What Works In Business Doesn’t Work in Dating

One of the reasons I started this blog was so I could write about the many things my books cover, not just a narrow set of them. So far I’ve pretty much stuck to puppy pictures and writing topics, but today I figured I’d write about dating. So bail now if that sounds dull or boring or isn’t of interest to you.

Yesterday on Twitter there was a tweetstorm that went viral because a woman realized she was the third or fourth date of the day that a man had scheduled at the same location.  He’d lined women up, one every forty minutes or so, like he was conducting job interviews.  Turns out he had six total “dates” scheduled for the day.

Now from his perspective (he told her he was a project manager) this was a very efficient use of his time. He didn’t know if he’d like any of these women and you can usually tell within a half hour or so, so for a busy professional why not just line ’em up and knock ’em down and see if there was anyone worth pursuing further?

From a woman’s perspective, that’s insulting as all get out.  Even though you know going into most dates that it’s not going to go well (at least not well enough for another date), you still want the other person to approach it as if it will.  And to, I don’t know, crazy thought here, try to impress you?  Maybe put their best foot forward?  Make you feel special and wanted?

This guy completely sabotaged himself.  He brought something that works well in the business world, where efficiency is valued, into the dating world, where it’s all about chemisty and emotions.

I still remember a date I had over a decade ago with a man who was a bit like the project manager mentioned above.  This date of mine was clearly in wife acquisition mode.  And he had a set of qualities his wife needed to possess.  So rather than relax and talk to me and see if we had any sort of rapport, he launched into a series of rapid-fire questions, one after the other.

It wasn’t a date. It was a job interview.  I think he even asked “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

I’m sure this approach made perfect sense to my date.  Why waste time with someone who doesn’t want what you want?  Isn’t it better to know right up front that you’re not looking for the same thing and move on?

But you can’t approach dating like that.  (Or maybe you can. Maybe the perfect woman is that one in a million woman who’d appreciate such extreme efficiency…) You have to make the other personal comfortable and adjust what you say or do based on what they say or do.  It’s interactive in a way a job interview doesn’t have to be.  Because dating is really about seeing if the two of you can work together to create a mutually enjoyable experience.

That’s what neither of these men understood.

(And one final comment on Mr. 20 Questions.  Sometimes people’s answers change once they meet the right person, so asking someone in a cold setting about marriage and kids isn’t the same as asking them after they get to know you personally. I have more than one friend who never thought they wanted marriage or kids who have now married and had kids because they met “the one.”)

Now, let’s make this fair and talk about a way that women screw this up, too.  With women it’s more in forgetting that the things that have made them successful in the workplace aren’t necessarily the things that will attract the person they want to marry.

A few years back a highly successful friend of mine was talking about a book she’d read where the woman had suggested that if you want to find a husband through online dating you shouldn’t have a dating profile that looks like your resume.  My thought was “Well, yeah, duh. Isn’t that obvious?”

But then I watched a TED talk by a woman who had designed a scoring system that ultimately let her find her husband, and she too had started off with a dating profile that was a copy and paste of her resume.

So it seems this needs to be said: If you’re a woman on a first date or posting an online dating profile, you will have more success if you focus on what makes you an interesting person to spend time with than on your professional accomplishments.

I’m being careful with how I word that, because I would never advocate hiding who you are or what you’ve done. (I once had a classmate in business school suggest I just tell men I was a waitress and act dumb to get them to date me. Yeah, no.)

It’s more a matter of having ten things you could talk about and realizing that three of them (e.g., your trip to Bali last year) are far more interesting to someone else than the other seven (e.g., the fact that you just completed a project that saved your company 20% on its recycling costs).

I think for a lot of professional women (and I was one of them), your career is such a large part of your life that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that what’s interesting to talk about with your co-workers isn’t necessarily interesting to strangers. But most of us do have interesting things about ourselves that we can focus on instead.  You just have to remember to do so.

So, bottom line here: If you’re dating, take a breath, stop, switch gears, and think about the other person and what they might want or like.

And leave all those business-based time-saving, efficient tricks where they belong–in the office.