Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What to Say (Conversational Skills, Part 3)

Last week, I covered some of the conversational pitfalls to avoid. But what makes a *good* conversationalist? Being a good conversationalist is about doing most of the conversational work. This does not mean doing most of the talking. In fact, it can mean doing less of the talking than the other person.

One aspect of conversational work involves coming up with questions that make people feel interesting. Yes, I said interesting, not interested. People will love to talk to you if the questions you ask make them feel they are interesting. Such questions help people put forward their best, funniest selves. And people, self-centered bastards that we are, tend to like people because of how we feel about ourselves when we are around them. If I like who I am when I’m with you, I’m going to want to spend more time with you.

We’ve already established what these questions are not. They are not vague questions like “What have you been up to lately?” It takes no thought, no real interest in the other person to ask “What’s new?” You could ask that generalized question of anyone. And it makes your conversational partner do the work of coming up with a topic of conversation. An interesting question has more specificity. This may mean knowing and remembering things about people in order to ask questions tailored to them. It may mean thinking of a topic you’re interested in and asking the other person their opinion (rather than spouting your own viewpoint right off). An interesting question elicits conversational meat. You’ve got yourself some conversational meat when you are able to elicit someone’s opinion or strong feelings of excitement or passion. (Eliciting strong feelings of annoyance, anger or fear should be avoided.)

If you don’t know the person at all your first question may have to be a boring one, like “Where did you grow up?” The key is the follow-up question. Instead of saying “I hear it’s hot there” or “I’ve never been there,” ask:

“How is the culture different here than where you’re from?” Or if the person is from the place you currently are, ask “How is it different today than when you were little?” These questions will get you into the realm of opinion and people’s likes and dislikes. People love sharing their opinions about the crappy drivers in the city they’re living in now.

Another question that will lead you into the realm of opinion is “Did you hear about (a political issue, movie news, video on YouTube, etc.)? What did you think of it?”

Another potentially dull initial question you may find yourself asking someone you don’t know is the typical “What do you do?” On the one hand, this question shows your interest in the person, her background and an activity to which she devotes a large portion of her time. On the other hand, understand that most people’s jobs, let’s face it, are boring--either to the person who has to do it for a living or to you or to both of you. Even if the job seems interesting, really, the day to day of it is boring--even being a film actor is mostly boring. But your follow-up question does not have to be. You do not need to ask for details about what she does--unless you really care (or she seems really excited about her job). Instead ask “Is that what you went to school for?” Most people chose their college major because they were fascinated by the topic, so regardless of whether it matches their current job or not, you now know a topic that they’re passionate about. If you are interested in the day to day of what she does, it’s best to ask her a technical question that she can give advice on. Most people don’t want to list what they do all day or explain exactly what their job is--it feels too much like having to justify getting a paycheck. If you ask her advice, it makes the other person feel important and lets her display her knowledge and therefore feel good about herself.

Up on Friday: more on the art of conversation.

Friday, December 25, 2009

What Not to Say (Conversational Skills, Part Two)

Just a few more tips on what not to say in conversation, then next week I'll move to what *to* do.

Talking about People the Other Person Doesn’t Know. Telling an anecdote from someone else’s life, someone no one in the current conversation knows, is not usually a good idea unless the story has a strong emotional pull, e.g., they got all their skin burned off in an arson they started. Most people do not care about people they don’t know. Call us hard-hearted, but that’s how humans are. Tell your own stories about your own life.

Asking Vague, Generalized Questions. Do you like being asked “What’s new?” I don’t. I hate it. I do prepare myself for being asked this because it will always be asked of me by three or more people at even a small party. But it’s a hard question for most people to answer. It puts them on the spot to come up with something that will be interesting to you. Asking a generalized question makes people feel boring. You never want someone’s reaction to one of your questions to be “Damn--have I even done anything new or out of the ordinary in the last week? I really haven’t, have I? Geez, I’m boring.”

Think of the questions you don’t like being asked. These are the same ones other people would be thrilled not to have to answer. So don’t ask them.
Trumping the Other Person’s Story/Cleverness. If you are starting to tell a story because it’s better, funnier, more awful than the one the other person just told, stop yourself. It will come off as one-upmanship. No one wants to be with someone who makes her feel her story was boring, not good enough, etc. You want to make others feel good about themselves when they’re around you. A conversation is not about you building your own self-esteem. It’s about building the other person’s self-esteem by enjoying her stories, being interested in her life and finding her jokes funny.

It’s perfectly fine to contribute your own anecdote about your hellish Christmas with the family after someone else has just finished telling hers, but don’t do it to trump her or because you feel jealous that she’s the center of attention when your story is so much better. Tell your story because you can relate to the other person’s tale, and because you think others will actually enjoy your story (not only that you will enjoy telling it).

Am I saying that you are going to crush someone’s self-esteem if you tell a better story than she does? No--unless the person is really insecure. But you do not want someone to walk away from a conversation feeling that she came out as second best. Conversation is not a competition. *Neither* of you should walk away thinking your story was second best.

Making Obscure References that Only Amuse You. Tell those in your head. Not out loud. No one likes to have a joke or reference explained to her. Don’t do it. Ever.

Putting Yourself in a Bad Light. It’s one thing to laugh at yourself, which invites others to laugh *with* you, and another to put yourself down, which invites others to say “Oh, you’re not that bad,” or “Poor baby.” Or “What a loser.” It’s the difference between “I emailed this girl on Nerve and she never even emailed back and she was the only one on the site that was interesting to me” [Loser], and “So I check my Nerve account and I’ve got these messages from some woman who lives in Albuquerque and another woman who wants to date only green-eyed Libras, and I’m like, I can’t date either one of these women. They’re both illiterate. I live in New York, I’m a Taurus and I have brown eyes” [Funny].

P.S. It does not matter if the joke on yourself is a vast exaggeration as long as it’s funny. If you’re tempted to tell a story that makes you look bad, pathetic or lacking control over your own destiny, make sure it will make people laugh. The only exception to the it-must-be-funny rule is if you’re talking to someone whom you want to say “Poor baby, poor baby” or to your therapist.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What Not to Say (Conversational Skills, Part One)

What follows are some basic tips on what *not* to do if you want to be an interesting conversationalist. You may say to yourself about each of these suggestions “that’s obvious,” but I challenge you to listen to yourself the next time you’re at a party and count how many times you start to do anything on this list.

Spouting Facts and Correcting People. Now, spouting facts can be interesting, but this is an advanced skill. It’s very difficult to do without coming off as a know-it-all. Believe me, everyone knows you’re the smartest person in the room. No need to prove it. Over and over again.

It’s all right to say occasionally “Oh, I thought that blah, blah, blah was true.” Notice the ‘I thought that’ phrasing. Use this expression even when you don’t *think* it--you *know* it--you’ll come off as less of a jerk. And take note of whether the other person is actively engaged with you about whether it was the first season or second season of when Galactica met the Battlestar Pegasus. If she isn’t doing any of the talking, she does not care. Move on. Whether it happened in the first or second season is not in any way the point of the conversation. If it is, you’re being a bore.

And, for God’s sake, never bring up the argument the next time you see the person, saying “Oh, by the way, I looked it up online and I was right.”

It comes down to this (you’ll hear me say this again and again): Would you rather be right all the time and spend your life alone, or be with someone? Lighten up.

Being Weird. Take note: being random is not interesting in and of itself. Let me repeat so you fully understand: being random is not interesting in and of itself.

When I was four years old, at any opportunity, I would stand up on something I had determined was a stage (the top of a staircase, a porch, a couch) and I would begin talking apropos of nothing. I called it “committing excesses.” Where I got that from I don’t know. At any rate, I thought I was fascinating and deserved to be the center of the universe as I spouted non sequitors and random facts and thoughts. And, okay, yeah, at four years old it was probably pretty adorable. Okay, yeah, *I* was pretty adorable.

I do not engage in this behavior now. Because, as I found out when I started school the next year, I am not, unfortunately, the center of the universe.

Do not add non sequitors to the conversation to “liven things up.” In fact, this usually kills a conversation because there is no real response to a non sequitor, except “Does not compute. Does not compute.” If you want to liven up a conversation, change the topic. This, of course, takes a lot more skill than blurting out some nonsensical comment, which is why you don’t do it (skillfully change the topic, that is). We’ll discuss how to change topics in a later post.

Do not talk about inappropriate topics, like masturbation (unless it is organic--I said, *organic*--to the conversation).

Do not tell racist jokes, or make sexist comments (not even just to “get a rise” out of someone).

Telling Details No One Cares About. Are you talking about something everyone does or experiences? These topics include: dealing with traffic, not being able to find a parking spot, doing laundry. Really any domestic chores.

No one cares.

You may say one sentence on the topic (“I was late because traffic was so bad”) and no more.

Unless you are skilled at being humorous while talking about missing the bus (or looking for orange jell-o), do not attempt to discuss these things. Humor is achieved by exaggerating (it was the worst experience ever) or making fun of yourself. Clue as to whether you are being funny or not: If you’re talking in a group, it is only humorous if at least two people are laughing. One doesn’t count--there will always be someone who just can’t help herself from being polite even though it drags out an anecdote that’s driving her crazy.

Up on Friday: More Things Not to Say in Conversation

Friday, December 18, 2009

First Date Etiquette, Part Two

If she does come over to your place, make sure you have enough toilet paper. Hang a hand towel in the bathroom and the kitchen. Clean cat hair off the couch. She doesn’t want to go home with cat hair stuck to her butt. And clean the cat box. If you have a dog, make sure the yard is clear of poo and the dog has been washed. Even if you can’t smell it, she can. Unless she owns a dog herself, she will be less than impressed if your dog (1) slobbers on her clothes, (2) sniffs her crotch, (3) jumps up on her or (4) barks for more than two seconds.

