Creepy behaviour on dates: how to spot it and things to avoid if you’re trying to impress

From being too pushy on a date to making weird or unsettling comments, creepiness means different things to different people. Here are some things to look out for and avoid

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 October, 2018, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 October, 2018, 5:02pm

Many of us have either experienced or heard of dating horror stories that involved creepy behaviour that would make anyone’s blood curdle.

Creepiness is often subjective, because what seems weird to one person may appear normal to another. But there are certain behaviours that are universally unacceptable in the dating game and none of us would want to be caught in those awkward situations.

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According to Valentina Tudose, a relationship expert at Happy Ever After, a dating agency, creepiness is usually a combination of poor social skills, lack of respect for others’ space, and lack of self-awareness of what is said and done.

All these may seem innocuous at first glance, but if you are seen as creepy, that will almost certainly get you nowhere in the dating landscape.

Creepy behaviour is similar to a sense of entitlement, such as when men think they have the right to approach and push women regardless of any negative response.

“No relationship can start without both parties being interested in making it work. So men who think being pushy, aggressive or rude are ways to a woman’s heart are definitely creeps in my book. This is also true for online communication when people you have never met slide into your DMs (direct message) and demand a response by sending you repeated ‘hi’ messages. In addition to that, they never take no for an answer,” Tudose says.

Such creepy behaviour can also appear during a date, she says, “for example, when people make strange or inappropriate comments”.

“One of my favourite stories involves a man who was on a first date with a young woman. He put his hand on her belly and said ‘I can’t wait for my babies to grow in there’.”

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Creepiness reveals itself in different forms in the dating game. Tudose says they include men you have rejected who keep texting you; men who stalk you on all social media even after you blocked them from those platforms, and those who ask to be friends on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media without any sort of pre-existing human connection. These are all examples of unwanted attention that come across as creepy.

When a person ignores obvious signs their presence is not appreciated, when they end up pushing themselves into someone’s personal space, when they stare intensely at someone over the bar or across the room, or when they barge into a conversation uninvited, that can really make for some awkward moments, she adds.

On the question of what level of intrusion can be acceptable, she says: “I don’t know that there is a type of creepiness that is acceptable. But that isn’t to say that every time a man approaches a woman who has not noticed him he is some kind of pervert. The key is to always pay attention to the other person and take cues from their behaviour.

“Basically, it is vital to understand the principles of flirting, which is the way we communicate romantic interest to a potential partner. But like in any other situation, this communication needs to be two-sided.”

Women can also come across as creepy, says Tudose. “It’s a lot less frequent than with men, but there are situations in which women can come across as rather forthcoming when they force themselves upon another party, such as invading their personal space and pursuing them incessantly even when told nothing is going to happen.”

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Tudose explains that this behaviour is usually a sign of insecurity and desperation and can be easily fixed with intense relationship coaching, as it is a matter of understanding why it is happening and changing these unproductive behaviours.

Some people believe that persistence and being in touch all the time is a sign of interest and love, and that it has to be flattering to the person on the receiving end, but Tudose points out that it is only the case if the interest is mutual.

“This goes back to the point about unwanted attention and lack of social skills – which I call ‘social calibration’, which is the ability to gauge another person’s desire to get to know you better or listen to what you have to say,” she says.

And finally, creepiness has nothing to do with physical appearance, hence attractive people can possess these undesirable characteristics too.

“It is often the case that attractive people become a little too arrogant for their own good and assume everyone they approach will be grateful for their attention, so they can be as obnoxious as they want. This is obviously a misconception.”

For those who want to ensure they don’t end up in the creepy category, Tudose has some useful pointers.

“Overbearing individuals usually have no idea they are creepy, because they lack social calibration. They do not understand that it is a fundamental requirement in human interaction to have a sender and a receiver of the information and both parties need to be willing participants. You need to learn to ‘read’ other people’s reactions – especially those related to body language.”

CREEPY ALERT: ask yourself “Am I coming on too strong?”

* Am I often the only one talking when I meet someone new?

* Do people face me when we speak and smile at me every now and then, nodding to show they are listening?

* Do I have a tendency to touch people I just met, in places other than hands or forearms?

* Do I stare intently at strangers to get their attention?

* Do I approach strangers – online or in real life – and demand their attention, regardless of the response I get? (Sending five “hi” messages and complimenting someone on their profile picture when you just found them online is not something you should continue.)

Luisa Tam is a senior editor at the Post