Dating Games: Self-Involved Syndrome

When you forget to ask about the other person and talk interminably only about yourself – that’s when you’ve crossed the line from dating to a job interview.

Dating games 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dating games 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When people are actively dating, they get used to the idea of selfpromoting – talking about themselves at length in an effort to “sell” themselves. But there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to being too self-involved – and that’s when you forget to ask about the other person and actually begin to enjoy hearing yourself talk about yourself.
My friend Michelle called me a few months ago to tell me she had taken my advice about a break from Internet dating. She had recently signed back online, only to find herself exchanging e-mails with somebody who was suffering from Self-Involved Syndrome.
Michelle told me he had initially written her, and after perusing his profile, she responded. That’s when the completely detached and convoluted e-mails began.
Michelle copied some of his e-mails into her message to me, and I was shocked. This guy obviously has not been reading this column! Everything was about him; there were no questions about Michelle – and, moreover, there was no hint of any progression toward an actual date.
Michelle also sent me her responses where she gave some short answers, asked questions, and hinted at just coming off a busy week and finally having time to hang out with friends.
Alas, his e-mail was once again a short novel about his experiences and his life in which he didn’t ask Michelle any questions about herself, or inquire when she might be free to meet.
That’s where Michelle was stuck, and she asked me what to do next.
I advised her to give him a chance; he might be better in person. Perhaps he was so into selling himself online that he’d forgotten his manners.
I told her to ask him when he was free to get together so they could finally meet and get to know each other face-to-face.
I DON’T know what response Michelle received to the e-mail I helped her compose, but I’m glad she didn’t give up because while this syndrome is all too common, it’s not a make-or-break situation.
So many people get jaded by online dating, where you have to post photos of yourself, write about yourself and make yourself seem bigger and better than you may actually be. It can be daunting to make good on all this “advertising” (even when it’s true) when you finally meet each other in person.
When someone you’re communicating with online seems self-involved, don’t misconstrue it as a lack of interest. Instead, try to steer the conversation toward banter and making plans. Try to get offline and to a personal meeting as soon as possible.
Of course, finally meeting someone does not guarantee that the self-promotion will come to an end. Singles have become intrinsically wired to talk about themselves and need a wake-up call to remind them to return to reality.
That’s what happened on a date I went on a few years back. The simple question “So tell me about yourself, what are your hobbies, what do you like to do with your free time?” turned into a 30-minute lecture from my date about his dog, his surfing, his job, his parents, his diet and his exercise, and so much more.
I sat there and listened and nodded and waited for him to ask me about my dog, my job, my hobbies – but it never happened.
Even though the things he was telling me were interesting, the fact that he didn’t seem to care about learning about me was off-putting. Luckily for me, there was enough chemistry and commonality that I accepted his offer of a second date, where he was less stiff. He asked more about me and actually participated in a conversation rather than a job interview.
Even though the relationship only lasted a few months, it wouldn’t have gone anywhere at all had I not figured out that the guy was probably stuck in self-promoting mode and needed a second chance to let down his guard and get out of his own head.
Do a self-check to make sure you’re not the one being overly self-involved.
Before you send an e-mail, read it back and calculate the ratio of sentences about you to sentences asking about the other person. It should be 50/50.
Of course you should respond to questions asked of you, or comment on something the other person has said – just remember to toss it back and lead the conversation forward. You can use this self-check in person when you’re on a date, too.
Ask questions, but don’t make it seem too forced. Really show interest in the answer and prove you’re listening to the answer by commenting or asking a follow-up question. Talk about yourself – but not for too long before turning the table back over. Find subjects you have in common to talk about, but also be open to learning about something new – such as your date.