Our advice for successful dating

Article 14

How to interpret what they say

Men and women don't really speak different languages or come from different emotional planets, but it can seem like that when you're on a date – especially if you're not used to dating.

Getting back into dating can make you nostalgic for the easy understanding you had with your ex, with whom you had a sort of telepathy because you knew each other so well. Even once you're in the relative comfort of a new relationship, you may soon find yourself wishing for an interpreter and longing for the days when you understood everything your partner said.

Most people are used to putting their best foot forward when dating, but there is a reason why there is a saying, ‘Honesty is the best policy’. Being honest creates transparency where trust can flourish. Let your date get to know you as you are now. The past is over, the future is where you are both heading.

Don't let your past put you off moving on and finding happiness with someone new. Although it might be a while since you last went on a date, there are a few tried and tested strategies for working out what people really mean on dates and in relationships.

Un-learn your ex's language

If you spent a long time in one relationship, you may have grown so accustomed to your ex's unspoken hints and meanings that you unconsciously expect the same from everyone you meet. For example, he or she may have used “I don't want to talk about it” as bid for attention (in other words, “I really do want to talk about it”). Most people will mean it differently. To avoid misunderstandings, take a step back and stop hearing everyone through the prism of your ex.

Listen to their tone, not just their words

Tone of voice and body language speak volumes, and the same phrase can be meant quite differently when said with a shrug or a cheeky grin. When a new lover moves in close and whispers, “what are you thinking about?” they probably mean “I’m thinking about you”. If they ask you the same thing in a concerned tone, they probably genuinely mean: “are you OK?”

Consider the context

Nothing is uttered in isolation. The same phrase can mean something quite different when uttered over a romantic meal as opposed to while you're making a shopping list together. If your date or partner says something that you find annoying or rude, always consider the context and don't assume that it was a personal remark. “Leave me alone” may not seem so stinging if you realise that the speaker was shocked or upset, or even if they're panicking over a work deadline.

Don't over-analyse

Sometimes, people simply mean what they say. “I'll call you” at the end of a date is popularly reckoned to be a brush-off, but often it really does mean “I'll call you.” Don't allow clichés to do the interpreting for you.

If in doubt, ask what they meant

It's amazing how much time and emotion we spend trying to figure out what people mean, when we could just ask them to clarify what they said. Avoid being defensive or threatening (many a row begins with “what did you mean by that?”). Instead, be interested in understanding them – and if they don't want to explain, don't make it into an issue.

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