One of the most relevant and potent applications of ART’s authentic relating teachings and practices is in the singles and dating world. Those who have learned the skills and tools of AR have a massive advantage over those who haven’t, by knowing how to reveal their authentic experience, practice curiosity as a doorway to profound intimacy, set context that can transform any moment into aliveness and joy, and generally have people feeling deeply seen and heard.
Be Your Authentic Self
One of the core principles of how AR is applied to dating is to recognize that when you show up as your authentic self, you naturally draw people who resonate with your authentic way of being your authenticity acts as a powerful filter that only lets in people who you are likely to experience a natural connection with.
One of the main challenges of the dating world stems from the pressure many people feel to manufacture a version of themselves that they think others will find interesting, compelling, or attractive. Yet over time, we will always revert to our authentic selves. Learning how to connect deeply with who you are, and to reveal yourself to others, is itself one of the most attractive qualities a person can have, and is a natural outcome of embodying the spirit of authentic relating in life and relationships.
Whether people have had years of training in the transformational arts or have never ventured anywhere near a course or workshop, I believe everyone has an intuitive perception of whether others are being real or contrived in their expression and way of being. We have a deep gut sense that is attuned to either the resonance or dissonance between a person’s What, How, and Why. When these three dimensions of being are aligned, we relax, we trust, and we open. When there is dissonance between any of these, we guard, become tense, and don’t trust. Let’s explore these in more detail:
What – This is what someone is literally saying, the literal words coming out of their mouth. It is the content of their expression.
How – This is how someone is, their nonverbal body language, their pace, tone and volume of their voice, their presence and energy. It is the context of their expression.
Why – This is where the core values, needs, and desires of a person live, which inform everything they express in their What and How. This is their heart, their care, what matters to them, the source of their emotions.
The immersion into the practice of AR allows for the natural aligning of these three dimensions in a person, and whether or not other people have any kind of framework to describe these dimensions, there is no question that alignment or misalignment can be felt in others, if only at an unconscious level. If you are in any way constructing some facade or version of yourself to try to appeal to another person, they will likely pick up on it, and even if they don’t, there will come a time when the effort to maintain that facade will crumble and your authentic self will emerge anyway. So why not alleviate the effort, minimize the risk of others losing trust in you or feeling disconnected from you, and attract the people who resonate with your natural, authentic way of being, all by consciously choosing to be yourself? This is the choice that AR can hugely support you in making.
The two most important skills in the dating world are revealing, and getting curious. First, let’s talk about revealing. Revealing is opening the window into your internal world and letting another see into it. This means letting them see exactly how it is to be you on the inside. It doesn’t mean showing them one part while obscuring another part. It also doesn’t mean showing them everything – if your internal experience is one in which some things are private or not ready to be revealed, then let them see exactly that privacy and not-readiness. Letting another see into your internal world builds trust and intimacy like little else can. It’s a practice that has been a feature of human connection for eons – we shake hands to show the other that we are unarmed; we value eye contact because there is no place to hide in the gaze; we have long associated the word naked with vulnerability, and written countless books on the connection between vulnerability and intimacy.
Revealing yourself means being honest about the experience you’re having. If you notice the other person is speaking too fast for you to follow and absorb what they are saying, speak up and name it, and ask if they can slow down so you can feel them more. If you notice a lack of aliveness in the conversation, say it: “I’m feeling a little checked out in this topic of conversation… how about you?” If that seems too edgy to come right out and say, then name the edginess and ask if you can share it: “I’m having an experience that feels edgy to share, would you be open to hearing it?” In this last example, notice the combination of revealing yourself and getting curious – nothing, but nothing, builds connection and intimacy like these two skills combined.
If you’re feeling bored, excited, impatient, engaged, curious, irritated, distracted, enlivened, or anything else, name it in real time, and name it into the connective space. No matter what the content is, if you reveal your authentic experience and stay in connection while doing it, the connection almost always deepens and becomes more trustable.
The best way to stay in connection, and to let the other person know that you’re valuing the connection, is to check for impact.
Checking for Impact
Impact is the experience someone has during and after you share something. It can be physical (softening, tensing, etc), emotional (saddening, exciting, etc), or mental (judgmental, curious, etc). Impact always occurs, even if it’s very subtle. So after you share anything, especially if it’s vulnerable, check for impact in the other person. “How does that land for you?” “What’s that like to hear?” “I’m curious to know how you feel after I just shared that” are all great examples of checking for impact.
When you check for impact, you’re letting the other person know that you’re right here in the connection, completely with them and inviting them to stay with you on the journey of this interpersonal discovery of self and other. You’re giving them a clear, trustable, warm opening to stay engaged and feel welcome in their experience. You’re recognizing and honoring that they are having a sovereign experience, which has people feeling appreciated and respected.
