Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Speed bumps

Everything you and your date say and do from the moment you meet is recorded and processed and filed in both of your brains. Unless you turn each other off from the get-go, a sense of dissatisfaction, disappointment, and unease usually builds until you realize, “Uh-oh, this date isn’t working out. I’m definitely not having fun, and I don’t want to be here.”
The tricky thing is making sure it’s not just nerves or fear or shyness or arrogance that’s convinced you guys you’re having a rotten time. So first — a quick reality check. Ask yourself these questions:

Am I relaxed, or am I tense and fearful?
Being vulnerable and letting another human being get close can be very scary stuff. Just like any other animal, scared humans sometimes lash out to keep other “threatening” animals at bay, or they retreat to the safety of their cave or shell. Perhaps this is what both of you are doing right now. If you’re so tense that your true personality is hidden beneath a mass of knotted muscles, your date may dislike the tension, not you. You’re not allowing the real you to emerge. If you feel completely stressed-out, take a few deep breaths or excuse yourself to the restroom and do three minutes of square breathing

Is my date relaxed?
The same standard that applies to you (see the preceding item) applies to your date. Your date may be so wracked with nerves that every response is stilted, every laugh forced, every reaction pretentious. Stress doesn’t make anyone likable. Do what you can to make your date feel comfortable:
Be friendly, initiate conversation, pull back a little. Try not to judge the success or failure of your date until things get a bit more relaxed.

Is it something my date said?
Sometimes, one careless remark can send a whole date careening downhill. A friend of mine, who’d just changed the color of her hair, had a date attempt to make a joke. “Did they have a sale on red?” he asked her. Understandably, she was insulted, but she didn’t say anything. Later her date told me he found her “cold and distant.” She thought he had the class of a slug. Both were probably just really nervous. Human beings are complex creatures. One dumb remark does not a personality make. Make sure there’s sufficient evidence to write the whole thing off. It’s perfectly okay to say, “Wow, that comment seemed kind of hostile.” Make sure you’re not letting other, relatively minor things like imperfect table manners, height, weight, sense of humor, style, driving habits, or dancing ability (or lack thereof) trigger a turnoff. You’re both in a heightened emotional state, and your behavior may be exaggerated. Let things settle down before evaluating the whole date.

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