Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What are YOU bringing to the table?

The first thing we tell people who ask us what they should be doing to find the right guy/girl is “Get a life!” What we really mean is go find your bliss NOW. Most successful professionals we meet are so wrapped up in their career that they’ve left little time to cultivate their passions. When I ask them what they do for fun, their eyes glaze over. Usually they’ll say “work out” (really?!) or go out with friends. Which is fine. But what I’m really asking is what sets you on fire? What makes your eyes dance? Your toes curl?
Being well-rounded and interesting with something other than your career to talk about is wildly attractive.
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I was interviewing a new male client recently who had all of the time in the world to cultivate his talents. He was a career man who had accumulated financial wealth and little else. A one-trick pony. His topics of conversation revolved around the financial world. He lived a healthy lifestyle and took care of himself but other than that, he had very little to convey. I tried to find out how else he liked to express himself. He loved good food but got bored of going out to restaurants all the time. He had a beautiful home with a to-die-for “virgin” kitchen. After I told him that women think a man in the kitchen is sexy, his eyes widened. “Why not learn 3 dishes really well so when you invite a woman over for dinner, you can show her your confidence in the kitchen”. He was game. I also encouraged him to learn about wine. He got nervous. “Start exploring! Have fun with it. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to your taste; pick three wines that you like and learn enough about them so you can tell a story”, I suggested.

A Renaissance man in the making. Bringing more layers into a relationship makes it more interesting and exciting. These are the basics, gentlemen!

The other day I was getting feedback from two clients who just went out on a date. She was smitten; he was on the fence. He wasn’t so sure about the chemistry he felt for her and mentioned that she was rigid and somewhat flat. When I encouraged him to tell me what he liked about her, he said something interesting. Apparently when she started talking about her art and music, she became more appealing. He used words like “animated”, “more attractive” and “passionate” to describe her. Tell me more! I urged. The more positive qualities he recounted, the more convinced he became that he was too quick to judge her (that’s a whole other blog!!!) and decided to see her again. All in the name of sharing one’s passion.
Being single is a fantastic time to design the life you want or at least enjoy the freedom of exploring your own tastes.
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When I was single in my 30’s, I used to think what an excellent opportunity it was for me to develop my “skills” – whether it was learning how to be a better cook, attending more art openings so I could be more well-versed in art, learning how to plant a garden or making a signature Bellini – I wanted to enter a new relationship “bearing gifts”. This mind-set not only increases your confidence level, it increases your value which means you get to choose higher-quality “fish” in the sea of potential love. Win-Win.

So...what are you bringing to the table?

Monday, July 15, 2013

A simple hello could lead to a thousand things

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How approachable are you??

As I sat inside the warm coffee shop contemplating my next appointment, I looked up and saw a tall, attractive blonde approaching from the parking lot. She had on over-sized black sunglasses, her iPod plugged into her ears, arms crossed and a rigid expression staring straight ahead as she nearly power -walked her way towards the front door. I immediately knew it was Lauren, our new client. We spoke on the phone a few times before she decided that she wanted to move forward with our matchmaking services. At 43, Lauren was a successful lawyer, divorced and with delusions of grandeur. She could not for the life of her understand why men never approached her. “I’m attractive, financially secure, a great catch…I just don’t get why when I go out with my girlfriends not one man approaches me, while my plain-Jane chunky friend is the one always getting hit on” she lamented. 

I asked Lauren if her “green light” was turned on. She looked confused. I explained that when we’re single it’s so important to wave our “single flag” proud and high that says we’re open, curious and approachable. It’s difficult enough for men to approach women – especially when they’re with a group of women –but men will hardly ever walk up to a woman who is closed, rigid, frowning and is basically shouting to the world: “Leave me alone! “ I reminded Lauren that our body language is our loudest voice.

I asked about her chunky friend. How does she behave with men? Lauren laughed and said “She’s always giggling like a school girl and talks to anyone. She’s about 15 lbs overweight but walks around like she’s Marilyn Monroe; it’s hilarious. Men love her…”

So let me get this straight. You have a friend who smiles, laughs, engages with men and walks around like she’s comfortable in her own skin and you’re not sure why men approach her? And you walk around staring straight ahead, disengaged from the world with a sign that says “Do not even think about coming close to me” but you’re not sure why men don’t approach you? Lauren looked rattled. “I guess I’m just protecting myself” she sighed.

