Initiating Relationships with Openness, Honesty, and Directness

January 21st, 2009 by Steve Pavlina

I’ve never resonated with the usual dating and courtship process.

Traditional dating is actually one of our society’s most ineffective inventions. The main reason it gets so much attention is the commercial engine that drives it. Restaurants, movie theatres, jewelers, etc. want you to believe that spending money on their products and services equals romance. If you’ve swallowed this belief system, I assure you that you’ve been duped. This belief system stems from marketing, not truth. It has virtually no connection to the realities of human relationships.

Erin and I were already boyfriend-girlfriend before we ever went on a typical date. Most of the time we got together, we went straight to each other’s homes, where we could talk one-on-one for hours. Our first face-to-face meeting happened at my apartment, not at a “neutral” public place. From the very beginning, we established high trust. Worrying about safety or second-guessing each other’s intentions wasn’t a concern — our thoughts simply weren’t at that level. We invested our time in getting to know each other on a very deep level, declining to fill our interactions with public distractions.

If you really like someone, aim to spend lots of one-on-one time together with no distractions. Talk about your lives, and unearth each other’s interests. Share your hopes and dreams. Bypass small talk, and dive into what’s really important to you. Speak soulfully and listen attentively. This way you can create an amazing connection in a matter of hours that would take weeks to accomplish with traditional dating.

Be Direct

Dating is a rather timid way to get to know someone. It’s as if you’re creating a buffer of distractions in case things go wrong. This method is slow, boring, and largely pointless. It can also be unnecessarily expensive, causing you to mistakenly think you can’t initiate new relationships when finances are tight.

There’s a much more direct way to express interest in someone you like and to kick off a mutual exploration of relationship possibilities. It’s faster, cheaper, and a lot more fun.

Simply tell any potential partner up front how you feel about them and that you’d love to explore relationship possibilities together. Then ask if they feel the same.

This may take some courage, but it takes very little time.

As Erin and I got to know each other, I realized I was becoming attracted to her. I wasn’t sure if she felt the same about me, but I suspected that she did. I could have entered a dating frame and progressed slowly. But instead I simply opened up and told her how I felt. We were talking on the phone one day, and I said something like: “Erin, I want you to know that I really like you. I think you’re a very special woman, and we obviously have a lot in common. I’d love to develop a closer relationship with you. I’m wondering if you feel the same.”

How long did that take? About 12 seconds.

Erin’s response was very positive. In fact, by the end of that phone call, we already saw ourselves as being boyfriend-girlfriend.

Alternatively, I could have played all sorts of silly games to try to figure out how Erin felt about me. The direct approach achieved a resolution in less than one minute. What could be better?

This openness and directness quickly took our relationship to a whole new level. Erin knew she could trust me and that I wouldn’t play games with her. We established a long-term connection based on honesty and openness.

To this day Erin and I know we can talk to each other about anything. We don’t have to┬ámanipulate or second-guess each other to get our needs met. We can simply say how we’re feeling and ask for what we want.

This is how I’d expect to begin any new relationship as well. When I get to know a person a little and sense that something wonderful could develop if we were to mutually progress to a deeper, more intimate level of sharing, I’ll share my thoughts and feelings openly with her and then ask if she feels the same.

This makes it safe for her to be open and honest with me as well. In fact, I did this with someone recently, and her response was incredibly positive. (I’m not going to reveal who she is, so please don’t ask. I may not be very private myself, but I respect the privacy of others unless they tell me they’re okay with sharing certain things publicly.) I find her to be a fascinating woman, and I’m excited to get to know her better. Had I not been so open and direct with her, I might never have known that she had similar feelings toward me.

Rejection Is Still a Good Outcome

You might be thinking that the direct approach takes a lot of courage, perhaps more courage than you feel you can reasonably muster.

It certainly can take a bit of courage, depending on the circumstances, but mainly it requires common sense reasoning.

You must realize that a rejection is still a good outcome.

If the other person appreciates my directness but doesn’t share my feelings toward her, then I know I intuitively misread her, and that’s perfectly okay. This makes it easy for me to let go and shift my attention to someone else. I might be disappointed at first, but I’d still appreciate such a response because she’s being honest with me too. She’s also saving me a lot of time and potential grief.

