Sunday, August 21, 2005

Why am I reading this? is the home page on my computer. Yes, I'm lame. One of the things I do enjoy about is the fact that there is news and articles on the home page (and the games help too). Sometimes I find odd articles and decide to read, even if I have no major interest.

That is how I ended up reading about dating today. There were two different articles. One was about how guys should treat a woman's friends and the other was about 20 ways to break the ice.

The first article, found here, has six pieces of advice for men.

1. Know the names

Learn (and if you're short on working brain cells, rehearse) her friends' names beforehand and sprinkle them liberally throughout the night. If you can't remember two or three important names, then the logic goes, how mindful will you be on birthdays and anniversaries? Similarly, reference any inside info you know about her chums to break the ice ("Janice, I heard you ran away from home to join the circus. What was your act? With that great smile, obviously not the bearded lady.").

Believe me, if a man is interested in me or I happen to be dating the guy (like that will ever happen!), I would certainly appreciate it if he actually remembers DM's name. Or my other friends. I don't think I would associate it with him remembering important dates, but I would find it respectful and find it an interest in me. Acknowledging things that are important to the other person is a big step.

2. Open the wallet

Ask a lobbyist: Spending a little scratch is the timeless way to curry favor, even if the rapport is flat and the chitchat forced. No one suggests you must pick up the group's entire tab or arrange helicopter transport for all concerned, but can't a gent take care of the nightclub cover charge or treat her gang to a round of ice-cream sundaes? One crisp Jackson buys instant gratitude and amity, so even if your personality bombs worse than the House of Wax remake, rest assured, you'll still receive some points ("He's rude, crude, and lewd, but I will say this... he's not cheap.").

A nice gesture does go a long way, but I do not think that paying for things would override personality in any way. If the guy has a good personality, then this is a nice thing to do. I know I would want to return the gesture and buy something else throughout the night.

3. A smattering of flattering

The second easiest method to impress: Compliments, compliments, compliments. Offer some fashion kudos to her roommates and acknowledge the great work her best bud is doing at the non-profit. Even better, score points by offering kind words about your date to her friends while she's in the ladies' room: "She's terrific, but you all already know that." When such praise is repeated back to her later, the positive effect is doubled.

Good advice. It goes back to acknowledging the friend and helps create a sense of respect. It is a bit of a fine line however. Too much flattering to friends and lack of attention to the woman who the man is interested in can be construed badly.

4. Don't go for the grope

Incidentally, park that libido in Toledo. Despite her fetching curves, tone down the PDA and ixnay the open-mouthed kissing during outings with her friends. Mild affections are great, but syrupy "pookie-wookies" and all-too-obvious tableside groping make her cohorts feel like a bunch of third wheels... which won't win you any points.

In the past, I've watched couples (friends of mine) in public to see how they react to each other. I give huge props for mild touching, but tend to get very uncomfortable when there is more intense groping going on. A guy placing his hand on the small of his date's back is a huge plus. A woman can rest her hand on his arm. These are nice gestures of affection without making others think the couple will go for the gusto in a public place. And please, no baby-talk.

5. Wallflower or Man of the Hour?

Don't wait to be grilled with questions; fight any shyness and jump right into the mix. Get everyone involved in the conversation and turn an awkward meet-and-greet into a charming group experience. Foster confidence with a couple of her intimates by offering some candid insight out of earshot from your date ("When I first called Deanna's to ask her out, I nearly wore out the pound sign re-recording that message until my excitement wasn't so obvious.") Want to really go for it? Stir the ladies to a tizzy with a hush-hush announcement you know will get leaked like a Hollywood scoop ("Don't say anything, but I'm asking her to go away with me for the holiday weekend.").

Just sitting back and not joining the conversation is a quick way to get a group (and the woman) to think that the guy has no personality or intellect. Much of this advice goes back to showing interest in her friends.

6. Follow up with flourish

Whether by email or telephone, always comment afterward on what a delight it was to meet her friends. A few gushy words about her inner circle demonstrate that you are interested in her life as much as her tan lines. Had a little run-in with her dyspeptic pal Barbara? Don't blatantly lie, yet restrain from using your most colorful profanity. Instead, soften it with a little self-deprecation ("Barbara and I may have gotten off on the wrong foot, but I probably opened my fat mouth at the wrong time..."). At this early stage of dating, it's not worthwhile to squander precious wooing capital on a clash of personality. If you're still at it a few months later, then, by all means, unleash your torrent of honesty about bossy Barb—don't worry, your darling will likely have some choice words about one of your boorish buds as well.

It all comes back to acknowledgement. I know personally, I love it when events or conversations are acknowledged. Feeling unimportant because another person does not say anything about a situation is not a fun thing.

I think these pieces of advice can apply to both sexes. The article focused on how men should react around the friends of a woman he is interested in/dating, but really, a woman can benefit by knowing his friends' names, being a bit generous, and acknowledging the others around are good things to do. Do I think this article is profound? No. The concepts here work in many other situations besides dating. Simple friendships form from things like this.

