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How To Play Hard To Get: 8 Tactics That Actually Work!

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‘Treat them mean, keep them keen.’

Dating advice like this has been around for years, but how are you meant to do it without just being… mean?

What is the right way to push them away, and when will they just give up and stop chasing?

Playing hard to get is full of nuance and subtlety and not always easy to pull off, which is why we’ve put together our top 8 tips to keep them chasing…

Speak to a certified relationship counselor about this issue. Why? Because they have the training and experience to help you play hard to get the right way. You may want to try speaking to someone via for practical advice that is tailored to your exact circumstances.

1. Keep it playful.

The whole point of playing hard to get is that you and your crush are both having fun playing a bit of a game.

And play is meant to be light-hearted!

Make it a bit flirty, send some cute messages or emojis and be silly with it.

You can send little teasing texts. Maybe send a photo of a cute outfit you’re going to wear for your next date and then leave them to look forward to seeing you in it.

However you choose to do it, make sure it’s enjoyable for both of you.

Sure, you can tease them or wind them up a little bit, but make sure you’re not hurting their feelings along the way!

They should be left wanting more of your time and attention, not needing it. 

2. Make yourself the priority.

This is something that will really help you while you’re dating, but can also help them.

If you’ve got plans with friends and don’t want to be on your phone, tell them.

Text your crush to say you’ve got something fun happening so won’t be on your phone for a couple of hours.

This shows them that you’ve got a social life beyond just texting them, which will make you even more attractive.

It serves as a reminder to you that you don’t need to be available all the time (something most of us are guilty of during the early days of a relationship!), and lets them know what to expect going forwards.

It’s a good way to keep them excited for when you do then text later on, and it sets the expectations for both of you that you’re not the kind of person to wait by your phone all day! 

3. Gauge their boundaries.

So, the key here is to find a balance between keeping them entertained and keeping them guessing.

It’s worth gauging how they feel and what their expectations are before you play this game!

You might find out that they will genuinely become upset or frustrated if you don’t text back for a couple of days.

If so, try to avoid this as you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

You’re doing this because you like them and want to get to know them more, after all.

It may be that a few hours is enough to keep them chasing you, in which case you can play around with that.

Playing hard to get doesn’t mean totally blocking this person from having any kind of access to you…

…it just means that you keep them wanting a bit more from you – but not at the expense of their confidence, self-worth, or interest in you! 

4. Keep it balanced.

It can be really easy to think that playing hard to get means that the other person has to put in all the effort.

Sure, it’s fun to be wanted and to be chased, but not if the other person ends up thinking that this is your personality type!

If it feels like a game and you keep making an effort with them, you’re doing it right.

If you always leave them on read, shut down conversations, or give them a bit too much sass, they might start to question the kind of person you really are.

You don’t want to give off the impression that you’ll never be interested in them – nobody wants to feel that way from the person they’re dating or in a relationship with.

Instead, make an effort, give them some attention and don’t expect them to throw themselves 100% into just getting a response from you.

It’s not fair on either of you and may lead to them resenting you for it and not wanting to date you anymore – definitely not the intended outcome! 

5. Physically play hard to get.

If you want to keep getting to know your crush and want to build some tension (the good kind!) between the two of you, try holding off on getting physical for a little while.

That’s not to say you should be cold and hostile toward them, but that you can just tease them a little bit rather than sleeping with them straight away.

Let that anticipation grow by giving them a cheeky kiss at the end of the night, or letting them know you’ve thought about sleeping with them.

This will give them just enough to feel like you’re interested in them, but will keep them wanting more.

They’ll keep chasing, keep getting to know you, and, by the time you do sleep together, you’ll have probably bonded over just getting to know each other more anyway.

Small things like touching their arm or their knee can keep the heat between the two of you without you actually sleeping together.

The anticipation will probably be fun for both of you, so play around with it and see what feels good.

Of course, they won’t be chasing you purely so that they can have sex with you, but it’s nice to keep them interested and to have a little fun with it along the way.

6. Give them space to miss you.

If you’ve been dating for a few weeks and want to play a bit hard to get, make sure you take some time for yourself every so often.

It can be really easy to get caught up in the early stages of dating and end up spending all your time together!

But, to keep them on their toes and chasing you, add a little bit of distance into the mix every so often.

Maybe make plans for the weekend that don’t involve them.

It’s not that you don’t want to see them, it’s just giving them some time to realize they’d rather be with you!

This time apart will make them miss you and want to be around you even more.

By playing hard to get like this, they’ll be chasing you and be really excited to get to see you again.

Time apart will make you both appreciate the time you do spend together and will make it feel more special and sacred.

