Part 2: Feelings Over Facts — Checklists That Elevate your Dating Life
Most checklists set you up for disappointment. Change it up and go on the best dates of your life.
Quick Observables vs. Core Values
It’s not that checklists are a terrible thing, but they do make dating coaches uneasy. In my world, I’ve noticed checklists contain two different kinds of items — quick observables and core values.
Quick observables are easy to digest and even easier to make fast judgments about — what does this person look like, sound like, behave like on the surface, and what are the facts about their life and their history? Age, height, ethnicity, kids, religion, political party, pets, hair color? How much money do they make? How many siblings? How long have they been divorced? What does their deodorant smell like?
Many times our swift judgments on quick observables come from a combo of our knowledge, the world’s knowledge and our personal historical record. Importantly — all of those things contain bias and work off stereotypes that help us categorize the world, protect us at times, or cripple us from seeing other possibilities. It’s a super mixed bag.
Something to remember about quick observables — our feelings about these can, and do, change over time quite often. For example, if you notice your date has what you might consider a physical defect, you might have some misgivings at first. Your brain starts to assess the situation for potential danger. Your ego chimes in to consider if this changes anything about how you might be perceived with this person.
After getting to know that person and falling in love with their core values, those physical defects suddenly become treasured. The “flaws” are now yours to protect. In fact, you feel you want to defend them. Remember that moment in Good Will Hunting when the therapist’s favorite memory of his wife was that she farted when she was nervous, and we all went awww? Now imagine she did that on date 1, repeatedly. Dates can be nerve wracking, after all.
Core values, on the other hand, are much deeper truths of character that tend to be revealed over time, and are more like themes running through someone’s life — things like honesty under pressure, loyalty to long-standing friends, “suck it up” mentality, not being wasteful, being quick to forgive, how differences should be treated, how and why we help others (or don’t), fairness in thought etc. Sure, we can try and explain these things with words, but generally they tend to be proven over time with action and must be witnessed to be believed.
So, what happens when we have a checklist that includes both of these things? And what happens when we try and measure that on a first or second date?
The quick observables get in the way of core values. Every. Damn. Time.
A better way to go about dating is to determine what your core values are first and then look for cues that signify those. Go easy on the quick observables until you know more.
Core values tend to trump observables, but only with enough time to fall in love with them. Time is such a key element. And we’re just not giving ourselves enough time with dating these days. Our quick judgments are ruling out a lot of people that we might need a few dates, or even months with, to understand if they might be right for us.
This Ted Talk by Bela Gandhi is a favorite of mine because it focuses on re-working a checklist to understand how we feel in someone’s presence. She uses the example of the people closest to us in our lives and why we love them. Such a great perspective to take.
A Checklist to Overhaul Your Checklist
Here we go, I’m going to take this concept of checklists and wield it for my own date coaching powers! Here’s a list that will actually help you go on good dates:
- Assess your core values. If you don’t really know what your core values are, do a google search for “relationship core values quiz” and you will find a ton of them!
- Take a look at your checklist. Which things are quick observables and which things are core values? Reorder them with core values at the top. Put them in big, bold, ferocious lettering.
- Write out a few things — actions or behaviors — that might represent those core values or how that value would make you feel.
- Start reflecting on your dates in terms of feelings and core values first. It’s good to recognize when you’re dating the right people.
- If nothing they did or said offended your true core values, go on a few more dates in different contexts so you can see them interact with the world. Even if you aren’t attracted at first. Even if you don’t feel a spark right away. Even if there’s no chemistry after date 1. If you got along and there are no huge, red flags, go out again.
- Wash, rinse, repeat.
I’ll tell you about my own checklist when I was dating so you know I’m not full of it. I had a couple main criteria that would prompt me to match with someone initially:
- They smiled in a normal photo and looked joyful
- They didn’t have a bunch of typos in their profile (although, if I suspected they weren’t native English speakers, this went out the window)
- They framed things positively and didn’t disparage any groups
- They weren’t looking for someone religious or devout
- They responded to me in a timeframe that was reasonable and conveyed enthusiasm about meeting
I felt these potentially spoke to a general sense of confidence, how they saw themselves, their attitude about life, how they presented their moral compass, if they valued intelligence and their communication style. I waited to meet them on video or in-person before I gave myself permission to get excited for more. I had zero expectations but hoped for the best, because online profiles, as we all know, are not great indicators of who people are in-person.
These criteria put me on a lot of great dates with a lot of cool people, and I rarely had a bad date. I dated all ethnicities, people older and younger than me, people taller and shorter than me. I dated very thin and also heavyset people. I dated people that were making more than I was, and less. I dated people with lots of hair, and I dated bald people. I dated people that lived in my city and people that lived in other countries.
I was constantly surprised at the difference in my perception of them online versus in-person, and this drove me to take even more chances on profiles. The in-person experience was so much more valuable. We just had to get to the dates and see.
The great thing about using core values to date is that you’ll likely have a better experience overall and really enjoy the people that you’re meeting, no matter what happens. You might even make new friend connections or work connections as a side bonus.
Don’t believe me? Go ahead and try it. I double dog dare you.
Change the way you date. Get a coach. Get dating.
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