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Understanding What Your Date is Really Saying

Understanding What Your Date is Really Saying

How to avoid misjudging your date and assess for real potential.


“I can’t believe he said that!” “She asked you what?!” “That’s so offensive!”

When judging how a date went, many of us tend to rehash and hang on every word exchanged on the date, and every question asked. Of course, in a perfect world, everyone would phrase things just right all the time and no feelings would be hurt. But here’s the problem: If you hyper-focus on your date’s communication style instead of the underlying meaning of their words and their character, you just might be dismissing someone who really does have what it takes to be your other half.

Before disqualifying them as a suitable life partner, first give them the benefit of the doubt and try to understand what your date is trying to communicate to you about him or herself – their fears, experiences, hopes and dreams – just like we are trying to convey ours to them.

When we do this, we realize that questions that may have sounded somewhat off-putting at first may actually have been your date’s way of trying to protect him or herself, as opposed to trying to offend you. One common way we do this is by self-disclosing (sometimes too much or too soon) to communicate our deeper need to feel appreciated and respected for who we are and what we’ve accomplished.

For example: “When I was a kid, I had a terrible, traumatic experience….” What s/he really wants you to know is: “I’ve overcome many obstacles in my life to get myself to this place. I hope you will recognize and respect me for my personal growth.”

If your date is a normal human being with normal human vulnerabilities, s/he is likely trying to probe for signs of safety to get closer to you. For example: your date said: “Why aren’t you married yet?” What s/he really wants you to know is: “You seem really great and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t have already found another wonderful person to settle down with.” Depending on your date’s tone of voice, another possible meaning of this question could be: “Are you truly serious about getting married? Do I need to protect myself from getting hurt in case you aren’t?” In the latter case, treat it as food-for-thought and don’t waste the opportunity to do some critical introspection: Are you sending the message that you’re not so serious about the relationship? If so, are you perhaps afraid of commitment?

Your date said: “So how many other people have you gone out with?” What s/he really means is: “Is it safe for me to let my guard down with you?” In this case, as in the previous example, there’s an attempt to test the waters of emotional safety. Granted, it may not be the best or sweetest way to express this need, but let’s be honest: Aren’t we all a bit guarded and just doing our best to seek out safety and warmth in a partner? It may be unpleasant to hear (and you shouldn’t feel pressured to answer the question itself,) but here’s the clincher: If a comment like this is met with an empathetic response, rather than a defensive one, you will most likely see the person’s guard come down and their defenses melt, allowing an opening for real intimacy to build.

So if your date says something a bit shocking, bear these points in mind and think twice about the person’s intended message before deciding they aren’t for you. Throughout your dates, listen and look out for indications of strength of character, goals and values, the factors that are really important in a life partner. Whether the person’s subconscious goal is to create security in the relationship or to win your respect, keeping their underlying intention in mind goes a long way toward finding and building a loving relationship that can last.

May 30, 2016

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 3

(2) Rachel, June 2, 2016 8:40 PM

Oh vey, Scott

A dater "looking for how to get rid of you on the first date" is such a pessimistic outlook. I wouldn't go in the first place if that's how I felt. And don't ever engage in "bad ex" stories or talk badly about people you don't like. Meanwhile, a genuine compliment I.e. "You look great in that color" or "those shoes are really cool" are fine, as long as you really mean it. And don't sit there waiting for your date to say "the first stupid thing".

Everyone needs to lighten up (it's just a date, to see if you want spend more time getting to know each other.). And parents should be teaching their kids from childhood forward not to ask people they don't know well questions that are inappropriate, nor tell such persons overly personal information. Good manners, folks. It's not rocket science.

(1) Scott, June 1, 2016 5:00 AM

Watch you mouth. Seriously

Dating is terrifying.

It's asking for approval from a person you don't know well.

It's admitting you're alone and don't want to be.

It's a game of deeper and deeper exploration of who you are where at any time the other contestant can pull the lever and drop you down the losers chute.

It can feel competitive as if you don't answer right your date moves on to Mr it Mrs next in line

It's cumulative as lossesand rejections pile up on you phycologically.

Under that kind of pressure people say stupid things. They do stupid things out of nervousness. And they are hypersensitive to every verbal and non verbal cue that gives them the excuse to run away.

Me I was a bad dater for a long time. Until I learned, as most that have tread any of my posts, I am one of the worst transgressors of the dating commandment "thou shallt not say stupid things at the wrong time."

So I learned to shut up.

Ask non threatening questions,listen to answers and then make the conversation about things my date seems interested in. I'd think if a comversation stopwatch and make sure she was talking twice as long as me. The less you say and the more you listen attentively the more people think you like and agree with them. People like people who like and agree with them.

Here's the trick. If you date gets comfortable enough she'll say the first stupid thing which you make a nice-important- nice joke about and then you can relax a bit and not worry so much about your inner idiot poking out.

But remember she's looking for how to get rid of you on the first date. So talk about no no. Talk about bad ex no no. Strong pronouncements about religioun or politics...not yet. Comments about her physical appearance below the neck...are you kidding? About people you don't like...not today.

Canuck, June 2, 2016 3:17 PM

Excellent advice,Scott.

I am a (now) single man in my 70s &, from my decades of dating experience, I must say that your observations are very valuable. Perhaps you should go into business as a dating counsellor!

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