If you asked her, you pay for both of you. If she asked you, pay your half. You can offer to pay for her but don’t feel you have to if she’s the one who did the asking out. I know, it’s a bit of a double standard. But your female equivalent in the work world gets paid 70 cents for every dollar you make doing identical work, so quit bitching. And don’t use coupons/gift certificates on a date. Do you really need to save that five dollars?

Do not answer your cell phone during a social situation. Don’t recognize the number? Don’t answer. It’s your mom? Let her leave a voicemail.

Swallow your food before talking. Tucking it in your cheek like a squirrel is not the same as swallowing.

Again, I know I’m repeating myself, but geeks can be very (overly) opinionated: Be careful about criticizing the food, movies, books that other people like. Okay, some food (raw oysters), movies (“Schindler’s List”) and books (“The Da Vinci Code”) are just so awful that I would not tell you to hold back. But most of the time taste is a matter of opinion. Don’t be a fascist. People are allowed to like Frankie and Annette beach movies.

Up on Tuesday: Basic tips on what *not* to do if you want to be an interesting conversationalist.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What to Wear and First Date Etiquette, Part One

What to Wear on a First Date. If a woman your age has complimented it (assuming the compliment was within the last year), wear that. Otherwise, ask a woman in your life what you should wear--the girlfriend of a friend, or your gamer girl online friends. But, for God’s sake, don’t ask more than once. Don’t do a poll of everyone you know. You don’t need to obsess about this. Once you’ve picked a first date outfit, make it easy on yourself and stick with that outfit for all your first dates (weather permitting).

First Date Etiquette. If you do end up driving to pick her up, now is not the time for talking to yourself (or other drivers), or driving like a maniac. Stop for crosswalks, don’t run yellow lights, and don’t tailgate. Women are not impressed with dangerous driving. A sixteen year old might be but you’re not dating a sixteen year old. Right? Unlock her door first--I do not care if you have electric locks and it’s raining and it’s just as fast for you to go to your door and unlock both doors at the same time. Gas up before you get her. I hope that goes without saying.

If she’s picking you up, don’t criticize her driving unless you’re in real danger or she’s about to hit something. In those cases you have an obligation to say something.

We’re talking about chivalry here, otherwise called Basic Consideration. Geeks can be very self-absorbed people. Doted on by parents who constantly referred to you as their little genius, or just being amazingly self-conscious because of your lack of social skill, has made you used to not thinking about other people. So some reminders:

Watch your voice. Geeks are notorious loud talkers and because they hang around other geeks whose unfortunate social code is never criticize the personal habits of others (lest their own personal habits be judged), no one has ever told them they talk too loud. Also, what is it with kids these days? Am I just old or do twentysomethings mumble? E-nun-ci-ate. If *anyone* has *ever* told you that you talk too loud or that you mumble, you do it all the time.
Hold open doors for her. This is not old-fashioned. It’s polite. This is not sexist. She’ll open them for you, too.

Pay attention when she is hesitant about a movie or restaurant choice. Don’t steamroll over her. She’s being polite by not saying no outright, but, if she’s hesitating, she does not want to see that movie or go to that restaurant.

Don’t shoot down her ideas out of hand. This bluntness may be acceptable online but it isn’t in real life. If you really can’t go somewhere that she suggests due to an allergy or complete dislike, do not go on and on about why. No one cares about how you finally got diagnosed with a seafood allergy after having gone to five different doctors. One sentence, one phrase will do. “Nah, I’m not so fond of sushi” is all you need to say. No one cares about your allergic reactions or your reason for hating things. Negativity has no place on a first date. Also, people do not like having what they like criticized. So don’t call things she likes “stupid,” or “puerile.” Don’t say “I don’t know why anyone would like such and such”, or “Why on earth would you [fill in the blank].” Your world is very, very small already. You do not need to be cutting yourself off from stuff by being so close-minded.

Quit interrupting. It’s not all about you. If you forget what you were going to say by the time she finishes what she is saying, that’s okay. Your thoughts aren’t that profound. Don’t be thinking of your next question while she’s talking. This disengages you from active listening.

Don’t order for her. It’s supposed to be romantic or something, but it ain’t. Unless she asks you to, don’t do it.

Up on Friday: Date Etiquette, Part Two

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Dating Game: The First Date

How to Pop the Question. No, not that one! We haven’t gotten there yet! I’m talking about asking her out for the first time.

When to Ask. If you meet at a party/bar/church (i.e., in person), unless you’re getting a really good vibe, ask for her number but don’t ask her out. If she gives you her number, even a work number, that’s a good sign. If she won’t give you her number, well, aren’t you relieved that you didn’t ask her out and get rejected in front of all those people at the party?

Let’s assume you did get her number. Call her! Not that night, though! But don’t wait too long. A week is too long. She could be dating someone else by then. She could forget who you are. Calling two days later is good. Shows that you’re not desperate and that you aren’t trying too hard not to look desperate (calling her the same night does look desperate and/or weird). But don’t be anal about how long you “should” wait to call her; the next day is fine, three days later is fine.

What to Say. If you’re asking her out on the phone and you’re nervous about it, write out a script in natural conversational language. You don’t want to *sound* like you’re reading from a script! Destroy all evidence of the script afterwards and no one need ever know… Here’s an example:

“Hi. Is [Kate] there?”

This is she.

“This is [John Smith]. We met on Saturday at [Marty’s party].”

Oh, hi!

“How are you?”

Great! How are you?

Ask a follow-up question to something she said directly to you at the party--e.g., how was [blockbuster movie that she said she was going to see]? Caution: if she did not mention this activity directly to you, do *not* mention it. It’s a little creepy that you were listening *that* closely.

Chit-chat about the movie.

“I had a really good time meeting you and was wondering if you wanted to go out for [coffee, a beer or something equally casual and plan-less].” Suggesting something like paddle boating at the lake is too thought-out and fake-y date sounding. Equally bad is suggesting a movie, the theatre, a symphony, etc. How weird is it to sit in the dark next to a stranger you’re with but can’t talk to? Doing something casual in the afternoon still leaves you the option of extending the date into dinner if things go well.

I’d like that.

“I was thinking we could meet up at [coffee shop, bar]. Do you know where that is?” [Always default to meeting the woman at the location of the get-together (not at her house or yours) for at least the first date, even if not the second and third. It’s a safety thing for women. And it allows both of you the freedom to leave at any time and have the date be done if it hasn’t gone well.]

That sounds good.

“Does next Saturday work for you?” [Hopefully she’ll suggest a time.]

Yeah. Around 2 would work best for me.

“That’s good for me too. Well, I’ll let you go, but I’ll see you on Saturday!”

You could start a real conversation with her and not hang up so soon, and do stay open to that if she initiates, but I would advise against it. I've written a bit about this before, and here’s why I'd generally not get into a long phone conversation. One, she may be busy, so you don’t want to monopolize her time. You can ask “Is this a good time to talk?’ (which is often a good idea even for a short phone call), but isn’t that what the date is for, so you can talk more at length? Thing is, most people are awkward on the phone, even normal people, much less you. Starting a conversation out of the blue is difficult enough in person when you have visual cues to scan for to tell you how bored/interested she is in a particular topic. And when you meet in person you have something in common to talk about (the weather, the location, how good the coffee is, how busy the place is, etc.). Not that you want to dwell on those superficial conversation topics for more than a minute or two, but they provide a jumping-off point. So, in the beginning, stick to using the phone as a tool to set up a time to talk to her unless you feel comfortable with phone conversation.

If you met online, it’s pretty easy to ask her out. Just send a normal email like you’ve been sending her and append to it one line: “Do you want to meet up for coffee this Saturday?” If she doesn’t respond to your query, she’s not into you. There is no reason a woman would not respond in some way to your question. She wouldn’t “forget” that you asked. And if she’s just not ready yet to meet, she’ll say so.

Up on Tuesday: What to wear on a first date and first date etiquette.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Speed Dating and Other Places to Meet Women

Speed Dating. Come prepared with interesting questions to ask--not “What do you do for a living”-type questions. Yawn. And not off-the-wall questions that make you sound creepy (“Which serial killer do you find most fascinating?”) or weird (“If you could be any kind of tree, what would you be?”).

Some good questions:

“What job have you either quit or been fired from?”

“Who’s one of your favorite authors/bands/movies?” This one sounds a little generic but can foster some interesting conversation and points of commonality. Be sure to ask it as “one of your favorites.” It always stymies people to make them select their absolute favorite.

“What did you hate (or love) most about high school?”

“Whom did you have a big crush on when you were a kid that you wonder now ‘what was I thinking’?”

If the person looks put on the spot, say “Let me go first” and then give an example while she gets her bearings and can think up a response.

And again, when it comes time at the end of the evening to indicate your preferences, say yes to everyone. Unless she was seriously scary. I don’t care if she bored you or wasn’t pretty enough.

Other Places to Meet Women:

Your neighborhood. Get out and walk!

On Your Way to Work. Take the bus or subway. You’ll see the same people over and over again and, unlike in a coffee shop, you have a reason to sit next to someone, and you can strike up a conversation on the bus without it seeming like you’re on the prowl. Ask about the book she’s reading.

Reunions. No, not family reunions! High school or college reunions. These can be your own reunion, or you can tag along with a friend who is dateless for his.

The Least You Can Do:

Post an online profile.

