Emotional Intelligence and Great Dates
For days you had been anxiously anticipating your first date with HIM. You met online weeks ago and spent time getting to know each other through cyber and phone chats. Finally you both felt it was time to take your virtual relationship to the next step. Meeting at a nice coffee house after work seemed like the perfect plan. You made a special effort to look your best and to plan your workday so as to not be late. You were nervous but feeling positive that this, at last, could be the start of something real.
The traffic was awful and you were 20 minutes late, causing you to feel rushed and a bit on edge. It was hard to tell, but he seemed a bit annoyed when you finally came face to face. You must have been distracted by this- because you didn't shake his hand or offer a warm greeting before you sat down together. The conversation seemed to get stuck on the bad traffic, your awful workload, your difficult boss and your repeated apologies for being late. You emphasized frequently that you are a fun person who is always on time. You went on to share many of your other virtues because you felt it was important for him to understand that this was not the real you- just a bad first impression. He seemed rather quiet and perhaps a bit edgy and you noticed him looking at his watch a few times. He mentioned that he had to meet a friend later and you panicked, trying to think of more to say to change his mind. So, how did it go so terribly wrong? What did you do or not do that turned this into another dating disaster?
Does this scenario sound even vaguely familiar? If so, you may be thinking that this guy should have been more understanding. After all, everyone has bad days and it should be a given that no one can be on their "best behavior" all the time. You may also be thinking that there was little else she could have done in the situation. After all, she apologized and then tried to communicate her feelings and explain why she was not able to relax and be herself.
This situation is a great example of someone trying to think their way out of a situation, while blocking their self-awareness and shutting out the unspoken messages from the other person. In a nutshell, this woman demonstrated low emotional intelligence, even though her IQ is probably above average. In case you are wondering what the difference is between these two, you need to know what EI is. Essentially, it is a capacity to use reason to understand one's emotions and the emotions of others. When someone possesses high EI, they demonstrate an ability to utilize their emotions to enhance thinking, perception, expression and management of themselves and those around them. It requires good self-awareness as well as awareness of what others are feeling and expressing- both verbally and non-verbally. Our emotions are usually demonstrated through the level of energy we express- and tuning into the energy changes in ourselves and those around us is a way to raise our awareness and EI.
If this woman had a higher EI, how might she have handled herself differently on this first date? To begin with, she would have begun managing her anxiety before arriving at the coffee house. Perhaps she would have tried some self talk, reminding herself that getting upset about being late would have a negative impact on what she said and how she came across. Had she worked on getting this into perspective and focused on presenting an open and positive introduction of herself, her date would (most likely) have quickly let go of any annoyance he might have been feeling at having to wait. From there they would have moved on to a pleasant discussion of how their day(s) went and other topics of mutual interest.
Instead of strained silences, glances at the time, pressured conversation (that sounded like a desperate Hail Mary pass) to try to salvage the date ? there could have been laughter, great conversation, intense listening and the beginning of a new (non-virtual) bond between them. Instead of this woman trying to tell him what she is really like, she would have shown him that person. Even if the physical chemistry was not ideal, the possibility of connecting around a shared sense of humor, good comfort level and mutual interests would have left them with the option of a second date ? and more time to explore where this could lead.
When preparing for your next first date, remember to bring along a greater self- awareness and a commitment to tune into the verbal and non-verbal messages expressed by this other person. Make an effort to observe how you interact with friends, family, co-workers and others- and ask for feedback from the people you know will be honest with you. Increasing your EI is the greatest investment you can make to ensure that all your present and future relationships will be healthy and mutually satisfying ones.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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