There were many opportunities to date and explore new possibilities this week for Dignity Daters! One of the most popular questions I received is based on a fundamental Dating With Dignity principle; a date is an opportunity to make a human one-to-one connection with another person — it is not an INTERVIEW! Quite a relief, isn’t it? So then, how can you make a shift in your thinking so that you approach a first or second date with the following objectives:
1. Collect Data
2. Have Fun
Your question might be, then, how can I collect data if I am not on an interview? Here is the answer: Collecting data is simply the act of learning something new about another person. When you are collecting data then, it is imperative that you engage in active listening, which is very different from merely hearing the words another person says.
When you are engaged in active listening, you accept what is being said to you without making any value judgments. You simply listen, then clarify, asking the person to more thoroughly express their ideas or feelings. Next, you can appropriately reflect the feelings or thoughts back to the person who is speaking using words that validate or acknowledge how they feel. They key to active listening is that you are not focused on how you can fix the challenge a person may be describing; you are not trying to provide a service or assist the person in some way with your information or knowledge; and last, you are not focusing attention inward, thinking primarily of what you will say next.
Here is an example of active listening using validation and clarification.
Brad: “I was slammed at work today because my new boss want to prove to his boss that he is going to make a significant difference in my department before the end of the year.”
Sue: “That sounds rough.” (this is an example in which Sue acknowledges Brad’s situation without offering a solution)
Brad: “It was.” He sighs and leans back in his chair.
Sue: “Tell me about what it was like when you were working with your old boss?” (Now Sue follows with an open-ended clarifying question so she can learn more about Brad’s situation.)
In addition, a date that is based on having a human connection rather than an interview involves asking open-ended questions (questions that don’t result in a “yes” or “no” answer) throughout the date. Thus, just imagine your sole objective is to engage in curious conversation– that is, you are simply curious to learn, explore and interact with your date without judgements such as “he would be a perfect match,” or “this would never work.”
Once you begin to engage in active listening, ensure that date numbers one and two are FUN! Remember, you are most at risk for an “interview-esque” date when you stay within the traditional rigid boundaries of a dinner, coffee or lunch date. However, a date in which you share an experience that is new to both of you, or one which simply involves experiencing something together, is most likely to result in open, relaxed conversation, laughter, and opportunities for you to see the person in a natural, less stressful environment. (Who wants to be nervous about chewing with their mouth full, using the correct silverware, or spilling their glass of wine– even the most refined among us get’s nervous in this situation!) Here then, are a few ideas for active, experiential dates:
1. putt-putt golf
4. walking on the beach, a park or other setting that involves nature
5. rent rollar blades/skates and learn to skate together
6. ride horses
7. farmer’s market
8. art festival
Become a “Data-Dater” in the next few weeks and let me know how this Dating With Dignity approach to dating impacts your ability to feel more comfortable and confident. Not dating regularly? No worries! In fact, this is the best time to practice your active listening skills with friends and family. Once you become at ease with this skill, you will find that your connections to the people in your life have deepened significantly. I can’t wait to hear about YOUR results!