I’m a Strong, Confident Woman Who Wants to Soften Up Around Men. But How?

I’m a Strong, Confident Woman Who Wants to Soften Up Around Men.

Hi Evan, I recently purchased your e-book, Why He Disappeared,” but I wanted to ask you a personal question! I grew up with very strict parents and my father was abusive physically and verbally towards my mother; growing up I was very submissive. Although confident and outgoing I could be quite timid – as a result throughout my adult life I would meet men who would generally treat me like crap and, as anyone would, I feared going out with aggressive men – but as soon as I hit my 30s I changed and became a strong, independent woman.

I’m confident, self sufficient and can be very direct. If I don’t like someone/something, I tell them! I think this all stems from not having a voice as a child (not being allowed to have an opinion,) and I carried this through until I hit 30. I’m now 36, and my worry is: I don’t know how to show my “softer” side when I meet men! Straight away I get the “you don’t seem like you need a man.” But, with men who are willing to date me, very quickly (after a few weeks) it becomes clear that I’m not as confident as I appear (and I do tell them that in the beginning.) They say things like “wow – you’re a pussycat and really caring.” Which I am! Evan, can you help?

I don’t know how to switch off/tone down my confident side when I’m with a man that I’ve just met. I want to be a little more submissive so that he feels like he’s in control and I’m more of a woman, one that he feels he can protect and look after. I must have this guard up that I’m completely not aware of that says to men “back off! I don’t need you, I have my own money, business, home and I’m doing just fine, thank you!” I don’t WANT to send these signals. Yes, I’m doing OK, but I still want the Alpha male who will protect and look after me when required . How do I bring out the softer side at the attraction stage? Please, can you help? Thanks, Sian

Dear Sian,

I was on the phone with one of my Inner Circle clients last week (the Inner Circle is intimate small-group coaching that I do for women on a bi-weekly basis).

If you say whatever is on your mind, don’t wonder why men pull away.

Natalie is in her early 60’s, divorced for many years, and has a tough, no-nonsense exterior. The second I got on the phone with her, I knew that we’d either be a match made in heaven…or a match made in hell. See, after 7 years of being a dating coach, I can pretty much tell you if I can get along with — and help — any given woman. If I can’t, I don’t bother to work with her; it’s not worth her time and investment to hire me if she’s going to consistently argue with me and ignore all of my suggestions to her.

Anyway, I told this very thing to Nancy on the phone.

She immediately broke down crying. Hard exterior. Chewy nougat center.

Natalie told me that she’s made so many mistakes with men and that she just can’t HELP herself. She says whatever’s on her mind and then wonders why men pull away.

I covered this territory thoroughly in Why He Disappeared. Women want to be able to speak their minds without being censored; yet they go ballistic when men speak their own unadulterated thoughts:

“You should grow your hair out.” “You look heavier than your photo.” “I’m just getting out of rehab.” “You want to have casual sex?”

As a woman, you might not think you’re doing the same thing, but you are. And usually it’s because you feel you have the right to just be HONEST.

Don’t sabotage any chance of making a connection by offering criticisms and incompatibilities when you should just be FLIRTING.

Like my client, Bonnie, who wrote in a first email to a guy online last week: “I like you better without your beard than with it.” And, to another man, “I noticed you like going to church. I’m not very religious, so if you’re not comfortable with this, let me know.”

The way Bonnie sees it, she’s “saving time” by getting answers now. But she’s really not, because she’s sabotaging any chance of making a connection by offering criticisms and incompatibilities when she should just be FLIRTING and making him FEEL GOOD.

If I said to a first date, “I want Jewish children. How do you feel about this?” it would be a tense, awkward, non-starter of a conversation. Six months later, when my future wife and I were in love, it was an important and easy one, where we were both willing to make compromises for each other. It would have been ridiculous to think that she’d compromise for someone she’d never met before.

From what little I know about you, Sian, you have similar issues to Natalie and Bonnie. You’ve overdeveloped your tell-it-like-it-is side to compensate for having no voice as a child, and now you say you can’t help yourself when you tell-it-like-it-is.

It’s a valid observation and explanation as to why you are the way you are.

But it’s still no excuse.

Your blind spot is even visible in your writing: “I don’t know how to switch off/tone down my confident side when I’m with a man that I’ve just met. I want to be a little more submissive so that he feels like he’s in control and I’m more of a woman, one that he feels that he can protect and look after.”

I have never said to be anything less than confident.

I have never said to be submissive.

I have never said that you’re more of a woman if he can protect you.

You can be smart, strong, successful, confident and opinionated and do GREAT with men. You just can’t be their boss.

You can’t criticize them.

You can’t pressure them to commit to you.

