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January 20, 2010

What went wrong? Interviewing a dating exit interviewer

Filed under: books,Psychology — posted by Paula @ 10:35 am

Dating expert Rachel Greenwald made a splash with her 2003 self-help book Find a Husband After 35: (Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School)and spent years researching her 2009 follow-up, Why He Didn’t Call You Back: 1,000 Guys Reveal What They Really Thought About You After Your Date(re-christened for its March 2010 paperback release as the more empowering and less finger-waggy Have Him at Hello: Confessions from 1,000 Guys About What Makes Them Fall in Love . . . Or Never Call Back) by interviewing 1,000 men about their honest reactions to real dates.

Through the insights gleaned from these candid chats, Greenwald, a professional yenta and dating coach, became a staunch advocate of third-party “exit interviews” for both men and women who have been blown off after one or two dates and desire some useful info about what might have gone wrong. She likens these post-mortems to performance reviews at work, and thinks they are the key to discovering potentially stymieng blind spots about one’s own dating behavior. Recently Greenwald has begun training others to become professional “exit interviewers.” Here’s what she had to say in an INTERVIEWinterview with BreakupGirl.net:

Why do you think it’s helpful to know why someone didn’t call you back, as opposed to just letting go and moving on?

Rachel Greenwald: Well, it’s like anything in life. Feedback improves your performance going forward. It’s a tool. You could be doing something like sending the wrong signal, or giving the wrong impression, and…not getting the results that you want. If only someone could coach you about how you were perceived and what went wrong, you could use that information to change things and get better results next time.

Do you think most people being “exit interviewed” are going to be honest?

I really do. I was skeptical going into it because I wasn’t sure what kind of candid feedback I was going to get. I offered the men in my research, the 1,000 men I interviewed [for the book], a powerful incentive upfront to tell me the truth: if they could help me understand why they didn’t call back a particular woman, then I might know another great single woman that I could fix them up with in the future. That was a real incentive to be candid.

Also, I’m experienced and practiced with these interview techniques now, and have had a lot of training, so I ask a lot of probing questions, and ask the same questions in different ways to get at the truth.

Certainly some men may not be very self-aware, or know consciously why they didn’t call someone back. [When I did my initial research], I’d often get vague replies, like “Oh we just didn’t have any chemistry” and I’d have to use my detailed probes to get them to articulate what that really meant.

And this is anonymous third-party feedback. It’s not like I’m calling a man for my best friend and I’m gonna report back to her with everything he tells me. Instead, I aggregate the feedback. I’ll call about five or six men for every one woman, and get a group consensus. You know, if four out of six men told me that [my client] is abrasive in her comments, or argumentative, that’s a real problem that she needs to know about.

How do you parse conflicting information from a variety of interviews?

Well, my background is in statistics and research–I was a psychology major and then a business major. There are techniques that professional researchers use to understand outliers and non-statistically significant data. The bottom line is that I’m only conveying information that has some sort of theme. Even though on the surface, I may get three entirely different responses, there is usually an underlying sentiment that becomes apparent to the trained ear.

What do you make of overly critical or mean feedback?

I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I’m not out to give people feedback about the things they can’t change. I really look for feedback that addresses misperceptions that [a client] may have about her personality or values.

I would certainly never tell a woman that a man said she was fat, but if I had several men saying that her weight is an issue, I might come up with language to describe that feedback that didn’t hurt her feelings.

The truth is, I really don’t get a lot of physical comments anyway–in this day and age, because of the computer, we can usually see pictures of people before we even meet them…so most potential dates are pre-screened that way.

Can you tell me about the dating coaches you’ve trained? Do you look for any previous experience or qualifications?

I am just starting this new business…I’m training dating coaches, and have assembled a small team across the country of about 10 or 12 coaches that I’ve personally trained. I don’t have preset qualifications, like they have to have a graduate degree in psychology or anything, but usually these are married women who have found a happy and fulfilling relationship. I interview these women by phone to make sure that they have the personal skills and intuition that I think would be successful and then if they pass that screening test–which includes a lot of detailed questions about their philosophies about dating and relationships and their backgrounds–then I invite them to Denver for a weekend boot camp training session, and we spend 48 hours learning everything that I can teach them about dating coaching.

Can you describe your clientele–is it mostly women?

My clientele is 60% men and 40% women, and I have a small but growing number of gay and lesbian clients.

