Hello there. Dr Alex here, your friendly neighborhood provider of insight into the single male’s mind.
I attended a pretty interesting relationship workshop this weekend where people shared their experiences very frankly. About 1/3 of the people were couples, and the rest were singles.
Several of the single women stood up and asked questions, and, the seminar leader being a direct kind of guy, he asked questions back. Now these were really lovely women — attractive, stylish, well-educated. Probably a lot like you. Which raises the question:
Why were they still single — even when they were clearly looking for a relationship?
Sometimes it was glaringly obvious why a given woman was single (e.g. way too picky). Other times, not so clear. But one thing was for sure: each woman was doing something that was keeping her single.
The paradoxical-sounding Taoist practice of ‘getting out of your own way‘ is the solution to this issue. Once you remove the self-imposed barriers, the path to your own fulfillment becomes a lot clearer.
So some thoughts of getting out of your own way in your dating life would make for a pretty useful list. Because the whole idea behind The Tao of Dating for Women is that smart, fabulous, successful, attractive women like yourself should have fulfilling dating lives, too.
Now in compiling this list, I’m speaking as a single guy who’s been on a date or two, and know when something a woman does increases her attractiveness for me or decreases it.
As an author, I’ve also been on the receiving end of thousands of letters from single guys talking about their dating woes. So what I’m telling you here is straight from the horse’s mouth.
In other words, whether you like it or dislike it, this is how the world looks.
Another note: the subject of this article was framed negatively, mostly to get your attention. Now that I have your attention, I will frame the list items positively — things you should do, as opposed to things you shouldn’t. I’ve found that tends to be much more useful for folks. You can figure out what ‘the thing you should never do’ is from the context.
So, you’re ready, here they come:
1. Do everything in your power to keep the first date.
So your guy somehow found you — at a party, an art gallery, online, through a friend. He stuck his neck out by writing the first email, making the first call, and setting up the first date.
The day of the date arrives, and for some strange reason, you just don’t want to go. Yeah, you hit it off when you first met. And the email and phone communication was fun and flowing.
But right now, as the moment of truth draws near, you just feel like you need to cancel or postpone. Maybe you feel queasy. Or your girlfriend called and she needs a tete-a-tete about her recent breakup. Excuses to cancel abound but…
DON’T CANCEL. KEEP THE DATE. SHOW UP.
If you like the guy at all — even a little bit — do everything in your power to keep the date.
Because if you cancel, it puts him in a very difficult situation. You’ve basically insulted him and showed through your actions (which speak much more loudly than words) that he’s second best, and something else is more important.
Now, legitimate excuses do come up. Illness, family emergency, blocked airway, lack of breathing, profuse bleeding.
But short of those, your man will take it personally. Now that you’ve been rude to him by wasting his time and effort, if he has any shred of self-respect, he’s going to have a hard time calling you to set up the follow-up date.
A funny thing about human behavior is our strong need to avoid cognitive dissonance. We need to align actions with thoughts, and thoughts with actions.
So when you do something mean to someone — like cancel the date at the last minute — you will tend to dislike him as a consequence. Why? Because your unconscious mind goes, “Well, if I canceled on him, it must be because I don’t like him!” Even though 24 hours ago you DID like him enough to agree to spend time with him.
As a result, the whole edifice of romance comes down crashing in a heap of disappointment. He’s probably not going to re-invite you. And you’re certainly not going to ask him out. End of story, and a lost opportunity for both.
Now here’s the thing: the temptation to cancel the first date at the last minute is going to come up nearly every time you have one. Why?
Because first dates are stressful! You’re basically on an evening-length job interview that’s probably going to cost you money. And you all know how much fun job interviews are.
But if you want the job, you will show up to the job interview, as stressful and un-fun as it may be. You will dress up, you will do your homework, and you will do your absolute best. IF you want the job.
And if you like this guy at all and want that second date, the third date, and the glorious, passionate, mutually-fulfilling relationship with moonlit walks, opera, extended Sunday morning cuddling and brunch, and maybe a magnificent white wedding on the beach —
You’ve GOT to have that first date. There’s no way around it.
Now the unconscious mind is a funny thing. Often when you’re even slightly reluctant to do something, it will conspire to provide you with excuses.
Ever get a queasy stomach right before a first date? Or maybe even mild flu symptoms, even when you were perfectly healthy the day before?
