For my write-up today on The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, I will quote something that Sean Barron says on pages 255-256:
“My myopic view of the conversational highway kicked into overdrive when it came to dating. Even into my late thirties, I interpreted a woman initiating a conversation with me as a sign of her romantic interest and failed to see the many other possible meanings. I didn’t understand a most obvious unwritten social rule between men and women: friendliness is not necessarily a sign of romantic interest. As a result, my emotions with women fluctuated wildly between euphoria and heartbreak—-without taking a break at any points in between. Being so absorbed in loneliness, despair and desperation made it impossible for me to see things objectively. It didn’t occur to me, for example, that the female clerk in the store treated me in a friendly manner because that was part of her job. Or that a waitress might stop and chat for a few moments because she had a gregarious personality. I didn’t stop to reason that women I met might have full lives of their own, and I had yet to learn that when I approach a woman I should look to see if she has an engagement or wedding ring on her finger. The unwritten social rule that you look for signs that a woman is married before you ask her out on a date, wasn’t yet part of my natural social functioning.”
The context of this is the rule that not everybody who is nice to me is my friend, for people can have an ulterior motive to exploit me, or people may be nice to me because that’s their job, or they simply have a gregarious personality. I identify with a lot of what Sean says—-especially the part about realizing that women I may have a crush on have lives of their own. Regarding the rule that “friendliness is not necessarily a sign of romantic interest”, yeah, he’s probably right on that. But I think that it can be a sign of romantic interest, especially when the friendliness leads to actual conversation. But I’m sensitive to the possibility of being shot down if I ask a woman out, which is why I identify with some of what Sean is saying.