Category: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Dating & Meeting New People

Valentines day has just passed and recently I’ve been working with a number of clients who wish to feel more confident and improve their future chances of dating success.

CBT is a great way to overcome fears associated with meeting new people and being comfortable in large groups and new environments. It is also useful for those who struggle with over thinking and over analysing, which can cause them to seem a bit distant and not engage fully with the people they are with in the “here and now”.

I’m going to share my thoughts on a three areas that are often overlooked and present problems for those struggling to establish and maintain relationships.

1. Identity

Here is the biggest mistake I see with those struggling with dating  – trying to be appealing to everyone. By doing this, you generally become noticed by no one and end up frustrated.

This may seem a bit harsh, but let me explain. Firstly I have a bit of bad news.

Who ever you are, you will not be every ones cup of tea, I can guarantee this. You can’t make everyone happy, no matter hard you try. Some people can’t keep you happy either.

People tend to have “types” of person they are attracted to and able to build connections with. The good news is you are someones type right now, and someone is hoping to find someone like you. You may well be overlooking them..

Studies have found that in the UK around 15% of those also seeking a partner are likely to be compatible with you and best able build connections and relationships with.

This means not only do you need to think hard and learn about who you are looking for, but also get feedback from friends and family about who is likely to be looking for you.
Those who have the greatest dating success and settle down are the ones who really know how to appeal to and find the 15% they are compatible with. This comes down to hobbies, interests, style, personality types and social environments.

Sit down, have a think as clearly as possible who you would like to meet, and also consider what would you like to be doing with them. What would be a great weekday evening out for you, and how would you like to spend a Sunday with them?

But it doesn’t stop there. The 85% who would not be right for you can also help – these people are potential allies too. Potential friends which can not only offer great friendship, but also offer networking opportunities and introduce you to even more people who are in that 15% that are looking for someone like you.

So to repeat, if you are a single person, although 85% of people who are available will probably not be compatible, they are potential allies and the remaining 15% will be the type who could really be into you. Learn who these people are.

2. Body Language

Learning about your body language and it’s influence around others will really help you. Within 15 seconds of meeting someone new, the way you move and behave in your environment will have a profound influence on how they will treat you.

This is a very primal function which is hard-wired into us all from a young age, and the purpose is to help us identify if others are a friend or foe.
During the first 15 seconds of meeting someone new our mind is busy, scrambling around looking for visual cues such as placement of our hands, feet, signs of physical tension, speed of movement, posture and facial expressions, looking for a potential threat.
This is also when you determine if you find another personal physically attractive or not.

First impressions tend to work retrospectively, especially on the dating scene. If someone makes a good first impression, such as being relaxed and friendly, then as time goes on the other person will automatically look out for signs to re-enforce this initial judgement and prove it was right.

If on the other hand your come across as a bit nervous, creepy and make fast and sudden movements… then good luck trying to turn that first impression around…

For men this is extra important. Slow, smooth motions and a thoughtful tone of voice will put you in good stead. Keep your feet wide apart pointing towards the person you are talking to and keep your back straight, no slouching. No putting your hands in your pockets or fingers through your belt loops!

If you want to learn more, there are lots of videos on YouTube, and I can recommend the following two books which cover the basics:

  • Body Language For Dummies – Elizabeth Kuhnke. ISBN 978-0-470-51291-3
  • What Every Body is Saying – Joe Navarro. ISBN 978-0-06-143829-5

3. Looks & Presentation

Our self presentation is important, no doubt about it. You do not need to be perfect, but as I wrote above the first 15 seconds are vital for first impressions.

Many people have problems with their looks, and wish what they see in the mirror was a little bit better here or there. This is not what I mean by attraction or being attractive – when it comes to our skin and bones, what we have got is what we have got, and there is little we can do about it.

Attraction is something that is created and a great deal of it comes from how well we present what we have. Presentation is something that is deeply personal, and with a bit of thought and creativity you can make an impact and make others aware that you take pride in yourself. It also implies we will take pride in our partner too.

This comes down to your clothing, aftershave / perfume, haircut, grooming and general cleanliness. Looking out of my office window now, it’s very obvious who takes pride in themselves and gets signals of interest from others.
It’s also obvious who blends in and won’t make much of an impact. Aim to make an impact, find a style that suits you and your personality.

