Inviting vs. Interviewing in Dating
If you are dating and hoping to find a life partner, the stakes are high. It's natural to feel nervous because you want to have a safe connecting experience and ultimately you want a partner. If you have been dating longer than you would like, you might find yourself trying to speed up the process by interviewing your date. You might imagine that if only you could get enough information and the right kind of answers, then you would be able to discern wisely, thus avoiding wasted energy and future heartbreak.
Unfortunately, interviewing your date will likely provide you with even less information. Interviewers have agendas. Agendas are based on your values, perspectives, and background. When you are interviewing, it's really about you and your agenda. Your questions reveal your values and preferences. These things are important to express, but to express them under the guise of getting to know someone else likely ends up in a sense of disconnect for you both.
Interviewing in this context may also not meet a need for respect or honor of the other person. The other person may have the experience of being like a vending machine in which you choose what to take out and examine while showing no interest in what remains. Not only are you limiting your attention to your own interests, you are also getting very little information. You can read basic demographic and lifestyle choices on your date's profile or let this information arise naturally. On the date you want to know who this person is, not just the facts.
Discovering who someone is requires a subtle attention and an open curiosity. Often the felt sense of someone is tracked unconsciously and becomes implicit knowing. You can make this explicit and part of wise discernment. This means noticing things like posture, eye contact, groundedness, a quickness to give opinions, a willingness to get curious, caring towards others, an ability to focus, smiles, humor, a relative level of tension or relaxation, direct and indirect expression of values, an ability to track mutuality, an ability to listen and understand at an emotional as well as mental level, a sense of presence or distractedness, etc.
Inviting someone to share who s/he is means making space for him/her to express whatever is alive. As you see and hear what the other person chooses to focus on you get a sense of his or her values. When you reflect back what you hear, you notice if the other leans into the reflection and shares more deeply, tracks that he or she has been speaking a while and invites you in, or moves away from the reflection.
As you each share you also get an opportunity to notice in from which dimensions of experience this person tends to relate. Does s/he relate mainly from mental, emotional, physical, or energetic realms of experience? Can you and your date move easily from one to the other and meet each other. For example, let's say you both have an interest in basketball. Your date starts sharing the stats of his or her favorite team and you suggest the two of you go to the park and play ball. Is there a flexibility to shift to meet each other in the mental realm of team stats and in the physical realm of playing ball?
If you look at getting to know someone through the lens of NVC, you remember that people are always expressing observations, feelings, needs/values, and requests/actions. You can tune into this not just for the content, but also for how someone expresses. These questions might help you notice:
Observations: Is it easy to get a picture of the event a person is referring to or is it mixed with opinions and interpretations?
Feelings: Do feelings show in his or her face, words, or body or are they talked about, but not felt, or do they not show up at all?
Needs/Values: Does the person have an awareness of his or her needs? Or do needs and values show up in the midst of stories, opinions, or statements about how things should be? Or is there a denial of needs?
Requests/Actions: Does s/he have a sense of confidence about taking action to meet needs? Does the person express and ask for what she or he needs directly? This can be seen in simple things like "I would like to sit by the window, I enjoy seeing the trees." It also shows up in more day to day ways like consistent self-care, supportive friendships and community, etc. Sometimes requests show up indirectly as hints, or posing as inquiries about what someone else might want to do or silent protests when the preferred action isn't taken.
Whatever lens you look through, of course, biases your perception of another. All that I have written here is biased by own experience and values. You can't help but look through the lens of your own experience, but you can learn more about another by shifting into your center, opening your awareness into curiosity, setting your standards and opinions aside as best you can, and gently inviting that person to share while remaining attentive and attuned.
This week practice attending and attuning*. Choose a particular person who you would like to know better. Each time you are with him or her in the coming week choose one of the ways named above or your own way to attend and attune in your interactions.
*See this Connection Gem for more on attunement: http://www.wiseheartpdx.org/post/734