Category: date etiquette

  • “You’re a great catch but we’re not a good match”: How to let people down easy

    You went out with a guy for a couple of dates. He’s a nice fellow, but you’re not feeling the spark. You want to inform him that he’s no longer a romantic prospect, but you’d like to do it gracefully. How do you let a guy down easy? Or anyone, for that matter?

    This topic came up a couple of times in the last week alone (one of them at my live talk), so apparently it’s on people’s minds. What I recommend is to use two principles: the praise sandwich and the idea of fit.

    The praise sandwich has three components:

    • Start with praise and appreciation, e.g. “Hey, I’m really glad we met, and I think you’re a really great guy.”
    • Express your intention clearly and positively. Emphasize what you want (“I’d like to keep you in my life and stay friends”) as opposed to what you don’t want (“You are so not a romantic prospect”).
    • End with praise and appreciation, e.g. “I just know you’re going to be a great catch for some lucky girl.”
    • Of course, you’ll want to tailor this to the situation at hand. The whole idea that he’s a great catch but not a good match (thanks to M. for this rhyming formulation) is what I mean by fit. It’s not that he’s a bad kisser, or has poor hygiene, or socially awkward, or just not your type: you guys just aren’t a good fit for one another. This makes it less personal, so even if the unsavory things about him are true, he can hold his head up high and legitimately count you as a friend.

    The praise sandwich works particularly well because people tend to remember the first and last things you tell them (the primacy and recency effects, respectively); the meat of the sandwich tends to get forgotten.

    In the end, it’s important to remember that regardless of how large a population center we inhabit, we’re still members of communities. So you want to treat people as if they’re a friend of a friend — someone you’re liable to bump into in the near future. As I explain in the audio from the Q&A session last week, nastiness tends to redound on itself. Gentle let-downs help expand your circle of allies and reduce the amount of incidental rancor in your community and the world at large.

    Also, it occurred to me that you would be even more interested in the Q&A part of last week’s live event than the lecture. Some of the questions we covered:

    • What do you do when most of the guys you meet are younger than you?
    • How about an emotionally unavailable guy? How do you make him open up?
    • Why is it that you always read about women having to change, but not men?
    • And what’s a good way to let a guy down easy?

    Click on the player icon below to listen, or click here if you prefer to download the file (29min, 20mb). To get the full Understanding Men 1 lecture preceding the Q&A for a name-it-yourself price, click here.

    Understanding Men 1 – Q&A Session

    To get the full Understanding Men 1 lecture preceding the Q&A for a name-it-yourself price, click here. I’ve got a bunch of other speaking engagements coming up, so be sure to put these on the calendar:

    Tue Dec 13, How to Meet Good Men Over the Holidays
    Tomorrow Tue 13 December at 6pm PT/9pm ET, even though I object to the word “webinar”, I’ll be holding the free webinar “How to Meet Good Men Over the Holidays”, just ’cause I like you guys so much. Also, over the 15 years I’ve been teaching this stuff, one thing I’ve learned: most women could be better at meeting men. A lot better. “Nice girls don’t do that”, “It’s the guy’s job”, “What do I even say?” — it’s time to jettison those excuses and expand your repertoire of skills beyond just standing there and looking pretty. We’ve already got 200 signups, so register here so you get the reminders, esp since I’ll be doing live Q&A at the end.

    The Extraordinary Love Series: Find Your Right Man and Make Love Last
    My colleague Orchid Tao has put on this series of video lectures with a whole bunch of speakers (50 of them!) that’s happening Dec 19-Jan 16. Some of the speakers are really, really good. And I’ll be talking for 45min on how to set yourself up for love that lasts. It starts next week; more info for you in the near future. In the meantime, you can sign up for the whole thing for no charge here.

    San Francisco Bay Area, Tue Dec 20: Understanding Men, Empowering Women 2
    The response to the first Understanding Men event was enthusiastic, with everyone and their grandma saying they wanted to show up but just couldn’t. Well, I’m doing it again, so call up grandma, like, right away, so she can book her flight from Florida. This time I’ll be talking about some deep insider secrets about men’s sexuality, as well as some subtle and unsubtle forms of female self-sabotage (e.g. fixation on tall men and insisting on wearing high heels at the same time).

    That’s all for now, since I have to hit the road in a minute to see the extraordinary Jack Kornfield speak at Spirit Rock. Next time, I’ll talk about how to rewire your brain for greater happiness.

