In a previous edition, we discussed how to screen pictures people post in online dating profiles. This time, we are going to talk about how to ‘crack the code’ with regard to what people are actually saying in the “narrative” portion.
There are two ways to look at this.. First, is the “explicit” side of what a person is communicating. Second, logically, is the “implicit” side. Here we go.
By “explicit”, we are referring to what someone is objectively, really saying in his/her own words. There are some concrete indicators you can look for:
“No games.” Essentially, the person who says this has been “played” a lot and is utterly sick of being toyed with, lied to, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of that goes on, so a line like this is found in at least half of the profiles I’ve read. Such a person is really saying that s/he wants a steady relationship not ‘serial dating’.
“I have no idea what to write.” Don’t count on a particularly creative person behind this kind of talk. S/he might not have any idea what to say on a date either.
“I don’t think this is going to work, but I’m trying anyway.” This can characterize either bad experiences dating in general, or a poor self esteem. Plan on having to overcome these hurdles when and if you meet.
“If ___, then don’t bother.” Generally, I’d say if you see this line in a profile…don’t. Whether you fit the description or not. Bad attitudes abound.
“Read my profile completely before responding.” Make sure you do. There’s going to be some sort of limiting factor in there somewhere. This could be about either who s/he is OR who s/he’s looking for. If someone is going to be ultra-specific about who s/he is looking for, it might be signaled as such.
“I’m just looking for fun, nothing serious.” This might be able to be taken at face value, or you might just be dealing with a very cautious person. “Friends first” is another, and probably clearer way to communicate this.
“I’ll try anything once, and am open to anything.” Men read this and think, “sex”. A woman might not mean that. Handle such apparent subliminal references to wanting a purely sexual relationship with care. If a guy is implying this, well you can pretty much know what you are dealing with. However, guys are particularly prone to reading too much into what a woman writes in these cases. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard about women having been disgusted by blatant propositions in first emails, only to realize that there is something in her own words that was inviting them.
The “Implicit” side involves the bigger picture as to what a person is communicating about him/herself through what s/he writes. Examples are as follows:
Negativity. If someone is continuously talking about dislikes, pet peeves, etc., you can count on meeting someone who is a complainer in real life. Bummer.
Pickiness. This is characterized by the phrase “I want”. Pay attention to how realistic the wants and needs are, and how forcefully they are communicated. This can be a good thing, demonstrating the person has high standards and/or a solid self-esteem. Then again, if it’s an esoteric list you could be dealing with someone who is never going to be satisfied.
Low Self-Esteem. An online profile is no place to feel sorry for oneself. If such is being communicated with a person’s first impression, take that as a warning sign that you are potentially dealing with an emotionally damaged person.
Poor Spelling/Grammar. A lot of smart people talk about how this is an immediate deal breaker when sorting through online profiles. Be careful here. Some people may not be “right-brained” (i.e. artistic/linguistic) but in fact are brilliant on the “left-brained” (i.e. conceptual/analytical front. If someone misspells a word or two, read between the lines for greater depth and you could be reading about someone who compliments a “right-brainer’s” intelligence.
Length Of Narrative. If someone uses up every single character of the max amount of space allowed, s/he will likely be a “talker” in real life. No doubt, having kissed the Blarney stone is a helpful trait to have when building an online profile. Keep in mind, however, that a brief profile narrative can mean several things. Sure, the person may not have much to say in real life. However, a terse profile can also mean that the person just flat-out isn’t putting a lot of effort into the profile due to a “wait and see” attitude…which isn’t something to place a value judgment on, especially if the person just posted a profile for the first time ever. Or, the writer of a brief profile may just be A LOT more intuitive than “talker” types. Most of us have a short attention span and/or get intimidated when confronted with a profile that takes ten minutes to read. Hmmm….there’s wisdom there.
Dependence Upon One’s Looks Alone. The flip side of the last item, however, is when someone (particularly a woman) considers the narrative a “throwaway”, saying virtually nothing and therefore indicating that pictures alone should compel you to write. This is a dead giveaway that you are dealing with someone who hasn’t realized that “The Storybook” takes two people to write effectively. See what I mean?
Inconsistency. If the person is making statements that blatantly contradict one another, you can infer several potential pitfalls. First, you may be reading about a blatant liar…and a bad one at that. Or, this person may just not have a clear picture of who s/he is looking for. It could also be that such a person is confused about his/her own identity. Watch out.
Manipulation. It is surprising to some degree how easy it is to spell out M-A-N-I-P-U-L-A-T-O-R when reading an online profile. Watch for clear double-standards. An example would be, “I demand a monogamous relationship and will not tolerate flirting”, followed elsewhere by, “My match must be okay with the fact that I have same-sex friends and not get jealous.” You get the idea.
Listing Possessions And Accomplishments. This person may be somewhat shallow, or more likely is covering for the fact that he/she is not so interesting to get to know apart from all the outward stuff. Men in particular are infamous for this sort of verbiage. And women can see right through it for the most part.
Sense of Humor. Are you laughing? You would in real life also, probably. Good sign.
Creativity. This is an excellent sign of a person who would be fun to hang out with. It’s a valid idea to consider if the person’s creative style is along the lines of what your personality can relate to.
Smart Remarks. Read for the deeper attitude. If the person is openly cynical, that’s one thing, but someone who is “challenging” can be a lot of fun if you are up for it.
There are other more general principles that come alive when considering an online profile as a whole.
First of all, when listing those “statistics” regarding what the person is looking for, men tend to keep the range broader on paper and are pickier in reality. For women, it appears to often be the exact opposite. Women will post stricter guidelines, but usually will be more flexible when someone particularly interesting comes along. With that in mind guys, don’t let her laundry list of desired traits deter you necessarily. And ladies, realize that most guys who have been online for a while know this fact, so if (for example) you don’t want guys a few years older than your posted range contacting you, make sure you are specific in your profile as demonstrated above.
Second, pay careful attention to those items that are decided simply by checking a box. Some of these are broad enough that it may seem you will be a good match with someone, when in reality you couldn’t be more different. Ask about these things early when getting to know someone if there is any doubt. On Match.com members can select “turn ons” and “turn offs”, which is a particularly rich opportunity to learn about a person. A particular example is “skinny dipping”. When something as inherently hot as that is checked as a “turn off”, it likely signals body-image issues. If someone does not want to bring sexuality into the picture just yet, s/he will just not check that box at all–either way. By applying this sort of logic, you can learn much based on what else the person checked.
I’m out of room, but most of the more important areas have been covered. Keeping these points in mind will help any online dater to go from novice to expert in record time.
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