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The goal can be stated simply enough: the
overwhelming priority, when on a date with

someone we like, is to persuade them to like
us back. But the simplicity of the mission

masks the complexity required to achieve it.
Typically, the advice focuses on externals:

what to wear, when to unfurl a napkin, what
to order… But such counsel, however well-meaning,

is at odds with what we ourselves know about
attraction: that it is profoundly focused

on psychology. However much we may deny it
to friends, a date is ultimately a search

for a potential long term-partner. So what
really renders someone attractive on dates

are signs that they are emotionally well-equipped
for what good-enough long-term relationships

require. The capacity to find an ideal full-bodied
Chianti on a menu may be impressive, but what

we're really alert for are signs that someone
is going to be a decent companion twenty years

from now when we have received a difficult
medical diagnosis or are feeling weepy and

ashamed at the progress of our careers. Here
then are some of the things we might do to

prove attractive to another person on a date:
i. Tell them that we are a bit mad. We might,

in the course of the conversation, light-heartedly
drop in that we're not quite sane. Perhaps

we have great difficulty getting to sleep
or get very anxious in social situations.

Maybe we are often deeply sad on Sunday evenings
or have a painful rivalrous relationship with

a sibling. The key is that, as we reveal these
vulnerabilities, we can suggest we have a

mature, compassionate, unruffled relationship
to them. Yes, we may be a little mad, but

we are eminently sane enough to know about
and be unfrightened of our follies; we have

mapped them, are able to warn others of them
and can protect those we love from their worst

sides. What we require in a partner is not
someone who is perfect, but someone with a

good handle on their manifold imperfections
– who can warn us of these in good time,

and not act them out in ways that will ruin
our lives.

© Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski
It is deeply reassuring to witness vulnerability

well-worn and madness confidently understood;
to see someone mature enough to talk about

their immaturities in an undefended and serenely
curious way. Over the long-term, every possible

partner will be revealed as rather crazy in
some dimension of existence or another. So

what really counts is not whether or not they
are psychologically complicated, but how they

relate to this complexity: the degree of insight,
calm, perspective and humour they can bring

to bear upon it. Conversely, there should
be nothing more terrifying on a date than

a person who sticks a little too aggressively
to the idea that they are totally sane and

entirely normal. Anyone over the age of twenty
possessed of the idea that they are 'easy

to live with' has evidently not begun to
understand themselves or their impact on others.

We should probably skip desert and head home
early. ii. Ask our partners how they are a

bit mad The enquiry should sound playful,
natural and wholly compassionate. Having laid

out our flaws of character, we should take
it as a given that – despite their evident

strengths and accomplishments – our date
too will have a litany of their own madder

sides. We should create a safe space in which
we imply that it is extremely unsurprising

that our date should be a bit 'broken'
in certain areas; everyone is. We can gently

enquire into what makes them in particular
anxious or depressed, what was untenably difficult

in their childhoods or what they in particular
regret and are ashamed of. This can prove

charming because what we're ultimately looking
for in love are not people who find us perfect,

but people who will not flinch from the sight
of our wounds. We want to be seen for who

we really are and forgiven; not mistaken for
someone else, idealised – and then one day

condemned.
© Flickr/Steven Guzzardi

iii. Reveal we've been a bit lonely and
sad lately We often assume that people want

to hear that things are going brilliantly
for us – and that we become winning for

others when we can show we're triumphing
in the world. But what really warms us to

others is evidence that they share in some
of the very difficulties and confusions that

we are beset by in our private selves. If
love involves a desire for an end to loneliness,

then some of what we no longer want to be
lonely with are our more melancholy dimensions

that most people have no time for or interest
in – and that we therefore have to take

care to hide from others in a bid to look
competent and strong. How seductive, therefore,

to stumble on someone around whom we sense
we will no longer have to be jolly in a brittle

way; someone who can give us room, through
their own candour, to confessions of feelings

of loss and sorrow. There can be few things
more charming on a date than to hear, from

someone who looks extremely self-possessed
and competent, that they've been feeling

unusually isolated and very perplexed of late.
They're showing us the fertilised soil in

which our love can grow. iv. Pay some compliments
We can, understandably, get anxious at the

idea of having to pay our date some compliments.
The approach can feel too direct, demanding,

almost sleazy. But there is an art to good
compliments that starts from a different place:

a recognition that most of us struggle to
maintain a basic grasp on what is decent and

good about us, and privately hunger to hear
from someone else certain basic but psychologically-sustaining

things about our characters (that sound unbelievable
when we try to say them to ourselves): that

we aren't wholly stupid, that we are sometimes
funny or perceptive and have a few qualities
to contribute to the world. We can be so worried

by our own inadequacies that we forget that
the person across the table will have an equally

large share of them – which it lies within
our power to calm.

These antics and more belong to a properly
rich sense of what we might need to talk about
on the audition of our lives we call, with

touching modesty, a date.
To learn more about love try our book on how to find love, which explains why we have the types we do and how our early experiences shape how and whom we love.
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How to Be Attractive on a Date

203 Folder Collection
Cathy ♥ published on May 2, 2019
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