I remember when I first met Dan, I was in the process of a huge mental transition when it came to seeking out connections, which also became the foundation of my now profession, Date Coaching.
It happened when Reggie moved out and I was frustrated with dating. It always felt like when I went out on dates there was this expectation that the other person had of me, and terrified of disappointing anyone, I sought to meet it or exceed it. Totally inauthentic, and also a sad and empty experience for me.
After he left, I decided to spend a few months alone to contemplate who I was and what I wanted, and who I wanted to be with. I didn't want to spend another moment being someone's fantasy or a representation of their desires. I'm good at reading people, so it's an easy thing for me to do, reading someone, figuring out what they want, and then becoming that. I don't have to tell you it always ended up with my own unhappiness.
Instead, I spent a few months doing individual counseling, parsing my thoughts, recovering from the break up, writing, seeing a hypnotherapist (who ended up being an amazing counselor instead of what I hired her for), and also figuring out who would be the right partner for me. This, in stark contrast to "how can I be the best partner for this person" mindset.
I was also interested in people's stories and learning more about life, other than what my little bubble had provided in terms of experience. I wanted to expand, and grow and take in the wisdom of others. In that vein I decided to take a different approach to dating. Instead of showing up as a mirror, or an avatar of desire, I showed up as a witness. I tapped in to my curiosity. I removed myself almost completely from the picture, in order to really be present and hear the other person. This felt less threatening and intimidating than an actual date, where I was used to being "on" and "perfect". I wanted to observe, to hear, to learn. I wanted stories and to break out of my sheltered shell.
This approach served as an amazing tool of connection. When you show up authentically to meet someone where they are, and can hold an empathetic space for another human being to share their story with you, it is profound. They are open, they are vulnerable. That allows you to do the same and be authentic in your own experience.
So I show up to this date with Dan, having been a few weeks into this new approach: just being curious with no expectations.
I thought his initial message was flirty and cute, but what I was really fascinated with was his passion that came across so strongly in his profile. I wanted to observe it in real time.
What ended up happening was, he walked up, and my heart dropped. I forgot all about being an objective observer. While I was still very much interested in him and his experience, (and what I learned through our conversation that first night was how similarly our experiences thus far had been), I also wanted him to know I was more than a curious observer. I wanted to share all of my stories with him, and I also couldn't keep my paws off of him in that tight red sweater showing all of his bulging muscles. Being objective and curious is great when there's no sexual attraction...
Taking that approach DID help me connect more authentically with him, and to be honest, it's been revolutionary in terms of my friendships and everyday encounters. I think taking the curiosity approach does work in terms of authenticity because it invites genuine connection. Instead of approaching each other as perfect potential mates or just perfect people, you approach each other as fallible humans seeking validation, visibility, and a desire to be experienced. In that especially intimate space, if there IS an underlying connection, you've laid the groundwork for showing up as a unique individual, with your own specific desires as needs. POWERFUL SHIT, FRIENDS.
Curiosity is the fuel for connection. It releases the ego and allows for empathy to flow through us. It shuts out that judgemental voice that encourages disconnect and separation. In the end, we are all trying to find our community, our people, our special person. We aren't that much different than anyone else, only as much as our perceived differences try to tell us we are.
If you can put aside your ego and judgement and embrace curiosity, you might be surprised at the connections you're able to make.