As much as you can make your appearance work for you, you cannot ride on your looks and over rely on them. They will generate interest, present opportunities and give you foundations to build on, but they are not going to do more than give you a chance to initiate a conversation move to the next level of interaction.

I know plenty of male and female models, impeccably dressed, who have had difficulties getting beyond small talk, and have been have been in lots of short relationships which went nowhere, or have been single for a very long time. This is usually caused by problems with identity which I covered in section 1.

I hope you have found this information useful – I’d be happy to hear any feedback you may have. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this topic, or to find out more about how I help you with dating and general self-improvement.

Working With Time Based Outcomes

A common approach in the field of psychology and therapeutic change work is to encourage a client to draw on past references and experiences to help them make changes and achieve future goals.

This can be a useful way of becoming motivated to change and initially take action. Whilst in theory it should work, in the long term it can be counter productive. Here are two examples of how these problems arise, and how they can be avoided.

Example 1

I work with a weight loss client, who is in their late thirties and struggling with extreme obesity. This client wants to lose weight and be at a similar weight and level of fitness as when they were in their early thirties, when they were fit and healthy.

To most people this would seem reasonable and achievable goal. However, consider the outcome again.

By adopting the mindset of wanting to be how they were in their early thirties, then they would essentially be going back to being the person who later went on to put on weight. It’s a subtle, but important point.

Example 2

I work with a client who has post traumatic stress disorder after a vehicle accident. The client has had difficulties getting over the shock of what happened and has been in emotional turmoil since then. The client wants things to go back to normal, and have life as it was before the accident.

Supposing that was in any way possible, if they were to have things like they were before, then they would still be the person who was later  involved in the accident.

In both examples, the new outcome they want will always be before a negative experience. The mind is very smart, and will put two and two together. It knows what happened next to a remarkable degree of accuracy.

So what can be done about this? Let’s look briefly at example 1.

Instead of targeting how their weight was at an earlier date, a cleaner way of working would be to set their target as not only losing weight and controlling their eating when they are 40, but all the way into their 50s instead.

To summarise –  although referring to the past can be useful for motivation purposes, it’s crucial not to have your personal targets set so you are repeating what happened in the past. Future based targets which present you with new choices will be the ones which are most effective and stand the test of time.

That’s all for now – I’ll be back with more next month.

Thoughts On BBC Radio 4 Broadcast

I listened to a BBC Radio 4 program on NLP this morning whilst on a break at my clinic. You can listen to the programme by clicking here – I thought I’d share a few thoughts of what I made of it.

One of the grey areas that struck me from the outset is what exactly they thought NLP is! Many believe it to be a therapy in it’s own right, many find it a process to “model excellence”. Here is my take on it..

My interpretation of NLP is that it’s a tool for modelling people who achieve great success in their fields, and the “template” used to establish it and to present the findings of the co-creators, Dr Richard Bandler & Dr John Grinder, was in the realm of therapy and psychotherapy – so that is how it’s most commonly taught.

Along with CBT I also run a private clinic, counselling worthing residents. I recall during my training that Bandler & Grinder reviewed recordings of counselling sessions by prominent counsellors, hypnotherapists and gestalt therapists to find the structure of how these people worked with their clients to achieve such great results.

Another example of NLP is the work of Paul McKenna. McKenna has modelled the eating habits and behaviours of naturally thin people and written self help books for people wishing to loose weight. From personal experience and his book reviews on Amazon, he is doing very well.

So if we take NLP to be a process of modelling, and the therapeutic applications we know of it as a “product” of this modelling, NLP could be applied to almost anything.

You could model how a successful racing driver achieves great results, and pass the learning’s down to new drivers by  dissecting the driving styles of  say..Lewis Hamilton or Alain Prost and call them the “Hamilton Model” or the “Prost Model”.

Like Dr Bandler and Grinders work, it would take hundreds or even thousands of hours or interviewing the drivers, their engineers, reviewing telemetry, video footage etc to get a complete overview of how the driver does “what they do” in such detail that it can be taught consistently and to a high standard.

I’m informed by a prominent NLP trainer that the fastest growing field of NLP modelling and applications at the moment is found not in the field of medicine, sport, education or even business training. I was shocked to learn that the #1 field for NLP modelling revolves around dating and relationships!

This did make me chuckle – I do wonder if this is what Dr’s Bandler & Grinder originally had in mind?