By Shana Lebowitz

Once, on a fifth or sixth date, a guy asked me what I was looking for.

We were seated at a bar, and I nearly choked on my drink.

“Um. Looking for?” I knew what he meant, but it was easier to keep my guard up and pretend I didn’t. That was true even though I liked this guy a lot, and suspected he liked me too.

Eventually, I gave some BS answer about wanting someone who made me more curious about the world. The truth was, I was looking for a boyfriend, and I was hoping it would be him.

This is the conversation I thought back to while on the phone with Claudia Duran. Duran is a Miami-based matchmaker with dating service Elite Connections, where she works with the city’s more affluent singles. (A six-month membership with Elite Connections costs $15,000.)

Duran told me that, in her experience, there’s one trait that makes people successful both in dating and in relationships: the willingness to go out of their comfort zone.

That doesn’t mean bungee jumping with your partner — that means working up the nerve to say, “I like you” (or in my case, answering honestly when someone asks why you’re hanging out with them).

“Even if you’re smart and successful and beautiful, we all want to be liked,” Duran told me. “It’s just human nature.”

Yet Duran said a common mistake she sees among her clients is that people complain, “He [or she] hasn’t called” or, “Why hasn’t he [or she] made a date?” instead of dispensing with the games and telling the person, “I like you. I really like you. I think you’re super cool.”

Duran added, “People like that, and they respond well to that.”

I couldn’t help but interject — if Duran’s clients are anything like me and my friends, they hesitate to say these things because there’s a chance they’ll be majorly rejected. It’s self-preservation.

Duran understood, but she suggested we have to get comfortable with the potential of getting burned, or else we risk never finding a fulfilling relationship at all. In fact, she pointed to dating apps as a “nice excuse to hide behind because it’s safe and we don’t have to feel rejected and we don’t have to be accountable.”

Research suggests that simply knowing someone likes you can increase their appeal

It’s worth caveating that Duran’s clients may be less likely to balk when they hear someone likes them, given that they’re clearly invested in finding a relationship. But some research backs up her observation about the appeal of knowing you’re wanted.

Psychologists have long known that, in platonic contexts, people are more inclined tolike someone if they’ve been told that person will like them.

As for romantic contexts, Business Insider’s Lindsay Dodgson reported on a 1973 paperfrom the University of Wisconsin that explores the nuances of “playing hard to get.” As the authors write, “a woman can intensify her desirability if she acquires a reputation for being hard-to-get and then, by her behavior, makes it clear to a selected romantic partner that she is attracted to him.”

Later research, highlighted on Refinery29, suggests this phenomenon applies to women and men. A 1979 paper published in the Journal of Research in Personality found that people who are discriminating but indicate that they like you are seen as more appealing.

Interestingly, Duran said stepping outside your comfort zone and displaying vulnerability is beneficial once you’re in a relationship as well — a finding echoed byother relationship experts.

People in relationships “really just want to throw hints and say, ‘Why are you going out again tonight?’ Duran said. “It’s very difficult. People are very prideful.”

What to say instead? Duran had a suggestion: “I’d really love it if you’d stay with me. I just really want to be with you.”

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