The Oxford English Dictionary says that scientific method is: “a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” I always loved the analytical nature of science. It taught me to observe, experiment, measure and come up with an idea about how things work. Although hard science proved too much for my lazy college self, I chose the next best thing, social science. The same techniques were used, but instead of cells and chemicals, we studied human behavior. Humanity, but its very nature, will never be as easy to understand and quantify as science, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use those skills to help you with dating.
OkCupid, a popular dating site, has been tracking hard data from their own site to analyze trends and publishes their finds on a blog called OkTrends (blog.okcupid.com). The founders of OkCupid are all former Harvard math whizzes and they’ve come up with the top three questions to ask on a first date: “Do you like horror movies?” “Have you ever traveled around another country alone?” and “Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?”. According to their research, c0uples that agree on those three questions have a much higher success rate than those who differ. Fascinating. I recommend you read this article to hear more about why those questions are so indicative of success and to find out whether or not you should show cleavage in your profile pic (yes if you’re older) or look directly into the camera (no if you’re a younger man). http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-ok-cupid-20110523,0,1937093.story. I love how they are harnessing rare data to try and understand dating patterns and deeper truths on compatibility.
My absolute favorite dating book is Rachel Greenwald’s “Why He Didn’t Call You Back: 1,000 Guys Reveal What They Really Thought About You After Your Date”. When you’re shy, sometimes it’s hard to get to the first date stage, so when it does happen, you really need to put your best foot forward and make a good first impression. We all make quick judgements about people based on a variety of factors, both conscious and subconscious. I noticed myself that while I was getting a decent amount of first dates, I got much fewer seconds or thirds. My analytical mind kicked in and I started to do some research and stumbled across this book. The author saw a trend of her female friends who had this same problem. The women thought that first dates had gone well, but they weren’t being contacted again by the men. Why they all asked?
Greenwald decided to start calling the men directly to ask and report back to her friends. Scary thought, I know. In the book, she even recommends having a friend do the same for you. It’s like getting a report card on your dating skills and getting ideas for improvement. I’ve never had the guts to do this myself, but it sure would be interesting.
At first, the guys were vague, but after really getting down to the heart of the matter, patterns started to emerge. Men, like all humans, tend to categorize new things and this includes people. It’s an easy way for our brains to process new information. Men who have lived their lives observing what they like and don’t like want to quickly assess whether or not you fall into one of their negative categories. If they don’t want someone who’s “bossy” or too “serious” for example, they will look for any signs that might indicate this on a first date. If you are too forceful with the waiter or even if you’re wearing work clothes, he might start to put you into the “Boss Lady” category as Greenwald calls it.
After interviewing 1,000 men, she put together a list of 10 main categories (and quickly discusses more) that seemed to crop up over and over. As I read each category, a few started to really stick out in my mind and I realized that I was falling into traps. My shyness was coming off as arrogance and the way my mouth tends to settle into a slight frown made me look unhappy, even if I wasn’t. Acknowledging how I was being perceived by someone new really made me start to think about things. This book doesn’t try and tell you to not be yourself, but it gives you tools on how to take back control of how you are being perceived. I found the advice not only helpful in dating, but in my life in general. A few small alterations (changing out of work clothes and into a sun dress, smiling gently during the date and leaning forward while talking and listening) made a huge difference on how I was feeling and being perceived.
I challenge you all to start thinking about how we come across to someone new. I would never, ever tell you to change anything important about yourself, but if a small alteration will help you to come across as more friendly, open or confident, then why not?! Use those big beautiful minds of yours to analyze away. Read up on the internet, grab some books at the local library and discover something new and beautiful about yourself. The more you harness the power of perception, the more confident you will be that someone new will instantly see you for what you are, Extraordinary.
Today we hear from a happily married geek who wants to help out their single friends. Send in your own dating/relationship questions to email@example.com
Dear Lady Steamy,
I have a lot of single friends who are interested in relationships but have a hard time finding the right people. Our group of friends used to be all singles, but slowly people have paired off or moved away, and now the couples outnumber the singles and they feel like third wheels. What are some good ways of including them and also maybe finding more single people to join our tribe of geeks without it turning into a meat market?
Dear Happily Married,
When we’re single, most people say to themselves, even when I get married, I will always make time for my friends. Once it happens though, practicalities seem to get in the way. Many couples find it hard to take time away from one another to hang out with their friends and it tends to make your single friends feel like third wheels. I have a few pieces of advice for you.
1) Make time for them alone sometimes. I know you’re busy, but try and have the occasional girls’ brunch or trip to the movies with just the two of you. If they feel like they’re getting more one-on-one time, they will probably feel more comfortable hanging out with the couples on other occasions.
2) Be careful when trying to set your friends up. This can be an amazing way for a new couple to be formed, but it can also be a recipe for disaster. If you want to invite a new, single friend along on a group activity, go ahead, but don’t try pushing two people together. If something romantic happens, wonderful. If it doesn’t, maybe they’ll at least make a new friend who’s also single and wants to hang out (or be a wingman).
3) Encourage your friends to go out there and try meeting someone on their own. Make sure they are feeling confident in themselves and encourage them to try and make dating fun. See some of my previous columns for some specific dating advice for geeks.
4) Know that it’s not your responsibility to take care of your single friends. Helping them with the tools they need to succeed on their own is much more valuable than trying to set them up with the weird guy who sets next to you at work. Be their friend and support system and make sure they know how extraordinary they are.
Thanks for being such a good friend and best of luck to you.