A: “You’re looking for someone to fill the position of head software engineer for your company.”
B: “That’s right.”
A: “What sort of things are you looking for? Good work history? Proficiency in programming languages? Ability to manage?”
B: “What kind of employer do you think I am? I mean I’m not against those things, but really, I’m just a simple worker at a simple company. The most important attributes in an employee are kindness, a sense of humor, loyalty, and intelligence.”
B: “I mean, would you hire anyone who was mean, or an idiot, or boring?”
A: “I’d prefer not to, but that’s not the point. You’re hiring them to perform a specific duty.”
B: “And that specific duty will be done poorly if they aren’t funny, intelligent, or kind.”
A: “Yes, those things are important – but they’re base things we want for any human we have to interact with regularly, ever – for any job, for a roommate, for a friend. And yes, those traits can offset a little bit qualification – you’d probably prefer a very emotionally mature but slightly less qualified worker over an emotionally immature but overly qualified worker – but it still gives us no information about how well they’ll perform specifically to the role itself! The base traits of funny-intelligence-kindness are like a platform upon which you build the rest of the structure of qualifications, and when I ask about the role, I am asking about that structure, not the platform.”
This is how I feel when I ask people what they look for in a romantic partner and they reply with “funny-intelligent-kind”. (For the purposes of this post, the generic positive personality trait cluster will be known as FIK.)
I think it’s particularly important because we frequently say being FIK is what’s the most attractive, but then we go on to avoid dating most of the super-FIK people. It’s sort of like if, in a job application, the requirements said they were looking for FIK applicants, but then went on to completely ignore the ones highest on the FIK spectrum.
If you point out that they’re not selecting for FIK, usually the response is something like “but I would never be attracted to someone who wasn’t FIK!” This is true, but not illuminating. The question about selection comes from the aspects that fit the specific role, not the basic FIKness required for form the platform base for that role.
FIKness is something we want for all people in our life, not just dating, so saying you want a FIK person to date reveals nothing about your actual dating requirements.
So to learn about aspects unique to the “dating role,” we have to disregard all qualities that are equally desirable for other roles, friendship included. Anything FIK-related, throw out.
For men dating women, the answer is kinda obvious – physical beauty. For women dating men, power.
This last part is worth its own set of discussion, but I’ll save that for another time – this post was mostly just a response to a few discussions I’ve had with people who claimed FIKness for their romantic selection and were resistant to pointing out role-specific requirements.