Yesterday I suggested that the rules that apply to successful dating could be applied more widely to life in general. After all, when we go on a date, we want our partner to see us at our best – and what could be better than being at your best all the time?
With that in mind, I listed 6 guidelines that apply as well to life as to dating, and today I’m back with 6 more. Since life, like dating, can take a lot of different forms, these are still only brushing the surface, and I encourage readers to leave their own tips for dating and for life in the comments. Who knows, we might all become better at both!
1. A negative outcome can be better than a positive one.
Everyone wants to be liked. On dates, this often leads us to settle for less than we really want to avoid the negative consequence of being poorly liked by our partner. This, in turn, can give rise to awful relationships – disrespectful, overly dramatic, even abusive ones. If the goal of dating in general is to find that special person you want to share your life with, though, you need to risk being not liked by your partner – why waste time with someone that isn’t what you’re looking for? Every date that ends without the promise of a call can be chalked up as a success – provided you didn’t bend your character around what you assume s/he would like best. In life, too, failures can often be seen as successes, provided you learn from them and carry those lessons forward, and provided they were come by honestly, through your commitment to your own goals.
2. Be yourself.
It hurts me to see people pretend to be other than they are in order to impress a date. Pretending to have more money (or less), more education (or less), or different tastes than you have is such an awful strategy – first of all, who wants to build a relationship with someone who doesn’t accept you for you, and second of all, what’s going to happen when eventually the truth comes out (which it almost always does)? While there’s something to be said for the old maxim “Fake it until you make it”, as a general rule following your own dreams in your own way is the only real road to success and happiness. Doing things because others think you should (or because you think they think that) is bound to be unsatisfying, and incredibly difficult to maintain any kind of real motivation for.
3. Practice seduction.
Dating is all about revealing yourself over time with the intention of drawing a partner to you, eager to learn more. Likewise in life, people who are both interesting enough to merit attention (what Seth Godin means when he says “Be remarkable”) and open enough to allow their interestingness to shine draw others to them. But it’s all about the timing – reveal everything at once and you become nothing but a resource to be used and discarded; reveal too little too slowly and you become a bore.
4. The start foretells the finish.
Although there are exceptions, for the most part the way you and your partner interact on a first date sets the tone for everything that follows. If you’re open, honest, and comfortable at the beginning, chances are you’ll remain so throughout your relationship; be too closed off, self-conscious, dishonest, or negative, and you’re setting yourself up for failure – even if you and your date really like each other. When we say “first impressions count”, we’re saying much the same thing, but it’s deeper than just impressions. I know that as an educator, the way I interact with my students on the first day of class will carry through the whole semester; if I am personable and interact with them a lot, I can expect a highly engaged classroom, whereas if I do all the talking and take an authoritative tone, I can expect to spend the next 15 weeks lecturing with a minimum of student questions or input. Taking pains to get things off on the right foot can go a long way towards avoiding complications later on.
5. Be on time.
Really. Woody Allen once said that 90% of life is just showing up, and at least half of that is doing it on time. Imagine a date where your partner is late – what does that tell you about his or her feelings about meeting you? Now, imagine he or she is late for the first 5 dates? The first 10? Now what do you think of their attitude? Being late suggests that you don’t value the other person’s time, that you don’t believe they have anything better to do than to wait for you. It can also suggest that you’re incompetent and disorganized – not exactly qualities people look for in a person they potentially want to build a life with. Or in any other area – what applies to dating applies just as easily to the workplace, family gatherings, and just about everything else. While being punctual often goes unnoticed, being tardy sends powerful messages that are often nearly impossible to recover from.
6. Just say no – until you’re ready to say yes.
When it comes to sex, most of us are pretty aware of whether we’re ready or not with any given partner. Some of us are hot to trot after a good first date, others want to be married, and most of us fall somewhere in between. Regardless of your preferences in that regard, we all feel taken advantage of when a partner seems to demand we “give it up” before we’re ready. While most of us are fairly adept at keeping our pants on until we’re ready, in the rest of our lives we often stumble over “no” and commit ourselves to projects we either don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. This also leaves us feeling taken advantage of. Learn to say “no” when you need to – you’ll respect yourself for it in the morning.
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