The second article is about how to break the ice. It can be found here.

1. "I love your name; what’s the origin? Were you named after anyone in particular?"

Just about everyone’s name has a back-story attached to it, says Mia Kirshenbaum, dating coach and author of The Weekend Marriage. You’ll probably get a fun, learn-about-your-date’s-family exchange out of this remark.

At first, this seemed odd to me. Then I realized what my first rule of management is. To get people to open up to you, ask them questions. Humans, in general, like to talk about themselves. Most of these questions are going to relate to that fact.

2. "Where did you go on your last trip?"

Whether it was an exotic safari or just a weekend in Jersey, people love to talk about the places they’ve traveled, suggests Elizabeth Bates of Boston. Plus you’ll find out whether they’re more drawn to cities, beaches, or exotic locations—giving you still more conversational fodder.

Just how many times have DM and I told everyone at the Chalet that we went to Portugal to see Johnny? I lost count long ago.

3. "If you could do college over, what would you study?"

Perhaps they would forget economics and take theater, for example. Definitely gets them talking and reveals their innermost wishes.

4. "What’s your favorite new restaurant?"

You’ll have an instant window into your date’s likes and dislikes when it comes to cuisine. And if that topic doesn’t pan out, ask about their favorite dishes to cook at home, advises Stephanie Whitehead of New York.

5. "What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve done in the last month?"

If someone can’t remember ever doing anything spontaneous, that tells you something, too.

I would recommend being patient in the answer to this. On the spot, some may not think of spontaneous things, but after a bit of thought could probably find something.

6. "What trait do friends tease you about?"

You’ll learn how your date’s friends see him or her, as well as find out how seriously your date takes himself or herself.

7. "What’s your take on ____ (current event)?"

Skimming the Op-Ed section of the newspaper before your date keeps you up-to-date, suggest Steven Kim of Philadelphia. Not that you need to engage in serious CNN-style discussions; instead, keep it light and avoid controversial topics (sex, politics, religion), unless you really want to feel like you’re on Crossfire.

8. "How do you know ____(mutual friend)?"

Obviously, this one will only work if you have a friend in common—but if you have that in your corner, work it, suggests Tim Sanders, relationship expert and author of The Likeability Factor. You’ll be able to blab about how you each met the pal, what you think of your buddy’s new job, and so on.

9. "What are you reading right now?"

Even if it’s a magazine, everyone does a little browsing. Find out about what’s on their bedside table, says Alyssa Citarella, of Norwalk, CT, and you’ll learn something about their literary tastes and hobbies, which is a springboard to other conversations.

10. "Can you believe this ____(heat/cold spell?) It makes me want to move to ____. How about you?"

The weather may be a predictable topic, but the way you pose the question doesn’t have to be so. Chances are your date will reveal whether or not he or she has considered relocating to another clime, offers Mia Kirshenbaum.

11."Who in your family do you take after the most?"

Whether it’s their mother, father, or great-aunt Louisa, you’ll learn something about their personality, as well as how close they are to their clan.

12. "What’s on your iPod these days?"

Discover their musical tastes. And if your date doesn’t have an iPod by now? "Well, that’s a whole other topic for discussion," suggests Theresa O’Rourke of New York City.

13. "You’ve got just 20 bucks to your name. How would you choose to spend it?"

While this question may not be as fun to answer as "You’ve won the lottery—what would you buy?" it can provoke an interesting discussion about priorities.

14."Are you a morning person or a night person?"

A random, fun question like this shows you’re not all serious, all the time.

How is this a random question? The fact that I'm a night person is a huge influence on my life.

15. "What’s the last good movie you saw?"

This can lead into new films you’re interested in seeing together—maybe on your next date, suggests Stephanie Whitehead.

16. "Leno or Letterman—or Jon Stewart?"

Most people swear allegiance to one of these nighttime chatters—find out whom your date invites into their bedroom.

Don't forget Conan!

17. "Do you collect anything?"

This one has a strange way of starting a conversation. Chances are, your date either has a collection to talk about with gusto—or will share a bad collecting experience from childhood that’ll get you both gabbing.

18. "Do you have any secrets? Are you willing to reveal one to me?"

Even if the answer is that she (or he) is wearing red underwear, revealing a personal detail creates an immediate level of intimacy between two people—although it’s best to wait until you’ve both had a glass or two of wine, or at least until the dessert arrives, before you deliver this one, advises Tim Sanders.

19. "What’s your dream job?"

Then follow up with a short description of your own once and future aspirations, advises Mira Kirshenbaum.

20. "Who do you admire these days?"

Lance Armstrong? Neil Armstrong? Either way, the explanation will be very revealing, explains Patricia Madson, author of Improv Wisdom and a professor of drama at Stanford University.

I found the questions interesting. They could even make a good MEME.