Plus, it gives you both a little breather to do your own thing and focus on your separate lives – which is so important in every relationship and will help you build a strong foundation together, rather than risk building a codependent one. 

7. Keep busy.

People love what they can’t have, so don’t be afraid to turn down plans or make some with other people.

It’s so tempting to clear our calendars when we’re dating someone new, and to get wrapped up in spending all our time with them.

If you want to keep them keen and play hard to get, make sure you stay busy.

The harder you are to get hold of or pin down (within reason!), the more they’ll want to see you.

They’ll also feel pretty special if they’re someone that you make the effort to see despite being super busy – when you make allowances and find some free time to see them, they’ll feel important to you.

This will give them a little confidence boost and will make them even more keen to keep seeing you

Either way, by being a bit more unavailable, you suddenly become a lot more attractive to them.

Get ready to be chased…

8. Know when to stop.

Playing hard to get is all well and good when it’s working – but what if it has the opposite effect?

Some people may get confused by your hot-and-cold personality, or they may feel like you’re playing too many games.

If your crush thinks that you’re not willing to commit because you’re messing them around a bit, they may back off and think that you’re not ready for a relationship.

You don’t want them to think that they’ll never be able to get hold of you over the phone.

Most people are looking for a partner they can rely on, not someone who takes 3 days to respond to a simple ‘Hello’ text.

If you’re interested, make that very clear before you play any games!

While you may be aware of the context of your actions, they might just think that you have changed your mind, or don’t want a relationship that involves physical contact, for example.

Playing hard to get should be something fun and exciting, not a way for you to test how someone feels about you…


So, as it turns out, playing hard to get is a pretty tough game to crack!

Remember to be your genuine self as much as possible – you want them to like you for who you are, after all, not a pretend version of yourself you’re trying to project.

While it’s good and healthy to have plans that involve them, and it’s okay to distance yourself a bit to get them to chase you, make sure your crush knows that you are actually interested in them.

Some people will just give up rather than try harder, so gauge how your crush is feeling, learn when you’ve overstepped their boundaries, and try to keep things fun and light-hearted.

Still not sure what the right way to play hard to get is? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out.

What does it mean to play hard to get?

When someone plays hard to get, they basically pretend they are not interested in having a romantic or sexual relationship with another person in order to either gauge the other person’s feelings or to make the other person more attracted to them.

It’s almost like a cat-and-mouse game where one minute they are showing their interest in the other person and the next minute they’re acting unavailable, some might even say cold.

A research study by Jonason and Li (2013), “Playing Hard-to-Get: Manipulating One’s Perceived Availability as a Mate,” showed that there are at least 58 behaviors that people exhibit when they’re playing hard to get. Some of these behaviors include:

  • Acting confidently, limiting self-disclosure, and not expressing many emotions.
  • Talking to people other than the object of affection, flirting with them, or even dating other people.
  • Giving accidental physical contact, but offering limited physical affection and withholding sex.
  • Acting sarcastic but friendly; teasing, playing games and taunting.
  • Making others work to get them and chase them.
  • Acting busy, staying busy, and prioritizing other things.
  • Flirting but then stopping; giving attention but then disappearing.
  • Acting not attracted, disinterested, and non-responsive.
  • Taking a long time to respond to calls and texts, or not responding at all.

According to the study, people who perceived the person they have their eye on as a “good catch” were more likely to employ these tactics in order to increase demand for themselves and to test the level of interest of the “good catch.”

Does playing hard to get work?

The reason dating tactics like ‘playing hard to get’ have been around for so long is because they do work. In fact, they work far more often than they fail.

On the other hand, if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of someone acting hot and cold with you, you know firsthand how frustrating this can be if used incorrectly.

But think of it like this: the person playing hard to get is doing so because:

  1. They are already attracted to you. No one plays hard to get with someone they have no interest in.
  2. They consider you to be a “good catch.”
  3. They want to know if you’re really interested in them or if you’re just after a fling.
  4. They want you to like them more than you already do.

Let’s be fair: being too available is a major turnoff for many people. Who wants to be with someone whose life starts only when you call or see them?

Not to mention, if you expose your feelings to someone who doesn’t feel the same about you, you run the risk of scaring them off.

Our dating rituals foster situations where not only are these games necessary but if you refuse to play, you are viewed as being “easy” or “undesirable.” Who wants to be with someone that no one wants or someone who does not have a life outside of the relationship? If they’re too available, they start to lose their value.

Do guys like it when girls play hard to get?

If you ask the average guy if he likes it when a girl plays hard to get, his immediate response will be a resounding “no.” And in a perfect world, it makes sense. If two people have feelings for one another, why can’t they just be upfront about their feelings and intentions?

