Life Advice



Erika Ettin: Don't disqualify yourself by qualifying yourself

By Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

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:

1. Mind-Reading

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.

Will creative types like me? Will people think I like to argue all the time? What if someone thinks I work all day and won't have time to date?


She would rather pretend that everyone hates lawyers (news flash: not true) than not know how we actually feel.

Eliminating qualifiers from your online dating profile will help you get more comfortable with ambiguity. Instead of qualifying yourself, try to leave your assertive statements as is.

"I practice law."

That's it. Move on to the next sentence describing all your other desirable qualities. How did the reader react? We don't care; we can't read minds!

I saw a profile the other day that read, "I'm super close to my sister... but not in a weird way."

Now all I can think about is that this person has an inappropriate relationship with his sister! Had he not said that second part, I would have thought it was sweet that he's so family-oriented. Most people don't even think of the thing you're most worried about... until you call attention to it.

Here are some indicators you may be qualifying yourself in your profile: Don't worry, I swear, Sorry, I promise I'm not, But...

A few revisions can go a long way toward conveying that you are a secure person who is comfortable with not knowing exactly how you are being evaluated. By eliminating qualifiers, you are actually practicing confidence and taking the first step in becoming that person.


(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter, for updates and tips.)

(c)2020 Erika Ettin, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.