A good shadchan will help you meet the people you are looking to date, and will guide you through the process. Working well with the shadchan will make a huge difference in your experience. Here are tips about how to best deal with the shadchan, under three main headings:
- Arrangement with the shadchan
- Partnering with the shadchan
- Responding to a suggestion
Arrangement with the shadchan
Which shadchan to work with. It is important to work with someone you trust and you feel comfortable working with. When working with a shadchan, you may need to share some more personal and vulnerable bits about yourself and your family. Find the shadchan who works well with your personality. Are they sensitive and delicate, or more forceful and pushy?
Know your own working style. Do you prefer to get a list of names and then you can do your own research? Or do you prefer that someone reach out when they think of a specific person that they have looked into? Do you appreciate a more assertive type who will challenge you to look into suggestions? Do you want someone to hold your hand all the way through, or do you want a more hands-off style?
What type of person are you looking for? Some shadchanim work best with particular types of people, such as baal teshuva, older singles, etc. This makes sense for them and for the people who they are working for – they get to know lots of people of that demographic rather than a few people in each group. Choose a shadchan who focuses on the kind of person you are looking for.
Does the shadchan meet you? While it might be quicker to get to know about someone from a quick phone call with a parent or advocate, typically a shadchan will get to know the single much better from a good conversation with them directly. This works both ways – they know you/your single better and also the people they suggest to you.
What role they play through the dating process. Does the shadchan only make the suggestion and facilitate the meeting? Are they also available for and capable of coaching throughout the shidduch process? Depending on who else you may have to advise you, the extent to which you depend on the shadchan for guidance may vary.
Their communication style. How available are they? Some shadchanim have very limited times they are available, which could be an issue especially if there is a time zone difference. How committed are they to staying in touch with you? Do they check in with you while they search for a shidduch suggestion for you? Are they keen to hear from you or are they more of the “don’t call me; I’ll call you” type?
Do they charge for working with you? Shadchanim work many hours on shidduchim. Their efforts should be appreciated. Some charge for their time – for meeting with the single, for a phone call, for each date, for a successful shidduch. Find out their pricing structure upfront and determine if you are comfortable with it. If they don’t tell you, ask; you don’t want unpleasant surprises later.
So, how to know? Start with recommendations from friends or family. Ask them what they liked about working with them, and what to look out for. Then, you should ask the shadchan about their working style before you begin.
How often to call the shadchan? When you start working with any shadchan, ask about how communication works. You can also ask if it would be OK for you to text every few weeks or so as a gentle reminder. If you feel the shadchan is being unresponsive, by all means follow up. However, check that it really is the shadchan and not merely your own frustrations. It is also advisable to reach out to other shadchanim and to network as widely as possible. It is human nature for people to work harder for those who show appreciation or compensation for their efforts. You might send a gift card or a box of chocolate, or even a note of sincere appreciation for their efforts and concern.
Partnering with the shadchan
Matchmaking is not a simple task – it has been described as difficult as splitting the sea (Sotah 2a) – and the shadchan needs all the help they can get.
Prepare how you will describe yourself/ the single and the person you are looking for. Before coming to the shadchan, reflect carefully and realistically about who you are and the life you envision. [People don’t like being asked by a shadchan they just met that ‘you aren’t being realistic or reasonable’; so do that before with a caring friend or coach.] It is best to come to the shadchan with a clear list of points. Be honest and forthcoming.
Written notes. You might want to prepare talking points for the shadchan to use when speaking about you to others. It is helpful to share a clear description or a summary in bullet points of how you want the shadchan to describe you – especially if you feel there are important nuances relating to your character or values or goals.
Present your positives. Tell the shadchan about your best personality traits and your accomplishments – this is not the time to be humble. Tell about some things that make you who you are – what is unique about you. You might share about less common hobbies or studies or work or projects you have done. This is important so that you are more memorable to the shadchan and to the prospective shidduch. If you have made positive changes in your life, be sure to share about those, so the shadchan can pass that message too. For example, “You may hear from people who knew him a few years ago that he is arrogant. He has really worked on that.”
