January 19, 2011

Getting your head out of the head-games

I have a friend who's gone out with a guy a few times and she's already started to get her head tied in knots about him. She's not really sure if she likes him, but she's starting to play that seemingly never-ending head-game of "does he like me?".

I can't recall any guys I know who've thought this way, but there are countless examples of women I know who get into this train of thought. This can be a painful trick we play on ourselves. We start to get so distracted by the attention of a guy - good or bad - that somehow we forget to focus on whether we like him. Instead, we get so distracted by wondering "does he like me" and allow it to weigh on our self-esteem, or worse, we allow it to define our level of attractiveness or date-ability.

For a few weeks, my friend in question has asked me for some advice on this situation. I've started to think that, for her, maybe it would be easier if dating were approached more like it was a business. One of the suggestions I've given her is exactly what I wish someone had told me when I started to trip-out: go out with more guys. She's in the "interviewing stage" with this one guy, so why not see her other options?
Dating more than one person helps you avoid sinking into the trap of those head games we play on ourselves. It helps you remember how much control you have in deciding whether you like someone. It helps remind you that "there are other fish in the sea."
First dates are just dates. They can be nerve-racking and scary, but they can also be fun. If you're looking for new ways to think about dating, try to think of them as opportunities to meet a new friend. Besides, most people you go out on a first date with, you will not marry. If you go in with the expectation and heavy weight of "is this the One?" with every person you go on a first date with, you are likely spoiling an opportunity to meet a good friend. Besides, as my mom always told me after a fouled first date, "he could have friends!"
Going out on a handful of first dates sounds like a daunting idea to anyone, especially if you're a person like me, who wasn't exactly savvy at landing a lot of dates. Dating can be so heavy sometimes. So maybe it's best in those situations that we stop thinking of dating as "dating" and instead think of it more like we approach the business world.

One of the most common questions people ask me about my dating project is, "How did you get that many guys to go out with you?"
Mostly... I did a lot of begging.
There are other ways to find a first dates: online dating sites, speed dating events, asking out a friend (sometimes a lunch "date" with someone else helps distract you from the mess in your head), or setting up a blog or facebook page publicizing your need for some suitors. For me, I found the best way to find single guys was to ask my friends for set-ups.
Being asked to set friends up can feel like a lot of pressure for some people. No one wants to set you up with a bozo; they strive to help you meet the love of your life. And somehow it seems as if right when you ask to be set up, all those people who once said, "I have the perfect guy for you" don't come to mind. It can be scary to ask for dating help. So maybe it's easiest to think of asking for help with dating just as you would asking for business help. Instead of thinking of first dates as "dating," maybe try to think of it simply as networking.

I recently read a couple great pieces by Jodi Glickman in the Harvard Business Review about networking and asking for favors. The articles suggest tips on asking for favors, and I think they apply not just to networking for new jobs, but also to dating. Here are those four tips, with a twist.

When it comes to asking for a set-up:

1. Set the stage, "I have a favor to ask you..."
This starter has so much power in it. It not only sets the stage, but it also gives the receiver a second to establish what's about to happen. One of my biggest pet peeves when someone asks me for a favor is that they don't tell me they're asking me for a favor. Instead it feels more like a trap as they begin, "Tamara, are you free on Thursday night?" or "Are you busy on Saturday morning?" I hear this all the time at church. It happens enough that I have begun answering people that yes, I am busy on Wednesday at noon. So busy!
Prefacing your inquiry with "I'm hoping you can help me" or something of that sort gets people to start getting into the mode of figuring out if they can really help you.

2. Give a reason
Harvard Business Review suggests giving reasons behind your requests. This makes sense with dating too, but I'm thinking it would be more appropriate if you clarified what kind of date you're looking for. "I'm trying to look for someone to go with me to a work party on Friday," or "I've been going out with this guy and I'm trying to figure out
Maybe set up some easy parameters: "I'm looking for anyone who seems emotionally stable and would like to have a good conversation over lunch," or whatever seems appropriate to your situation.

3. Provide and Escape Clause
Harvard suggests a simple, "If you can't think of anything, I totally understand." Sure. I can buy that.

What most impressed me by the HBR advice was the addendum article, entitled, The Biggest Mistake People Make After Receiving a Favor. Which brings me to...

4. Closing the Loop
This is just a little follow-through. It helps keep your relationship going with the receiver and it shows your appreciation, even if things didn't work out. Harvard suggests closing the loop after someone writes you a recommendation (did you get the job/get into college or not?) or connects you to a business partner (did you ever have a conversation with so-n-so?). This act of closing the loop with dating is essential. People get nervous when setting up their friends, so they need feedback. Even a quick, "Bob seems nice" (even if Bob is a jerk) will suffice. Closing the loop helps you remain as someone people like helping. Plus, it's just nice.

Over the last couple years I've been really happy to help people with setups, or give them advice on dating, or even help them set up their own "31 Dates"-inspired projects. When those friends come back to me months later and announce "I'm engaged!" or "I gained 10 pounds with all those meals but it sure was fun," my relationship with these friends continues to grow. And isn't that what all this is about anyway? Better relationships?

What are some ways you've gotten your head out of crazy head games?
How have you approached love as a "business of dating?"

1 comment:

Michal said...

I have been out of the dating world for a few years, but these all seem like great ideas. Dating is SO MUCH a head game for women and I love the idea that this is really more like networking and interviewing than finding your true love. Perhaps this is one reason why your project had such a successful end!:) Congrats to the other couples who have met via 31 dates in 31 days inspired projects!

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