On the other hand, suppose she reacts negatively to my directness itself. Once again, I learn that I misread her. Such a match would have been a mistake because anyone who doesn’t appreciate openness, honesty, and directness wouldn’t make a good partner for me anyway. I have no desire to enter relationships with people who prefer game-playing, drama, deception, or manipulation as opposed to straightforward openness and honesty. So being direct is an efficient way to quickly disqualify such people. Again, this saves me time and potential grief.

Now suppose her response is positive. She appreciates my directness and admits that she shares my feelings, if only in a small, noncommittal way. Now we’re off and running to explore a deeper connection together. Our shields are down, and we’re waving each other in. It may be too soon to fully fathom how we feel about each other, but at least we’ve agreed to begin to explore our possibilities together. There are few things more exciting in life than this.

When you are direct, it doesn’t mean your request will be automatically accepted, but a rejection is still much better than pussyfooting around and playing guessing games for weeks on end.

Being Direct Earns Respect

I have TREMENDOUS respect for people who are open, honest, and direct in expressing their thoughts, feelings, and desires. This is a very rare character trait, and it always makes people stand out in a positive way. To be blunt, it impresses the hell out of me whenever I see it.

As a fairly active and busy person, I simply don’t have time for people who beat around the bush and fail to state plainly what they want, even though it’s obvious they want something. Unfortunately, I have to deal with quite a bit of this as a blogger. When people are vague and indirect about expressing their thoughts, feelings, and desires, usually because they’re afraid of rejection, it’s a huge turnoff. They simply don’t create the conditions where I can feel good about saying yes.

Another problem is when people try to connect with me under false pretenses, offering up one motive for meeting and later performing a bait and switch. This practice immediately drops my respect for such people to absolute zero, and I quickly dump them from my life. I have no tolerance for deception and manipulation.

As a general rule, I’ve found that other busy people tend to respect directness as well. Directness is very classy, whether in relationships, business, or other social situations.

Please take note that directness doesn’t mean being pushy or annoying. Directness means that you’re open and honest in sharing your thoughts, feelings, and intentions with others. It doesn’t mean you browbeat people to get what you want. Once you voice your desires, you must give the other person the freedom to accept or reject what you’re offering.

Responding to Other People’s Directness

Suppose a female friend said to me, “Steve, I really like you. I’d love for us to develop a closer, more intimate friendship, maybe something physical if that feels right too. I think we have a lot in common, and I already feel a strong connection with you. How do you feel about this?”

How would I react?

First off, such a woman immediately scores beaucoup points for being so open and direct. I can’t help but be impressed. At the very least, I know she has some courage, and courage is one of my highest values. This tells me we already have something in common.

If I honestly felt the same as she did, I’d tell her so. Then we’d be off and running to create something potentially wonderful together… in a matter of minutes.

If I didn’t share her feelings, I’d be honest with her about that as well. But I’d tell her how I felt in a compassionate and gentle way. If I knew someone else that I thought would be a more compatible fit for her, and if it seemed appropriate under the circumstances, I might even introduce them to each other.

Another possibility is that I’m not sure how I feel. Maybe I just don’t know her that well yet. Or perhaps it’s just bad timing for me. In that case I’d probably open a dialogue to explore further possibilities. Maybe it leads somewhere; maybe it doesn’t.

Regardless of how I felt though, I’d never ever throw it back in her face. Trying to humiliate or embarrass her for opening up like that would be incredibly cruel. If I can’t bring myself to harm animals or insects, I’m certainly not going to intentionally hurt human beings. Behaving like that would violate my own principles, especially the principles of Love and Oneness.

How would you respond if someone openly shared their feelings toward you and asked if you felt the same? Would you find this kind of openness as refreshing as I do?

Connect Like a Real Human Being, Not a Player

I’ll readily admit that I’m not particularly well-versed in the culture of playing manipulative social games. I simply have no stomach for it, so I prefer to opt out by exclaiming, “End program.”

