January 25, 2010 5:31 PM   Subscribe

A recent question has me wondering about the dos and donts of fixing people up.

This question has me thinking of right ways and not-so-right ways to introduce/set up people whom you think would hit it off romantically, while making sure both parties are comfortable with the whole matter. Obviously there are less awkward ways to go about this than the well-meaning moms had intended. What are they, and what are mistakes to avoid?
posted by SillyShepherd to Human Relations (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If someone tells you he doesn't want to be set up, listen.

If you don't know the person don't offer to set him up. Ever.

Pretty much: courtesy and common sense.
posted by dfriedman at 5:33 PM on January 25, 2010

Well, that was a particularly awkward example, what with all the history & long distance stuff.

Maybe it's best not to overthink this. A quick mental poll tells me that people I know have hooked up with friends-of-friends far more often than they have with random people who they met wherever, and probably with good reason (vetting, knowledge of interests & personality, etc).

I think the usual way it works is just to organise social events that enable the people in question to work things out for themselves, and take it wherever they please. Perhaps a gentle hint or two, along the lines of "Hey, what did you think of X? You know s/he's single, right?" should be enough prompting, if there's any interest at all.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:39 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you should take romance out of the picture. Introduce two people who have similar interests and then back off. If romance developes, great. If not, then it's no big deal. There is no way to predict chemistry.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:40 PM on January 25, 2010 [12 favorites]

There are three ways to set somebody up with a reasonable chance of success and a low chance of offense.

Number one, the easiest one: both parties have, independently, mentioned interest in one another and asked you to be an intermediary. You're fixing them up at their request, and all you need to do is help engineer a method for them to avoid embarrassment and awkwardness (depending on the people, that could mean a lot of work, or just "here's the number, call her, she already told me she likes you too.")

Number two, the catalyst approach: neither party has met, or neither has expressed an interest, but you suspect they'd work well together. You arrange an outing of some kind with other people, large enough to give them a chance to be alone but small enough that they'll end up talking sooner or later. Nobody need ever know you fixed them up, unless they're the only single people at the gathering and you say stupid things like "okay, you two sit together and let's see if you hit it off."

Last but not least, there's the situation where one person has expressed an interest, and the other has not. Your job is identical to the catalyst approach, with an explicit statement to the interested person that you'll happily get 'em in the same gathering, but the rest is up to them.

Anything other than these three scenarios/approaches is going to lead to some kind of awkwardness; for instance, if someone says "fix me up with someone" you might chose a person that the fixee considers so incompatible that it causes friction in your relationship. Or perhaps you decide to schedule a double-date (without calling it that) and when the two fixees show up and see its them and you and your date, they'll start giving you the fish-eye and everything will feel awkward. You get the idea.
posted by davejay at 5:43 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

note: the one thing you should never do is care about the success of the fixing. if it works or not should not matter to you; if it does, don't get involved at all because you're too vested -- it's about them, not you.
posted by davejay at 5:45 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't call it "matchmaking" when you're really just trying to hitch up the one unmarried friend in your circle.
posted by rhizome at 5:55 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Eh, it all depends on your personality, and what your friends are like. I've introduced two couples in my time. Both are now married. And both of them went exactly the same way: I knew both parties were single and looking, the first time all three of us were in the same place, I introduced them, and said "y'all should really get to know each other" and then basically walked away. Yep, awkward. But they could laugh, together, at my horrible matchmaking approach. And then later, I got to laugh about how darn well it worked. But then, I'm willing to look like a fool, and my friends don't tend towards the sensitive type. I'm sure this technique could be an unmitigated disaster with different people involved.
posted by amelioration at 6:19 PM on January 25, 2010

I love the idea of friends helping introduce me to people, however it does irk me when it feels like friends are acting more in the interests of their other friend than in mine. Don't advertise the friend as more than they are, for example, else it seems like you're primarily trying to help them get me, with my interests coming a distant second place to those of the other friend, instead of trying to help me.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:44 PM on January 25, 2010

Listen to dfriedman. Similar to that first point, don't assume that people want to be set up if they've never mentioned it before.

I'm single and I just don't have any interest in dating at the moment. I'm happy being single and everyone who knows me well is aware of this. Your friends might be ok with being single as well and might not really want you to play matchmaker.

Every busybody and their mother seems to think that my life will never be complete until I catch a man and they're constantly trying to set me up with some "great" guy they know from somewhere.

For me, nothing is more awkward and uncomfortable than meeting up with a group of friends and immediately realizing it's an attempt to set me up with some random guy. Especially if it's someone I have nothing in common with, and even moreso if my friends have talked me up to this guy in advance. Then he's kind of expecting something to happen and it's just not going to.

Please don't be the person who does that.
posted by howrobotsaremade at 6:47 PM on January 25, 2010

I think it depends on the age of the people being set up and their stated desire to be set up. In my opinion, as people get older, they are more inclined to be set up and are willing to give a "first date" a try. As you get toward your late 30's and onward or if you have been out of the dating scene for a while (married, now divorced) then you are more likely to be ok with having a trusted friend pre-screen someone for you.

