On the phrase "lowering your standards"

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On the phrase "lowering your standards"

Post by Robjection on Thu Apr 21, 2016 3:22 pm

Am I the only one who doesn't like the phrase "lowering your standards", at least when used in a dating/relationships/that-kind-of-thing context?

I get the idea behind it - we can't get exactly what we want and so in some areas we need to be willing to compromise. That's a good thing to keep in mind and I'm glad that we have a phrase that exists and is capable of reminding us of this. What I have a problem with is the word "lower". This implies that there is some kind of hierarchy, not just with the standards themselves but with the things they are being applied to.

Take, for instance, a romantic partner.

I'd venture a guess that most people (on this planet, not necessarily on this message board) have some idea of what they want their romantic partner to be like. Perhaps they find that they are unable to attract anyone who meets all of the criteria for this imagined romantic partner. Perhaps they express frustration about this to a friend or an advice columnist and are told that they should lower their standards.

Does this not imply that the standards they originally held are superior to the ones they would be adjusting to? Does this not imply that any romantic partner who meets these lowered standards but not the original ones is inferior to one who meets the original ones, in spite of any ways in which the lowered standards partner might actually be better than the original standards partner? And does it not imply that these superior/inferiorities are objective rather than subjective, even though people and attraction are very much subjective?

So I'm on the lookout for some alternative ways of getting the same point across. Ways that don't have these rather nasty implications sneaking in. The best I've come up with so far is something involving the word "broadening", since that doesn't appear to have the same hierarchical connotations.

I welcome all thoughts on this topic, even if it's just that I'm overreacting.

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Re: On the phrase "lowering your standards"

Post by caliseivy on Thu Apr 21, 2016 3:59 pm

I've never cared for the phrase either, though I've never considered an alternate expression.
Maybe "broaden/expand your qualifiers"?
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Re: On the phrase "lowering your standards"

Post by rj3 on Thu Apr 21, 2016 4:13 pm

caliseivy wrote:I've never cared for the phrase either, though I've never considered an alternate expression.
Maybe "broaden/expand your qualifiers"?

"Interrogate your preferences."

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Re: On the phrase "lowering your standards"

Post by Werel on Thu Apr 21, 2016 4:33 pm

Yeah, maybe "loosen one's standards"? "Broaden" seems to imply that what you want/find attractive in a romantic partner can be somehow changed, and you can become attracted to people you're just not attracted to by expending effort, whereas "loosen" seems to get at the idea of simply not being so rigid about each and every qualifier being met. But if the point is to find a phrasing without troubling connotations, I guess "loose" also has some non-ideal meanings in the context of dating. Razz

Robjection wrote:Does this not imply that any romantic partner who meets these lowered standards but not the original ones is inferior to one who meets the original ones, in spite of any ways in which the lowered standards partner might actually be better than the original standards partner?
Hm, I don't know. I think "lower" gets used so frequently because people may feel, at first, like broadening/loosening their standards is lowering their standards. If they really have some narrow and rigid requirements for partners, they are probably pretty attached to those requirements, and changing them may in fact feel like a downgrade at first. For example, if I hypothetically refuse to date men who are taller than 5'4", but those men are rare/hard to find, I may well feel like I'm losing out on something I want when I'm given the advice to try dating tall dudes. It might, at first, feel like a lowering to go out with a guy who's 6'3", because it wasn't my original preference; I might really have trouble getting past dude's height; but I guess the hope of the advice-giver in those cases is that I find that the 6'3" guy is actually really great and my original preference for short dudes is shown to be flexible.

I agree, though, that there's a difference between feeling like it's a "lowering" of standards, and using the term habitually in conversation. Even if people feel a little iffy about giving up/being flexible on a preference, it probably does exacerbate the problem to use "lower" as the default term. Especially if the person's preference lines up with some form of structural privilege, where there's already so much hierarchical stuff going on that it can't be fully untangled from preference (e.g. a preference for blond blue-eyed lantern-jawed men). Terms like "lower" do sort of have shades of "objective value" meaning, which I agree is pretty troubling in the context of something as subjective as dating, and also in the context of unjust social stratification.
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Re: On the phrase "lowering your standards"

Post by Wondering on Thu Apr 21, 2016 6:19 pm

I've always used the expression "adjusting my/your standards."

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Re: On the phrase "lowering your standards"

Post by reboot on Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:13 pm

I like "reconsidering" or "revaluating" your standards
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Re: On the phrase "lowering your standards"

Post by eselle28 on Thu Apr 21, 2016 9:14 pm

I do think there are some specific situations where "lower your standards" applies - someone who decides to accept a partner whose character they find objectionable in some way or who treats them poorly has done so, in my opinion.

In most situations, I prefer "reconsider your preferences." I think it both removes the hierarchical component and takes away some of the pressure that people feel when "lower" is used, as it leaves the door open to reconsider your preferences and conclude they're the right set of preferences for you. It also leaves room for adding new preferences - think the old stereotype of someone taking "is in the same social clique as me" off their list but adding "is polite to service workers" to it as they gain some dating experience, which I think happens pretty frequently in less cliched ways.
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Re: On the phrase "lowering your standards"

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