Get Promoted—In Love!

Learn the four skills that are just as important in your social life as they are in your work world.

By Jim Sullivan

’m always amazed at the number of my coaching clients who have successful careers but can’t get their love lives off the ground. They seem downright perplexed: How can I be competent at work but lame at dating? I tell them to ease up on themselves and tell me about the qualities that have brought them career success. (Usually, guys know exactly why they’re good at their jobs.) The next step is getting them (and you!) to use those talents in their dating lives. Here are four work success skills that, when transferred to your non-9-to-5 life, can help you find you love.

The skill that rocks at work: Listening
In this high-speed, multitasking world, good listening is still crucial. Whether you’re at a Fortune 500 company or a metal foundry, if you want to keep your job, you have to listen to your boss and clients.
Anton focused on the payoffs he was getting, which made him braver each time he chatted up a new guy.
At a hospital, you need to listen in as a patient describes his or her symptoms, and if you’re a pilot, it's crucial that you focus on what the control tower is saying!

Why it works in love: Paying attention to a person is just as effective in your personal life. When we really listen, we are nonverbally saying “I care,” which indicates an open heart. As a counselor at a local hospital, Herman has developed an extraordinary ability to listen to his clients and make them feel welcome. Herman comes across as a charming man professionally, and I suggested he start listening to the men he meets the same way, picking up on their cues and using a soft gaze to look at them. He’s not “playing therapist,” he’s using his ability to be attentive. His capacity to see the real, live human beings before him is a skill that will set him apart from many of the self-absorbed “let’s-talk-more-about-me” daters out there.

The skill that rocks at work: Being bold
Owning a business or getting a better title takes nerve: You’re gambling your savings on start-up costs; spending a chunk of your budget on a new ad strategy; or taking on tasks you may not be totally qualified to oversee. Sure, sometimes the guys (and gals) who are daring at work fail, just like everyone, but when they do win, they win big.

Why it works in love: Trying something new in business requires confidence, which is irresistible in real life. Take Anton, who has taken a dozen major risks to get his t-shirt design business going. Anton wanted to meet guys, but kept putting dating on the back burner — the opposite of his work style. I challenged him to try to get ten names and numbers from singles at Pride, and he was game. Not only did he get the names, he started dating a guy he met at a big outdoor dance. When he came to see me two weeks later, they had been on four dates! It worked because instead of worrying about whether he’d be rejected, Anton focused on the payoffs he was getting, which made him braver each time he chatted up a new guy. He took a risk, and it paid off. Well done!

The skill that rocks at work: Flexibility
Teachers who deal with young kids, wedding planners who oversee outdoor ceremonies hit by rain and fashion buyers who have to coordinate purchases from far-flung vendors all learn quickly that things don’t always go according to plan. Instead of freaking out,
When you really listen, you are nonverbally saying “I care.”
which would make for a short career span, these people learn to be flexible and resourceful.

Why it rocks in love: Mike works in a school for emotionally challenged adolescents. Rolling with the punches and possessing a sense of humor are key to his teaching success. Mike meets all kind of guys in the singles scene: some sweet, some cocky and others he’d like to put in “time out.” He has learned from work not to take a date’s behavior personally or to be rigid about plans, which lets him smoothly navigate the dating world. For example, when one date got obnoxious, Mike was able to shrug it off and change the subject, instead of blaming himself or indulging the tantrum. And if a quiet restaurant isn’t helping him get to know a reserved date, he has no problem changing speeds and heading out on an activity that will get the conversation flowing more easily.

The skill that rocks at work: Attention to detail
Many professions require employees to sweat the small stuff. If one line of coding is off, a computer programmer’s entire project may not work. An architect must triple-check calculations if he wants his proposed building to actually stay standing. An accountant can’t just guesstimate a deduction unless he wants to be corrected by the IRS.

Why it works in love: The “annoying details” of dating can make or break an outing — finding a restaurant with vegetarian options or checking the weather for rain before an afternoon hike. Phil is an IT administrator at an Ivy League school. His serious faculty and students demand his full attention 24/7 — when a system is down, he has to be able to get it back up yesterday. This focus means Phil knows how to plan a great date: He asks his guy what kind of cuisine he likes, finds an appropriate restaurant that’s in their price range and near them both and makes reservations. And Phil uses his type-A skills for a gentlemanly twist: He always researches somewhere nearby to stop and treat his date to coffee and dessert, which makes him look thoughtful and caring (which he definitely is…).

Jim Sullivan has been a counselor for more than 25 years. He currently coaches gay singles on dating and relationship issues and is the author of Boyfriend 101—A Gay Guy’s Guide to Dating, Romance and Finding True Love.

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