Nod if you know what I’m talking about. And the more you’re into the guy, the more likely it is that you’ll get those funny symptoms.
Why? If you’re into him, the stakes are higher, and you’re more likely to be stressed. Stress equals cortisol in your blood, which lowers your immune defenses.
So unless you’re seriously contagious or have a fever, if you’re into the guy, show up anyway. Soldier on, sister. Even if it means that you’ll have to cut the date short to leave in a half hour, showing up is a much better idea than bailing.
On the flip side, you have no idea how grateful guys are this day and age for a woman who keeps her word and shows up on time. His respect for you goes up tenfold, because he recognizes that you respect him. And that’s a much better setup for a potential relationship.
2. Give him your full attention.
So let’s say you like a guy enough to accept his invitation and show up (and if you don’t — what are you doing going out with him in the first place, eh?).
The best thing you can do now is to give him your full, undivided attention. More than tight dresses, more than flipping your hair, and yes, even more than cleavage, giving a man your attention is the most attractive thing you can do in his presence.
Avoid the temptation to fiddle with your nails, flip through a magazine, or flirt with a waiter. This is pretty basic, but you shouldn’t be flirting with guys other than the one you’re with. Dance with the one who brung ya.
Every once in a while when you’re out on a date, you’re going to bump into friends. It’s polite to say hi to them, but keep the interaction brief. Avoid the temptation to spend more time and attention on them than on your date. He’ll be VERY grateful for it.
3. Turn your phone off.
This is an extension of #2 above that requires special mention. You’re probably very attached to your phone and carry it with you all the time. Especially if it’s a Blackberry, you probably check it dozens of times a day. And if it rings, you jump to attention, stop whatever you’re doing, and answer it immediately.
Well, the whole point of the phone is human contact. Calls, messages and emails are all just proxies for face-to-face human contact.
But guess what? You’re on a date! Which means you’ve got real human contact right in front of you — the intended result of all those calls and messages.
When you pick up the phone and speak to a third party right in front of a guy you’re out with, you’re saying loud and clear: “This call is more important than your company.”
No self-respecting man wants to feel second-best, so if you’re into him and answered the phone, you just ruined your chances big-time.
Once my friend Max was on a first date that was going really well. It was a warm late summer night, and he and his date were arm-in-arm with each other, sitting on a bench in a beautiful Boston park. They faced each other, and as their eyes locked, both knew that their first kiss was about to happen.
Then their faces drew close, and… her phone rang. My buddy recounts, “In my head, I said ‘Please please don’t pick it up — everything’s so beautiful right now, and you’d ruin it.'” Sure enough, she reached into her bag, picked up the phone, looked at the caller ID, said “It’s my mom!” and proceeded to chit-chat. Max got up and left and never spoke to her again.
Moral of the story: talking to your mom right as the guy’s about to kiss you does not turn him on.
Now some of you have kids. And that’s totally understandable: guys get that your children come first. Which is why you should set things up in a way that someone is taking care of them while you’re gone, and they will only call you in the case of an emergency.
And if you don’t have kids, just turn the phone off. Even with the ringer off, the buzzing is a powerful conditioned reflex that will have you reaching for the phone unconsciously. Then you look at the caller ID, and you think, oh yeah, I really should… Even if you don’t pick the phone up at all, it’s just opened up a loop inside your head (“I wonder who that could be”) and taken you away from the present moment.
So just turn the phone off to remove temptation altogether. Besides, the date is for you, too. You’ll enjoy it more with your attention focused on your fabulous company.
4. Elevate your date.
Okay, so paying attention to him is all well and good, Doc, but what should we SAY to him? Excellent question.
Here’s one: give him a compliment. One well-placed compliment is likely to have him floating for weeks. And wanting to come back for more.
You KNOW how powerful compliments are. You can probably remember a compliment that someone gave you as a girl, years ago. Remember how good it made you feel? Well, you can do the same for this man.
You also know how powerful a cut-down can be, and how long *those* last. A little bit of playful teasing is okay, but avoid the temptation of making any kind of put-down, cutting remark or sarcasm altogether. Even after you’re married, it’s still a bad idea, let alone on a first date. Sarcasm/criticism and contempt are two of the four ‘horsemen’ that University of Washington professor of psychology John Gottman describes as poisoning a relationship.
Compliments are the opposite of all those. Even though compliments are free, they demonstrate your generosity every time you give them. So give liberally.
