Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Year End Review

This is it … that time of year … the time of year for unbelievable post-Christmas sales, for making New Year’s resolutions that end up having a shorter shelf life than ripe bananas, for organizing crazy fun New Year’s plans that never end up being that crazy or that fun and … for enduring the dreaded OR welcome Year End Review (it’s all in the perspective, right?).

Yes, in the ensuing weeks, lawyers, bankers, marketers, you name it, will be called in to the head honcho’s office for a frank but diplomatic assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. “Sit down so and so, it’s time to discuss your accomplishments this year, and while we’re at it, we should address a few areas that could use some work ...” Gen X yuppies everywhere will find out whether they will get promoted, what their bonuses will be and/or whether they will be vigorously searching their contacts trying to locate the number of that persistent headhunter whose calls were of mild interest a year or so back.

What does this have to do with dating, you might ask? Well, just picture it – what if you could receive a Year End Review not in your capacity as an associate or aspiring managing director but as a single guy or girl about town with an active dating life, but possibly unfulfilling love life. Wouldn’t it be great if we could line up all of our love interests from 2009 and get a similar no-nonsense assessment of our strengths and weaknesses as a date, as a boyfriend/girlfriend, as a potential life partner ... You know, something like: “Suzie, you exhibited excellent conversation skills, but lackluster table manners.” Or perhaps: “Richard, if you could just try to work on the foreplay skills, you’ll be promoted in no time.”

This type of tough love feedback would be worth its weight in gold. Even if you disagree with the person’s take away (we all know colleagues who leave their year end reviews arguing against the collective wisdom of the firm/company/bank because they don’t want to acknowledge that they might not be the perfect employee) you would at least know that someone else perceived you that way. And while it may not have mattered with this prior paramour, the next time around it might be someone you really like who harbors the fatal misperception.

Unfortunately, unlike in corporate America, singles in the dating world are highly reluctant to provide truly candid feedback to one another. This is understandable, as the fear of confrontation is a strong one and, anyway, most good natured people don’t want to offend others so they opt for platitudes (e.g. “It’s not you, it’s me”). Therefore, bewildered daters are often left wondering “Why? Why didn’t I get the return call/the third date/the coveted invite to spend New Year’s together?”

So then, just how does one get answers to ensure that at the end of 2010 you don’t find yourself in precisely the same place as you were at 12:30pm on December 29, 2009? For the fantastic men and women who choose to become my clients, I am in the unique position of being able to pass on a tremendous amount of relevant and constructive feedback from a variety of sources. Of course, outside of seeking the assistance of a professional, there’s also the option of going straight to the source and asking the girls/guys you’ve dated for their honest constructive criticism. If you’re still friends, you might invite the person you were dating for coffee and, while assuring him or her that you have not entered AA, ask your ex-love interest what advice he or she would give you for 2010.

If you’re not in a position to reach out to an “ex” perhaps you can ask a family member whose opinion you trust or two or three friends who know you very well to: (1) share with you their assessment of what you might be doing that is leading to disappointment in your love life and (2) offer one piece of advice (or more) they would give you regarding what to work on for the upcoming year. We all know that, given the opportunity, we would have ample constructive critique to offer those we love. Can there be any doubt that the feeling is reciprocal among those who love us? Most people do not fully appreciate how they might be coming across to others. What better way for you to find out than by asking? And as the saying goes, knowledge is power.

So, here are a few pointers that might help in the conduct of the “Year End Review”:

  • Ask your ex-love interest/friend/family member, etc. to provide equally positive feedback to accompany the critique (this makes it an easier pill to swallow and reminds you that, yes, this person is your friend).
  • Emphasize that you are looking for specific examples in the feedback you receive – not vague generalities.
  • Try to elicit ideas on how you can make positive changes for the future.
  • Take notes.
  • Consume a lot of alcohol before and after (just kidding on this one).

If you embark on this path of self-discovery and improvement, it’s important to let your "reviewer" know that no matter what he or she says you are not going to get angry or hold it against him or her. Hearing honest, raw, unfiltered, critique can be the equivalent of being ripped open with a dull object and slowly being picked apart by vultures. It freakin’ hurts. I know – I have been lucky enough to receive such an unapologetic critique and, in light of what I do, I am the one giving such critiques on a weekly basis (though I always try to do it with a delicate hand).

The above exercise calls to my mind that famous line in A Few Good Men when Jack Nicholson announces to the tenacious Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!” I think it goes without saying that if you’re going to do this, you need to be able to handle the truth.

So, here’s a toast … to reviews, to the truth and to a knowledgeable, powerful, wonderful 2010.

