Our guest blog today comes from writer and Notes from the Dating Trenches founder Kelly Seal, who shares a very important realization she had through her dating experiences. It’s so interesting how a shift in perception can affect your life in a great way.
When I hosted speed dating events I saw a lot of first encounters up close. Most of them weren’t pretty. I learned that when two people meet with the potential for romance, a lot of normal behavior and reasoning goes straight out the window. We want to impress, and we want others to impress us. But it’s difficult to connect with anyone when dating feels like a competition. In fact, you become even more self-conscious or critical than you might normally be.
For example, one night a man (I’ll call him Peter) showed up to one of my events clutching a stack of papers. They turned out to be resumes, which he intended to hand out to each of his dates. His resume listed his professional accomplishments, his interests, the sports teams he follows, and even the results of his last medical check-up. When I asked why he’d brought them, he answered, “I want my dates to know all the facts before they decide whether or not to date me. I do it for my career, so why not my personal life?”
This struck me. First dates are like interviewing for a good job: we sell ourselves to get what we want.
I’d met a lot of men at speed dating events who rattled off their accomplishments hoping to impress (i.e. get the job). The women tended to act like job interviewers. If they weren’t immediately attracted to a man, they dismissed him without even trying to engage.
“Why are all the women here so negative?” the men would complain. The women would say, “why are all the men here so lame?”
Well, no wonder both men and women were often left feeling confused and dejected — nobody really tried to connect personally with each other. They just wanted to compete, to show off, or to find that “perfect” person they pictured in their minds. Peter came with a stack of resumes because he was ready to compete with the other men to capture an attractive woman’s attention.
But this behavior isn’t limited to speed dating. I noticed it as my friends and I were online dating as well. On most of our first dates we’d either try too hard to sell ourselves or we’d judge our dates too quickly. This habit didn’t get any of us very far. But the guys weren’t the problem. We were approaching the process of dating all wrong. We had to try a new tactic.
When you’re in a rush to decide whether or not a date is “The One,” it prevents you from truly connecting with any of them. I wonder how many great guys I passed up because I misinterpreted something they’d say, or thought they were too nervous, or found a reason it wouldn’t work. Instead of looking for what is wrong, you need to stay present and simply enjoy yourself. The same practice applies for those who are trying too hard to impress. How can you connect with your date when you’re trying to convince him (or her) to like you?
So I tried something different. I started to engage without quickly judging his relationship potential. If I liked him, I didn’t try so hard to be perfect. Suddenly dating became interesting, and eventually even fun.
Do you want to try a different tactic? Consider this: Everyone has a story to tell. Even if a man doesn’t click with you right away, you’ll have a better dating experience by enjoying the moment. Get to know the person in front of you instead of trying to sell yourself or deciding immediately whether or not he meets your expectations. You’re not trying to land a job, you’re looking for connection. Slow down, engage, have fun, and see what happens.
Kelly Seal is a writer and former speed-dating host. Her contributions about dating and relationships have appeared in The Huffington Post, Slate, Examiner, MSN, Yahoo! Living, YourTango, The Frisky, and Divine Caroline among others. You can visit her blog “Notes from the Dating Trenches” at http://www.kellyseal.com, or her Twitter feed @KellySeal.