Practice talking to female acquaintances (at work, on the bus, in your neighborhood) *without* the intention of asking them out. Don’t get all nervous: this is just practice for your small talk skills.

Up on Friday: I’ll be starting a series on The Dating Game (when/how to ask her out, what to wear, etiquette,

Friday, December 4, 2009

When You Meet

There are arguments to be made both ways on when to meet up for the first time with someone you’ve met online. Getting together right away will dispel all the fantasies that you can build up when you haven’t met, and if you meet earlier on, you’ll know if there’s chemistry or not, which you can’t tell from an online relationship. On the other hand, building a relationship via email may be more comfortable and easier, especially for the socially awkward, and you may even be able to get to know someone better online than you would in person.

On the whole, though, doing it sooner rather than later is better. One, you need the practice (have I said that enough yet?). And putting it off too long makes it that much harder to do because you have more invested in it working out. So after a couple of emails back and forth, and maybe a week or two has passed since your first email, suggest getting together. Probably not a great idea to suggest getting together in the first email. That works fine for some women but for others, they’d rather they had a better sense of whether you’re a psycho or not. For a woman, there are safety concerns, so don’t suggest picking her up at her house or dropping her off after your date. She doesn’t want you to know where she lives!


May I engage in a brief tirade? What is it with men who think they can walk up to a woman in a deserted parking garage and ask her the time and get miffed when she doesn’t answer? Does it really not occur to men that she isn’t a snob, that she’s protecting her safety? Men need to be aware that when women go out in the world, as sad as it is, they think about their safety in a way men are free not to. Most women will not walk down an alley in the middle of the night. Most women will not be willing to engage in chitchat with some guy in an isolated area, like a bus stop late at night. Most women do not want a stranger they met online to know where they live or what their last name is--at least not at first. Be aware of these security issues and don’t cross the line. Let her lead the way. Let her be the first one to suggest going to your house or her house, etc.

On Tuesday I’ll wrap Where to Meet Her with speed dating and a few other suggested places. I’ll write more about the “Dating Game” and first dates starting next Friday (what to wear, what to talk about, etc.).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

When You Finally Talk on the Phone

Talking on the Phone with Someone You’ve Met Online. I know very few men who like to talk on the phone, and, apparently, women do like to, though I’m not one of them. If you don’t like talking on the phone, don’t feel compelled to do so at length because it will not be to your advantage if you‘re terrible at it.

I’ve noticed that men who don’t like to talk on the phone, but feel they have to, end up expecting the woman to carry the conversation. This is not her job. Especially if you called her. So have a reason when you call. Know what you’re going to talk about. If this is the first call and you’re calling to set up a meeting, script out the conversation if you’re nervous about it.

And do what you can to put yourself at ease and relax before you get on the phone (see earlier posts about relaxation).

And remember that just because you have a reason to call and you’ve fulfilled that reason doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up. If you do want to wrap it up after setting up the date, be sure to leave the conversation by saying something upbeat like “I’m really looking forward to meeting you.” No need to make this first phone conversation much longer than that. If you want to talk more, or sense that she does, asking broad open-ended questions is fine (how was your day? How’s work going?). Such questions leave it very open for her to respond anyway she wants--details or no, and what tangent in particular to focus on--her hated boss, a cool co-worker, a fun project at work, how she’s looking for another job, etc . If you ask a very specific question, it locks her into responding in a particular way and she may not care at that moment to talk at length about why she recently put her cat to sleep, so you’ll get a short answer, and then silence as she waits for you to ask another question (that hopefully won’t be a yes/no question that again will result in a short answer, then silence…). Your best bet, anyway, is to wait to do in depth conversation in person. It’s hard to gauge a person’s reactions on the phone since you’re missing all the body language. But if you do end up chatting for a bit, keep the following in mind:

Avoid saying/doing anything that makes you seem like a psycho/weirdo: sarcastic joking (really hard to judge how any type of humor is being taken on the phone but especially sarcasm); being “cute” or indirect; being too brusque; long silences.

Keep it light. Save the deeper conversations for in person.

Up on Friday: When You Meet

Friday, November 27, 2009

When You Email Her for the First Time

Emailing someone on an online dating site can be intimidating. Here are a few tips to ease your way:

Do not refer to her as “angel,” “cutie” or “cutie pie” before you are officially dating (and even then the “cutie pie” should be a teasing sort of reference). Do I actually have to explain why? Apparently I do because I have received several such emails. Would you really walk up to a woman in a bar and say “Hey, cutie pie” without expecting to get a drink thrown in your face? I think not. I *know* you think I’m attractive. You wouldn’t have contacted me if you didn’t. No need to point this out. And it is presumptuous to call someone you don’t know by a pet name. This should be obvious, and I’m hoping that is to you. Also *some* women find it demeaning ever to be referred to in any way that sounds infantilizing (cutie) or dehumanizing (angel).

And once you know her name, don’t call her by a nickname unless that’s the way she signs her emails. Not sure why people feel the need to call me Liz when I never refer to myself that way.

Use paragraphing. It’s hard to read without it and looks lazy not to.

Don’t use obscure references or obscure online abbreviations unless you know she’ll get them.

Don’t say “You seem interesting. Check out my profile and let me know.” There’s nothing wrong with not saying a lot about yourself in this initial email--after all, she *can* read your profile, but you need to give her some indication why you thought *she* sounded interesting and what you think that the two of you have in common. This shows you actually read her profile and didn’t just think she was cute and email her like you did a couple dozen other women that day. Ask a question or two about a hobby she mentioned in her profile or a band she likes, etc. It makes it harder not to respond to an email when you’re being asked questions, and it makes the job of writing an email back easier when she has something to respond to. No need to make the email long. Even a few sentences are fine if you hit the marks I’ve mentioned.

I would err on the side of caution and not mention meeting up (even for the casual coffee) in the first email. I’m sure it’s fine for many women, but for some, it’s a little much. If she’s the kind that wants to meet right away, she’ll ask you in her email response to you.

Pace the frequency and length of your emails to hers. Don’t write a second email until you’ve heard back from her. You do not need to send her an email reminding her that you wrote her and haven’t heard back. If she’s interested, she’ll respond without being prompted.

Keep in mind that, though you might not be getting many emails or winks, she is undoubtedly getting a ton of them, especially if you live in an area where the single men outnumber the single women. So give her some slack if she takes longer in getting back to you than you think she “should” (a week is not unreasonable). And remember that this means your email (and your profile) have heavy competition and you need to do what you can to stand out (in a non-creepy way, of course)--connect with one of her passions in your email: e.g., mention that you, like her, also love Heidegger and could never date someone who didn’t get him--a philosophy major will be compelled to respond to that. (I would and I don’t even love Heidegger.)

On Tuesday: Talking on the Phone

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Description of the Woman You’re Looking For

In describing who you're looking for, it’s okay to be a little general and vague. You don’t want to limit yourself too much, after all! Stick to a couple of the most important qualities you’re looking for. But you do need to list something. To list nothing says you have done no reflection on this topic and have very little insight about people (which may be true, sadly). A woman is more likely to respond to a profile when she thinks the woman you are describing is her. So mention whatever is most important to you: must love animals, be smart or appreciate a sarcastic sense of humor, for example.

Do not include “deal breakers.” No, you do not want to date someone who has no personality of her own and is clingy and dependent. But to write that tells a potential date that you just got out of a relationship with that type of woman and you’re still bitter about it. It presents you as a negative person. Speak in positives instead. Say what you *are* looking for instead of what you’re not looking for. Say you want a strong, opinionated woman instead of saying that being clingy is a deal breaker.

Do not include physical descriptors. First, why limit yourself? Second, it makes you sound like an ass. You only want to date thin, tall women? I’m a thin, tall woman and I would not date someone who stipulated that in his profile. I’m not alone in this. Women, by and large, do not like shallow men, and naming physical traits you want in a woman makes you sound shallow. And, by the way, women don’t typically date men who are out of their league physically. So if you’re a fabulously good-looking guy with a great body, there are very few unattractive, fat chicks who will have the chutzpah to email you, so don’t worry. Although, for some reason, ugly, obese guys do try to pick up petite blondes… .

Up on Friday: What to Write When You Email Her

Friday, November 20, 2009

Describing Yourself in an Online Profile

A Little about Yourself. Three sentences is too short. It says: I am not verbal and have trouble communicating. Or, I have no insight into myself. Or, I’m lazy and expect you to do all the work in this relationship. Or, I’m just here to get laid. On the other hand, using up all the space allowed on the site for describing yourself is too long. It says: I am self-involved and never shut up.

As to the content of your self-description:

Do not include physical descriptors of yourself. Your photo is there (right?). Describing yourself physically comes off as narcissistic. Or gay--at least that’s what I assume about a guy who writes about how fabulous his ass is.

When describing your personality don’t speak in vague generalities or simply give a list of adjectives about yourself. Adjectives are largely meaningless. Think about your best friend. If you wanted me to know what he was really like, would you tell me he was nice, funny and smart, or would you tell me a story about him? (Probably both.) Talking about what you’re passionate about, even if it’s not what a woman is passionate about, is infectious and makes you sound interesting, warm and positive. Include something quirky that you love--something you wouldn’t necessarily expect someone to list as a passion. Like bacon. Include interesting particulars about a band or a book you love. Or describe a typical weekend so she can get a sense of the culture of your life. Mention a weird thing you want to do--like experience a sensory deprivation tank before you die--not like sky diving (so clichĂ©). A list of interesting jobs you’ve held (if you have) can be intriguing as well. Give her something to respond to. So many profiles I've seen say the same things every other profile says: "I'm a nice guy, have a job I love, enjoy dining out and hiking. I'm looking for the right woman but couldn't say what that is--I don't want to limit myself to a type." Boooring. Think about how many profiles she's reading. You need to stand out. Being really good-looking or making a lot of money will not (for most women) make you stand out. It's what you write that counts.

