Cathy and I recently presented at the Fall Conference of the Foundation for Family Life of Utah. While there, we met a man on the lunch-time panel who had spent most of his life in business. He told us that the secret to successful selling is the same as the secret to successful dating. "Make it about the other person."
This man said that most salespeople spend most of their interaction with potential customers talking AT the customer about their product and all the great things it can do. Instead, a great salesperson would be finding out what the other person needs and wants--and figuring out how they can help to meet the other person's needs. When the customer feels a connection with the salesperson, they don't really feel like they are being sold. They feel understood and cared about, whether they buy or not.
Most people hate being sold. They don't want to be sold to. They just want to buy. I met with a mid single woman yesterday who told me that she doesn't really like dating--though she makes a genuine effort to date. I can't tell you how many times I have heard that in the mid-singles community. Why? We don't like the games. We don't like wearing a mask to please someone else. We don't like feeling like we are in competition with other people for the affections of someone we might like. We don't like having our self-esteem tied up in what our dating partners think of us. And we are scared. Many of us have been hurt deeply before, and we don't want to experience that again.
I suggest something different. Drop your pride and be honest. Make it about the other person. Going into a first date, neither of you knows the other person very well. Neither of you knows that you want the date to lead to marriage. But, regardless of that, sitting across the table from you is a child of God and a potential glorified being. People are interesting. They all have stories to share about their journeys--particularly mid-singles. Many of them have already had families and careers. They can tell you stories of success and failure, resilience, overcoming significant trials, and other stories of the noble and debased elements of human nature. It's better than going to a movie.
So, get your dating partner talking about himself or herself. It's not always easy. I have often had a dating partner tell me that she wasn't a very interesting person, and three hours later I have heard all about her time living abroad, her marriage to a famous songwriter, or the fascinating things she is doing to reinvent herself after becoming single at midlife grieving the loss of dreams.
Sometimes, hearing the really fascinating things about people takes a little drawing out. Typically, you won't get there by looking for every opportunity to brag about yourself or tell your own stories. You will have plenty of opportunity to do that. But make it about the other person first. Give your partner a chance to share his or her stories in an environment of trust and acceptance.
This is a different mindset with which to approach dating. It is other-focused. Don't think so much about what you want, and think a little more about what the other person wants. Try to find out. Be a good listener. Ask questions respectfully and non-judgmentally--but ask about real things that your partner really cares about.
Let me finally say, also, that I am not advising you to manipulate people or do a sales job on them. I am not suggesting that you behave in a certain way just to get someone to like you. Quite the opposite. I am asking you to approach dating in a whole different way than we are generally accustomed to. I am asking you to be authentically interested in the whole person, so that you genuinely WANT to know all you can about him or her. This is not a tactic or a strategy. It's a mindset. It's a different way of being. It is realizing that the other person has an independent will, hopes and dreams, and a story every bit as real and meaningful as yours. This is about developing a genuine admiration for your dating partner so you want to know him or her at a deeper level--not just to determine whether you are getting married--but because they are interesting and unique.
Dating is not a game. It's not a conquest. It is about people's hearts and souls. So make it about that--and make it about the other person's heart and soul. If you do that, you can transform another person's life in one evening--even if you don't choose to continue dating them. You can give them something they may never have had before in previous relationships--unconditional love and acceptance.
Think on it friends. Let's change the way mid-singles date. I think we can do much better in ministering to each other with genuine interest.