How many times have you heard something like this?
“I don’t want to waste your time.”
“I’m too old/young for you.”
“I’m too short/tall for you.”
“You’ll get annoyed with me trying to keep up.”
Generally, these lines are in response to an initial message on a dating app. For example, a client of mine recently — a 5-foot-9 woman — matched with a man on Bumble who is 5-foot-6. Height is not important to her in a partner (I wish more people felt that way!). Rather than responding to her fun first message, the man at the other end said, “Why are you writing? I’m too short for you.” Presumably, he’s so self-conscious about his height (and he felt uncomfortable with the match) that he projected it onto someone who could have been the right fit for him. It was not his height that counted him out; it was his assumption about another person, my client. She gets to decide who’s “too short” for her, not him.
Let’s look at another example: After a recent date, a different client of mine decided she did not want to see her date again after their first time meeting. I recommended sending a simple, “Thanks again for a nice time the other night. Unfortunately, I just didn’t feel the connection I was looking for, but I wish you the best!” Instead, she said some version of that but added, “Since it’s not a match, I don’t want to waste your time.” No. What she actually meant is she doesn’t want to waste her own. (For what it’s worth, meeting a new person or getting to know someone better should never be considered a waste of time. That’s a very negative attitude.) Regardless, by her saying that, it made her date think, “Don’t I get to determine what’s worth my time or not? You’re rejecting me, but you don’t get to decide what would be a valuable use of my time.”
One last example: We all know that person who runs marathons and does triathlons. Often, that person wants to meet another marathon enthusiast, but that’s certainly not always the case. Let’s call her Susie. Perhaps Susie would rather date someone who has other interests, like movies or pottery, to balance out her own life a bit more. Now, let’s say Susie matches with Taylor online, and she’s excited to see that Taylor doesn’t have the same goal of running 10 races this year. But rather than accept that, Taylor says, “You’ll get annoyed with me trying to keep up.” Taylor put words in Susie’s mouth — words that were just untrue.
In all three examples, one person is essentially telling the other person how to feel or presuming the other person feels a certain way. In the first case, had the gentleman said, “I just wanted to make sure you read my height correctly ... I know that’s been a concern sometimes. And assuming you did, I’m so glad we matched.” In the second case, had she left out the “waste your time” bit, the rejection would have come out kinder and more authentic. And in the third, Taylor’s assumption may have lost a great opportunity to meet someone new.
The moral here is we don’t know what other people think or feel, and we certainly can’t assume we do. Let them decide that for themselves. People might just surprise you, if you’re willing to listen.
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Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.
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