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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Desperation | Online Chatting | Too Fast | First Date Body Language

Quick Access:
Online Dating = Desperation?
Relationships from Online Chatting
Online Relationship Moving Too Fast
Body Language on First Date

Who uses online dating sites? Is online dating associated with desperation?


 This is one the most popular questions I get from reporters. The answer usually surprises them, because they’re expecting the typical online dater to be young and desperate. Actually, online daters span all adult age groups (18+), income levels, and sexual orientation! In fact, one the fastest growing of all groups using online dating is the senior crowd. From large websites to the smaller niche services, there’s an online dating site for everyone! Indeed, online dating is now a mainstream and socially accepted worldwide!

Is it possible to form meaningful relationships (dating and friendship) from online chat rooms?

The answer is a resounding yes! That doesn’t mean that all relationships will be meaningful, but certainly the opportunity is there for genuine and lasting connection via the Internet. Check out my detailed discussion about this here.

If an online relationship is progressing too fast for someone, how do they tell the other person?

A particularly nice feature of the Internet is the natural barrier between two people – a barrier of anonymity and another of space. This tends to give people courage and as well as a license to be more uninhibited. Because of this, some online daters may say or do things that they normally wouldn’t in person – such as coming on too strong at first or being overly forward in their communications as the relationship progresses.

Of course, the knife cuts both ways. People on the receiving end of pushiness, borderline offensive comments, or overzealousness can also draw courage and strength from the natural barriers of online dating. In this regard, the strength can help you say things that normally you might not in person – such as setting firm limits with the other person or even “dropping them” if they persist. I recommend using the power of the barriers to respond in a way most comfortable to you

If you’re naturally witty, you can say something like, “I bet Prince wrote that ‘Little Corvette’ song about you!...” and then go on to explain that you’re not comfortable moving as fast in a relationship as the other person. On the other hand, you can be somewhat reserved and respond along the lines of, “You can probably tell that I’m a careful person, so I take relationships slow and easy.” If in doubt, then simply be polite and direct – “I have to tell you that I enjoy our talks and getting to know you, but I feel the relationship is moving to fast for me. I’m comfortable just with talking online right now. Maybe we meet in person a later time if we both continue to feel a connection and it seems right.”

Whatever is your style of communication, the key is to be perfectly clear in your response to the other person. Don’t be ambiguous or gamey or else you’ll not achieve the outcome you want. That outcome is to set limits, communicate your comfort level to the other person, and let him or her know what behaviors are outside that comfort level.

Is body language really important during a first date?

Body language is important in any interaction – including dating. To be sure, despite our verbal fluency, many experts characterize human communication as largely non-verbal. I recently one excellent report on how body language can kill an otherwise excellent job interview. The tips and guidelines in that report echoed much of the advice for dating behavior that I’ve heard from experts. This makes sense because first dates are often like job interviews – the purpose of a first job interview is to get that all important second interview (or the job, if you’re lucky!). Likewise, the purpose of all first dates is to tell whether you want a second one.

With that in mind, let me reiterate the tips from that media report on non-verbals “nos nos” to watch out for during a job interview. It’s my advice to avoid these same behaviors during a first date. Keep in mind that there's no dictionary for interpreting body language 100% accurately in all situations. But in general, here's how some basic body language is often perceived by others:

» Arms folded across your chest is often seen as a defensive posture or, at best, as reserved and uninterested in the conversation.

» Standing with your hands in your pockets suggests a lack of confidence or unease.

» Sitting with legs crossed while shaking one leg or wiggling a foot suggests nervousness or severe discomfort.

» Staring blankly at the floor suggests a profound lack of interest in the conversation.

» Rubbing or touching your nose during a response suggests that you're not being completely honest.

» Rubbing the back of your head or neck suggests you're bored by the conversation.

» Pointing your feet toward the door or leaning in that direction suggests that you want to end the conversation quickly and flee--perhaps in a panic.

» Slouching in the chair suggests you're unprepared for the interview, or that, deep in your heart, you know you're not up to the task.

Sometimes your nose really does itch, and maybe you’re staring at the floor because of one of contacts fell out. But, the point is to be more mindful of your actions as well as your words during a first date. Indeed, simple actions can betray your inner thoughts.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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