Interested in receiving invaluable dating feedback, benefiting from image consulting, dating coaching, personalized introductions, events and more? Contact Marni at marni@sundayatnoon.com to learn more about becoming a client. Give yourself the gift of love in 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Path To The Dark Side

All of my faithful readers know by now that I love New York, warts and all. As New Yorkers, we deal with extreme noise, extreme stress, extreme prices, extreme traffic … extremely small living spaces … and still we thrive. And we also choose to live here despite the various perils inherent in living in one of the world’s most important and highly populated cities. Nevertheless, we leave our apartments every morning instead of staying home for fear of what might happen on the way to the subway because we seem to recognize that you can’t let fear dictate your life (and we need to go to work so we can afford our expensive rents).

Indeed, as Mark Twain aptly noted, “Courage is not the lack of fear, it’s acting in spite of it.”

However, the truth is that when it comes to relationships and finding a life partner, many fearful New York singles simply don’t act. Their fear of the inherent dangers in dating paralyzes them into inaction and so they never (figuratively) leave the safety of their apartments’ four walls. Or, if they do, it is with enough body armor to withstand a full frontal assault. In many ways when it comes to dating these cynical New York singles act more like the cowardly lion – afraid to put themselves out there and see what might happen – than the tough, courageous stereotype of New Yorkers that the world has come to view us as.

And this makes sense in a way. New Yorkers are achievers, right? Achievers are not used to failing. Rejection = failing = not good. Therefore, it’s easier to act as if meeting and connecting with someone is not a priority and that other things are just more important (work, social life, etc.) than to proactively put yourself out there. This way you haven’t failed in your goal. Of course, there is also the real fear of even opening up to someone in this dog eat dog city. Add to this the fear of not being successful/thin/cool/good enough … you get the point. What if this other person learns that you are not perfect and then tells someone else about it – no one wants his or her cover blown. And, then there is one of the most paralyzing fears of all: the fear of making the wrong choice (“who knows if I commit to this person I might miss the opportunity for something bigger and better?”). The fear of settling for less than what you think you can get can keep one vigilant about not getting trapped into the wrong relationship … and it can also keep one from ever being in a meaningful relationship at all. Yes, in New York, bigger and better is always around the corner.

On top of all that, is the fear of getting screwed (of course, figuratively – not literally). If you have had enough bad dating experiences in this city it’s not surprising that a fundamental need for self-preservation kicks in. As corny as it may sound, dating can be scary. Especially if you really like someone. Getting rejected sucks, plain and simple. Being vulnerable sucks. If you’ve dated long enough, chances are you’ve been burned. You were too nice, too available, too trusting … too flammable. Taking a cautious approach or a preemptive stance certainly helps you avoid being burned again - e.g. "This time around, I won’t show I’m invested until he or she shows me.” or “This person might reject me? F – that – I’ll reject him/her first.” It’s easier to claim that you don’t care if the person you are starting to date chooses to walk away because there are plenty of other quality, good looking fish in this proverbial sea, than to let the catch of the day know you actually care for him or her.

Employing the foregoing attitude definitely helps prevent the arson attack but it also often leads to yet another night of meaningless interactions and lamenting your single status. It’s understandable that some people’s fears of not succeeding might keep them from even trying. It’s also understandable how many people would rather turn their frustration with dating outwards (and towards the opposite sex) instead of figuring out if it might possibly be something that they’re doing that keeps them from getting what they want.

But the point is to confront and surmount these fears. You might confront these fears by going to a party where you don’t know anyone (other than the host – not talking about party crashing here...), or by making it your objective to approach new people at events and not care if you occasionally get blown off (it happens to everyone) … or you might ask people who know you well for honest feedback about yourself and what they think you are doing that is keeping you from meeting the “One” (while the truth might hurt, you will be infinitely better off having heard it).

Of course, many people are in denial – they claim they don’t have any fears (all this talk of fear is far too “Dr. Phil” for them) and so they can’t even know how to confront them. With the New Year around the corner what better time than now to take a cold, hard look at yourself and ask some tough questions. Indeed, before you write your list of resolutions, how about writing a different list first – a list of what fears you have in regard to being in a relationship, getting married/not getting married and what you might be doing to prevent those things from happening. Because far worse than being indirectly called a scaredy-cat by some two-bit writer of a blog, should be the thought that you might be letting fear prevent you from getting what you want in life. And that would really suck.

Maybe it’s time for us all to watch Star Wars again.

[1] Nelson Mandela offered a similar definition of courage: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

[2] “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda.

Curious to know what Sunday at Noon is about and the services Marni offers? Contact Marni at marni@sundayatnoon.com to learn more about becoming a client. Why not give yourself the gift of love this year? Sunday at Noon: It’s completely confidential, it’s fun and it’s effective.