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  • Nine ways smart women sabotage their own love lives

    Since I moved to San Francisco, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of great women who are still single. On the one hand, it’s good for business, so I can’t complain too much. On the other hand, it saddens me because many of these women are so fantastic – smart, funny, beautiful – and really don’t want to be single. Not forever, at least.

    It’s probably true the guys you date are partly to blame here. However, every relationship you’ve been in has one thing in common: YOU. So maybe it’s time to take an honest inventory and see if you’ve been engaging in any of the following self-sabotaging behaviors I’ve observed that inadvertently drive off the good guys who already like you (NB: most of these are applicable to men, too, so listen up, gentlemen):

    1. You don’t show up.

    Let’s face it: dates are weird. And it’s perfectly normal to feel some trepidation at the prospect of spending time with a stranger. Especially if that stranger is (more…)

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  • Mailbag: On handling players, touchy questions & how to ask a guy out

    Well well well. After that last ‘Mailbag, Uncensored’ piece that I sent out, I found myself inundated by your letters. Deluged. Flooded. Well, to the extent that bits and bytes can flood an office, that is. Still relatively dry around here.

    Now, of the dozens of letters I got, not one of them adhered to the length guidelines of 5-10 lines. Novellas and full-length sagas all around.

    People! The story doesn’t have to begin in the 5th grade, when little Johnny teased you about your frilly pink shoes and you’re still not over it. Summarize. When you put in the effort to summarize the situation, you actually figure out a lot about what’s going on, what matters and what doesn’t. Otherwise you’re just putting all the onus of figuring out the situation on me, which is not helpful. Same with the perennial “What should I do?” non-question.

    So the new guidelines: explain your situation and formulate your specific question in 250 words or less. Otherwise there’s no human way for me to get to all of them.  Awright, let’s start: (more…)

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  • The Praise Sandwich and how to deal with Octopus Man

    Hi Dr. A:

    I had a second date with a guy on Sunday that I think I could possibly like–I certainly admire his work and his work ethic. BUT on our second date, we had a make out session but then suddenly he turned into octopus man and actually found out what color bra I was wearing!  I wasn’t prepared for that and now am feeling slightly resentful and guilty and angry and wondering what I did. Yes, I kissed him passionately for minutes at a time. Was that it? Now that it’s done–I won’t see him for a couple of weeks (he’s away working.) That doesn’t bother me (yet.) My question is: How can I tell him I’d like to take things more slowly. I don’t want to cut him lose but he’s moving a little fast.

    What’s the nicest, most encouraging thing I can say to him to get my message across without hurting his feelings or chasing him away–which I don’t want to do. I suppose just being honest about my feelings (in a nice way at the right time) would probably be the way to handle this. Just wondering what you think?

    Thanks from a big fan, Jessica

    Good question, Jess!  Your inuition is correct: tell him that you’d like to take things more slowly — y’know, as opposed to just thinking about telling him.  Communicate!

    For difficult conversations, I like to use the Praise Sandwich: start with praise; say what’s on your mind (usually less pleasant than praise); end with praise.  People tend to remember the first and last items in a list best (primacy and recency are the technical terms), so he’ll leave feeling good about the whole thing.  In the meantime, you deliver your message successfully.

    Also, in the letter it sounds like you’re blaming yourself for his ‘octopus’ behavior.  From here, it sounds like he did it, and it’s probably because he thinks you’re hot, which is a good thing.  Some day you’ll be 90yrs old and wrinkly and wish guys would make passes at you.  Resentment, guilt and anger would be (more…)

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  • Seven things smart women should never do on a date

    I believe that smart, fabulous, successful, attractive women deserve fulfilling, deliriously happy love lives.  Sometimes, though, unintentional behaviors ruin our chances in courtship.

    In compiling this list, I’m speaking as an author who’s been on the receiving end of hundreds of guys’ letters on their dating woes — and a single guy who’s been on a bad date or two. So what I’m telling you here is straight from the horse’s mouth — if horses had graduate degrees and spoke in complete, remarkably coherent English sentences.

    Also note that the subject of this article was framed negatively to get your attention. Now that I have said attention, I will frame the items positively — things you should do. Tends to be even more useful.

    So, you’re ready? Here they come:

    1. Do everything in your power to keep the first date.

    So your guy met you at a party somewhere. He stuck his neck out and wrote the first email, made the first call, and set up the first date.

    Sure, you hit it off when you first met, and it was fun talking to him on the phone.  But right now, as the moment of truth draws near, you just feel like you need to cancel or postpone. Excuses to cancel seem to be cropping up by the minute.

    And you know what?  That’s normal.  The temptation to cancel the first date at the last minute is (more…)

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