Thursday, September 17, 2009
In a post titled, "Go on a Date with Life" over at Lifehack, Dustin Wax draws an interesting analogy between dating and life, drawing from six guidelines about dating in particular to create a list of tips for life in general. (He plans on revisiting this topic for more such tips in a later post.)
I find the analogy especially thought-provoking because dating is, like the rest of life, goal-directed action that ought to be directed towards one's self-interest. However, because it inherently involves finding companionship, the partial focus on other people can make it easier than in other pursuits to allow bad philosophical premises such as altruism or their psychological manifestations, such as second-handedness, to derail oneself. In addition, the move from dating to life underscores the fact that many people don't work as hard for themselves as they do for other people.
Why do some people find dating "traumatic?" I think that not only can one be afflicted with an inappropriate (i.e., more or less self-less) desire for approval from others, the eventual outcome still rests partially on the other person, whose potential value furthermore one can also, perhaps confuse with her actual value.
And, on the other hand, since our culture offers moral guidance overwhelmingly pertinent only to serving others, how well one treats oneself commonly takes a back seat to how well one treats others.
With those things in mind, I'll offer some thoughts Wax's list provoked from me, and invite other comments from those interested. In the below list, the title to Wax's tip will be in bold, and my thought will follow in normal type. If you want his elaborations, visit the post.
- Dress Counts. This is true, because dress can be both a celebration of one's own aesthetic sense, and a nonverbal means of communication. Why not look as good as one can when one can? Why not understand the "grammar" of fashion well enough to use it to help convey one's actual value (e.g., seriousness or creativity) to others? One's self-interest is served by trading with other rational people. So, let them know -- if they have the (desirable) ability to see it -- that you are worth being better acquainted with by showing them that you are rational and tasteful.
- Listen more, talk less. In likening dating to life, the focus here is on establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships that are of high mutual benefit. Either you'll get your chance to show what you have to offer or you'll be able to discover that it's time to move on. So learn as much as you can about the other person in the meantime.
- Don't be too needy. Wax supplies an excellent movie quote: "Desperation is the worst perfume." Not to detract from that point, but to add another. I suspect that the source of much desperation in dating is an inappropriately or prematurely high valuation of the other person. Don't get too excited too soon, and for goodness's sake, listen to input and take it if it's rational, but never let other people hold your evaluation of yourself hostage.
- Be decisive. Know what you want and the decisions will take care of themselves.
- Smile a lot. I think that, to the extent this can help one put oneself and the other person at ease, the idea has merit. I differ in that happiness must come from within. That said, success on any level, even just finding a new, friendly acquaintance, will make you smile on its own.
- Have an exit strategy. The analogy between dating and life breaks down a little here, but Wax's advice amounts to knowing what one wants enough to know whether a given undertaking is worth one's effort and, if so, how much effort.