she caught him looking at her, she'd look away; when she looked away, he'd be worried that he'd embarrassed her and would look away too, so when she looked back, he wasn't looking and she'd get the impression that he wasn't interested. Once Candy got over her initial shyness about flirting properly with him, the signals were clear for them both to see.

Make your body language explicit to give the person you're assessing a proper chance to react.

Think carefully whether you're prepared to risk your current relationship before you embark on a route that may well be oneway only. Re-establishing your old relationship can be incredibly difficult.

The following sections offer advice to help you navigate the move from the role of friend to something more.

Avoid sending mixed signals

Avoiding mixed messages is vital when you've taken the plunge of moving on from the role of friend. When you've committed to your new way of behaving, don't deviate and your romantic flirtation will flourish. Things to consider include:

✓ If you're starting to behave as though you're initiating a romantic flirtation, you have to dress and look the part. Ladies, if you don't normally wear much make-up when you're with him, start wearing more, or wear it differently so he'll notice. Men, up the grooming and invest in an aftershave you've not worn before. Getting her to choose it with you guarantees that she'll like it! Go to Chapter 5 for more information.

✓ If you've been turning up the heat in terms of your body language and you're getting a positive reaction, you have to let your friend see that you're making an effort with your appearance, too. Turning up dressed in your dog-walking outfit when going out for a drink confuses the situation.

Happy campers

University friends, Harry and Jane, went to work on Harry's aunt's farm for the summer holidays. Harry had always fancied Jane and saw this job as an ideal opportunity to get her to himself. They lived in a happy little commune with lots of international students and everyone mucked in with the chores.

Housemates kept enquiring as to the nature of their relationship. 'Just friends,' replied Jane. Secretly, Jane suspected that Harry's feelings towards her were more than friendly, but she ignored them and positioned the relationship as a purely platonic friendship.

Eventually, Harry's unsubtle hints gave way to a full-blown admission of being head over heels in love with her. He issued Jane an ultimatum - lovers or nothing. Unfortunately for Harry, she chose nothing. She valued Harry as a friend but had never given him any indication that she wanted anything more. The atmosphere in the house was tense until the matter blew over and Jane reconciled Harry to being 'just friends'.

If your attempts to move a relationship to a new level are ignored, declaring undying love is unlikely to give you the result you hoped for.

✓ If you socialise in a group, your behaviour towards your potential date in group settings also has to change. Suddenly reverting to treating them the way you always have (for example, by sitting at a distance and speaking to other people more) confuses them. Keep a closer proximity and use more smiles, eye contact, and touching for them than for the rest of the group.

Dithering on the border between friendly and romantic flirtation is confusing for everyone - friends and the object of your desire alike.

Don't become a friend just to become something more

Making the mistake of becoming somebody's friend in order to get closer to them can align you to the category of 'just friends' -a difficult trap to escape from whilst preserving the relationship.

If you're embarking on a flirtation with somebody new, approaching the situation romantically is much more effective than endearing yourself to them as a friend and then trying to make the switch. When you take the trusted position of a shoulder to cry on, particularly when it comes to an ex, it can be difficult for your 'friend' to see you as a romantic prospect.

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If you're becoming a shoulder to cry on, deflect your friend onto someone else by saying, 'That's awful for you; I do empathise but I think X would be a much better person to speak to about it. Let me take you out for a drink to cheer you up.'

¿¡¿jABEft Most people refer to their relationship with a friend as simply 'friends'. When someone has to justify the relationship as 'just friends', it usually means some unqualified suspicion exists that one or both parties consider the relationship as something more.

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