Present your priorities. Be sure to include the type of life you are envisioning – hashkafic views, religious level, your attitude towards, work/life balance, location restrictions, etc. Make sure to share about absolute dealbreakers. You might share some personality traits that you are looking for in your spouse, or traits that drive you crazy that you wish to avoid. Of course, everyone wants someone kind, so there is no real need to mention that. If you want someone who is a real go-getter or someone who wants a quiet life – that is the kind of information worth mentioning.
If you are speaking on behalf of someone (you are not the single yourself), make sure you are on the same page and agree on what you are going to say – even if you don’t think it is best for them. Check with them about what you plan to say and ask if they want you to express things differently – and recheck every few months in case things have changed. Also, sound confident and proud of them. The shadchan may pick up and be affected by your attitude. Avoid the word ‘but’. Instead of “She is a frum girl, but she dresses …”, you can say “She is a frum girl with great values and at this point her dress is …”
Responding to a suggestion
A shadchan will (hopefully) come up with shidduch suggestions. It is important to play it right.
Your initial reaction is important. It is important to be appreciative and to respond promptly. Even if they reach out by text, try to get a phone call, so you can hear their voice as they describe the shidduch. “Thank you for thinking of us. When is a good time for a phone call so I can hear more about this person?”
Focus on one thing at a time. If you are in the midst of a shidduch, do not even listen to this next suggestion, ideally not even the name. You must give your full attention and focus to the current shidduch. Simply say that you are “busy”. If you don’t want to share that, you can say that the timing is not right.
Try to understand the context. Politely ask where the idea came from, and why they think this is a good possibility. Did they come up with the idea because they know the single? Did someone ask them to reach out to you? Are they just throwing out a name?
Find out the status of the shidduch. Did the other side do some research and are already interested in the shidduch? Is this idea being introduced to both sides at the same time? Generally, if the other side has already shown some interest, that would normally indicate that it is not just an idea “being thrown out there” but a credible suggestion. Perhaps you would like to make some preliminary calls to see if the idea is worth looking into further. It may be that the other side already did their calls and is waiting on you, in which case, usually, a little more urgency is called for. Agree on a plan and timeline for the next steps.
It’s okay to ask questions. First, listen carefully to what the shadchan has to share about the suggestion. Then, ask any follow-up questions to get as clear a picture as possible. Of course, you’ll do further research as well.
Communicate about your timeframe. It is okay to take the time necessary to find out about the prospective shidduch. But do let the shadchan know what to expect. If you are unable to tend to the matter immediately, say so. Let the shadchan know when you expect to be able to provide an answer. If a delay occurs, communicate with the shadchan.
If you are interested in the shidduch after research. Get back to the shadchan by the time you said. If you are having difficulty tracking down references, let the shadchan know there is an issue with the timeline. Once you come with positive interest, be prepared to exchange Dor Yesharim numbers and have them ready on hand. While you are waiting for those results, consider when it will be possible to proceed with the first date.
If the suggestion has come up before (or they have already met). Simply, say that. “We looked into that idea before. S/he sounds like a wonderful person, but we don’t think it is shayach.” If you plan to work with that shadchan in the future, it is often useful (providing you are comfortable) to explain your reasoning (see more below).
If the single is taking a break from dating or has not yet begun shidduch dating yet. You don’t have to explain your reasoning, just say “the timing is not right”. If you want to be clear that you are not saying ‘no’ to the shidduch idea, but rather that the timing is not right, say that clearly. If there is a time by which you would be open to suggestions, share that. Example: “Please reach out again after the summer.”
How to tell the shadchan that you do not want to pursue the suggestion. You don’t have to say much if you don’t want to. You can simply say something like, “We’ve heard nice things. We simply don’t think it is a good fit.” If you feel that the shadchan will minimize or dismiss your concerns, or will not understand your rationale for turning down the suggestion, you can politely decline without giving any further explanation. [suggestion: avoid the phrase, “I just don’t see it.” It is too flippant.] As said, if you are working with this shadchan, it would be helpful to give an explanation. This will help them narrow their criteria and make it easier for them to help you. Please bear in mind that it is possible that you heard things that are inaccurate. If you mention what you have heard, the shadchan can clarify misunderstandings.
Ultimately, your dating success is also the shadchan’s success. So, it is best to view the work you do with the shadchan as a partnership. The clearer the information you provide, the better the shadchan understands your needs. Try to avoid misunderstandings by clarifying the best way to work together towards a successful conclusion.