Monday, February 28, 2011

Volunteering Information

What information you share — and when — depends on who you are and your level of comfort with openness and who your date is. If your date is open and friendly and accepting, you most likely feel comfortable sharing more. If you’re dating someone reserved, you’re likely a bit less forthcoming. This is called mirroring and survival and common sense. Some people are quite comfortable sharing some parts of their lives and less comfortable sharing other parts. What you’re trying to accomplish early on is compatibility — a good fit. So volunteer what you’re comfortable having most people know about you. The rest you can slowly divulge as the relationship progresses; in other words, you don’t have to produce an autobiography, complete with a slew of your opinions — or your most awful secret or family scandal — all in the first couple of dates. Most people who date have a mini-scenario worked out in their heads of what they want someone to know about them. You, too, can create a mini-script —what you’d tell someone on a long airplane trip, for example, or someone at a party is a place to start:
  • Include a little bit about your factual life: You know — things likewhere you’re from, where you went to school, how many brothers and sisters you have, what hobbies you like, what kind of work you do, and how you spend your free time. In other words, this script can more or less include the stuff you’d put in a personal ad if you had unlimited space and money. (In a way, the early days of dating are a personal ad — you share who you are and what you want — with the advantage being that your date gets to respond immediately, without writing to a post office box.) Age and weight are optional.
  • Share feelings: Worries, music groups that you like, whether you’re a baseball, opera, or chocolate fan, and how the weather is affecting you.
  • Keep the script positive and realistic: Your comments shouldn’t be too negative or make you sound like the best thing since sliced bread. Selfeffacement works only for Woody Allen, and a braggart isn’t much fun to be around.
When you share information, keep the following in mind:
  • As the two of you get to know each other, remember that you really don’t know each other. If the date doesn’t turn out well, this person is going to have all the information you’re now blabbing.
  • Make sure that you’re not using information as a way to bind someone to you too soon and too tightly. This tactic usually doesn’t work anyway, and you’ll hate yourself in the morning for telling someone you don’t plan to see again that your family’s completely dysfunctional and you’ve been in therapy since third grade.
  • Exchanging information is like dancing — you have to move together, or it doesn’t work very well at all. Some people are comfortable volunteering
some things; others are comfortable volunteering other information. Just because you describe the house you grew up in doesn’t mean that your date has to blueprint his family homestead. The key is to make sure that you’re not doing all the talking or all the listening. Once the two of you really get to know each other and have moved from first date to first month to first year, the ratio of what you don’t talk about to what you do does — and should — shift dramatically. After all, you don’t want to not tell anything that, after being found out, will shake the pillars of your relationship. But too much too soon is without a context for understanding.

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