Unfortunately, in our efforts to protect ourselves from unwanted attention, we simultaneously close ourselves off from potential opportunities
Learning how to elegantly rebuff someone’s advances is key to regaining our personal power.

Keeping our “green light” on is the only way to encourage and allow love in.

People are connecting with one another less and less today.
Take a baby step outside of yourself and open up your world
with a little eye contact and a lot of smile.
Let connection trump protection.

Looking for an edge in dating? Flirt like an Italian

Moving to Milan when I was 29 and single changed my life forever.

I wasn’t looking for a husband; I just wanted a challenging life experience. I had enjoyed being single in Manhattan and Los Angeles; there were some great moments but I wanted to be spellbound.

Italy had just the right amount of adventure and style that I craved. A tall, single American girl living in Milan had its perks. After awhile, I got used to Italian men’s enthusiastic appreciation for women and grew to expect it. (Once when a full day elapsed and not one man flirted with me, I rushed home to look in the mirror to see what was “wrong”). Italian men’s playfulness and machismo was refreshing; women were revered for just being female and sexuality was conveyed with ease. These Romeos didn’t wait for happy hour or the alcohol to kick in before they approached a woman; they were pretty much turned on 24/7. You never knew who you’d meet when you were at the bar drinking your espresso at 8am.

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Gallantry was something else I wasn’t used to but greatly appreciated.
Italian men are raised to protect and respect women so they have a natural confidence when guiding you; you’re made to feel like you’re in the best hands. They don’t care if you’re a feminist or if a chivalrous gesture could potentially offend you. I only cared that I was finally being led and not leading.

What I love most about Italian men is their sense of romance. They’ll charm and disarm you with their passionate appreciation of culture, history, art, music and food. It’s not cool or romantic to talk sports or politics with women. They’re more interested in taking you to charming osterias on the top of sacred hilltops or listening to opera singers perform in a private garden at dusk or introducing you to secret spots in the middle of an enchanting countryside where Old Italian women make fresh mozzarella cheese.

Spontaneity and imagination is the cornerstone of courtship with sensuality leading the way. An Italian man is not afraid to express himself and let a woman know how he feels about them right away. Few games are played; bold moves are made. Women are rarely in the dark, unless they want to be. They can be tricky though. Once I was invited to a dinner party at my boss’s house. When I arrived, I immediately noted the silence. Where are the others? With great nonchalance, he indicated that I must have misunderstood him (He spoke fluent English). But rarely did I miss the second-guessing and over-obsessing that infiltrated my dating world back home. No wonder American women are accused of being overly-aggressive with men: they’re trying to get an answer!

They say “Americans live to work, Europeans work to live”. This is true in all aspects of Italian life. An Italian man’s love life is almost more important than his career. A lot of his time is devoted to surprising and delighting his woman. In America, it seems that having a successful love life is secondary to having a successful career. You people get more pleasure from your job than from your woman?! my friend Franco once asked me in disbelief.

While Americans tend to define themselves by their jobs, Italians define themselves by the quality of their relationships. There’s a big emphasis on family, friends and frivolity.
By the time I met my Italian husband, I had been living in Italy for six years. On our first date, he made me cry (a good cry), on our second, he took me to the most romantic grappa bar in the city and on the third; he cooked me an amazing dish of pasta carbonara. But it wasn’t until after the first month we were together and he wanted to introduce me to his family that I knew he was The One. As we walked towards the restaurant on the beach, I could hear laughter and loud voices. He squeezed my hand. The next thing I see is a table packed with twenty Italians all getting up and moving towards me with smiles, kisses, well wishes and wine.
I finally found my dolce Home.

Body Language is our loudest voice....

Body language is our loudest voice. Make sure you know what yours is saying
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For our business, we meet people all day, every day.
I usually meet with them at an outdoor cafĂ©, a beautiful hotel or a local (not chain) coffee shop. We sit down, relax and have a conversation about them, their dating life and how we can help them. I make an effort to make them feel at ease so they’re more open and forthcoming with the information they share.