Don’t mention your ex-girlfriends or ex-wives. This reads as "I'm not over her."

Avoid negatives. Don't say what you *don't* like doing or what you are not (unless you can be funny about it). Negativity reads as stuck in the mud, pessimistic, depressed, etc.

Don’t brag. Don’t mention having a super cool house, or your trip to Aruba, unless you’re sure that it isn’t coming off as bragging. If you’re passionate about travel, make your passion the focus--not a list of all the expensive places you’ve been. Never use the cheesy device of “people have said about me… .” So obviously bragging: I mean, I wouldn’t say I was really hot, the smartest person in the area and the wittiest guy at a party, but my friends say it is so--even though I am really humble and wouldn’t presume to say it about myself, but it must be true. Ugh.

Being funny in your profile is great as long as you actually are funny. Trying and not succeeding is the worst while being successful will double the number of women who email you. I once saw an ad where the man wrote in the ethnicity box: “take a wild guess.” His photo was posted so, yes, it was obvious. It struck me as funny. Not sure why. When I write it here it doesn’t sound so funny. But it was.

Do not mention sex. Yes, some men really do this in their ads. I never dated any of them. Neither have any of my friends.

Spell check! Grammar check! You want a smart girl? Capitalize where needed, don’t have typos, and don’t use the objective form of a personal pronoun when the subjective is called for. And, for God’s sake, *paragraph* when needed. If you’re writing enough that a woman can get a sense of you, that’s a very large block of text and is daunting to read if formatted as all one paragraph.

Up on Tuesday: Describing the Woman You're Looking For

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Anxiety Wrapup

To sum up what I’ve been writing about these past few weeks about (social) anxiety:

See your doctor. If your GP thinks you have an anxiety disorder, see a psychiatrist to confirm the diagnosis. Take medication if the psychiatrist tells you to.

Get enough sleep most nights of the week (seven hours plus).

Get proper nutrition.

Cut all caffeine from your diet.

Exercise three to five times a week.

Use relaxation techniques daily.

Define the social situations in which you are uncomfortable. Develop goals and practice gradual exposure to these anxiety-provoking situations.

Have a conversation with your anxiety and find out what it’s trying to tell you.

Pull a friend or two into your confidence about your social anxiety to create a support network for yourself.

Ready to plunge into meeting women? Check in on Friday as I continue to write about doing an online dating profile.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Online Dating

I know I said I was going to address speed dating this week but instead I’m going to jump into online dating and write about speed dating in a few weeks. (I think I should probably do it before I go pontificating about it...)

I frankly don’t know why anyone who is single and looking does not use online dating. You have instant access to hundreds of women in your area. You can get a lot of information about them before you waste any time talking to them. Women tend to be more open in their online profiles than they typically are on a first date, so you have a better idea of what you’re getting. And it’s a lot easier on the ego to be rejected online than in person. So she didn’t respond to your email stating your interest? Big deal. There’s another woman who looks interesting. Another one and another one. Being completely ignored or brushed off face to face at a party is a tad more awkward. So pick a service and sign yourself up!

When I used online dating, I never posted my profile for public viewing. I preferred to approach my dating life as a consumer, not the consumed. I wanted to pick the men I was interested in and not be bothered by weirdos who couldn’t read and sent me emails wanting to know if I’d join their cult and directing me to Web sites where I could read all about Them. For you, I advise publicly posting your profile. You want to get some practice. You want to date as much as possible. So don’t close any avenues available to you.

First up: How to Make a Good Online Dating Profile

Catchy Title. You’re looking for a smart woman, right? Be a little more creative, witty and original than “Hello there!” or “Man Seeking Soul Mate” or similar bland, generic titles. Be clever. Take a common phrase and make a twist on it--like “Wanted: Conductor for this runaway train of thought.” Make a reference that the kind of woman you’re looking for is likely to get. Don’t be too obscure. You’ll come off as pompous or just downright weird if the reference is misinterpreted. Could be song lyrics. Barenaked Ladies’ lyrics are eminently usable. Being blunt is also catchy: “Geek seeking Geek-lover (or Geek Lover)” is a little bland but will likely generate interest by the kind of woman you’re looking for.

Photo. Include at least two photos. Do not include a bunch of head shots from the same “photo shoot.” That comes off as vain. And better to avoid having a woman your age in the picture even if it’s your sister. Don’t use a photo where you’ve cut the woman out and her hand is still visible on your shoulder. Use recent photos--within the last year. Yeah, you were thinner five years ago, but you haven’t built a time machine yet and she’s going to be dating the you that you are now. Casual snapshots--unless you’re particularly photogenic--are almost always more flattering than a posed picture. Whatever physical feature you have that is most attractive should feature in the photo. If you have a great body, don’t be shirtless (please!), but have one of the photos be a full-length picture of you in a tight-ish (not tight) shirt and jeans or a well-cut suit. I have to admit, though, a friend of mine says that she is fine with the shirtless shots as long as you are clearly at the beach and it’s a snapshot, not a posed photo showing off your abs.

Next week: Writing A Little About Yourself for Your Online Profile

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


For those who have social anxiety, practice is invaluable. Social Anxiety is a phobia. You’ve undoubtedly heard about methods for eradicating animal phobias using gradual exposure. For example, someone who fears spiders might progress over time from looking at a drawing of a spider, to looking at a photo of one to looking at an actual tarantula in a cage, etc.--all the while using relaxation techniques like those I wrote about in previous weeks.

First, you need to define clearly the situations you fear. Maybe you’re comfortable talking one-on-one with strangers, but are uncomfortable if more than one person is listening. Or maybe you fear starting a conversation with strangers but are fine if they initiate. Be very clear about what social situations cause you discomfort.

Now create some attainable goals for yourself. Include in your goals at least one or two situations to overcome that you know you can have some success with right away. These may be very small things. If one of your feared situations is initiating conversation, your goal might be to say hi to the cashier at the grocery store. Having success early on will encourage you to keep trying with the harder situations.

When you write down the goals you have for more difficult social situations, make sure that your goals are reasonable. It is not reasonable to expect that by next month you will be able to approach a stranger, strike up a conversation and be completely witty and at ease. That’s ridiculous. It isn’t even attainable by most people who don’t have social anxiety. A reasonable goal would be to strike up a conversation with a woman you are *not* interested in and ask her about what she does for a living.

Do not think of goals as all-or-nothing propositions. You do not have to perform “perfectly” in order for it to be good enough. Your conversation with the uninteresting woman might be awkward or boring. That’s okay in the beginning. Getting out there and doing it is the goal.

Let’s say one of your goals is to talk (tell an anecdote, a joke or just contribute to the conversation) in a group of people at a party. What might be some baby steps toward that goal? A small step might be to respond with more than “fine” when a co-worker asks how your weekend was. This helps you practice talking to acquaintances. Another step might be to tell an anecdote to two friends with whom you feel totally safe. Another step might be to go to a party with a friend and stay for a short period of time (say, fifteen minutes), not expecting yourself to mingle, initiate conversation or even talk much at all.

It might be helpful to pull a friend into your confidence (if you haven’t already) and ask him or her to help with these changes by being supportive or helping you set up or practice simulations. Telling someone in your life about your social anxiety can alleviate some of the shame you may feel about having this difficulty.

The more often you do something, the easier it gets, and the more second nature it becomes. As you continue to practice, increase the amount of time that you expose yourself to the uncomfortable situation. For example, if you have a hard time with large group situations, like parties, gradually increase the amount of time you spend in large groups. The key word being gradually. Don’t expect yourself to hang out at a big party for three hours.

As you practice in social situations, you will do and say stupid things. You will inappropriately interrupt because you are so eager to add something to the conversation and be done with it, and you will get talked over and interrupted because you aren’t talking loudly enough. You will make a joke that falls flat. You will find yourself with nothing to say, or give an answer that’s too curt and makes your conversational partner think you don’t like her or that you are just plain weird. You can not let these things prevent you from striving toward your goals.

At the same time, you don’t want just to get through social situations because you’ve steeled your will to do so. How fun would that be? You don’t want merely to be able to do certain social activities. You also want to feel (more) comfortable doing them. So during your practice times, make use of the relaxation techniques described in previous weeks. And use the self-talk suggestions from one of blog entries on self-esteem. Use this self-talk during the social interaction and afterwards. Don’t beat up on yourself in your play-by-play reflection on how you did. Use positive self-talk.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How to Meet Women

Blind dates. Let everyone know you’re looking. With your friends and family, you can be obvious about it; with others, let it *casually* come out in conversation, even in a joking way. (But please don’t post that you’re looking on your Facebook page, or your Evite profile. Read: desperate!) Accept setups from anyone: relatives, friends or co-workers. It’s one evening out of your life. How bad can it be? If nothing else you can blog about it.

Church. Most spiritual communities have more single women than single men, so this can be a place to go where the odds are in your favor even in an area of the country, like the Northwest, where the general population has more single men than women. Adult education classes, Bible studies, volunteer outings and singles group get-togethers are your best bet for meeting women in a spiritual community. Going to a church service and sitting in a pew is not going to net you a date.

But you may be an atheist.