You can’t tell them that their clothing sucks, their manners suck, and their friends suck.

If you don’t like something about him, you have two choices: break up with him because it’s a dealbreaker (addict, cheater, slacker, doesn’t want to have kids), or tolerate it because, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter (everything else.)

Finally, Sian, I don’t want you distorting words like “confident” and “honest” as some sort of attributes that are working against you. They’re assets.

Want to stop driving guys away? Then stop giving off the “I don’t need a guy” vibe.

The thing with confident people is that they don’t have to TELL others how great they are. They don’t need to tell others what to do or how to think. And they don’t need to pressure their partners into a relationship. Confident people can adopt a “live and let live” attitude because they know that their dates would be silly to pass them up. No need to micromanage or criticize anyone.

“You don’t like me? Fine. Good luck to you in your search.”

So this isn’t about confidence at all — this is about misplaced assertiveness as a defense mechanism built up from early childhood. I don’t blame you for this, but I can’t help you with it either.

Want to stop driving guys away with the “I don’t need a guy” attitude? Then stop giving off the “I don’t need a guy” vibe — a very defensive posture that repels confident men like mace.

Trust every new man who takes you out.

Make him feel like a million bucks for choosing you and planning the date.

And when he asks you out a second time, you’ll know that you’re doing it right.

Oh, and since you bought “Why He Disappeared”, you might want to open it up again — there’s a section on specific things that women can do to be great first dates.

Hope it makes a difference for you.

Join our conversation (39 Comments).
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  1. 21

    I think everyone is over-thinking this. And ironically, that could lead to a worse outcome, because you’ll spend your whole date worrying about whether you’re being too “confident”, and everything will come out wrong or forced.
    Confidence is good, in both men and women.   Rudeness is bad.   The important thing is to be able to tell the difference.
    I usually like BeenThruTheWars’ comments, but in this case, I think there’s too much of a false dichotomy set up between confidence and self-assurance. One isn’t masculine and the other feminine. They’re the same.

  2. 22

    I like Helen’s comment in #21 above…if you can break down your behavior on a date into confident or rude, it’s pretty easy to figure out how you’re going to do. For women, you don’t really have to be submissive on dates to create attraction, but flirting and acting “girlfriendy” go a long, long way. Guys are extremely easy to attract if you act just a little girlfriendy, that is do some physical flirting and make him feel good. I consider this good “chick game,” and the flip side is a guy with good game will make you feel good on a date. That’s when we have chemistry.

  3. 23

    I agree, confidence and self-assurance are the same. Neither one is inherently more masculine or feminine than the other. Feeling confident isn’t the same as having your guard up, as Sian talked about. Underneath that is actually a fear of being vulnerable, which is quite the opposite. And it takes some degree of confidence and/or self-assurance to feel relaxed enough to to be flirtatious on a date.

  4. 24

    Lance (#22),
    …acting “girlfriendy”?

    I wouldn’t act like a girlfriend already on the first dates. Any exmples to illustrate what you mean? 🙂

  5. 25

    Instead of getting confused by trying to figure out what people are talking about, you included, with arbitrary as well as incorrect definitions ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/ ) of   words like “submissive”, “confident”, “rude”……just ask yourself how you would feel if someone just said/did to you what you want to say/do to them.

  6. 26

    Shay #24, I actually just blogged about this, partially in response to EMK’s post.

  7. 27
    Anna Karimo

    All men want to date a woman they can show off to their friends.   If a guy thinks you’ll humiliate him in front of his pals, he’s not going to like you.   After all, no one likes to feel belittled and criticized, especially in public.

  8. 28

    That was very interesting, I don’t have that problem. Good luck to you.

  9. 29

    What a great answer Evan, awesome!

    It sounds and feels to me like these women are not being assertive, they are being AGGRESSIVE.   Much different, overbearing and not very feminine.

    I had a ‘friend’ once who used to say, “Not to be mean…”, then proceed to say the meanest thing about someone.   Oh boy…

    I can emphathize with this, I have a personality type where the downside is aggressiveness (plenty of upsides though :).   I’ve had to truthfully look at this and change my ways.

    One suggestion for for them to get more in touch with their feeling and to change their wording to more feeling messages, instead of ‘you’ messages.   Brings out one’s femininity naturally.

    Another thing that has worked for me and made me feel much better overall is to turn something that might be perceived into a negative comment to either say nothing, or make it positive.   Any statement can be turned around to be either negative or positive.

