Dating Halo: Why What You THINK Matters

April 11, 2016

While enrolled in Florida A&M’s School of Business & Industry, I learned the ins and outs of business while trying to master the ups and downs of life. Some lessons were learned easily while others have taken years to grasp. A specific concept, Halo Effect, was introduced during an undergraduate marketing course. It was used to explain why people have a bias toward one product due to an experience with another made by the same manufacturer. However, as I consider the concept, I recognize its influence in many aspects of my life–especially relationships.

 

ha·lo ef·fect (noun): the tendency for an impression created in one area to influence opinion in another area.

 

When a guy is nice and charming, do we assume he’s also trustworthy and respectful? When a woman is attractive and successful, do we assume she’s intelligent and open-minded? Halo effect says yes, we do. Everyday we make assumptions about people based on very limited interaction (see last week’s post on the Assumption Conundrum) because cognitive biases are how our brains process so much information in such limited time.  Yes, our brains tell us we should trust the nice stranger and be vulnerable with the attractive woman. So what’s the problem with thinking favorably of someone you recently met? Well, in the world of dating there’s more at stake than buying the wrong detergent. Making a snap decision based on limited experience means possibly granting our trust and allowing loyalty to people we don’t actually know. Although it requires more time and effort, I’m again reminded that people should earn their place in your head, heart and bed because the only thing a good-looking person may have to offer is just that- good looks.

Conversely when negative associations are present it’s known as the Devil Effect. For me, the danger in this one extends far beyond the name. When two people are aiming to have a partnership, a relationship that can endure the struggles of life, negative predispositions to the other are major threats. They’ll taint every thought, interaction and disagreement. They will appear underneath the smiles and remain long after apologies have been given. Romantic relationships are rife with negative associations and if not recognized and managed, they will turn a loving connection into a minefield.

Recognizing the Effects: Acknowledging where you have negative perceptions of your mate is a start. Everything s/he does, especially in the first several interactions, creates a pattern in your mind. Once you’ve assigned a label, especially a negative one, it’s almost impossible to change. Even when you think you’ve moved beyond yesterday’s assumptions, an argument will ensue and unearth old thoughts carrying with it an array of old baggage.

Managing the Trigger Moments:  Because you’ve assigned labels to your significant other, warranted or not, situations will occur to either support what you’ve already determined or challenge your thinking. If you believe your partner is unfaithful, every time a text response is delayed, you’ll think they are being unfaithful. If you think your girlfriend is controlling, every time she asks you a yes or no question, you’ll feel like she’s backing you into a corner in an attempt to control you. If you’ve decided your boyfriend is irresponsible with money, you’ll always question his purchases–big or small. I’m not suggesting you turn away from the assumptions altogether. That’d take a lot of work and require a professional to uncover the whys. I do believe managing trigger moments is imperative. Here are 3 simple actions for managing the devil effect.

  1. First, recognize you’re making a negative association in your mind about your partner. Quite simply, if you don’t know it, you’ll never be able to manage it.
  2. Come up with 3 possible reasons for your partner’s words/actions that are positive and not focused on validating your negative association. This enables a more loving and supportive starting point.
  3. Seek to understand. Ask questions and listen to your significant other with the goal of actually understanding from where s/he is coming. Every conversation can’t be a debate. That’s draining and makes everyone want to throw in the towel. Instead, spend time behaving in a way that shows you feel the way you say – like the person is of value in your life.

 

What do you think about Halo Effect in dating? Do you believe it clouds judgment one way or the other? Post your comments below and don’t forget to SHARE! 

 

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