The dating playbook suggests following the same steps to acquaint ourselves with someone new, no matter how we meet someone. Oftentimes the only difference lies in the speed with which we transition from strangers to…well, to something else.

First, the physical attraction, which we know takes seconds.

Second, we look for more subtle physical cues, like speech, hand movements, tics (if any), gait, eye contact and so on.

Thirdly we begin to observe behavioral traits such as social adaptability, listening skills, the ability to empathize, acceptance of flattery, ability to follow implied statements, reaction to irony; all the nuances of language, whether literal or otherwise.

This progression happens on first dates after discovery on a sex-matching site or after months of coy consideration at work. It’s the reason we want to make a good impression on a first date, because the cliché happens to be true: that first impression sticks. It matters not whether we’re looking for a hook-up or marriage, the pattern remains the same and resulting judgement takes only a few minutes.

As an automatic process, we’re unlikely to change it, so I guess it must work. But it is only a beginning.


Just prior to a first date starting, we can characterize the mood of both parties as equal parts seeking to persuade and willingness to be persuaded. No, it’s not always that balanced, but let’s play the hypothetical.

And then we meet.

Likening this moment to our universe’s big bang isn’t too far off the mark; a LOT happens in a very short period of time. Matter and dark matter are created, elements formed, light switched on and judgements made.

From that point the universe has two choices: it either does as our own, and continues to expand. In this case stars give us heat and light, the dust coalesces, gravity does what gravity does and elements become more complex. We get what you see around you.

The other choice is that it collapses. Or falls afoul of other mistakes and failings.

Dating isn’t quite so apocalyptic (although I can find people who disagree strongly with this.) Even if the stars don’t shine on a first date, they might on a second or third or tenth. And persuasion isn’t really a factor. We might think we can talk ourselves into creating something with the one we fancy, but probably not.

Only what we do counts. People are their patterns, not their promises.