When a 6/10 is better than a 10/10: Behavioral psychologists on why we should settle

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Who doesn’t want a perfect partner? We’ve been told over and over that we should only say yes to the best, and that we, in fact, deserve nothing but the best. Anything less would be settling – something to be avoided at all costs.  

Well, we’re here to put a radical thought into your head. Because, if you think about it logically, to find the perfect fit would mean that you have to meet all potential partners, assess them and suss out the cream of the crop. Whether such a person even exists is debatable. So now, what if less than perfect, what if a 6/10, could actually be better than a 10/10?

Maximisers vs. Satisficers: What it means

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In a 2002 psychology study, Shwartz and colleagues found that when it comes to decision making, people generally fall into two camps: maximisers and satisficers.

Here’s a simple test to find out which camp you belong to. Say you need to get a new pair of running shoes. How do you make your decision? Do you ask everyone you know for their recommendations, read every running magazine, google and compare all the specs, and check the forums, perhaps to the point of agonising over it? And when you finally buy that pair of shoes because the marathon you signed up for is a week away, do you get that familiar lingering doubt that you may not have made the best choice?

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If the above scenario sounds like you, you probably are a maximiser. Maximisers need to make that perfect decision all the time. However, because there are so many choices for everything, it is highly unlikely that we can dig through all the possibilities to find the best one. And unfortunately for maximisers, what this means, according to Schwartz, is that “the potential for regret is ever present”.

Satisficers, on the other hand, would set a few criteria before their purchase. Say comfort and design are the most important to the satisficer. Once they see a pair of shoes that score high in these two areas, they stop looking and make the purchase. And guess which group the study concluded ends up happier? No points for guessing correctly: Satisficers are happier than maximisers.

The best for you doesn’t have to mean a perfect person

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Similarly, when it comes to romance, maximisers need to find the perfect person. They would evaluate and assess the entire human population if they could. And that’s why, no matter who they are dating, maximisers always keep wondering if they could do better, if there’s someone else out there who’s an even better fit for them. Because their decision making strategy is to gather all the information in every possible regard before making a decision, the maximiser can end up creating his or her own misery.

Often, even when maximisers commit to a partner, it is still likely that they will second guess their decision. It’s hard not to, when the person they want has to score 10/10 in every possible aspect. Expectations like these can cause tremendous strain in a relationship. Which is why it’s worth exploring the satisficer approach when it comes to relationships.

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Satisficers don’t expect the best. This doesn’t mean they don’t have standards. On the contrary, they know what they want and have certain criteria when it comes to their partner. Perhaps they value loyalty and kindness above all qualities. Therefore, the person they choose to commit to needs to score high on these criteria. If he or she isn’t exactly close to the Forbes list of millionaires, that’s totally fine.

Could there be someone else out there who fits them even better? Perhaps, but satisficers don’t bother stressing themselves out over such arbitrary questions. They know that if you are always on the prowl, then that’s what you will always be doing – searching.

How to know if you’re settling, or satisficing

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This is important. There’s a difference between settling and satisficing. The person you want has to meet your basic criteria. But it doesn’t mean that as long as they are super loyal and kind, nothing else matters, not even the fact that he or she is, say, a drug addict. Extreme negative qualities are still big no-nos. You still want someone who at least scores a 6/10, even on things that don’t matter as much to you.

When in doubt, take a moment to reflect and consult your instincts. Does the person tick all the right boxes on paper, but somehow it just doesn’t feel right? Then don’t say yes. You will know when you meet the right person. Everything will fall into place much more easily. Differences don’t become massive conflicts that you have to battle and bruise through. You can talk things over and resolve them, or decide to agree to disagree, and really mean it. Ultimately, it’s how well you can get along, and weather the sunshine and storms as a couple.

One final little test: Can you see yourself sitting next to this person and watching TV amicably for the next 50 years? If the thought of this gives you a strong reaction (that is, it either turns your stomach or gives you a warm glow), you’ll likely have your answer already.

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