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September 28, 2007

More on Dating Coaches!

Hey, it's Friday. Chris Orr writes:

The obvious question such examples raise is, don't these people have friends of average or above-average social intelligence to help them with such elementary lessons? In some cases, perhaps not. But for most of the people in the article I suspect a different dynamic is at work, specifically they're not hiring these dating coaches despite their exorbitant fees but rather because of them.

When the co-worker you hang out with tells you you're shy, it's easy to ignore or downplay the advice. But when the "expert" you've just paid $5,000 tells you the same thing, you're going to treat it like the shrewdest insight you've ever heard because, hey, it cost $5,000 dollars.

Right: There's certainly a hefty amount of signaling going on. If someone says their opinion is worth $5,000, and other people have heard their pitch and agreed, that opinion seems worth much more than your friend's musings. And because you've invested so much in it, you're more likely to follow the advice.

So far as having friends do the job goes, these individuals seeking dating advice may well have buddies who, in theory, could help. But a friend may not be willing to honestly lay out the situation. They're more likely to comfort, to dwell on what's unfair, rather than to harshly critique mutable behaviors. Conversely, a professional, who's being hired to tell you what's going wrong, will have no such compunctions, and you're less likely feel less defensive accepting the advice from an expert rather than from a peer.

September 28, 2007 | Permalink


"Hey, it's Friday."

Yeah, thank god it's friday! Cheers! 'Ere's to us! We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...
...and sisters...
oops, sry!

Posted by: Gray | Sep 28, 2007 1:23:07 PM

BTW, this is the same reason why free counseling doesn't work as well as counseling that the counseled paid for, at least according to my form-counselor mother. Even a few bucks can make a difference in how you listen to the advice.

Posted by: Mark | Sep 28, 2007 1:25:11 PM

"The obvious question such examples raise is, don't these people have friends of average or above-average social intelligence to help them with such elementary lessons?"

What a heap of nonsense! All my friends are above-average intelligent (social intelligent, too? Dunno), and they all are as clueless as I am! Sometimes they even used my irrelevant advice to their advantage. Strange that the same advices so seldomly work for me...

Posted by: Gray | Sep 28, 2007 1:26:55 PM

The point about friends is doubly true for men. Male friends tend to treat each other more harshly than women. So when a man gets advice from a male friend, he's biased to believe the friend is being overly hard on him. An outsider doesn’t is seen as unbiased; hence the advice will more likely be taken.

Posted by: DM | Sep 28, 2007 1:34:05 PM

Last line should read:

An outsider is seen as unbiased; hence the advice will more likely be taken.

Posted by: DM | Sep 28, 2007 1:35:08 PM

The basic problems with relying on friends for advice is that friends don't know how to be candid without fear of hurting relationships, and self-exposing your weaknesses to friends isn't kool.

In addition, male friends giving advice to a male is unproductive: they are likely clueless also (and vice-versa for female/female advice.

I don't see an issue with using a dating coach (except that it sounds way too expensive), but a well-connected socially-aware friend or friends of the opposite sex (that is willing to be fully open) seems more likely to help identify glitches in your social behavior. If the dating coach has no professional counseling training and experience, it seems like a fraud to me.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Sep 28, 2007 1:41:50 PM


There's also the fact that anyone who knows which one of his friends will offer worthwhile advice, probably has enough social intelligence not to need the advice. (Put the other way, the kind of person who wants or needs a coach is often not confident enough in their own ability to pick out good advice from bad.)

The fee also signals someone whose competence is presumed to be trustworthy.

Posted by: hmd | Sep 28, 2007 2:07:03 PM

I think Chris is wrong. First, as you note, many friends will not be honest and upfront with you. They'll blame the bitches or blame the menz before they tell you about your breath.

Also though, consider how the dating scene has changed.

It used to be okay to date within the office -- now there is such a fear of sexual harassment issues that the office, where people spend much of their lives, is no longer available.

And make fun of blind dates and introductions, but a lot of that has gone by the wayside too.

Instead of the blind date, setup, or introduction, we now have "wingmen".

Posted by: feh | Sep 28, 2007 2:13:32 PM

"Everybody’s got a good personality. They just don’t let their personality out." --from The Times piece in question

That right there is why I can't respect dating experts. I may have never heard a more inaccurate statement in my life!

Posted by: Leyna | Sep 28, 2007 2:14:23 PM

The problem is, the good personality is in the same cage as the bad personality.......

Posted by: serial catowner | Sep 28, 2007 3:11:20 PM

My goodness, I picked a good day to be mostly away from the pooter. :)

This post in lovely in theory, but kind of silly in real life. I think partly what's missing here is a function of age - as the years go by, the real friends, the ones you keep (at least the ones I keep) have insight that helps me. There are people I trust to give me advice, and people I don't. Strangers, especially strangers I'm paying... I don't trust so much; chances are, what they're looking for is more money. It strikes me, too, as an especially rich girl way to go through life, paying someone to be an expert for you on yourself.

Don't get me wrong, I've seen some people with life coaches who got them to change things. Some people acquire a set of baggage in life that they really don't notice until others point it out, and can't change until someone gives them a map. But ultimately, nothing changes the fact that change of this sort comes from within, and that you can't pay for. A dating "coach", or your best friend, can only offer suggestions. Your decision to take them, act on them, change and grow from them... well, that's up to you. And the reason we don't change is not because we don't believe our friends, or because the "coach" costs $5000; it's because change is hard, it can be painful, and one change will likely affect other things.

And PS, if you need to pay someone to tell you you're shy... then the problem you have isn't about dating, it's about knowing yourself. I know I'm shy. Always have. The shy people I know tend to know they're shy. It's what to do about it that's hard. And, in the end, I've come to accept my shyness for what it is, and not lean on it when I really don't need it. It's your own skin; get comfortable in it.

Posted by: weboy | Sep 28, 2007 7:21:06 PM

I suspect that the advice the coaches give is mostly along the lines of, "stop trying to get dates with women who are out of your league and start getting realistic about your own attractiveness," That's what the coach in the article is saying in a slightly mroe diplomatic way.

Posted by: Bloix | Sep 28, 2007 11:35:04 PM

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