Jun 4, 2012
Reference Calls Done Right
Shidduchim SOS: A mother calls and asks "is she Chassidish, Middos Tovos, Tznius and smart?" Sure! Because I don't know what you mean and you don't know what I mean.
It happens often. The phone rings. It is an unfamiliar number. My eyebrows narrow, my forehead wrinkles and my memory goes for a jog trying to decipher any previous connection with the digits on the screen. I press the green button and say in a polite voice, "Hello?"
"Hi. I'm calling about ……… who you know from …….."
"No problem," I answer, willing to do my part and help another fellow on the road to the Chuppah. "What would you like to know?"
"Well, tell me about them," comes the simplistic request. Here's where I pause for a minute and try to organize my thoughts. I hem and haw and go through how I know the person and all their maalos. Describing a person is very general.
Then the fun questions come.
"Is …. Chassidish?" Sure.
"Middos Tovos?" Sure.
"Is she Tznius?" Sure.
"Is she smart?" Sure.
I have no idea what your definition of "Chassidish" and you have no idea what I consider "Chassidish" or for that matter, middos? When I ask about smarts, do you mean book smart or street smart? But the conversation ends and you move on.
I recently got a phone call asking about a certain girl who has phenomenal Middos. I described all the positives and tried to be as helpful as possible.
"Nu," the mother asked me. "Voss is nuch? What's the drawback? Anything else you can tell me? Everyone I call says a diamond, a jewel and all the maalos. How can I find out specifics, the whole picture?"
She was clearly frustrated by her inability to get the inside scoop which she could have gotten had she asked the right and not generic questions. Or call it multiple choice questions.
Here are a few examples:
"What type of Chassidish is he? Chitas, Rambam, Mivtzoyim, Mamorim…" I can easily answer you, "Oh, he's great about doing Mivtzoyim. He's energetic and inspired." I now have an idea of how to answer and you have a way more accurate response then "Ye, he's Chassidish." You can ask further or infer from my enthusiastic response when you mentioned Mivtzoyim that learning isn't his strongest aspect.
The same can be asked of a girl. "Is she Tznius?" will guarantee you a positive response unless that is far from the truth. Tznius can be defined in so many ways. "What type of Tznius is she? Not so fussy, covers everything but a bit tight, or knees might show when she sits…" Surprisingly, people answer very exact! It is easier to say the truth when it is a choice in a panel. Sometimes I might say, "Oh, none of those. Really she's ……." Once again, you get much more precise answers and I get much clearer ideas of how to accurately answer your question.
Being specific in your questions and knowing the type of answers you are expecting goes a long way in the quality of the phone call. Zone in on what exactly you are looking for as a positive and negative and your questions will target those areas. Take the answers we give you and surmise the character we are describing. Then ask clarification questions to see if you got the correct impression. These two important steps are helpful to the caller, the answerer and the person in question.
This was not written as criticism, just as suggestion to make this confusing stage a bit more clear. May we see many Simchos in Klal Yisroel immediately and have the ultimate Simcha, Moshiach!