Every time she hung out with her single female friends, the same gripes surfaced. Enough already with the how-to-snag-a-guy advice streaming from anyone and everyone as soon as status single was announced, they said.
Suddenly, Karin Anderson, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Concordia University Chicago, found herself keeping track of what these single women were saying, replacing the strict academic research techniques she was used to with more informal polling.
What she found was a deluge of well-meaning advice being issued to singles that, while offered with the best of intentions, not only wasn’t working but was making singles’ skin crawl.
“The message to singles tends to be that they’re doing something wrong, ‘You’re too this’ or ‘You’re not enough that.’ Being single is treated as this problem that needs to be solved,” says Anderson. “That’s really bogus. We should be telling single women, ‘You’re fine. There’s nothing wrong. Enjoy your life.'”
These five snippets of well-meaning advice to singles top Anderson’s list of worst offenses. Here’s why.
1) What’s Said: “Maybe you’re not trying hard enough.”
What’s Heard: “This can come off sounding like you’re passing judgment on effort. “It’s better to encourage a single person to explore new relationships to the extent they are comfortable and to extend themselves in ways that feel natural and not forced.”
2) What’s Said: “Wear more makeup.”
What’s Heard: More than implying that the search for Mr. Right is as easy as brushing a spot of color onto the cheeks, this comment offends further by actually attacking a person’s core identity. “A woman presents herself according to what she defines as meaningful. Whether her style is glamorous belle or au naturelle, every woman should be allowed to be herself. There’s a man out there who is going to be attracted to her style, whatever it is. If she’s presenting herself as anyone other than who she really is, that’s false advertising and that’s going to backfire.”
3) What’s Said: “Get back out there!”
What’s Heard: This can send the signal that the single person is simply not doing enough speed or Internet or blind dating, or worse, that she isn’t living a full enough life. “Singles are not by definition hiding out in their closets curled up in the fetal position all day. “Most are likely working, meeting friends out for dinner and events, working out.”
4.)What’s Said: “You’re too picky”
What’s Heard: This implies that at some point, a point that the single friend or loved one has reached, she is no longer allowed to be discriminating, says Anderson. “This sends single women the message that their time to be choosy is up, that it’s now time to go out and pick up any chump.”
5) What’s Said: “Tone it down a notch.”
What’s Heard: You ask too many questions. You’re too intimidating. You’re overly opinionated. You’re too consumed with work. “This is interpreted by single women to mean that they have to dial down their core identity a notch in order to attract potential suitors and make them feel comfortable.“Suggesting that a woman reduce the fullness of who she is to lure a mate will lead to an inauthentic connection, and is a recipe for a disastrous relationship or marriage. Because really, how long can any person fake it and maintain a facade?”