I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a Shakespeare buff by any means. I vaguely remember reading Romeo & Juliet in school, but that's really the extent of my knowledge. (However, I did used to think it was interesting that female parts were played by men for a period of time.) At any rate, there is a quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet that I seem to use over and over again when it comes to online dating and dating in general: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." As our good friend Wikipedia shares, this phrase is often used as a figure of speech, to indicate that a person's overly frequent or vehement attempts to convince others of something have ironically helped to convince others that the opposite is true, by making the person look insincere and defensive. For example, if your vegetarian friend says over and over again at dinner, "Of course I don't care if you want to eat a steak in front of me," then the number of times he says that often directly correlates to how much he actually does care.
Why the lesson in 17th century literature, you might ask? Well, as it relates to dating, people are often very quick to say something about themselves as a defense mechanism, when the reality of it is that without that defense, no one would make the very assumption that this person is denying.
I was perusing Match.com the other day, looking for women of interest for a client of mine in North Carolina, and I came across this profile below:
Not only is it perhaps one of the most boring profiles on the site, but it also says, "I like to do things like clean and organize but I'm not OCD." Hmm… The first thing I immediately think is, "This woman is OCD, but she's trying to hide it… very poorly." If you're not, then don't call attention to it. And if you are, just be honest about it. Either choice is better than the one she made. Saying, "I love coming home to a clean, organized house," gets the same point across without any judgment.
Let's take a look at another excerpt from a Match.com profile:
Besides being a very poor writer, this gentleman starts out by making two claims: "I'm not full of myself" and "I'm not a player." Most women will read this as, "I'm a player, and I'm full of myself."
In court, you're innocent until proven guilty. It's the same thing with online dating. There's no need to compensate for something that should be considered the baseline, or the innocence, if you will. Unless told otherwise, the baseline is that you're honest and nice and everything else good in the world. You're starting at 100%. It's when you start to refute things that should be the baseline that people will start to question you.
So speak the truth, don't cover things up, and if you're tempted to say something in a defensive manner to dispel someone's thoughts that you're a certain way, it's time to think again. The reader most likely won't notice until it's pointed out.
Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge and author of Love at First Site (currently 99 cents on Kindle through December 31st). Her work has been seen on NPR, Talk Philly, The Washington Post, and more. To join her mailing list for tips and events, please join here.