  10. 30
    Katarina Phang

    I consider myself a feminine woman and love/thrive being feminine.   Our soft femininity is our power with a man and it’s very intoxicating to him.   It makes him feel wanted/loved/needed, it makes him feel good all over being a man.
    My latest love interest just loves the way I am so womanly with him.   He adores me and treats me like a queen.   It feels so good when we can just fit in the male-female “stereotype.”   It feels natural and the polarity sucks us in like a whirlwind of passion and romance (I think even when it doesn’t last in most relationships, it’s a very important aspect in the beginning.)
    I advocate women to always appear soft: the dress, the underwear, the jewelry, make up, shoes.   When you feel so goddess-like in the outside, you feel it in the inside.   That’s how you practice oozing your feminine radiance and sexuality from every pore of your being (this is what my new beau says about me, actually)   and let the right man receive the frequency and act on it.

  11. 31

    Karl 4 – love the four definitions.   And usually, when a woman (or man) says she is direct, yes, it does mean he/she is perceived to be rude.
    I found that learning to practice non-violent communication (verbal) helped me enormously as does listening and giving feedback.
    Recently, I met a rather lovely man (he may have been married, but it wasn’t important – we were just chatting) and it was interesting to see how when a woman (i.e.) me, goes into listening + feedback mode, how the conversation got rather interesting.
    Unfortunately, the word “submissive” is rather often misunderstood.   Evan said it rather well in another post.   If you’re easy to get on with (both sexes), that is for me the modern translation of submissive.

  12. 32

    I love women who speak their mind and are a little aggressive and controlling although they have to be pretty and feminine fir me to like date and listen too. It is soo sexy when they push me around a little and play and flirt and show their dominance.   Yumm

  13. 33

    Anyway, I told this very thing to Nancy on the phone.

    I think you meant to say Natalie here…

  14. 34

    Whoa whoa Evan what you are describing here has nothing to do with an independent woman or being submissive or soft it’s just plain people that are rude and lack tact and I think that would be the case from either sex and you get it on both sides.   While your writer may say I don’t like your beard and a man is turned off a man writes her and says you need to lose weight both may be genuine thoughts both are just rude people.   If you don’t like his beard or her weight why bother with the email?    I tend to disagree with the whole act more feminine thing as an alpha female not because I don’t think you are right you are but because this would require a distinct change in my personality and for me to fake being someone I am not something I don’t think is fair to do to men.   But even alpha female me would not do any of the things you mention here?    Some of this is just mean.   That being said if a woman wants Jewish children or man and that is a must I think that must be brought up early on.   It should be put on your profile.    If I saw that and was not okay with it I would not even email him.   I don’t really see anything wrong with her emailing and asking if her not being a church goer is an issue?   Why?    Are you really saying it’s okay to wait 6 months to tell someone you are seeing   that you must raise your children Jewish?   What if that person said no? I would be furious if you kept that from me.   That stuff should be out early on.   I would never criticize clothes who cares about that and if you dislike someone that much just leave!   I think what men don’t like is being called on their [email protected] and having a woman that is not going to put up with it.    But I don’t sit around and complain I walk.   But no I’m not doing to sit around and put up with lying or cheating or disrespect and many women do.   When men call women a bitch that is often what they mean.

  15. 35

    It wasn’t until I adopted Evan’s philosophy of …

    “You don’t like me? Fine. Good luck to you in your search.”

    that I really felt a change in how I went about dating. I also adopted the “You’re a great guy, but I’m going to pass on the opportunity to get to know you better.” when the fit wasn’t right for me. We are all adults, looking for a great fit to spend the rest of our lives together or maybe just a short term relationship, either way we get to choose and we have the responsibility to know that it is okay when we are not chosen, it just wasn’t a good fit. And it is okay to let them know they aren’t your man. The challenge is the “where” to meet quality men, who require good communication skills, a woman who is confident with herself and wants to share her life with someone of the same caliber. My answer…everywhere! So be love radiate love by smiling, being kind and gracious. Know you are loved and be loving to yourself and others. Stay focused on your life and living it, keep your eyes and ears open and enjoy this life. It truly flies by! Thanks Evan, I believe I have found my man! A LOT of thank yous for all the advice and support you have provided for me on this crazy, fun journey of finding who I am, so that I can be the best woman for one incredible man! Finally!!!

    P.S. Once I accepted that Evan was on to something…six months, meeting over 40 men and about to sign off and there pops up one I had met 3 months prior but our timing to meet was off and we only talked then went our separate ways. Finally met and four months later we are thoroughly enjoying each other, exclusively. Don’t give up people, don’t ever give up. And keep reading Evan’s advice. It kicks you in the butt sometimes, but I think we all need that to wake up and realize we’ve never been taught this stuff!

  16. 36

    One way to think about is to ask yourself if a guy said this to me would I be put off or consider him to be rude…obnoxious….a jerk if yes then I shouldnt say it. Basically if you want love in your life you have to start by being nice and giving love away.

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