how to get close to a shy guy
April 12, 2012 1:04 AM   Subscribe

Tips for getting to know an introverted, smart guy better?

I know there are lots of smart, introverted guys with backgrounds in science fields on this site. And I find myself getting to know, possibly in a dating scenario (but not yet sure) a guy who fits into this general category. So I am looking for suggestions on how to approach this/him.

I'm trying not to over-think this, and want to go with the flow as much as possible, but any general tips and suggestions would be great.


I'm an American female, early 30's, working in China. One of the part-time assistants in the office where I work is in his mid-20's and a graduate student (physics, if it matters). I usually make friends readily with those younger than myself and have become friendly with most of the assistants. The guy in question, we'll call him Q, is quite introverted, though friendly when talking to him one-on-one.

In the past he hadn't talked much to me, but one day a few months ago he asked me what I usually do on weekends. After that I started to invite him to some activities I would do with others. Then I found out he liked a Chinese girl his age, so I dialed down my expectations; however, she was not interested.

Later on I started noticing he would sort of follow me around a little bit during some activities, so I started to wonder if he had a crush. A little while later he asked me if I'd like to go to a play (which he had already seen but said he wanted to see again), but he framed it "you guys", implicitly inviting me and others I hung out with regularly. I later invited him to a group dinner after which the two of us talked a bit one-on-one.

He had mentioned before that it would be good to practice English reading with me, so over IM I asked him if he'd want to meet to help each other out with language (me Chinese, him English). He immediately agreed and suggested we meet that same day; we met and had a nice conversation for a couple of hours.

Two days later he was at the office again; he presented me with the book I had mentioned wanting to read,which he bought for me. But he was not talkative when I tried to engage in conversation (well, he was for a bit, but went back to doing something on his computer, maybe stuff for class. He is quite involved in his studies and lab work). I saw him again today and he was more talkative and discussed our plans to see a movie this weekend (with others).

Sorry for the long-windedness. I've never been interested in a guy this shy before, because I am quite shy myself. Plus, I am a few years older than him, and American. This gives me the sense that even if he were interested (I can't be positive of that either) he probably wouldn't make a direct move. (Chinese guys tend to be a little intimidated by Western women, for some background; also, I don't know what he feels about my age).

We will probably meet again one-on-one soon, for another "language exchange". I'm not looking to directly state to him that I like him, but...I would like to "move things along", maybe by getting physically closer.

Does anyone, particularly guys of this type of girls who have dated this type of guy, have a suggestion? Things we can do? Scenarios? Ways I can show interest without being too intimidating?

I want to keep this light but at the same time am interested in some fun suggestions.

As for what I am looking for: just to get to know this guy better, and to maybe to start with a causal romance that could maybe become serious.

Thanks a lot!

PS_ we will not be working together for much longer.
posted by bearette to Human Relations (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Are you going to be staying nearby even though you won't be working together soon? I think first and foremost if you want to continue pursuing any kind of relationship with this guy, either friendship or more, you need to establish a mutual connection outside of work. It seems like you're both well on your way with that because of the "language exchange" thing but I'd be inclined to find something more established and scheduled, like a club or a group you could both join (something involved with theater?), or maybe a sport you could play together every week. So many promising starts between shy people die before they really have a chance to take hold because of scheduling conflicts. You both don't want to seem too pushy and then there's no reason to see each other throughout the day and then it's over before you know it. So the next time you have a conversation, try to find something the two of you could regularly do after you're not working together.

I'm not an expert on Chinese men but I've been friends with and pursued more than my fair share of shy academic guys. From what you've presented - trying to be in your space, exchanging IMs, inviting you to low-pressure group events and reciprocating, enthusiastic about conversation, and most tellingly buying you a book as a gift - he seems super into you. I mean it almost sounds like a list he's written out for himself with steps to take. It's textbook. (And imo, really cute!) For a western guy the next step would be having some casual physical contact with you, like arm-touches, to see if you lean into them or not. I'm not sure about what the next step would be for Chinese guys.

Do you have any friends at work who you could ask about this, if it would be okay for you to start off with some casual touches? A grasp of the shoulder or a hug hello or sitting next to him on the couch with your legs touching? I'm not sure if that would be seen as aggressive coming from you or welcome because he's unsure how to proceed. But I think in situations where you're both being passive, somebody has to step up, and you seem to be very clear about what you want, so you need to express that to him in a way that won't freak him out. He seems to be following a careful pattern, so if you respond to it "correctly" he'll keep escalating, as long as you give him opportunities to do so.
posted by Mizu at 1:42 AM on April 12, 2012

Response by poster: I'll just add, before I butt out, that he doesn't message me much on IM, actually. I've messaged him one-liners a few times a but he's not that responsive, so I stop and we don't wind up IM-ing much. I try not to place much significance on that , though.
posted by bearette at 1:49 AM on April 12, 2012

Best answer: Having observed some Chinese mating habits, I would suggest that the next move is to confide your crush in a close mutual Chinese friend. You can make it known that you're interested in being in a serious relationship with a Chinese man who has x,y, and z characteristics. Arrange it so that x, y, and z unambiguously describe only your crush and no one else in your circle of friends, but do not name your crush directly. This is a face-saving move for all involved. Ask the mutual friend if they think you can find someone like that. Feel free to also describe your concerns about shyness on both sides, and your uncertainty about proceeding. A Chinese person would pick up on your meaning right away and should ask your crush what he thinks about you.

If this was a Western boy, I would go ahead with the physical touching, but I think you should avoid that in this instance because 1. It is way too forward for a Chinese boy and 2. May give the impression that you're loose or looking for only a sexual relationship,which most studious, shy Chinese boys will be turned off by. This second reason is also why I suggest that you talk about looking for a serious relationship.
posted by be11e at 6:43 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You may also be interested in this blog by an American woman China, married to a Chinese man - esp this post:
posted by be11e at 7:03 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Second-generation East Asian American female here, with several older siblings who were born in Asia.

First of all: guys, in general, can be romantically interested in more than one person at the same time. Doesn't even matter if they're married.

Two: seems like he likes you. My husband followed me around a lot before we started dating.

Three: don't be afraid to hang out together without other people. You don't even have to mention there won't be other people. Observe his reaction.

Life is not all risks. But for the love of life, take some.
posted by mild deer at 6:17 PM on April 12, 2012

I am American and my husband is American as well, so I can't comment on the cultural aspect. My husband is very, very nerdy and introverted, though. We met at a reading of his first novel, had what I perceived to be an instant connection and I pretty brashly asked him out for drinks afterward, which he did not pick up on at all (!). He did invite me to a weekly writing-related gathering and we also regularly interacted online for a few months. I despaired at ever becoming romantic, because he always seemed shy and nervous when we hung out, so I finally called him and asked him "Do you want to go out some time... date-like?"

He said yes. A year later we were married.

Sometimes you just need to spell it out for them.
posted by sweltering at 8:18 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Hassle-free backup for MySQL under Windows   |   Is it fat deposit? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.