Work. Co-workers, clients, those who work in your building but aren’t part of your company, the postal carrier, the UPS woman are all possibles. But I’d caution you on dating a co-worker. If it doesn’t work out, it can be AWKWARD. Or embarrassing, depending on what she now knows about you and might tell other people you work with…

Hobbies. Sports, the gym, classes through community centers and community colleges, volunteer work, political action groups, and cons are all great ways to meet people. Take a look at www.meetup.com in your area. There are probably half a dozen Meetup groups that already exist that pique your interest. And people sometimes post their pics and bios on Meetup, so you can decide if there are enough interesting females involved in the group to be worth your while--aside from how interesting the topic of the group is to you…

Think about to whom you give charitable donations. You obviously value what the organization does. What about volunteering your time with them?

Have you watched “Darcon”? Plenty of the guys in that movie had girlfriends and wives and they are no better looking or socially adept than you. Don’t turn your nose up at going to a Star Trek convention just because you’re not that big of a fan. You like it, don’t you? There will be geeky women there. Check them out.

Up next Friday: Speed Dating and Online Dating

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Visualization and Feeling Your Feelings

I spent last evening at the hospital with my dad, which is why I didn’t post yesterday. Sorry for the delay--this one will be longer than usual to make up for my tardiness. Word to the wise: if you think you might be having a heart attack or someone else tells you that she thinks you might be having a heart attack, go to the emergency room. Don’t wait until you’re sure there’s “really” something wrong.

Visualization. The last relaxation technique that use to calm anxiety is similar to the meditation technique I wrote about last week. Take the same position as with meditation. Be comfortable, free of distractions, and hold an open body posture (palms upward and open). Close your eyes so you can focus on your visualization. Choose a place (real or imagined) or a time in your life when you felt absolutely free, joyful and optimistic about the world/life/yourself/other people. Really get to know this place and time. Explore it with each of your senses and be as specific as you can. Look around in your mind’s eye. What do you see? Are there objects there that you didn’t notice at first? Do any of these objects make noises, like a bird singing or the ocean roaring? Be very still and listen to the sounds. What are the layers of sound you hear? What do you smell? Freshly cut grass? Baking bread? Breathe in deeply. What do those smells remind you of? Touch the objects in your visualization. How does the grass feel against your hand? How does the warm sand feel under your feet? Notice if the objects are rough or smooth, warm or cool, soft or sturdy. Let the objects tickle you, soothe you. Are there things to taste in your place of joy? Taste them. What do they taste like? Be as specific as you can.

The purpose of visualization is to give you a place to go in your mind when you are in stressful situations, a place that is peaceful and joyful to counteract the agitation and fear that you are feeling. The more you practice visualizing and the more specific you can be about your visualization, the easier it is to call up this place and have the thought of it automatically trigger a relaxation response in your body.

Feel Your Feelings. The automatic reaction to anxiety or panic, particularly in a social situation, is to fight the anxiety, to try to control it or to stuff it back down. But if the anxiety feels it is not being heard, it just gets louder. And you will feel more anxious, not less anxious. Use the relaxation techniques in this chapter and listen to the anxiety. What is it trying to tell you?

Sometimes you don’t have time to listen to the anxiety. You’ve got things you need to do. In those cases instead of fighting or exploring the anxiety, put it off. Tell the anxiety that you have scheduled a time later in the day for it to have its say. And then at seven o’clock (or whenever you scheduled your talk), sit down and think about what your anxiety is telling you, or write down what the anxiety is saying as if it were actually speaking.

Having anxiety talk to you sounds silly, but emotions like anxiety or anger or hurt are warning flags that something is going on that we aren’t paying enough attention to. Emotions aren’t particularly eloquent at first. What the hell does it mean that you get angry every time your boss walks by your office when you get along with her perfectly well? You’ve got to talk to your emotion to find out.

Your anxiety will have a lot of bullcrap to say. It will catastrophize situations. It will tell you that you’ll literally die if you try to talk to that intriguing stranger at a party. It will tell you that you’re a hopeless idiot who will only humiliate yourself if you ask out a woman because, of course, she will reject you and everyone will hear about it and no one will have any respect for you any more.

But once you get past the bullcrap, your anxiety will also make some good points. It might tell you that you left the stove on--and you really did. Its message might be that you don’t really like hanging out at bars. So why the hell are you trying to meet women in a bar if you hate it?

Your anxiety might also be telling you that you are pushing yourself into a social situation you aren’t ready for. You say to yourself “Well, any normal guy would be ready for this. I’m being childish.” But your anxiety says “You don’t know how to handle talking to a woman without your friend with you to introduce you and smooth over conversational gaps.” You might not like what your anxiety is saying. But it may be right.

And if it is right about you not being ready, how do you get ready?

Up next Tuesday: Practicing

Friday, October 30, 2009

Where Do You Meet Them?

Though there are many tasks to take care of (the way you dress, the look of your place, how to hold up your end of an interesting conversation, how to compete with certain types of guys, etc.), today I’ll plunge into the deep end and begin writing about where to find women to date.

If you haven’t done a lot of dating, you need to say yes to everyone. Because you are practicing and you might as well date anyone who will have you. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here: better to practice and screw up with someone you don’t care all that much about. I know way too many guys who have little experience dating, and now they are in their thirties and think “I’ve got to find The One” (whether that means The One to marry or The One to be a girlfriend), and with this in mind, they go to a speed-dating event and, at the end of the night, choose only one or two girls that they think are really intriguing instead of saying yes to all of them. Or they get a response to their personal ad from a girl who’s “too fat,” “not attractive,” or “likes ‘Star Trek’ more than I do--what a weirdo.”

This is the wrong attitude.

Unless she says things like “between you and I,” “What’s so great about ‘Firefly’?” or “I once lit my cat on fire because I was bored.”

Women are everywhere. Sure, there are certain parts of the country where the statistics are against you (Alaska being the worst, and the Pacific Northwest also not great). But generally the statistics are in your favor. There are more females than males even at birth and the odds only get better as you get older--as long as you survive. Males are the weaker sex, after all. More likely to be miscarried. Shorter life spans. Like I said, weaker.

Bars, Coffee Houses, etc. I am not a huge advocate of picking up women in bars, coffee houses, the beach or anywhere else where you’re engaging in what amounts to “cold calling.” You don’t know anything about her. She doesn’t know anything about you. Unless you’re the type of guy who makes a great first impression (and how many of us is that?), the likelihood of getting a date is slim. Most women ( not all!) do not want to be picked up even if you do seem interesting to them. Every woman knows a serial killer can be very charming on first meeting. No thanks. We’d rather meet you in safer ways. Ask yourself: how many couples do you know who met in a bar? I can name exactly one. And they’re lesbians.

Parties. Parties, on the other hand, are excellent places to meet new people. Woman feel safer in this environment because she at least knows someone who knows someone who knows you, she has a chance to see how you interact with others and find out what others think of you. Having all this information makes us more willing to go out with someone we haven’t met before that evening. Never say no to a party. You’ve been invited to a Halloween party (or two) to go to. Don’t back out because the only costume you have is Niels Bohr and no one ever gets who you are. Go!

Next Friday: Blind dates, church, work, and hobbies.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Another useful technique for calming anxiety is meditation. Meditation is not just for religious people. In fact, meditation can be no more complicated or otherworldly focused than the breathing exercise described in last Tuesday’s entry. If you are spiritually inclined, consider taking a meditation class. You can usually find these offered through community centers and colleges/universities that offer not-for-credit classes, at spiritual bookstores and through spiritual groups (churches, shaman groups, etc.). Taking a yoga or Tai Chi class can also be a form of meditation. Prayer is a form of meditation.

The type of meditation westerners are most familiar with is similar to the breathing exercise I’ve written about except that instead of focusing on your breath, you choose one “concept” or word to focus on. Some do this with a personal mantra. Some choose an abstract idea like ‘peace.’

Find a comfortable, private spot that is free of distractions--e.g., you can’t hear the TV droning in the other room and no one will interrupt you. Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair. You may wish to sit in the lotus position. In any case, rest your hands on your thighs with your palms turned upward, so your body has an open posture. Close your eyes. For at least five minutes focus on the word you’ve chosen. If your mind wanders (and it will), draw your thoughts back to your word. If you’ve chosen the word ‘peace,’ notice your body feeling at peace. Notice your mind feeling at peace. Do this daily.

Up next Tuesday: Visualization as a Relaxation Technique

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dating is Not Easy

Dating is not easy for anyone--with the rare exception whom I’ve never met but could imagine exists.

The fun parts are browsing online profiles, flirting at parties, being set up (but not necessarily the actual date itself), and finding someone you like who returns your affections.

The hard parts are:

*Writing your online profile
*Walking up to a stranger in whom you’re interested and initiating conversation
*Embarrassing yourself in front of a woman you like
*Asking for a woman’s phone number
*Calling a woman for the first, second, third time
*Asking a woman out
*Being rejected
*Not meeting anyone who’s single!
*Being turned into a friend by a woman you have a serious crush on
*Going on a first date
*Going on a second date
*Leaning in for that first kiss
*Having sex for the first time
*Breaking up
*Having to start the whole process over and over and over again

You will not find the woman of your dreams by doing nothing. You will have to risk rejection, embarrassment and a broken heart. It will take time, a lot of dates that go nowhere and a lot of blows to the ego before you’ll be in a relationship.

And dating someone who has become your girlfriend isn’t easy either. Maybe when you’re in the “in love” stage it seems easy and perfect. This enthralled state is mediated by hormones--the same as the kind released during childbirth. It’s good for the species. It serves an evolutionary purpose. But when that purpose has been fulfilled, the “in love” feelings go away. It’s as hard, just in different ways, to be in a relationship as it is to be single. You may prefer the kinds of problems that come with a relationship to the ones that come with being single, but there is still work to be done. If your relationship is easy, I’ll be willing to bet that your relationship is lacking intimacy.

