In the critically acclaimed UK TV show Sherlock (2010-2017) there’s a beautiful scene where Sherlock and his brother Mycroft connect by deducing the story of a client who just left:
Mycroft: Why are we playing games?
Sherlock: London’s terror alert has been raised to critical. I’m just passing the time. Let’s do deductions. A client left this while I was out. What do you reckon?
(he tosses Mycroft a hat)
Mycroft: I’m busy.
Sherlock: Oh go on, it’s been an age.
Mycroft: I always win.
Sherlock: Which is why you can’t resist.
Mycroft: I find nothing irresistible in the hat of a well-travelled, anxious, sentimental, unfit creature of habit with appalling halitosis.
(pause, looks out the window)
Sherlock: Isolated too, don’t you think?
Mycroft: Why would he be isolated?
Sherlock: Why? Size of the hat?
Mycroft: Don’t be silly. Some women have large heads too. No, he’s recently had his hair cut. You can see the little hairs adhering to the perspiration stains on the inside.
Sherlock: Some women have short hair too.
Mycroft: Balance of probability.[Source]
In UK law, Balance of Probability is a legal term associated with the standards for the burden of proof in civil cases. According to Thomson Reuters:
“The balance of probability standard means that a court is satisfied an event occurred if the court considers that, on the evidence, the occurrence of the event was more likely than not.”
This concept is very important when it comes to social interactions where the exposure time is limited and the stakes are high.
Let’s talk about this concept in dating first. Now in most dating situations, there’s plenty of fish in the sea and you don’t need to try and deduce the evidence and make overarching assumptions.
Whenever I begin a new coaching relationship, clients very quickly start getting matches and numbers from girls on a higher level than they are used to. As a result they feel like each new interaction has a lot at stake and they are afraid to mess up.
And a very common question I get is, “what is she thinking when she’s sending me this text and how should I reply?”
Imagine the following text exchange:
Him: “should we hangout or continue flirting digitally”
Her: “haha maybe… I love sushi and wine”
Him: “oh wow are you inviting me our for sushi and wine what a baller”
Her: “lol you’re the gentleman right? Though I always reciprocate”
Her: “I have class this week. Weekends are good”
At this point, different clients have different interpretations:
“What if she’s a gold digger?”
“Should I get her wine and sushi at my house or her place or at a restaurant?”
“What if I don’t want to spend money on this?”
“Does she really like me, or is she playing me for free food”
“Oh wow, I’m going to hook up with her soon this weekend!”
This is where balance of probability kicks in. In science the data can be from reading and interpreting the data but in dating, most of it comes from coaching or past experience. And even then, we are wrong sometimes because of the complexities of human emotions.
I usually reign in the client at this point:
“Well, looking at her profile, there are no gold-digger red flags. Based on balance of probability, it is likely she’s a high quality girl – she’s giving you her preferences for a potential date and she does expect you to be a gentleman and pay. She’s also hinting that she believes in the law of equivalent exchange, since the word reciprocate…
She’s giving you hints to her schedule, which means a date is likely. If she’s high on your preference, an easy way to do this is propose a sushi place midway between your locations and treat her and see how the date goes. You can arrange for a wine tasting location afterward and see if she offers to pay. If she’s middle on your preference list, you can go for wine tasting first, and see how it goes before committing to dinner.”
This is an easy way to leverage balance of probabilities to ensure a low flake rate for dates and that you read the situation correctly.
As the clients get better, he / she can learn to use balance of probabilities for higher stakes situations.
A lot of times guys make moves that are too aggressive or assume incorrectly that their message won’t be offensive. Here’s an example:
Here is an example where the texter was clever enough to combine balance of probabilities of BOTH outcomes to move the flirting forward:
Balance of probabilities isn’t the only pillar of success in dating but it can be very useful when you have to make a decision based on limited data points. In these situations you make a working hypothesis based on what you have. A working hypothesis gives you some framework to move forward, as well as the flexibility to be changed as the situation evolves.
I would think that every great scientific experiment of detective case started out with a working hypothesis based on the balance of possibilities process once the initial evidence was being collected. As the experiment continues, it is constantly being evolved into new hypothesis or theories based on the moving data stream.
Some guys would say we’re taking this too seriously and they prefer less thinking and more random banter. I mean, who cares about all this stuff right? My head hurts!
Here are some examples or random flirting / taking on an angle and then bantering that didn’t work:
Another strategy is high risk, high reward texts. You will lose the majority of girls, but the ones that do reply usually really like you. Guys who are more about hooking up and don’t take rejection too personally have success with this. Here’s an example:
So, this is not to say high risk sexual messages don’t work. They do, and they work better with the right audience in that particular mindset.
Because we don’t know which mindset your girl or guy is in, it’s better to first send something clever that easily tests the waters before pushing too hard sexually or going completely nonsexual in dating situations.
Understanding this advanced concept can really take your interactions to the next level.
You’ll be able to quickly assess the situation and take the highest chance of success action. Over time, coaches have developed “intuition” and “precognition” around things that they know are going to happen because they’ve seen the patterns before. At any point, this concept also relates to our idea of seeking the truth in your interactions. If you put yourself in the other person’s shoes and then interact with them from their level, in terms of what they are likely needing and feeling, you will have the highest chance of success is most dating and social situations.