Interesting–I got the feeling from the tone of the book that your clients would all have been women…

Yeah, I also do matchmaking, too. A lot of men come to me for matchmaking and then I convince them that they need dating coaching as well. [Laughs] Men are more likely to seek matchmaking because they view it as a professional service that they want to outsource, because they are very busy. Women, on the other hand, view hiring a matchmaker as embarrassing…

There are very different perceptions around men and women turning to a matchmaker. I believe it’s just a professional service similar to hiring someone to mow the lawn. Why not? You’re busy and it’s not your area of expertise, so why not turn to a professional who can do it more efficiently?


  1. I love the idea. Not sure I’d enjoy actually being on either side of the interview myself. Life seems to give you feedback when you DON’T want it, but rarely when you actually do.

    FWIW, the woman who asked me a bunch of questions from a book on compatibility eventually ended up marrying me. So there may be something to adding a little bit of formal structure to the process.

    Which sounds a bit science-fictional to me. (Which I for one almost never mean as a bad thing.)

    How about a Geneva Convention of how one should conduct oneself in relationships? Now there’s a notion I first had long ago, when I was single…

    Comment by Tom Marcinko — January 20, 2010 @ 12:19 pm

  2. @Tom, I am all for more communication and honesty, for sure. I think the third-party aspect of this dating exit interview phenomenon encourages candor, too.

    The limitation of this approach is that you really have to be a turbo-dater to make it worthwhile, and I personally could never get into that dating-like-it’s-your-job thing. I tend to be more Type B about these (and all) matters, and it’s worked out.

    Obviously, though, no one approach is right for all.

    Comment by Paula — January 20, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

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  4. In principle, and when done gently, it’s a great idea. I’ve always gotten lots of letters from people who don’t understand why they never get to a second date, and it’s ultimately not that helpful to hear (even from a superhero): Things will click when you’re with the right person! Keep it up! Above all, be yourself! Right, well, what if yourself is mainly awesome but you have an easily correctible tendency, I don’t know, pick arguments on dates to keep them from getting “boring.” Or something. In those cases, yeah, some real data points, presented constructively, could change everything.

    Comment by Breakup Girl — January 20, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

  5. oh gawd no. i get a kick out of dating — i usually entertain myself the whole time, gathering data for backstories. an exit interview would take away from my fun!

    that said, i can’t think of one unsuccessful date in the last few years — but my definition of success is that i had a good time. two have become ltr, but both were clever and funny and a bit odd and sexy in my book.

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  7. meh, better just to move on, no sense in agonizing why its over. as the old saying goes, other fishies in the sea! Or you can focus on YOU and what a great life you’ve got with good friends, family. :) Or get a pet. :)

    Comment by Karen — January 20, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

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  10. Great post.

    “if they could help me understand why they didn’t call back a particular woman, then I might know another great single woman that I could fix them up with in the future…”

    I love that your carrot for honesty was the potential of another woman!

    If its that hard for a guy to be honest with YOU about a girl he isnt even with anymore… I’m having trouble how rare it must be for a guy to be upfront with his actual girlfriend.

    I’m not excluding myself here either…

    Comment by Getting Over My Ex Girlfriend — January 20, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

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  12. This would really be helpful. I have no idea what I keep doing wrong (same thing? different things?) and so far the record is pretty abysmal. And either my friends are all too nice or liars in saying “that’s too bad, keep trying, you’re a good guy … we don’t get it why you take more FlaK than the 8th Air Force.”

    Do you think asking women “what did he do wong/not do right” work as well as it does asking men those questions?

    Comment by DM — January 24, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

  13. @DM “…Do you think asking women “what did he do wong/not do right” work as well as it does asking men those questions?”

    I had that thought, too! One of the cliched differences between men and women is that women love to talk about stuff like this, analyzing every word and gesture. I would be curious to know. I’m guessing that Ms. Greenwald would say something like “It depends more on the pointedness of the questions rather than on the gender of the person answering.” Maybe she’ll see this and weigh in…

    Comment by Paula — January 24, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

  14. Whatever the case is, knowing the truth DOES hurt. I agree that its helpful to know the real reason as to help you in future dates. However, only so much can be said. The best thing is NOT to take it personally and try your best to just take it with e grain of salt.


    Comment by Daniel — February 3, 2010 @ 12:33 am

  15. Yeah, Sometimes i want to know the reasons that why he or she doesn’t call me back, Why don’t just move on or think about something eles, but it’s the hard time that i need to live and learn, But if i’ve already done my best, I’d not care anymore., What it’ll, will be.

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