Or she’s having an affair.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Making Use of Relaxation Techniques

This week I’m writing about breathing and muscle relaxation to help with panic attacks and other anxiety issues.

Breathing. Concentrating on your breath helps you relax in the moment and it also helps you to pay attention to your breathing and have better control over it when you’re in an anxiety-provoking situation. If your breathing is relaxed, slow and calm, you will feel less anxiety. Notice how quick and shallow your breathing becomes when you’re nervous. Learn to notice, and therefore control, your breathing by doing the following exercise.

Get into comfortable clothes and find a comfortable and private place to sit or lie down. Take deep, diaphragm breaths. You should feel your stomach go up and down. Breathing through your chest is shallow breathing, which only contributes to feelings of anxiety. Draw your breath in slowly as if you were breathing in the smell of a rose or a lilac. Fill your lungs as completely as you can. Think of yourself as breathing in love and peace. Now slowly exhale. Exhale as slowly as you inhaled. Control your breath so that it doesn’t come out all at once. Think of exhaling as breathing out anxiety, letting go of your worries, pushing them out of your body. Your mind may get distracted. That’s to be expected. Bring your thoughts back to your breathing. Do this for five minutes every day. You can even do this in bed before you get up in the morning or at night to help you fall asleep.

Muscle Relaxation. Just as breathing exercises help you to notice your breath and control it better, muscle relaxation techniques help you to notice where you carry tension so that you can remind yourself throughout the day “Drop and relax shoulders” if that’s where you hold tension. When you are anxious or panicked, your muscles respond by tensing up, and this muscle tension in turn makes you feel even more anxious. Doing these exercises will help you gain control over your bodily reactions to stress.

There are two muscle relaxation techniques I like. The first one you practice in a sitting position. In a comfortable chair, close your eyes. Close out all distractions. Think about each muscle group in turn, starting with the larger muscle groups, one at a time (shoulders, then back, then gluts, then quads), tense each muscle, hold for five seconds and release. Move to the smaller muscle groups--arms, calves, feet, hands, neck, face, eyelids--and do the same thing. Tense, hold, release. This helps your brain understand the difference between tension and relaxation in your muscles.

The second exercise is a good one to do before bed. Lie down in loose, comfortable clothes. Again you will be thinking about each muscle group, one at a time, starting with the larger muscle groups and moving to the smaller ones. Only this time you will not be tensing the muscle. You will concentrate on each muscle group for a full minute, focusing on relaxing the muscle completely. You’ll notice that even after you think you’ve relaxed the muscle, there is still tension there if you keep your concentration on the muscle group for a full minute. As you move to the next muscle group, continue to keep the muscles you’ve already relaxed tension-free. You’ll end with relaxing your eyelids. Notice how your body feels. Notice which muscles it took the longest to relax completely. These are the muscles you need to remind yourself to unclench throughout the day.

When you find yourself becoming anxious, notice your breathing, notice your muscle tension, and practice slowing down your breathing, taking deeper breaths and releasing the tension in your muscles. As you make your body relax, your mind will follow.

Up next Tuesday: Meditation as a Relaxation Technique

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dating is Not About Sexual Gratification

Even though you’re desperate, and even though it has been a long time (or maybe you’re a virgin), geeks, in general, seem to have this one under control, if only because you are too shy to act in favor of your own narcissistic impulses. Still I feel obliged to mention this one to caution you about two things.

When, *if*, you do sleep with her, remember that she is not a masturbatory tool. She’s an actual person with sexual needs that might run counter to your own--e.g., her being on top might be more pleasurable to her while the reverse may be true for you, tilting her hips back away from you might do it for you while tipping her hips forward might be better for her. Pay attention to the subtle cues of her body, and the pacing of her breathing. (I’ll write more about this later.) But don’t so focus on “giving” her a orgasm that, once again, the act of making love becomes about you--only this time about your sexual prowess. Yes, she wants to have an orgasm, but making the act about a particular physical goal can detract from the enjoyment of the moment.

Second, geeks say more than they should. Is it nervousness? A product of valuing honesty and transparency in all things? A lack of social skill and tact? Yes, yes and yes. No one wants to hear everything you’re thinking. Silence is better. Even awkward silence is better. Being honest and open for geeks is *way* too often about revealing their own deep-seated narcissism. Is that the kind of flaw you want to show off? Or is it the kind of flaw you want to change right now by changing your behaviors? So don’t talk about how sexually deprived you are, or she will think “So we’re doing it because you’re hard up, not because you’re into me.” And don’t talk about how nervous you are about how you will perform, or she will think “This is going to be the worst sex ever” or “It’s all about him apparently--*his* orgasm, *his* making me have an orgasm, *his* sexual skill or lack of it.” Think about her. Ask about her. Getting the focus off yourself will help you relax and be less self-conscious.

Up next Friday: Dating is Not Easy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taking Care of Your Body

Taking care of your body is the first category of behaviors that I'll talk about that can diminish anxiety.

Yes, this is where I recommend what your mother has been telling you all along.

Limit Your Caffeine Intake. Caffeine sneaks in everywhere it can: sodas--even ones that aren’t colas, coffee, chocolate, some aspirins, non-herbal teas, some liqueurs (e.g., Kahlua, Frangelico), energy drinks, flavored bottled water, etc. Completely cutting your caffeine intake will not get rid of all your feelings of anxiety, but caffeine does contribute to jitteriness.

Get Enough Sleep. Most Americans are sleep deprived. The experts say you should get eight or eight and a half hours of sleep every night. They also say you should get sleep in increments that are divisible by 90 minutes. Which eight and eight and a half are not, so you figure that out. The idea behind the 90-minute sleep increment is that human sleep cycles are approximately an hour and a half.

Get Proper Nutrition. Most people know what this is. Most people do not do it. If you want to know what good nutrition is, check out Harvard’s Web site (www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/pyramid) or the federal government food pyramid (www.mypyramid.gov). And, no, peas and corn are not vegetables nutritionally speaking. And grains that are not whole grains (and whole wheat is not the same thing as a whole grain) are pointless globs of glue for your stomach. Stick with products that have ingredients that would appear in an average kitchen. (No nitrates, preservatives, dyes, msg, high fructose corn syrup, etc.)

Exercise Four to Five Times per Week. Pick something you enjoy--team sports, weightlifting, biking, walking, running, hiking. Pick something that can become a seamless part of your life so you don’t feel you have to go out of your way to do it. Joining a gym that you have to drive to is a pain in the ass. But if you have a gym at work, use it during your lunch hour. You have no excuse for not doing it. Or get a treadmill or stationary bike, put it in front of your TV and hop on (the treadmill or bike, not the TV) and watch a Mythbusters marathon. If you have a buddy you regularly go to dinner with, start running together instead.

Up next Tueday: Relaxation Techniques

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dating is Not Therapy

Dating is not a way to solve your mood disorder, or make you happy, nor is it a substitute for having a life.

Of the men I had as patients when I was working as a therapist, many terminated therapy when they got back together with their girlfriend/wife or started dating someone new. And sometimes that was a good time to move on from therapy, and sometimes they left because that affirmation from a woman momentarily elevated their mood and submerged their problems under the surface. Certainly dating can brighten the day of a depressed person. For a day. Or a week. Even a month. But the depression doesn’t go away. I’ve talked about this before when discussing Myth #4, “My Life Will be Perfect When I’m with Someone.” Don’t use a woman as a crutch for your emotional neediness. If you had psychological problems before you started dating, you will still have them even if they have temporarily gone underground.

You have a boring life if your job and your girlfriend are all there is. A relationship should not be like a heroin addiction. You should still get out of the house once in a while. You should still attend lectures, go to art galleries and be politically active even if the women you are dating aren’t into those things. What are you going to talk about with your girlfriend if all you’ve got in your life is a job and her?

When you are finally dating, look over the last month of your life: are there events you didn’t attend, activities you didn’t do, people you didn’t see that, if you weren’t dating, you would have gone to, done and seen? If you let your relationship become like a drug, you have become someone whose defining characteristic is “boyfriend of X.” And once that heroin gets taken away--and 99 out of 100 times, relationships do end--now you’re just “ex-boyfriend of X.” No one wants to date or hang out with someone who has no life. There’s nothing to talk about.

And no one wants to hear about your ex-girlfriend.

Up next Friday: Dating is Not about Sexual Gratification

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Can I Panic Now?

We’ve addressed self-esteem, but what if it’s more than that for you? What if some kinds of social interactions cause unreasonable fear? What if you completely avoid certain social situations because they provoke too much anxiety about doing something embarrassing or humiliating in front of others? What if you suffer from social anxiety?

Maybe you experience panic attacks. You find yourself in a social situation, even one you enjoy, and then all of a sudden this fear grips you. Are you going crazy? Are you going to die? Your body seems to be out of your control, your heart is pounding, your hands tremble, and you feel like you might be having a heart attack. But you’re not. You’re having a panic attack.

If you suffer from what you think is social anxiety or panic attacks, you need to see a professional. At first this may be your regular GP to rule out anything being medically wrong. You need to clear up whether you really have social anxiety or panic disorder because there could be other things going on. You may be taking a medication that causes panic-like side effects. Or you may have an illness (and these are usually not fatal) that is causing panic-like symptoms.

