The Big Tip

I’ve discussed before how repellent most of the “dating advice” on the net is.  There is one actual gem that you see in all of these programs, though, and that’s “approach more people”.  No matter how much two people might like each other, if one of them doesn’t go out on a limb and say something, they’ll never get together.  And no matter how much you perfect your ability to woo, boosting your success rate will be useless if it’s a percentage of zero.  One of the most “successful with women” guys that I know told me “You know, I get rejected nine times out of ten.  But I try ten times”.

But that’s hard, especially when you’re first learning how to meet and attract new people.  There’s a great deal of vulnerability to admitting attraction.  (For young straight men, in fact, it’s often the only time that they actually experience vulnerability toward young women, which creates some astoundingly skewed ideas of what actual power differentials exist)  You have to learn to do this thing despite reactions ranging from mere embarrassment to gut-wrenching terror, depending on levels of social comfort and specific hangups.

The usual way that the gurus out there teach you to do this is by tearing down your prospective partner in your head.  If you don’t respect someone as anything other than an object of lust, or a potential paycheck, or whatever it is that you’ve been taught to make the only goal that matters to you, then it’s easy to feel nothing if they don’t care for your approach.  Because fuck them, what do they know, they’re just a {person of a sex to which I’m attracted}, and everyone knows what they’re really like.

There’s another path to this zen of approach, though–empathy. It requires going far enough the other direction that you’re able to just accept and respect that someone else might not be interested.  I know that I am fairly particular, and not likely to be interested in anything with most of the people who might approach me, and I’m sure that’s true for a lot of folks on the receiving end of something I initiate.  Sometimes I’m not interested because I don’t have time, or the other party has some dealbreaker that they couldn’t have been aware of ahead of time, e.g., they look like my mother, or Ayn Rand.  And sometimes I’m just not interested, which isn’t necessarily anything wrong on their end.

I think that’s harder, and it takes longer, though.  If you think Xes ain’t shit but hoes and tricks, then it’s easy not to care what Xes think. If, instead, you respect the opinions of any given X that you might meet, it’s difficult not to take rejection as some sort of negative judgment.  But it’s not necessarily that, and if it is that’s not necessarily something to worry about.  You’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  In fact, you’re probably not going to be many people’s, if you’re reading this; we’re all a rarefied taste.  That’s fine.

The trick is to be able to approach someone with the knowledge that, whatever their answer, you’ll be able to go on about your day.  You’re in no worse position than you were before.  They’re allowed to be disinterested, and you don’t even need to know why.

Anyway, “learn to accept folks’ reasons they don’t want you” isn’t very helpful, but I do have some specific advice here for anyone who’s looking to deal with fear of rejection.  These will all pertain to online dating; may be useful elsewhere, but I can’t make any promises:

  • Contact lots of people.  Aim to send a lot of messages that you put a little effort into, rather than a small number of messages that you pour your heart and soul into.  You’re just dashing off an introduction, and you don’t need to sweat it too hard.  Saying something is more important than what, specifically, you say.
  • Don’t over-invest.  If you read someone’s awesome profile (or look over some gorgeous pictures), it’s easy to feel like you’ve already made a connection.  To some extent, you have already had half a conversation with them.  The problem being that they don’t know you from a hole in the ground.  They’re not your soulmate, and they don’t owe you anything.  They’re just some interesting and attractive stranger.
  • Start by contacting people with whom the stakes are low. Don’t go after friends or friends-of-friends, and don’t contact super-local people who you’re likely to run into.  That can come later, but it’s easier to get over the first several tries while you’re just getting your feet wet if someone’s rejection has no real effect on you, and you’re not going to meet them at a party.
  • After you send your message, stop thinking about it. This is a tough trick, but if you just shoot it out there and move on with your life you’ll be better off.  If you get no response, you’re exactly where you were before, and if they get back to you that’s great.  Start thinking of responses as a bonus, and not as the expected result of sending just the right message.

None of this addresses whom to approach, or what to say, because that’s just not nearly as important as developing a thick skin with regard to rejection.  How people respond to you is only partially under your control; what you’re looking to do is give more people a chance to respond.

I don’t mean to set myself up as a dating swami.  I do all right, but I have a lot left to learn about this stuff.  For example, how to approach people in person, or for that matter how to respond like a human being when someone approaches me as opposed to locking up and acting as if I don’t notice.  However, as I learn how to manage this particular sort of interaction, I’m going to continue posting what I’ve learned, to chronicle both the learned info and the learning process.

If you have any other tips along these lines, please mention them in the comments, and maybe I’ll follow up with another post.

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5 thoughts on “The Big Tip

  1. I honestly don’t think that most people have a concept of how often people they view as “successful” at dating get rejected. Or of how the moment they’re taking a look at those people compares to their history.

    But then, it’s also a defense along the lines of “all women are conniving bitches anyway” to tell yourself something like “those people are better at luring the opposite sex than I am.” Nine out of ten women aren’t conniving bitches, and nine out of ten luring attempts get rejected. It’s the exceptions that you notice.

  2. Possibly. Even having that kind of conception, though, doesn’t really help with the difficulty of it. Knowing that people who seem good at pulling usually get rejected doesn’t make the initial fumbly learning attempts any easier, at least in my experience.

  3. Hmm. Gratuitous analogizing and multidisciplinary wankery below.

    So in an initially-disappointing dance class turned exercise physiology lecture (I’m tired of hypens), the superenergetic trainer / lecturer-on-stage explained why people pull hamstrings so often: because their quads are too tight. (It’s almost impossible not to have strong quads, just from the movements of modern life.) Quads and hamstrings are in opposition, so if the quads are tight, the hamstrings are always overstressed, and if you do more exercise, especially explosive movements, that overstressed hamstring will easily go from overstressed to pulled.

    There are a few ways to fix this. One way is to strengthen the hamstring. For me, who probably has weakling little hamstrings, exercises that strengthen this muscle are unpleasant. I dislike running up hills and simulated running up hills on the elliptical. In the dating thing, this is probably the painful bit of asking more people and stuff. You know it’s good for you but the inevitable rejection is still not something you’d choose to experience.

    Another way, though, is to stretch out the quad. I really like stretching because I find it a lot easier. I just like, stand there, apply tension, and let gravity do its job. In the dating thing, I see this as learning how to kindly reject others. I guess it’s like a constructive existence proof: if you can convince yourself that at least you know how to tell someone ‘no, thanks’ (but in a nicer way), then you might have more faith that rejection might not be so bad. Like, you wouldn’t be terribly sore if you rejected yourself in the nice way that you thought of, right? (If not, keep thinking)

    Side effect: when you get the 9 rejections (before the expected success), you can’t conclude “oh bah all rejection in this universe is soooo horrible” because you’ve already constructed at least one very kind one for other people.

    Side effect: it reminds you that you also have the right to be choosy, and give you a tool to be selective without looking like a mean person.

    Anyhow, this is mostly inspired by being rejected (over mail), but really kindly. The guy finished the last question, thanked me for the correspondence, and said that I wasn’t his type. Perfectly un-unpleasant.

    #mostlytheoretical

  4. Pingback: Oh, hello, new readers | Newly Open

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