“It’s a cat and mouse game; puppy dogs don’t win.” Let me explain. As a dating coach and matchmaker, I’ve spent the past ten years conducting some unconventional dating research using a business concept called “Exit Interviews.” While earning my MBA degree at Harvard Business School, I learned how candid exit interviews from an employee leaving his company can reveal crucial feedback, empowering managers to get something right next time with future clients and employees. So I thought: why not try this tactic in the dating world?
In one poll, I asked over 100 women to confess the real reasons they didn’t accept a second date with a man. My goal was to help men discover simple mistakes or misperceptions which they could adjust next time with someone new. The women I interviewed came from 23 states and 6 countries, with ages ranging from 21 to 68. Five top reasons emerged strong and consistent, but what was the number one turn off? Did it have something to do with bad boys, men afraid of commitment, or guys who were too short, bald, potbellied, or unemployed? Not at all. The #1 reason was that women don’t like “The Puppy Dog.”
Women complained in droves about men who reminded them of puppies. These guys followed them around and were too eager to please. Men who were “too nice” often appeared desperate or weak. They didn’t have an “edge.” And their “gushing” early emails with excessive flattery were a turn-off.
Emily, a 39-year old writer from Boston, MA, said about one man, “Eagerness can be flattering, but this felt a little desperate… it became annoying. Also, because it was a first date, [I think] it had more to do with a fantasy about me, than me.” Hillary, a 35-year old magazine editor from New York, NY, remarked, “I went out with him in the first place because he was so complimentary to me. I thought I should give him a chance. Normally I like a man who doesn’t play games, but the flattery really became overkill.” Karen, a 28-year old health care consultant in Madison, WI, sighed, “He looked like a sad puppy when I said good-night.”
Liz, a 41-year old language translator from Sherman Oaks, CA, told me about the guy who sent such effusive emails after they met that she “was disappointed to receive them.” She said, “I wanted the polite, even enthusiastic thank-you along with a compliment or two, but not the over-gush. I guess I wanted him to maintain a little mystery.” Jenna, a 33-year old graphic designer in Miami, FL, commented: “He was too nice, too transparent… he didn’t intrigue me.”
Emma, a 25-year old advertising associate in London, England, described a guy she could have “walked all over.” And Shannon, a 38-year old accountant from Cincinnati, OH, remembered declining a third date with a too-nice guy who came to her office after she got promoted. He spent hours organizing her files and brought her an expensive “congratulations” plant. She said, “He was so good on paper, and I guess I’d call him ‘sweet,’ but he didn’t have an edge.”
Betsy, a 50-year old lawyer in Seattle, WA, mused about a guy she dated who reminded her of that “Sex & The City” episode when Carrie was dating Aidan and complained about how he was too available: he didn’t do the ever-seductive withholding dance or make her stomach flip. Betsy admitted, “The early-stage of dating is just one big game, whether we like it or not. It’s a cat and mouse game; puppy dogs don’t win.”
As these confessions poured in, I worried whether the old adage “Nice guys finish last” could actually be true? I hoped not, because I personally love “nice guys” (I even married one! And after 16 happy years, let me offer this endorsement: nice guys are the only ones who stand the test of time). But as I spoke to women in more detail, they clarified what they really meant and I felt reassured. It’s not that women don’t want a “nice guy” (they absolutely do when they are in a marriage-minded mode!), but rather guys should simply monitor the quantity of their effusive compliments and sweet gestures. Like most things in life, a little bit of a good thing goes a long way, but waaaay too much is overwhelming and usually a turn-off.
Check out the other popular reasons women don’t call men back, and the Top Ten reasons men don’t call women back (based on my Exit Interviews with 1,000 single guys) in my new book, Why He Didn’t Call You Back.