It’s normal to observe people when we first meet them; we look at how they sit, move, carry themselves, order their coffee, etc..It’s our primary glimpse into who they are. I can tell immediately if someone is timid, confident, relaxed, uncomfortable, arrogant, bitter, open, closed, fearful or authentic -- all before they even say a word. It’s part of my job to understand people, what they’re putting out there and how they communicate non-verbally.

 I have often noticed that people who use their space comfortably, sit in their chair with ease, use their hands naturally and effectively, have great eye contact and show more than one facial expression seem to be the most confident and engaging. Then there are those who sit very still, with their hands in their lap with a neutral expression on their face. These are the people who are more difficult to read and seem less at ease which in turn makes others feel less at ease. I always encourage men to use their space well since it conveys confidence which invariably helps women relax more.

I was sitting recently with a female client of ours who is gorgeous, very well put together and a self-proclaimed perfectionist. She sat totally erect, with her hands in her lap and very still almost as if she feared making the wrong move. There’s a difference between being poised and being stiff. Since men are looking for levity and playfulness on a first date, I gently suggested that her slight rigidity may have a polarizing effect and suggested she relax and lean in more.
Rigidity or striving for perfection does not breed intimacy; authenticity and a willingness to appear less than perfect does. Since the whole purpose of a first date is to establish rapport and (hopefully) progress to a second date, the more relaxed and open we are, the more likely we can connect with the other person.
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The language we speak through our gestures, facial expressions and bodies reveal so much about our state of mind and comfort level. Put it this way, people mirror each other when they are interested in establishing a connection. So if you’re going to sit perfectly still on your side of the table carefully calibrating your every move, your date will probably do the same. If, on the other hand, you sit in a relaxed manner, using your hands naturally, leaning in for greater emphasis and enthusiasm and occupying the space around you with ease, your date will likely do the same which will enhance your level of connection.
So when you show up on that first date, be aware of the messages you are sending. When in doubt, a genuine smile speaks volumes.

Check your baggage at the door, please!

I’ve been spending a lot of time interviewing men lately – “seasoned” single men in their late 40’s to 60’s -- and much to my dismay, I have been hearing the same thing from all of them. When I ask them to tell me stories about their first dates, (too) many of them say the same thing: women dump.

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When I probe further, I discover that these women appear to be very well-adjusted, upbeat ladies with good careers, etc., but when they sit down in front of a man who listens and shows genuine interest, they tend to dump their troubles and stories of woe on them. Bear in mind, this is a first date (aka “first impression”), not two old friends getting together... (To be fair, I know that men are guilty of the same bad habit; some have given new meaning to the idiom “bending one’s ear”).

We all know that there are a lot of options out there but actually consenting to a date with someone with whom we’re interested doesn’t happen all the time. When it does, we get excited at the anticipation of perhaps he / she being ‘The One’. So what do we do to prepare for that adventure? Meh. We just show up and bring ourselves to the table. It doesn’t seem to matter if the “self” we bring isn’t the best version of ourselves.

 Why is it that people spend so much time and energy preparing themselves for a job interview – by networking with everyone they know, updating their resume, practicing their conversational skills, buying new business attire – but when it comes to (potentially) meeting the person with whom to spend the rest of their life, they are unprepared? They wing it. They barely think about what they’re going to talk about or disclose ahead of time.

 If you’re having a lot of first dates that aren’t leading to second dates, you need to pay attention. While there is nothing better than leading with authenticity, please make sure that you’re bringing your best self , not your tired self, or your worried self or your apathetic self or your way-too-serious-for-a-first-date self.

A first date is a beautiful opportunity to shine and show the “gifts” that you’re bringing to the table. It is not the time to air out your not-so-fresh laundry. The person on the other side of the table already has their challenges and issues of which they’re dealing. Initial dates are meant to be light, playful, spontaneous, fun and honest…Being honest doesn’t mean you need to tell someone about your bulimic bank account or share stories about your sad childhood, abusive ex or tricky health issues. Do not ever forget that your date is still a stranger; he / she is still someone who’s figuring out if they even want to see you again. So while the verdict’s still out, turn on the charm, turn up the laughter and tone down the drama