Even when a woman is very flirtatious with me, I have a hard time reading her intentions. I don’t know if she’s genuinely interested, if she’s baiting me into giving her more attention, or if it’s just her natural, playful style. It could also be something else entirely.

Flirting can certainly be fun, and I do enjoy it on occasion, but only as a game to be played rather than as a good way to develop a real connection with someone.

My experience is that directness is almost always well-received. Sometimes people are a little surprised at first, simply because it’s so rare, but they also find it refreshing. They may pause for a moment to process what you say, but then the conversation quickly moves forward in a delightful way. Think of directness as a conversational awareness boost.

Once you enjoy a taste of directness in your relationships, it’s hard to settle for anything less.

When I began writing about polyamory and open relationships a few weeks ago, I started getting a lot more email, especially from women.

Some of those emails were very flirtatious; however, I’m unable to read anything into them. For any individual woman, I can’t tell if she’s just being friendly and playful, if she’s trying to open a dialog because she’s interested in becoming friends or playmates, if she’s baiting and teasing me, or if she’s just probing me to see how I react. With face-to-face interactions where I can read body language and tone of voice, I have a much better shot of getting an accurate read, but with a plain email from someone I may not know that well… there’s just no way.

I’m usually at a social disadvantage in such situations because people who contact me almost always know vastly more about me than I know about them, due to the enormous quantity of personal information I’ve shared online. Even so, I still love getting to know new people, so I’m not bothered at all when people initiate contact with me and suggest that we might become good friends. Most of the friendships I enjoy today were initiated by other people. They got to know me from my online presence, saw that we had a lot in common, and reached out to connect with me. If they hadn’t done this, I might never have known of their existence, and I’d have been denied the gift of their friendship.

Even my relationship with Erin only happened because she initiated contact with me. What if she held back and talked herself out of the idea?

Ironically, potential friends often hesitate to initiate contact with me because they don’t want me to think of them as a fan, a bother, or something along those lines. Several friends have told me this after the fact. They initially put me on a social pedestal because they figured I already had a ridiculous number of options for friends and that they had no chance of getting through. It’s true that I get a high volume of daily communication from people, but the vast majority of it is basic feedback on my articles and podcasts. Also, many people would love to network with me professionally, but personally we’re just not very compatible. So the reality is that I’ve never been overwhelmed by people wanting to initiate close personal relationships with me. I suspect that many potential friends disqualify themselves in advance, perhaps for the wrong reasons.

If someone flirts with me online but never directly shares any particular intent, I don’t assume they have a deeper intent. I just can’t guess at that sort of thing, so I don’t even try. At best I may flirtatiously play back at her, but I can’t offer more than that unless she expresses a genuine interest, especially if I’ve never met her in person.

Honest, Attentive Communication

Flirting can be fun, but I don’t find it much of an opener for a relationship. To initiate a real relationship, it’s better to favor straightforward, honest, attentive communication. Share your thoughts, feelings, and desires openly and honestly. See if there exists the potential for a fun, compatible match. If there’s no match, it’s not a rejection. It’s nobody’s fault. It just means you should both try elsewhere. That’s all.

You might be concerned that being so direct would kill the mystery and romance at the beginning of a relationship. But the fun, mystery, and romance can still be present. In fact, I think you’ll find that they’re enhanced and brought to a whole new level. Instead of wallowing in uncertainty and playing silly guessing games, you’ll spend your time getting to know a real human being without the phony social mask. The reality is far more exciting than any fantasy.

If I’m interested in getting to know a woman, I want to spend as much time as I can with her one-on-one. I want to give her my full attention when we talk. I want us to establish high trust from the get-go. I want to hear her tell me about her life, her dreams, and her struggles. I want to unmask the amazing soulful being that she truly is. I want to share my true self with her as well, honestly and openly. Picking away at an artificial fantasy shell can’t compare to the joys of sharing a unique, soulful connection with another human being.

If you want to cultivate deep, connected relationships, skip the drama and start things off the right way — with openness, honesty, and directness. You’ll be amazed at just how refreshing it is.

I know this isn’t how TV characters behave, but it is how conscious human beings relate to each other.



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