If the person says no, don't. Also, as mentioned above, make sure it is mutual or equal. Do not do a favor for one friend at the expense of another. For example, if you have a friend who is having a tough time of late, is lonely do not simply set them up with the first warm body you can. There has to be a basis for the match.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:55 PM on January 25, 2010

I have "interesting people parties" where I invite a bunch of different friends whom I think are interesting -- singles, marrieds; young people, old people, teenagers, even kids; different walks of life and jobs -- from all my different groups, people I know well and people I've just met to a potluck. I tell everyone I'm inviting them because it's my "interesting people party" and I think they're interesting. (Nobody ever says no!)

When I have two people I think might be good together, instead of setting them up, I just invite them both to an interesting people party and make sure to introduce them. I figure they can take it from there. And that way there's not the "OMG ONLY TWO SINGLE PEOPLE IN THE ROOM" vibe that's weird.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:03 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

The one time I tried, it worked. A female friend gave a bizzare list of what she wanted--a tall good-looking german national with long hair and a sciences Ph.D. That described my roomate to a tee.
She resisted getting set up. So I took him to a party. The minute him and I started talking to different people, she came up to me and declared "that was the guy from the post office!" I was confused. She explained she saw that man in the post office last week and fell in love on sight. I calmly told her that was the roommate I'd been trying to set her up with for months.

Weeks later, it still took me berating her for 20 minutes to get her to call him and set up a date. It was a great thing and lasted for a year and a half until he moved away.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:18 PM on January 25, 2010

I have been set up a few times, and I far prefer the straightforward method to the "get them together in a room at a party" method. Here's the ideal scenario:

Friend knows that I'm interested in meeting guys and knows a bit about what I'm looking for. Also knows a guy that's interested in meeting girls and feels like we'd be a good match.

Friend tells me a bit about guy and asks me if I'd be interested in being set up with him. Friend (separately) tells guy a bit about me and asks him if he'd be interested in being set up with me.

Friend passes my email address to guy (or vice versa, but I do think it's better if only one person gets the contact information so that it's obvious to both parties who should make the first move).

Then friend leaves us to it. It doesn't have to be awkward -- it's just a first date, and if we don't click, that's fine. But at least everything's on the table and we both know what we're getting into.
posted by cider at 7:34 PM on January 25, 2010

Response by poster: All these answers are good so far, since people differ on how they feel about this kind of thing. I'm single (howrobotsaremade could be my twin sister), and people have fixed (or tried to) with varying degrees of success and awkwardness. I do tend to agree with not doing it with the "hey, she's single, and he's single, so there are two problems to be solved" approach.
posted by SillyShepherd at 7:54 PM on January 25, 2010

People aren't legos; you can't snap any two together. Just because people seem similar on one dynamic doesn't mean you should introduce them. That they're are both gay (or Catholic or Asian or disco fans /= Match.

I like to connect people for romance, friendship, professional interests. My basic rules are:

1 - The person needs to want to meet someone.
2 - No pressure and no pestering. If it works great; if not no big deal.
3 - The person must not dick over someone to whom I've introduced them. Really, people can meet jerks on their own. If you don't click, that's fine. However, you need to behave honorably toward the other person. Otherwise, you are out of my matchmaking circle.
posted by 26.2 at 8:34 PM on January 25, 2010

Don't meddle once you've made the initial introductions or try to nudge things along or "fix" a bad first date.
posted by fshgrl at 9:20 PM on January 25, 2010

If someone tells you he doesn't want to be set up, listen.

This is something that a lot of people weirdly don't get. Especially if it's a guy who's saying it.

It's a bit like telling people that you don't want to celebrate your birthday (which is true for me as well). There are some people in your life who just cannot accept that you really don't want a birthday party. They figure that you're just in denial, or stubborn, and with enough pressure, you'll give in, and have a great time.

Those people are fucking wrong. Leave me alone. Don't try to fix me up with anyone, and don't make an issue out of my birthday. If one of these things isn't okay with you, then we don't have to be friends, and that way you won't feel so conflicted.

I recently had an awkward conversation with a female friend who wanted to set me up with someone. "No thanks" wasn't enough. After we talked for a while, she said "Well, I'm disappointed," and I said "Not as disappointed as you're going to be when you have to apologize to your friend for introducing her to me," and she finally dropped it.
posted by bingo at 10:33 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think, unless someone specifically asks you to set them up, that it should never come up. Setting people up is pushy, controlling, meddlesome and suggests that the parties in question somehow need outside help. Not qualities I'd use to define a "friend".
posted by marimeko at 2:06 AM on January 26, 2010

I've found that even mentioning set-ups as a joke can be taken the wrong way by the parties involved. My new policy is to just not do set-ups or say anything. Even if they ask me stuff like, "does your husband have a brother?" which is kind of awkward and needy anyway, I just don't.

The most you could do is invite people along to group outings, but don't be surprised if your intended match doesn't gel. People often gravitate toward the opposite of what you think would be good for them. It would be nice if every single person could find their true love and you could be the facilitator, but it's even worse if you introduce people and they make each other's lives a living hell. Then they will remember that it was you who introduced them and you could potentially lose two friends.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:07 AM on January 26, 2010

Response by poster: These answers are all so good, and vary as much as individuals do. I do agree that it's good protocol to run it by each person being set up, then proceed only if it's okay with both.
posted by SillyShepherd at 8:10 AM on April 1, 2010

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