So your Tinder date is tall, handsome and has a really cute dog. Sadly, these aren’t the main qualities you should look for in your next bloke. Boo. Instead, it’s relational self-awareness, says leading psychologist Dr Alexandra Solomon. Say what? Relational self-awareness is “the ability to take a curious stance vis a vis yourself,” she says.
People who have relational self-awareness are able to talk about how they’re feeling. They may say “I’m feeling annoyed about this situation” – rather than just being frustrated and acting like a dick. They can also talk about how past relationships impact their current relationships (although maybe not on the first date).
Another example? People with relational self-awareness can view issues in a relationship as a combo of what both people messed up. Ie, not just: it’s all your fault, kthanks, bye. Plus, they can listen to feedback without completely freaking out.
So how the hell do you spot one of these unicorns? Solomon offers two strategies for your next date. First: watch their ‘stimulus-response process’. Aka, how your date responds to awkward moments.
For example – you’re at a bar and the bartender repeatedly ignores you and your date when you’re trying to get a glass of wine. Does your date get angry or even just give up on their pinot noir mission? This is not ideal. However, if they handle this situation with care – they call for attention politely, but firmly, without being a jerk – they have relational self-awareness.
Wonder why it matters how your date handles the vino situation? “Because at some point, sooner or later, you are going to be the frustrating moment. You will do something they find annoying or disrespectful or weird,” Solomon explains. Instead of someone who blames or retreats from you – you want someone who communicates kindly and effectively.
The second trick for spotting a self-aware person is listening to how they talk about their past relationships. Do they blame and shame? Ie, “my last girlfriend was crazy”; “she screwed me over”; “dating is awful”. Red flag. We repeat, RED FLAG.
“By contrast, individuals who are relationally self-aware tell love stories that have lots of shades of gray,” says Solomon. “Their stories include context (‘It wasn’t the right time for us’) and generosity of intention (‘She was suffering and therefore not able to connect with me in a healthy way’).”
Passed these two tests (and has a puppy?) – go forth and lock this person down!