Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

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Almost everyone who’s met someone through an online dating site has some version of this story:

“I was on a first date with someone new, and we hadn’t spotted each other yet. I saw them before they saw me. When they finally realized who I was, I saw their face fall, plain as day. Apparently I wasn’t as attractive as they’d hoped, even though I felt I’d been honest with my profile pics. Anyway, the rest of the date was ruined. I was terribly self-conscious, and I felt like my personality was being silently judged - would I be ‘good enough’ to overcome my physical deficit - so of course that only made me feel worse. What a waste of time.”

Yes, it’s a tale we’ve heard or experienced before. But what’s interesting is that almost everyone also has some version of this tale:

“I was meeting someone for the first time - it’s always hard to recognize someone in person, even when you’ve seen a picture - and they found me first. Right from the moment they said hello, it felt like something was off, so I don’t know what I could have done to prompt such a cool reception. It was so strange - online they were so bright, lively and engaging. In person they were cold, dull and distant. I did my best to carry on but it cast a chill over the whole date. They looked more or less like their picture, but the personality was completely different from the profile.”

These two stories could very well be two sides of the same date. In short, we place far too much emphasis on the first moment we lay eyes on each other - for better or for worse. We’ve clearly liked the profile of our date well enough to want to meet, but we’re still meeting for the first time on that first date; are we really expecting our date will fall for us at first sight? How many people have you instantly loved?

Rather than reading too much into the first flicker of an expression, we need to consider the date as a whole - especially once you’ve gotten into good conversation. But we’ll never make it that far if we’re obsessed with what our date is thinking; in fact, if we’re too wrapped up in that we’re probably not even listening to the conversation.

The fastest way to doom a first date is to decide it’s already doomed. Sure, everyone has dates that get off on the wrong foot, and everyone has dates where there’s just no mutual chemistry. The question is, are you naturally incompatible with your date, or did you create a self-fulfilling prophecy based on nothing more than a facial twitch?