You can also offer impact yourself, even if they don’t explicitly invite you after they have finished sharing or revealing something. You can say, “Can I share how that landed for me?” or “I’d love to let you know how I’m experiencing you right now.” Both inviting the other person to share impact and sharing impact yourself creates a kind of riveting long tennis rally of a conversation, that can spiral into ever deeper realms of connection and intimacy.
The other great skill for dating is getting curious. Now this isn’t just firing random questions at somebody, or trying to figure out what are the right questions to ask, or following some tired script that you’re not really feeling (“Where are you from?” “What do you like to do in your free time?” etc). Getting genuinely curious, following a curiosity that is unfiltered and deeply rooted in the body and heart, is actually a very vulnerable practice. What if the other person gets offended? What if the question crosses a boundary? What if the person feels like I’m interrogating them? Often, some of the most interesting questions get relegated to the “not appropriate” or “not okay” shelf, and the opportunity to follow the aliveness gets squashed.
That phrase, follow the aliveness, is an excellent guiding principle in the practice of getting curious. Following the aliveness should take precedence over what is okay or not okay to ask. If you want to ensure the highest receptivity for your genuine curiosity and mitigate any chance of the other person getting caught off-guard, you can set a context for your curiosity: “I have a curiosity about you but I’m a little scared to ask… I don’t want to be invasive or anything. Would you be open to that?” “I notice how curious I am about you and want to see if we can just take all the filters off… how would that feel for you?” It also demonstrates that you recognize that your curiosity is an invitation for the other person to open a window into their own internal experience, and that it can be very vulnerable for them to do so. That’s why it’s so important to keep checking into the other person’s experience throughout your thread of curiosity. At various points, you can ask, “How is this going for you?” or “Please let me know if my curiosity feels too much… we can shift to another topic anytime.” Again, by checking in like this, you are honoring the connection and constantly inviting the other person to be fully welcomed in their authentic experience.
Ask what you are genuinely curious about. The more you feel your curiosity, and the questions that spring from it, in your heart, the more trustable it is to bring forth and ask. The key precedent to feeling your curiosity in your heart is to listen and to be slow. Listen for the What, How, and Why in the other person and really let yourself be fully immersed in their world. As one of my teachers used to say, people become interesting when you become interested. It’s your listening that acts as a gateway into their world, your full engagement and presence that illuminates greater and broader landscapes of their world. This is the ground of curiosity – you cannot help but want to explore more, seek out more delights and treasures, and let the beacon of curiosity act as a guiding light for both of you.
Leading vs Following
In every interaction between two people, someone is always leading and someone is always following. It can be obvious and explicit, like when one person says, “Hey, I’d like to take you to this place I know,” and the other person replies, “Sure, lead the way.” It can also be subtle and implicit, like when one person is gently leading the other person to feel their experience more deeply. There are key skills that are associated with leading and with following that can provide a map of connection and movement between two people and are useful to know in the context of dating.
When you’re leading, you allow your curiosity or inspiration to carve the path ahead, letting the experience of the other person follow that path. You’re also setting the tone and pace of the conversation – if the responses or words come too fast to be fully heard and processed, you can ask to slow down. As a leader, you’re bringing attention to the subtleties of the present moment experience and expression, and inviting both of you to explore them together. An example might be, “I noticed that when you talk about your childhood, your voice gets soft and you tend to look down… I’m curious if that means anything to you?” or “I noticed a lot of excitement when we were talking about traveling, and less now as we’re talking about work… What’s your experience?” or countless other threads that can be picked up and explored simply by being named.
When you’re following, you’re offering lots of space and freedom for the other person to follow the aliveness or share what they are noticing. Questions like “How is this evening going for you so far?” or “How are you feeling in this moment?” can open up a space for the other person to tune into their present moment experience and feel invited to have the attention on them. Generally speaking, people love attention – not so much the kind of attention that comes from trying to attain it, but more from the kind of attention that comes from genuine care and curiosity. Once someone steps into a space in which the attention is fully on them, as a follower you just continue following whatever threads they name. For example, if they say “I was feeling nervous before but now I’m feeling relaxed,” you might respond by saying “I’m curious what had you shift from nervous to relaxed?” This gives them the space to lead the conversation and connection more deeply into their own experience, more into their bodies and emotions and vulnerability, all of which creates more intimacy and closeness.
There are many other skills we teach at our courses that are very useful in a dating context, like setting context, dignity vs humility, being the witness, and the three levels of conversation. If you’d like to learn more about how ART’s authentic relating teachings and practices can have a huge impact on how to navigate the dating world with skill and awareness, come to our upcoming ART Webinar, The ART of Authentic Dating.