WARNING: People May Be Larger Than They Appear
By Lisa Daily
We’ve all heard the saying you can’t judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to dating, we’re all prone to snap judgments, right? He wears socks with sandals, or drips nacho cheese on his Mickey Mouse tie all night? He’s a loser. She shows you a photo of her girlfriend Maggie’s new baby, her girlfriend Heather’s new baby, her girlfriend Marissa’s new baby? Clearly a bridal-pathic husband-hunter just looking to get her claws in some poor sap and drag him down the aisle.
My girlfriend Tina can weed through thirty dating profiles in about a minute and a half, and filter out the guys she’d never go out with from the guys she’d definitely go out with. She’s the Tomahawk Missile of daters. And she’s not alone.
Studies show we actually make a decision about whether or not we want to date someone within the first few minutes of meeting them.
And if “meeting them” is via an online dating profile, we likely spend even less time making a yay or nay decision.
Dr. Patricia Farrell, author of How to Be Your Own Therapist (McGraw-Hill) says, “there is something called “thin slicing” where you make very quick judgments about people from small bits of behavior and information you glean within the first 15 minutes or so with them. Some research studies have shown that these judgments can be 80% accurate, so making snap judgments isn’t always a bad thing. Listen to your gut and make decisions based on past experience.”
But sometimes, when we form our opinions of people too quickly, we may be missing out on someone great. Example? I recently received a letter from a Lavalife member who was a single guy, living with mom and dad, and having a hard time snagging a date. Uh, yeah.
Perception: He’s a thirty-something leech. Dad’s still paying the bills, Mom’s still doing his laundry, and on alternate Friday nights he gets to borrow the family station wagon.
Gee, I thought to myself after reading his first sentence, how do I tell this guy that until he moves out of the basement, he’s dooming himself to a social life comprised of microwave linguine and the streaming + DVD plan on Netflix?
Then, I read the rest of his letter.
Reality: He’s a successful guy, making $140K a year who owns his own business (and his parents’ home) and is living there to care for them because they suffer from health issues.
Screech. This guy just went from un-dateable loser to the best prospect on the planet in a single paragraph.
And yet, he’s still not getting any dates.
Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page ) explains it this way, “We live in a very media saturated culture, where we are influenced to focus on surface things and not look beneath. But in a long-term, loving relationship, looks very quickly cease to matter, and character is what counts. We are all in a rush to do everything, today, it seems. The speed of technology and communication gets reflected in our desire to speed up the dating/mating process, but rushing into a relationship means rushing out of it very soon. Partnership needs infrastructure, or it won’t last.”
The truth is, while we might be able to rely on our first impressions in person, they’re hardly accurate when we’re browsing profiles. Think about it. About 70% of all communication is non-verbal. When you meet someone for the first time, you’re not just making a judgment based on what they say, but how they carry themselves, what they wear, how they smell, and how their chemistry reacts with yours. With a mere dating profile, you miss nearly all of that. So you base your judgments on things that feel important, but in the long run, might not really matter. Like how tall someone is, what they do for a living, and er, whether or not they still bunk at Mom and Dad’s.
A friend of mine met her future husband in a bar. He sat nursing a beer, in his fashion-backward plaid shirt, and smiled at her all night. She, however, was quite busy making googley-eyes at some other guy who, coincidentally, turned out to be married. At the end of the night (after discovering her first choice was not an option) she declared, “I think I’ll give plaid guy a chance.” She talked to him, they started dating, fell madly in love and have been happily ever after ever since.
Her initial impression? Hard-working (good), reasonably handsome (could be better) police officer (too dangerous) with no handyman skills whatsoever (the horror!) seeks long-term relationship. The real guy? Hardworking (good) goofy to her serious (fantastic), easygoing, sweet as pie, and worships the ground she walks on but doesn’t take any of her crap. In other words, the exact, perfect guy for her.
The lesson here? Sometimes there’s a prince lurking beneath that frog-skin jacket. Try not to eliminate someone solely based on your snap reaction of their one-dimensional dating profile. If you dig just a little deeper, you might find exactly what you’ve been looking for in a most unexpected place.
Give plaid guy a chance.
(c) Copyright 2001-2015 by Lisa Daily. All Rights Reserved. Plus me on Google, darling, would you please? Thanks!