There is a difference between a genuine compliment and lip-service, and most men know it (but still enjoy both). To make your compliment even more effective, address it to one of the qualities that he has obviously worked on.
For example, complimenting him on his height is nice, but noticing his graceful bearing as a result of two decades of martial arts training is better. Saying “gosh you’re so smart” is good, but noticing his expertise on British Romantic poets is even better.
When you address the compliment to a noble aspect of a man, it makes him grow even more in that area. So with your compliment, you’re actually helping this man’s evolution. A good man knows how rare that is, will appreciate that deeply, and will come back for more.
5. Ask for information judiciously.
Good fences make good neighbors, and in relationships, there are information fences around certain parts of our lives. So if a man seems reluctant to proffer certain bits of personal information, respect that.
Now some questions you’re absolutely entitled to having an answer to, especially on a first date. ‘Are you married?’, ‘Do you have any kids?’, ‘Are you gainfully employed?’, ‘Have you ever been to prison?’, ‘Do you do any drugs?’ deserve a straight answer, and if you don’t get one, there need not be a follow-up date.
But if he says he’d rather not talk about his parents, his work, his atheism or his missing pinkie finger, respect that. If you like each other enough, you’ll meet again. And with greater rapport and familiarity, the important information will come out eventually.
On a personal note, I’d rather talk about anything besides other people, especially when they’re not present. So when a woman presses me for juicy gossip, it’s a big turnoff. Our company is sufficient — no need to bring other people into our space.
6. Give out information judiciously.
When I was still in England, I struck up an email correspondence with a friend of a friend who was very smart and attractive. In the third email, without any prior warning, she sent me a 5-page novella describing in intimate detail her dating woes and wants. All before ever meeting face-to-face.
Needless to say, whatever romantic interest I had in her was extinguished, never to be resurrected. Had she revealed that stuff in an appropriate manner, over time and face-to-face, that would have been a different story.
My friend Josh describes how after dinner, his date invited him to her place for a glass of wine. As they were sipping the wine and enjoying each other’s company, somehow his date started talking about this ‘cleanse’ she had, with graphic details of gastrointestinal function — for about 25 minutes. Soon thereafter Josh excused himself, and even though he found her very attractive, he just couldn’t get over the poop lecture enough to call her again.
As a general guideline, privileged information about breakups, bodily functions, drug use, finances, politics and religious preferences are best left for later (or never) rather than sooner.
Sharing privileged information is the essence of intimacy, so by all means do share *some* juicy stuff — tactfully. At the same time, leave a little mystery, too. Do not be an open book. Missing information is what draws people in. Keep him curious and wanting to know more.
7. Keep your wits about you.
There’s nothing more normal than having a social drink or two. In fact, many a first date is arranged around a civilized libation.
The operating term here is civilized. Getting a little buzzed is a good thing. Turning into a slobbering, slurring boneless mass incapable of walking is something else altogether. It says so many wrong things about a person that nothing is less attractive.
Moreover, it puts you in a position of compromised judgment and coordination, which opens up a whole Pandora’s box of problems — and real danger.
But even if you trust the guy you’re with completely, do yourself a favor and stay mostly sober. Drunk people say and do things they don’t really mean, which puts a decent guy in a position he’d rather not be in.
That’s all for this article. Thanks for your attention, and remember — this is all supposed to be enjoyable, so go out there and have fun!
The power is within you,
PS: Can you think of two friends who would also
find this article useful? Then send it to them!
They’ll thank you for it.
PPS: I’m interested in your questions and
comments regarding dating, persuasion and
networking, so please do send them to me. I can be
reached at dralex(at)thetaoofdating.com
Sometimes I feel as though I do a great job on the first date. I am excited to meet the guy, and am curious about HIM. I look my best, have a lot of positive feelings about myself and a lot of confidence, and, at the same time, do my utmost to make him feel validated. I don’t bring up taboo subjects, nor do I flood him with words. From my point of view, we had a great time. I don’t feel as though I have any barriers up and am non judgmental. I am looking for someone to have a fun time with and then see where it develops. I am playful, and not in his face. I don’t understand why so many times I don’t get asked out on a second date. Do you have any thoughts? ( BTW, I am 65 years old with lots of energy , very fit, and was married for 38 years. I have been divorced and studying relationships for 5-6 years.)
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