Setting up your friends can be a hit or miss – you think they might get along, but when the real-life meet happens, things just fizzle. Why? Because matchmaking requires a strategy, says psych professor Grace Park. In fact, she’s got it down to an art – six successful matches with two having tied the knot. And she’s only too happy to let you in on her secrets.
You need credibility
“If you want your friends to take you seriously, you’ve got to have street cred – that means you’re either in a long-term relationship, or better still, like me, you’re married.”
Build your database…and you’ll need a thick skin to do it
“I love meeting and getting to know people. You need to put yourself out there. I get to know my husband’s friends, my friends’ friends and people at my workplace too. The question I always ask someone I’m meeting for the first time is, ‘Are you married?’. That way, if they’re not, I can add them to the database in my head of all the single, eligible people I know. Talking to people should come easily to you. If it doesn’t, you won’t enjoy the process and you probably won’t be very good at it [match-making] anyway.”
“It’s easier to help friends who I consider to be well-adjusted and authentic. That’s because I believe that if you are a happy person to begin with, you don’t expect other people to make you happy. It’s tough to help those with a lot of insecurities. They need to sort their own problems, before even thinking about pursuing a relationship.”
You’ll get more success if you’re realistic
“I start with asking my friends what they’re looking for in a partner. Usually they point to things like appearance and intelligence – so I run through my mental bank of candidates. I moderate their criteria to suit the reality of the situation, and then I make some choices. Of course, most women want to date a handsome guy. But if he’s very good-looking and my friend isn’t, I won’t pair them up. Research shows that an attractive person is likely to be drawn to someone who’s equally good-looking.
Do background checks, but be discreet
“I don’t work alone. In fact, I usually rope in my husband or my married friends when I’m trying to suss out the compatibility of two people. So for example, I’d get my husband to add a person on social media, which gives me access their interests, personality, and whether they have a partner. If I think there’s potential, I can get my husband to strike up a conversation and casually suggest a date, which makes things seem more natural. Background checks also help me avoid awkward situations. For example, I wanted to confirm that a particular guy was single, so I asked my husband to become friends with him on Facebook. It wasn’t long before we found photos of him…with his boyfriend. Imagine if I’d been the one to approach him, talking about setting him up with my friend!”
Orchestrate a natural encounter
“It’s important that the date doesn’t feel forced, so it takes the pressure off. At least two months goes into a set-up to warm them up to the idea of each other, before a date actually happens. This involves the research, dropping hints to either person, and then building the interest – so that they’re both in each other’s consciousness. Once, I was trying to match-make two people who were based in different countries. It took me six months to make it happen. In fact, the match was in ‘dormant state’ until she happened to mention that she’s be flying into the city he lived in for work. That’s when I jumped in, hinted to the guy that it would be nice for her to have someone show her around, then set up a time and place for them to meet.”
Spot personality traits that complement each other
“I look for similarities first. As I see it, the only two personality traits that need to align are a willingness to try new experiences, and integrity. Be open to differences, they can actually be good. For example, if one person is more extroverted than the other, they can complement each other – because one talks more and the other listens. Emotional stability is another good difference to have. If you freak out about everything and he seldom worries, then he can calm you down, and you’ll be able to solve problems better together.”