The issue usually comes when girls overuse this tactic. Instead of teasing the other person, they behave like they don’t know what they want. Rather than using the tactic to show they’re confident and have an active social life, they use it to play with the other person’s feelings because they feel it will give them the upper hand in the relationship.

Our dating rituals are full of games. Use these games wisely and with caution because no one enjoys feeling played. Playing hard to get for too long or being too extreme with it will just push the other person away and even cause them to dislike you for toying with their feelings. 

Does playing hard to get help when you’ve been clingy and needy toward someone?

Playing hard to get when you’ve been clingy and needy toward someone might be your only option if you’ve noticed that they’re withdrawing from you.

But don’t use this as a tactic to get them interested in you again just so you can revert to being clingy and needy again. That will backfire.

If the other person has grown used to your attention, they might reach out to you to find out how you’re doing or to see what is up. Depending on how clingy and needy you were behaving before, playing it cool might allow you to spark their interest up again.

But getting them interested again will not be automatic. After all, you were very clear about your feelings for them. It’s going to take a bit of convincing for them to believe you’re no longer interested.

They may even guess that you’re just playing hard to get. But you will need to stay the course. Don’t give in. When they realize you’re not budging and fear they might lose you, or feel safe to express their emotions (in case they have an avoidant attachment style), they will come back.

If they come back, don’t revert to your old ways of being clingy and needy. You will just scare them off again. Continue cultivating your own hobbies, living your life, and giving them space. They will let you know if the space you’re giving them is too much.

How can you tell if it’s having the opposite effect?

If you’ve been playing hard to get, but you are not sure if it’s working or having the opposite or negative effect, chances are it’s not working.

Playing hard to get is a dating ritual that both parties should enjoy. Used wisely, it can help you figure out a love interest’s intentions toward you. However, it should not be used to the point where the other person feels like you’re just toying with their emotions or don’t like them at all.

When it has gone on for too long and the other person loses interest, it’s pretty obvious. You may notice the following:

  • They no longer reach out to you (either through text or phone call)
  • They no longer attempt to see you
  • They don’t flirt with you anymore
  • They ignore you
  • They refer to you as a friend
  • They seem to have moved on

When playing hard to get goes on for too long, the other person will eventually conclude that you don’t know what you want, are playing games, or are not interested. Clearly, that is not the result that you want. 

Only use this tactic until you get the answers that you need. Once you have them, allow yourself to be vulnerable and start disclosing your feelings to the other person. 

Should you play hard to get to get into a relationship?

Playing hard to get may not necessarily help you get into a relationship. But it can help you figure out if the other person is interested in one. What you do with that information is entirely up to you.

If the other person is not interested in a relationship and you are, do you value yourself enough to walk away to find what you’re looking for with someone else? Or will you give up your desire for a relationship just to be with him/her?

If you decide to walk away to find someone willing to give you what you want, the commitment-phobe may eventually come running back. But that’s not always the case. They might come back for a little while and then leave again. Or they could even come back and end up resenting you for “forcing” a relationship on them. Anything is possible and you must be willing to take the gamble. 

On the other hand, if you give up your desire for a relationship and settle for what it is they want (be that friends with benefits or not to label things at all), you might end up resenting them or feeling used. Why put yourself through that when you could be looking for someone willing to give you what you want?

Playing hard to get helps you to be sure of the other person’s intentions. 

Is playing hard to get manipulative?

Playing hard to get can be manipulative when you’re using it to gain the upper hand in a relationship or when you’re toying with another person’s feelings.

When you play hard to get to gauge the other person’s feelings for you or to find out if they’re looking for a serious relationship or a fling, it can be about being selective and discriminating in your choice of a partner.

You don’t want to date just anybody, and nobody wants to date someone who will date just anybody. Playing hard to get can help you weed out all unsuitable partners, so you don’t waste your time.

But when you’ve found someone who you have feelings for, and you’re using this tactic to change the power dynamic in your relationship, then you’ve entered the territory of manipulation and toxicity. Research has shown that people with narcissistic or manipulative personalities are more likely to use tactics like playing hard to get, especially when they’re using it to cover up the fact that they’re dating other people.

If you’re in a new relationship and feeling vulnerable, talk to your partner. Don’t use playing hard to get to manipulate your relationship into a dynamic that you are more comfortable with. It might work for a little while, but eventually they’ll grow tired of your games and move on to someone who won’t play with their emotions.

We really do recommend that you seek the advice one of the experts at Relationship Hero before you engage in playing hard to get, so that you can do it right and get the outcome you are hoping for.

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About The Author

Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.