Then if it really is social anxiety or panic attacks, you need to see a professional who specializes in anxiety disorders. Yes, your GP can prescribe psychotropic medication for you but a specialist will be up on all the latest developments in types of medication, dosage, etc. Also keep in mind that anxiety disorders can be co-morbid with other mental health issues, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Seeing a specialist will help sort out exactly what’s affecting you. Medication as well as cognitive-behavioral therapy could help.

You may have all kinds of reasons why at this stage in your life you have yet to see a doctor about your symptoms. Or, if you have, you didn’t follow through on his/her advice. Stop making excuses and go to your doctor. In fact, stop reading this blog right now and call your GP for an appointment. Don’t have a GP? Call a friend, right now, and ask whom he sees. You can tell him you want to get a physical (which is true) if you feel uncomfortable revealing more.

Stop reading. Make the call.

In addition to seeing your doctor, there are steps you can take to diminish your symptoms. In the next few weeks on Tuesdays, I will talk about (1) taking care of your body, (2) making use of relaxation techniques, (3) feeling your feelings, and (4) practicing.

Up next Tuesday: Taking Care of Your Body

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dating is Not Life Out of the Ordinary

Years ago when I was a freshman in high school, bemoaning the fact every night in my diary that I didn’t have a boyfriend, I remember drinking in all my youth pastor said about dating. I loved to hear about dating, talk about dating and get advice about dating. Advice that wouldn’t need to be used for a couple of years.

But that’s all behind me now.

Anyway, the one bit of advice my pastor gave that’s worth repeating is this: don’t do anything with a date that you don’t intend to do for the rest of your life. Don’t do things in the courting period that you wouldn’t continue to do if you stayed with this person for the rest of your life.

It’s disingenuous.

If you give her foot rubs every time you see her, ask yourself if you would be willing to do this every day for the rest of your life. Don’t treat this mere girlfriend better than you would your wife!

It’s obvious but… I know you’re desperate to have a girlfriend, but don’t say things you don’t believe just because you think she wants to hear them, or do things you hate and act like you love them. You don’t want her falling for someone you’re not.


Be yourself.

Only less narcissistic.

Up next Friday: Dating is Not Therapy

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Changing Your Self-Talk

Those with low self-esteem are often pessimists. And pessimists have three bad self-talk habits. Dr. Martin Seligman discusses the differences between optimists and pessimists at length in his book Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.

First, according to Dr. Seligman, pessimists ascribe the cause of negative events to themselves. If their tire goes flat, it’s because they were careless about where they were driving. Optimists blame the damn construction site they drove through for causing a nail to get stuck in the tire.

Second, pessimists ascribe the cause of negative events to something permanent rather than something temporary. They say to themselves “The world is against me” rather than “Things didn’t work out my way this time.” And, conversely, pessimists ascribe good events to temporary causes. “I was lucky this time”--not “I am the best man for this job.”

Lastly, pessimists make negative generalizations about themselves, rather than focusing on the specific instance of failing. Instead of “I didn’t study hard enough this time,” they say “I’m not smart enough to learn this material.” And when they do do well, they don’t say “I am really good at chemistry”--instead they say “The teacher made the test really easy this time.”

How do you replace the old tapes that play in your head? As soon as you hear yourself doing any one of those three things mentioned above (blaming yourself, making the bad causes permanent rather than temporary, and generalizing the bad), stop yourself. If you’re into behavioral modification--or BDSM--put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it every time you catch yourself thinking that way. Seriously.

Once you stop the thought, you have two choices. You can argue with yourself or you can distract yourself.

Argue with yourself. Is what you’re saying to yourself true? What alternate explanations are there? Think of the last activity or assignment you did well. Write three separate lines about why you were successful. Do not make those explanations specific to the assignment. Make positive generalizations about yourself. Think of the last activity or assignment you screwed up. Write three separate explanations for why it went poorly. These explanations should either (1) blame an external force--not yourself (my boss is an idiot), or (2) contain a specific reason that is temporary not permanent (I was tired that day vs. I never have enough energy).

Distract yourself. Think about something else. No need to keep repeating that same old garbage to yourself. Read an engrossing comic. Talk to a friend about chaos theory.

Distracting yourself is not cheating. You may feel that you need to think through those pessimistic thoughts, come to terms with them, analyze them, blah, blah, blah. You don’t. They are worthless and meaningless. You don’t sit around and contemplate flat earth theory, do you? It’s not correct and has no relevance to your world. The same with your negative thoughts about yourself.

For more information on optimism, check out Dr. Seligman’s books, Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism.

Over the last couple of weeks we have discussed how to build self-esteem. Now it is time to go forth in the world and build competencies, volunteer, live with integrity by doing what you value and want to do rather than what others think you should value and want to do, and change your self-talk.

It’s that simple.

And that hard.

Up next Tuesday: I'll begin discussing how to manage social anxiety

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dating is Not Re-Mothering

No one’s purpose in this world is to shine attention only upon you, ignoring the cute baby in the room, the tiny kitten licking its round striped belly or the skilled raconteur at a party. No one’s purpose in this world is to love you unconditionally. I know, I know, you are finally getting some female attention, and you’re loving it. But don’t forget there is someone else in the relationship. Her. And don’t forget that there are other people in your world outside your relationship. Your friends. Your family.

Geeks, often having had harshly critical parents and having experienced more than once being ostracized from a group, feel the urge to find a place of total acceptance and love. A place where there is no criticism, no challenge to anything you do or say and no requirement that you change in any way. Like an infant held in the arms of a new mother who sees her baby boy as perfect and all she could ever ask for.

This place of total love and acceptance does not exist.

Nor should it.

You have a lot of really annoying behaviors, not the least of which is your narcissism.

As you bask in this new female attention, don’t forget to ask how *her* day was and to fill her Brita water filter if you drink the last of it. Don’t drip on her bathmat if she doesn’t drip on yours. And don’t forget you have friends and that sometimes she comes first, and sometimes, they come first.

Next Friday: Dating is Not Life Out of the Ordinary

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Changing Your Worldview

To build up low self-esteem, there are certain beliefs you need to let go of.

First, how you compare with others is irrelevant. People with poor self-esteem are the only ones comparing themselves to other people. No one with a good sense of self-esteem cares. They’re too busy enjoying what they’re doing to think about how someone else does it better or more efficiently.

Let me say right now: there is nothing you do that you do better than everyone else in the world. Also there is no subject about which you know more than everyone else in the world. I don’t care if you’re Steven Hawking. You will always lose this contest. There will always be someone smarter than you; someone who was younger than you were when s/he graduated from college; someone with a more prestigious degree from a more prestigious university, a higher verbal score on the SATs or better recall for Simpsons jokes.

So what do you do about the fact that you are not the best at anything? Should you curl up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep?

Not being the best at anything does not matter. Really. It does not matter for a real sense of self-esteem.

Who’s the jerk who told you it did?

At least you’re better than him.

Being better than someone else is not what creates self-esteem. Being competent and capable are what build self-esteem. You don’t need to have built the most awesome gaming table ever. You just need to have built one that doesn’t collapse under the weight of all the dice you own.

Change your focus. People with low self-esteem are self-conscious people. Get your attention off of yourself. Start doing things for other people and you’ll worry less about how well you’re performing. Quit worrying about how nervous you are in a social situation and start thinking about how to make others feel more at ease (they might be nervous too!). Also volunteering and engaging in other do-gooder acts will make you feel better about yourself.

Often people with low self-esteem are trying to live someone else’s life. You have a (mental) list of things you should do and then you beat yourself up when you don’t do them. Let go of your obligations and do what you want to do, not what you “ought” to do.

Make a list right now of the things you’re supposed to do that you drag your feet about doing or do grudgingly. Maybe it’s spending the holidays with your family, maybe it’s working more than forty hours a week, maybe it’s never turning down a social invitation. Whatever those things are, vow not to do any of them this year.

Up next Tuesday: Changing Your Self-Talk

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dating is Not Engagement

Don’t assume that because she kissed you, made out with you, went out with you that you are now in an exclusive relationship. *Most* women will consider the relationship exclusive when sex gets involved but don’t assume that either.

She will not just be dating you. You should not be only dating her either until such a time as both of you decide you want your relationship to be exclusive.

You need the practice dating anyway, as I will say time and time again. If you’re dating a lot of different women, rejection by one of them becomes meaningless. If you’re dating a lot of different women, you will avoid getting obsessively focused on one person. If you’re dating a lot of different women, you increase the odds in your favor of finding the “right” one. But even that I hesitate to say because you should not be approaching dating as a goal-oriented activity. If your intention is to find a wife or even a girlfriend, dating becomes a lot less fun. And you begin treating the women you date like produce that you throw back on the pyramid of fruit after one look. Remember that the people you date are people, and even if she won’t be your girlfriend, she could be a friend, a business contact, a girlfriend for your best friend or simply a person that was interesting to have one conversation with and learn something from.

A few years ago I had a profile on an online dating service and one guy I was paired with wrote me this one-line email: “Are you a conservative, Bible-believing Christian who takes the Scriptures literally?” I failed the question and was thrown back on the pile. Now I respect that he was looking for a wife and didn’t want to waste his (or my) time if I didn’t meet one of his deal-breakers. But don’t ever do that with a live person. In fact, don’t do it at all: you need the practice dating so don’t limit yourself so early. Do not ask her your deal-breaker questions (no smoking, must be an atheist, must not be a Luddite, etc.) on the first (or second or third…) date. Do not tune out for the rest of the evening when she mentions something that “rules her out.” It’s rude and childish. She’s still an interesting person with funny anecdotes to tell or information to share about subjects you know little about.

