“Why did she turn me down?”

This is one of the biggest dating quandaries for men, especially those who’ve heard women claim more than once that guys never ask them out.

Are you just missing the verbal or non-verbal clues she’s sending you about her interest level? Or is she a tease who led you on, possibly to satisfy some self-serving need for attention?

To learn more, I went to the source — single women — to find out firsthand why some suitors don’t even rate a first date. For every man who’s ever heard “thanks, but no thanks,” this is your chance to solve the mystery about why she said no. The truth is that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so learn from these five women how you make yours a positive one.

He came on way too strong for my taste
“When a guy tries too hard for a date, it’s a total turn-off. I don’t care how excited you are to go out with me or just to have a date, I don’t want to be overwhelmed. I love enthusiasm and to hear all of that mushy stuff, but it matters most if it’s spaced out and you hear it after seeing a guy for a while.”
— Mary Ann, 34, Atlanta, GA
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Lesson learned: The thrill of the chase matters to women, too. Start out with a little mystery and restraint that gradually and consistently builds up to telling her you’re crazy about her, or you could scare her off prematurely.

I liked him… but not in a romantic way
“He was cute and fun, but I just wanted to be friends. Maybe I do give off some physical signs. I leaned into him and touched his arm. That’s true. But I thought that guys can tell the difference between comfortable, friendly affection and sexy flirtation.”
— Jill, 28, Washington, D.C.

Lesson learned: She may not want to tell you there’s no spark, and you don’t want to date a woman who’s not turned on by you, right? Then cut your losses. “It’s probably more fulfilling to seek a different flint than to try and ignite a match-resistant flame,” says Kimberly Dawn Neumann, author of The Real Reasons Men Commit.

Men might describe this flirting confusion as “When Harry Met Sally syndrome,” because the answer to the age-old “Can men and women be friends?” conundrum sometimes depends on the two individuals in question. Conventional wisdom holds that women can be friends with men without feeling any tension, but men typically find their female friends physically attractive. When a man gets attention from a woman, he often assumes that she’s interested in him romantically. If he shows a lady some attention, it means he’s into her, or else he wouldn’t waste his time.

He was arrogant
“When he asked me out, he obnoxiously thumbed through his BlackBerry, adding my number to his contacts and checking to see when his schedule was free. This narcissist used that time to fill me in on his exciting life, never once asking me about mine. He never even asked about my schedule and what worked best for me.”
— Lisa, 24, Arlington, VA

Lesson learned: You aren’t some kind gift to womankind, you know — no matter how attractive or important you think you are. Women like confident men, sure, but check your huge, self-absorbed ego at the door before you ask one out. Or even better, just lose it altogether. “Given equal attraction, someone who’s too cool or self-absorbed will lose out to charming and interested every time,” says Neumann.

He lacked confidence
“I wanted to like him, but he was incredibly awkward. I felt like it’d be two hours of me shifting in my seat, checking my watch, and trying to resist the urge to mother the poor guy. Call me crazy, but when I go out with a guy for the first time, I don’t want to be the babysitter, mom or coach.”
— Rachel, 34, New York, NY

Lesson learned: You can be nice and strong while still being confident and independent. These qualities aren’t mutually exclusive. “The two words of advice you’ll hear the most: ‘Be confident,’” says Neil Strauss, author of The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-up Artists. “The same applies to social interactions: fake it until you make it. Act as if you were secure, attractive, charismatic, fun to be around, and deserving of people’s attention and time.”

His unambitious nature was a turn-off
“I think the guy I turned down thought I said no because he’s currently unemployed. He even implied that I was snobby for not giving him a chance. But his unemployment had nothing to do with it. After a few minutes of talking with him at a dinner party, I could tell he was just a little too content doing nothing. He didn’t seem to have any passions driving his life. Now, I don’t need a Wall Street tycoon to date, but come on! At least show me that you’re trying in life.”
— Mary Ann, 38, Baltimore, MD

Lesson learned: If a woman wonders what you bring to the party — literally and figuratively — then clean up your act so you show her you’re a worthy partner who has goals and aspirations. And if your carefree attitude is part of your overall package, why not look for more easygoing types that suit your personality better?

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit his website, follow him on Twitter, or email him.