Chemistry Reception in a One-Dimensional Environment
We all have “chemistry receptors” that help us process and understand our environment through our sense of smell, sight, touch, taste, and hearing. We use these senses to communicate with one another in our daily lives. These senses can also act as chemistry receptors to attract us toward a particular voice, or the look of a person’s face or how they smell with a given cologne or perfume. Beyond our five senses, we also employ our intuition or gut feeling we derive about someone. Collectively, these chemistry receptors provide us the ability to discern a certain level of romantic chemistry within the context defined by our particular communication environment, which I define as either one, two, or multidimensional.
One–dimensional communication environments include social network sites, email, instant messaging, and text messaging, which only engage our sense of sight. With the proliferation of online dating—a topic I’ll explore in great detail in Chapter IV—we’ve set the bar at an all time low in terms of chemistry reception. The input we glean from a web page or a text message conveys very little human content. We can see a person’s smile in a picture, but we can’t feel the warmth of their smile like we can in person. We can’t see how their expression changes when we talk to them. We can’t hear the tone or inflection in their voice from a one–dimensional email or text message.
From the perspective of someone we’ve never met before, this type of one-dimensional communication environment causes problems by deceiving us into thinking we have a real emotional connection, when in reality, our connection is tenuous at best. With one–dimensional communication, you can send and receive messages all day long with a false sense of intimacy, a sort of pseudo-connection. And therein lies the rub. You think you know someone from their Facebook page or text message dialogue, only to talk on the phone for the first time and realize this person you’ve been emailing or texting doesn’t fit the type of person you imagined at all. This same phenomenon occurs, although to a lesser degree, when you meet someone briefly through a chance encounter and exchange phone numbers only to languish in the world of text messaging without making an effort to actually call one another and engage in a real conversation that combines what you see with what you hear. Merging two senses moves us toward two-dimensional communication, which vastly improves our ability to determine if romantic chemistry exists or not.
Chemistry Reception in a Two–Dimensional Environment
In a two-dimensional communication environment, our sense of hearing comes into play, and along with it, our ability to more accurately discern if the right chemistry exists or not. In two-dimensional settings, we hear not only what someone says, but how they say it. We interpret subtle nuances in the way they speak, or in the way they laugh, or whether they seem quiet or gregarious. Some voices grate on our nerves. Some are pleasing to the ear. Some people talk slowly while others persist in a manic state.
A conversation also reveals a lot about a person’s education level. Do they converse in slang? Do they use big words and sound condescending? Do they ask questions? If so, are they general, get-to-know-you kinds of questions, or probing, personal interview types of questions? Do they open up and share about themselves or do they perpetuate the dreaded awkward silence? Are they recently divorced or have they dated enough to know what they’re really looking for?
I recall an instance where I met an attractive, professional, single mother through a popular online dating site. After we exchanged several emails, she shared her phone number and invited me to call her. Unfortunately, the impression I’d gleaned from her through our email correspondence was diametrically opposed to the person on the other end of the line. My association with her through our one-dimensional email communication had led me to believe I’d met a kind, articulate, well educated, and very attractive—she had nice pictures—woman who shared many common interests with me. On the phone, however, she cursed like a sailor and came across as ignorant, crass, mean, apathetic about her students, and eager for me to do whatever it took to plan a dream date for us. That conversation was five minutes of my life I won’t ever get back, and an important lesson learned.
A short phone conversation reveals a lot about a person, much more than you can ever glean from a Facebook page or an email introduction from a friend playing matchmaker. This assumes you’ve seen a picture of this person to gauge what he looks like. If not, your short phone call might leave you with the image of a tall, dark, and handsome Fabio look-alike, when in reality, he might very well be a stout, handsome bald man with a Telly Savalas flair.
Of course, a two-dimensional communication environment has its limitations as well when it comes to establishing the presence of romantic chemistry. I’ll address nonverbal communication at length in Chapter IV, but for now, consider that the majority of our communication is nonverbal. This explains why we often feel an instant attraction to someone we meet in person, and not based solely on their physical appearance, but on how they communicate to us with their eyes and body language in a multidimensional environment.
Chemistry Reception in a Multidimensional Environment
Multidimensional communication environments provide the best way to gauge our level of chemistry since all five senses, with exception of maybe taste, come into play. Multidimensional, or face-to-face communication, expands upon the verbal communication I touched on earlier and engages our emotions, which we not only translate through our voices, but through our facial expressions, gestures, and body movements. With emotions in the mix, communication involves more than what someone says or how they say it. When we bring ourselves face-to-face with someone, we have the advantage of watching their reaction, their movements, and their overall body language when they speak.
Often when we meet someone in person, we feel an instant chemistry, whether we find them standing in line beside us at Target or smiling at us from across the room. Sometimes we can almost feel a certain chemistry through inductance. In general physics, inductance describes the process by which electrical or magnetic properties are transferred, without physical contact, from one circuit or body to another. On some occasions, we experience chemistry so powerful we can almost feel a physical connection without physically connecting with the other person. This notion of “inductance chemistry” can’t be felt through a one or two-dimensional environment. We have to experience it in person. Nonverbal cues explain this type of chemistry through the way someone communicates with their posture, hand gestures, head movement, gait, or proximity to our personal space.
In a live setting, our sense of touch can and often does come into play with a simple handshake, a casual brush across the shoulder, a gentle arm squeeze, or simply holding hands. Think about this: according to Dr. Ashley Montagu, anthropologist and author of Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, the communications we transmit through our sense of touch comprise the most powerful means of establishing a human relationship. Dr. Montagu’s book also points out how a piece of human skin the size of a quarter contains three million cells, more than three hundred sweat glands, fifty nerve endings, and three feet of blood vessels. These sensory receptors bombard the human brain with information about heat, cold, pressure, pain, and of course, pleasure. And don’t forget the lips, as those are densely populated with sensory neurons, more so than almost any other region in the body. This might explain why kissing ignites such a powerful sense of chemistry and a surefire way to determine someone’s genuine level of interest.
If we reach the point where we feel comfortable holding hands, chances are we feel a positive chemistry. If holding hands feels awkward, or a curt hug gives us the willies, then it’s obvious we lack romantic chemistry. Whether we choose to admit it or not, three weeks of email and/or text messaging bliss, followed by several wonderful phone conversations, can dissolve—the second we meet someone in the flesh.
Chemistry can be hard to quantify, as no accurate model exists to describe the context of chemistry and whether we’ll feel a strong connection or not with someone we’ve just met. While our initial sense of sight, hearing, smell, and touch can factor into our personal intuition, our past experiences factor more. Sometimes we just have to go with our gut feeling honed from years of good and bad experiences stored in our long-term memories. There doesn’t have to be a rhyme or reason to why we feel how we feel about someone.
Sometimes our intuition is driven more by physiology than psychology, as Dr. Brian and Dr. Anna Maria Clement describe in 7 Keys to Lifelong Sensual Vitality. In their book, the authors explain how men and women communicate with each other at the level of the subconscious mind through hormone secretions. In theory, this might explain why we occasionally feel a powerful attraction to someone we’ve never met before, barely spoken to, and haven’t touched. We might not even find them exceedingly attractive from a visual perspective, but the chemistry persists regardless. And hormone secretions don’t travel via text or phone.
Everyone operates within their own comfort zone. Some people move through relationships faster or slower than others. I’m not advocating we skip the “get to know you” phase through discretionary use of email, text, or phone calls. But when it comes to chemistry, our emotions propagate most efficiently through personal encounters. Spending time face-to-face builds trust, desire, and reassurance. It also paves the way for a powerful romance.