Besides, what most people call deal-breakers aren’t deal-breakers. I have a tall friend who said she would never consider dating someone shorter than her. Guess what? The man she married is shorter than her.

Erase even the thought of deal-breakers.

Having them isn’t helping you find the right person.

Having them is keeping you from meeting women.

Next Friday: Dating is Not Re-mothering

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Building Competency to Build Self-Esteem

Your self-esteem is built on the belief that you are a capable and competent person in the world, and there are several concrete ways you can encourage that belief.

You already have areas of your life in which you display competency. Make a list right now. Take out a piece of paper (okay, okay, a blank google document) and list at least fifty things that you’re good at. Fifty seems daunting? I bet you can come up with one hundred things you know how to do and do well. Juggling. Driving a stick shift. Creating Web sites. Playing chess. Using a slide rule. Understanding quantum physics. It’s a long list, isn’t it?

Now look at your list of skills. Think concretely about ways you can transfer these skills to the areas you are not so competent at, like talking to women. Maybe you are very good at giving presentations at work or training another person one-on-one. What about training one-on-one puts you at ease? How can you duplicate that in social interactions with women? Maybe the reason you’re comfortable with one-on-one training is that no one besides the two of you is around to judge how well (or poorly) you’re doing the training. So think about how to set up situations like that with women. No, not cornering one in an abandoned parking garage. Maybe online dating is best for you. Sending emails back and forth instead of trying to chat up a woman at a party where there are a bunch of people around.

Yes, seeking to transfer your skills of competency will require you to actually do something. The only way to increase your competency in the world is to risk doing it wrong, screwing it up, and completely turning off another person. Who cares? She’s just a person. And she doesn’t even know how to calculate the area of a circle, much less write code in C++.

Based on the list of fifty skills you created, write down three skills you already possess that you can make use of in social interactions. Write down how and under what circumstances these skills are transferable. Try them out in the next month. Write down where you will test this out.

You also need to build whole new competencies. Learning how to fix a toilet actually has a use beyond the skill itself. Learning anything new is a confidence builder. I recommend learning how to do tasks that require physical activity or creating an object (but build something that’s not a superconductor). Particularly for intellectual types, knowing how to do concrete activities in the material world, like planting a garden or making a bird feeder, is a good self-esteem builder. You already know you’re really smart. You don’t need to convince yourself of your competence in that area.

It may sound ridiculous. But trust me. When you complete a task you didn’t think you could do, no matter how completely unrelated to social interaction and no matter how “insignificant,” you will feel more confident in all areas of your life, including talking to women.

P.S. It also makes you a more interesting person to talk to if you’re out there learning new things.

Right now write down three things you will learn how to do in the next three months.

Next Tuesday: Changing Your Worldview

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dating is Not Stalking

It's Friday, so as promised, I'll start a series on Unacceptable Dating Behaviors.

First up: Dating is Not Stalking.

Yes, you are curious if she’s been on Match.com cruising for other guys since you started emailing her. Yes, you want to know if she’s changed her profile since your first date and now she says she wants a kind of man that excludes the likes of you. And, yes, knowing her last name, you want to google her and see what comes up.

And I have to say, grudgingly, that googling her is okay.

But don’t check up on her online activity on a dating site. Don’t keep googling her with ever more complicated Boolean logic to find anything you can on her. Google her once. Check your local online jail inmate lookup once (the one in King County, Washington will tell you if a person has been in jail in the last year). And call it good.

At least for the first six months of a relationship, do not show up at her house unless you have been invited over. And don’t ever drive by her house or place of work to see if she’s there without intending to make your presence known. This might have been a fun activity when you were in high school (maybe college) and you were with your best friend goofing off on a Thursday night, but it isn’t funny now. Having a woman slap you with a restraining order when you were just getting to like her is not in your best interest.

Also you do not need to know everything she’s done since you last saw her. So quit prying if you get a vague reply or what you believe is a redacted answer. This applies even if said woman has become your wife. It’s creepy, controlling and most people don’t like to have to admit to all the boring stuff they spend their time doing. Or the embarrassing stuff. Even if she is your girlfriend, fiancĂ©e or wife, you do not need to know that her appointment every Friday afternoon is to get electrolysis. And you do not need to know that she spends half an hour every day filing and re-filing her junk mail and bills. We all have weird behaviors we’d rather not discuss.

It is not okay to:

See whose phone numbers she has programmed into her cell phone.

Ask her who called when her phone rings when you are together. If she wants you to know, she’ll tell you.

Read her email or check to whom she has been writing. Even if she left her account open on her computer when you were alone in the room.

Look through her mail. Even if it was left lying on the coffee table and you are waiting for her to get her coat.

It is okay to:

Read her blog. It’s public. It’s meant to be read by the people she knows.

Listen to what she is saying on the phone if she’s sitting right next to you while she’s talking. She probably wants you to listen if she stayed in the room to answer her phone.

Google her name. Once.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Understanding Self-Esteem

For the next few weeks on Tuesdays, I’ll be writing about self-esteem and how to develop it. And for those who don’t need to increase their self-esteem, I’ll address some “do not do” dating behaviors on Fridays. Today being Tuesday, let’s launch into self-esteem.

Self-esteem and self-regard are at the foundation of any kind of lasting happiness. Without self-esteem and self-regard you will accept less than what you deserve. You’ll take a job that’s not very challenging, a salary that’s too low or you won’t risk trying for that promotion. You may allow others to treat you disrespectfully. You may treat yourself like crap, too--just listen to how you talk to yourself about yourself. Without self-esteem and self-regard you will not have the confidence to go after what you want--including, of course, pursuing a girlfriend.

Naturally, if you already know you have difficulties with self-esteem, none of that is news to you. You see it in your paycheck every week or you feel it every Saturday night when you once again have no date. The question is: what do you do about it?

First, you must understand where your lack of self-esteem comes from, then you must go into action to combat low self-esteem with the concrete exercises I’ll discuss later.

Self-esteem is built at an early age, so, yes, you can blame your parents if you didn’t turn out so well.

An anxious caregiver sends the message that you are not good enough. If you were good enough, the caregiver wouldn’t have to worry so much, but s/he knows you’ll likely screw it up (whatever it is) and so s/he worries. And then so do you. “Will I just embarrass myself if I ask her out and she says ‘no’?” “If I screw up this product launch, will they find out I’m a fraud? Better let someone else take the lead on this one.”

The overprotective caregiver sends the message that you will hurt yourself if you take risks, and moreover that you will hurt the caregiver if you take risks. Babies and toddlers are very protective of their parents. They have to be. Without their caregivers, they literally can not survive. So if you had an overprotective parent as a small child, you learned very early not to do anything that would risk your relationship with your parent, whether that meant not trying activities that seemed physically unsafe to your parent, or whether it meant not leaving their sight to do anything on your own. Risk for you has become associated with danger and potential abandonment or censure. So you stick with what’s safe, what you know you’re already good at--getting graduate degrees, doing the Sunday New York Times crossword in pen.

Or maybe you had a parent that was a perfectionist. Nothing was ever good enough. If you made your bed like you were asked to, your mother would follow behind and remake your bed because you didn’t do it right. What does that teach you? For one thing it teaches you not to make your bed. And it teaches you to let other people do things for you since you’ll just screw them up. Once others do things for you, you lose chance after chance to build up your sense of competence in the world. You can’t build competence if you don’t engage in new activities and thus prove to yourself that you are capable of doing them. A perfectionist parent teaches you that you can’t do anything right, even the simplest task like making a bed. Perfectionism makes for a self-conscious child. It makes it difficult to perform any task, especially a new and unfamiliar task, if you feel you’re being scrutinized while you do it. So you don’t engage in the conversation about Shakespeare because you can’t remember if he wrote in middle or modern English--nor are you willing to ask and look dumb. You learn not to do anything or say anything that might be--the Force forbid--wrong.

What do you do now? Is it just too late for you if these patterns and attitudes have already been established in childhood?

Not at all. Stay tuned for exercises to build self-esteem. Next Tuesday: Building Competency

Friday, September 4, 2009

Myth 11: “Dating Is About Game-Playing”

Actually, now that you’re an adult, you don’t have to pull girls’ pigtails, or pass notes to friends of the girl, or play hard to get, or calculate exactly how many days you should wait before you call her so you won’t seem desperate.
Are some women game-players? Yes. Are some women incapable of directly saying “I’m interested in you” or “I like it when you lick my armpits while we’re doing it”? Yes. But, good God, why would you want to date those women?

And if find yourself game-playing, who do you think you’re going to attract? I’ll tell you: overly tanned women who try to drink men under the table and end up living with addicts and/or abusers. Or eighteen year old girls.

The advice. Quit over-analyzing. Take what people say and *do* at face value. She may not directly *say* she isn’t interested but her actions can tell you this very clearly: if she takes more than a week to call you back, she isn’t playing hard to get. She isn’t interested. If she flirts with your best friend, she’s not trying to make you jealous because she’s really into you nor is she trying to show you how cute she is. She likes your best friend. If that ends up being a misinterpretation, that isn’t your fault. It’s hers. Does it mean you might lose out on a few dates? Yes. But better to skip those encounters and so avoid ending up with a game-player.

You can larp with vampires but don’t date them--not the emotional vampires anyway.

And that’s the last of the eleven dating myths!

Now that we’ve finished with the myths, take some time to reflect back on all of them. Make a list of all the things you don’t do because of myths you hold about dating. These activities might include not taking swing dance lessons (myth two), refusing to go on blind dates, and not asking out the girl you have a crush on (myth nine). And now the challenge: choose an item from your list and do it in the next month. And let me know what happens!