Raise your hand if you've ever encountered an online dating profile with a line sounding like this:
"You probably noticed that I'm a lawyer. But I swear I'm not all work and no play! And I know how to make a joke."
Now raise your hand if you've ever written one.
Seemingly innocuous lines like these can contain qualifiers. A qualifier is used to modify the interpretation of something previously said. We do this all the time, right? So what's the problem? The problem with them is the insecurity they convey.
Let's take this woman's profile for example. Let's say there may be a real or imagined stigma toward a woman who is a lawyer. She immediately presumes that her job could be a deal-breaker and goes into prevention mode. Not so fast! There are two phenomena here that shed light on how and why we qualify ourselves:
Wouldn't it be nice if we had a crystal ball? Apparently she does! Somehow this woman knows that the instant we click on her profile, we will begin wrestling with the fact that she practices law. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, that isn't what happened. Most people's first thought will have nothing to do with her career and more with how presumptuous she sounded. Ironically, her efforts at being seen in a favorable light hurt rather than helped her.
2. Negative Filtering
Have you ever received an A on an exam but couldn't stop thinking about that one question you missed? Sometimes we dwell on that one negative aspect of ourselves at the expense of everything else. Here, her job. Does that define her completely? Are there no other redeeming qualities to this person? It seems that, to her, her sense of humor, intelligence, and kindness have been completely overshadowed by her job!
Why do we do this? Creating an online dating profile can be scary, and qualifying tends to reduce anxiety. I imagined this woman sitting down to write about herself and becoming overwhelmed.