Flirting Isn’t Cutting Down Someone’s Ego
Stephen Hussey“I need someone who can take my banter”
This is the sort of line on a dating profile that makes me cringe. It’s often code for something like, “I like to make a lot of sarcastic comments that cut people down. Hope you’re game for it!”
Perhaps I’m over-sensitive, but I never enjoy dates where the principle form of conversation is poking fun, making constant jabs, and trying to puncture someone else’s ego. It’s boring and a turn-off.
It can also lose you a second date without you ever realising why.
Yes, the person next to you may grit their teeth and laugh it off when you make jokes at the expense of their career, or tease them about their hobbies and interests (“you’re such a dork!”), or scoff at their future plans. But they probably choose to invest in those things for a reason.
By being overly critical, jokingly or otherwise, about someone’s passions, you’re basically sub-communicating “I don’t respect how you spend your time”, or “I’ve got it figured out more than you do”.
I know, it sounds over-dramatic. I can hear the responses already:
Oh grow a pair! Give as good as you get! Stop taking yourself so seriously!
But note, I’m not talking about the benign form of teasing, where you might joke about who has better taste in superhero movies, giggle when they struggle with spicy food, or say something in a clearly ridiculous way, e.g. ‘oh wow, you’re a red velvet cupcake guy/girl? I’m not sure this is going to work…’
I’m talking about the kind of ego-damaging dismissal of something close to your date’s heart. Their job. Their family and friends. Their passions. The art they spend their free time working on.
A good rule of thumb is: wait to see if they are ok joking about it first. If they mock themselves, it’s much easier to know what parts of themselves they don’t mind being made fun of.
This is where social awareness comes in.
The Words That Matter In Attraction
Another key with flirting is tone, even when joking about trivial topics.
E.g. Bad response: “Oh my god, you’ve never seen (insert film)? That’s so lame. How?”
Better answer: “Whoa. You’ve never seen (insert film)? Ok, it is gonna Change. Your. World. We’re watching it.”
These changes seem minor, but dating is always about how someone feels, and that can change enormously depending on language.
I don’t want to promote excessive ego-stroking as a form of courtship, but it’s important to remember that people do want validation.
Think about it.
If someone is sharing their latest entrepreneurial venture, their love of science fiction, their passion for playing bridge or chequers, their enjoyment of abstract photography, on some level they want to be told, “that’s interesting, tell me more.”
People make a lot of their choices subconsciously to impress the opposite sex. Hell, there are even jokes about how most of heterosexual male ambition is entirely motivated by covering oneself in glory to attract the attention of women.
So it pays to give someone at least some level of validation for what they spend their time doing. To show curiosity, instead of judgment. To let them take a moment to get excited and revel in what they love. If nothing else, it makes them feel, “here is someone I feel free to actually be myself around”. That’s a powerful feeling.
Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to make fun of each other down the line, once you’ve built comfort.
Just make sure that in the name of “banter”, your rapier-like wit doesn’t swipe so hard it kills the attraction stone dead before it’s even gotten on its feet.