Oh, My — TMI!

Are you guilty of telling too much too soon? Information overload can make your date want to turn tail and run—or worse. Here’s help.

By Mark Amundsen

“Maybe I’ll order the red curry soup. My ex loves Thai, though, and I’m still trying to get over him. He’s hard to shake, like that attack of dengue fever I picked up in Djibouti. Have you ever had blood flukes? He did. Nasty. He’s suing me over totaling his Oldsmobile. Can you believe it? Damn thing always smelled like cheese. My cousin Jackie, she’s my best friend, says I should get a lawyer, but I hate lawyers. I wouldn’t want any child of mine to be a lawyer. Would you? By the way, do you want children? Oh, here comes the waiter. What looks good to you?”

Odds are you won’t look too good if you have an attack of the blurts like that. Too much information
“Once you like someone, it is easier to ignore or even appreciate quirky behavior.”
is just that — too much. Yes, you want to let the other person get to know you on a date, but how much information is too much information, especially early on?

“The first date is a time of ‘getting to know you,’” says Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and the owner of the Protocol School of Texas. “Although you don’t want to come across as vague or aloof, airing your dirty laundry — you have seven toes on your left foot or your last girlfriend broke up with you because you always cry at sad movies — can wait until you know each other a little better.”

Rinatta Paries, who coaches men and women on creating loving relationships, agrees. She adds: “Once you like someone, it is easier to ignore or even appreciate quirky behavior. But if the quirky behavior is thrown in on the first date, before the person has gotten to know and like you, she may get turned off.” We all have little things that make us unique, but all clumped up, they might look downright strange.

And this kind of behavior indicates an even worse trait: self-centeredness. “Don’t concentrate on ‘me, me, me,’” says Gottsman. “Of course, you want to have a back-and-forth conversation, but instead of thinking about what you are going to say as soon as your date stops talking to take a breath, focus on what she is saying and ask thoughtful questions.” How can you tell if you’re running away with the conversation? “The rule is 60/40. Listen 60 percent of the time and talk 40 percent of the time. There is nothing worse than a date going on and on about himself and never asking any questions about the other person. That is a sign of someone who is self-absorbed and not a good second-date option,” Gottsman adds.

Gottsman also emphasizes that conversation early on should be “not too personal and not too invasive.” Paries goes a step further, advising, “Make a list of non-first-date topics ahead of time so you’ll
Listen 60 percent of the time and talk 40 percent of the time.
know what you’re not going to talk about. If your date touches on those topics, let her know you’ll be willing to talk about that topic on subsequent dates — let’s say date five. You could even make a joke about not being willing to discuss certain topics on the first date.”

Says Gottsman, “Good relationships are based on trust, and it takes time to get to know someone before you can trust him or her with your sensitive information. For example, you should be honest and say whether you’ve been married before, but you shouldn’t go into every detail of the breakup and the negative personality traits of your ex and how you broke into hives and had to be hospitalized for the rash!”

Personal security is another reason for being careful with personal information. No one wants to look cagey, but no one wants to be foolish. It’s also a bad idea to make yourself too accessible right away. Gottsman asks: “How many times have you met The One, and then she ended up being the one you wanted to forget?”

Being a bit mysterious can also add some allure. As Janet O’Neal writes in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Art of Seduction, “Maintaining that air of mystery will make your relationship much more exciting, sexy and seductive than if you spelled everything out for your partner.” The idea is to reveal oneself as intimacy evolves, not to hide behind a mask that doesn’t even look like you. Paries says, “It is absolutely necessary to be yourself at all times through the dating process. Otherwise, you end up catching people who weren’t actually looking for you but rather for the persona you were presenting.”

“The bottom line is that your date is going to be able to see who you are without your saying a word,” says Gottsman. “Your actions, such as the way you treat the wait staff, the way you handle accidents, the way you talk about your ex-girlfriend or your mother, the way you talk about your job, are all indicators of who you really are. It all comes out, regardless of what you say. It just takes time to see. Too much information is an indicator of someone who is anxious, needy or self-centered.”

So be who you are when you are dating — just not everything you are all at once.

Mark Amundsen is a writer and editor in New York who managed to keep his wife from knowing how bizarre he was until around their fourth date.
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