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My sister has been described as a straight shooter. If she has something to say, she’s not going to beat around the bush. So, as you can imagine, when I inquire about her dating life, I always get a pretty candid response.

Yes, my sister and I talk about how her dates go, and we talk about how my dates go. And something cool happens in this process: I get a great perspective on what it’s like on the other side. You know, like what a woman’s thinking when a guy suggests dinner after you’ve already been hanging out for a while at happy hour (not always a terrible idea). Or whether you should try to kiss a girl for the first time when you’re both buckled into car seats (almost always a terrible idea).

In other words, I get to learn from other dudes’ mistakes, as told from a woman’s perspective.

You see, you might assume that your brother or your guy friends “know how to treat a lady,” and maybe in theory that’s true. But as a guy, it’s helpful to get some real-life pointers on what to do and what not to do. Hearing from my sister makes me think about the way I treat women. Sometimes I’m happy with how I acted and sometimes not so much. Either way, our conversations are always a learning experience and help me to better understand what a woman might be thinking.

I’m grateful for the way my sister helps keep me accountable for how I act in my dating life, and I have learned a lot. Here are three crucial dating lessons that every guy would rather learn from his sister or a friend.

01. Think before you act.

Many men struggle with being a bit of a flake when it comes to romance. Some of us fall into patterns of wooing women in the heat of the moment and evaluating our actions later. If your guy friend falls into this category, nothing would inspire change more than discovering some jerk was doing that to you. I know that was the case with me. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of someone dating my sister is fairly cliché: Don’t you dare break her heart. Seriously.

But if I expect other men to tread carefully when my sister’s heart is involved, what does that mean for me? It means that I need to tread carefully when any woman’s heart is involved. It’s the golden rule of dating: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto your sister or friend.”

I’m much more intentional about dating women thanks to my sis. I’m careful not to get too “serious” too soon. I have discovered that this means not going too deep in conversation or getting physically intimate while still getting to know one another. Not that either of those are necessarily bad things, but by avoiding undue intimacy in the causal stage, I can better make a decision about whether to get serious without hurting feelings or breaking hearts.

I’ll still go on a fair amount of first, second, and even third dates as a way to get to know a woman, but I’m much more discerning about moving any further unless I’m clear about my intentions. I don’t want a man inviting my sister to open up emotionally or physically without an intent to stick around, so I try to give the same courtesy to the women I date.

02. Communicate!

Honestly, I hate trying to communicate my intentions, and I’m willing to bet the men in your life do, too. I tell a woman that I like her, and she gets freaked out. I tell a girl that I’m not interested, and she gets offended. I tell her nothing, and she wishes that I would communicate with her more. Sometimes it’s hard to know which way is up when it comes to communicating with the opposite sex.

But hearing my sister’s frustrations about guys who send her mixed messages has given me reason to be more straightforward. She’ll have guys who flirt with her but don’t ask her out. Guys who ask her out but won’t follow up. Guys who text her afterward, but it’s not clear if they plan to ask her out again. Guys she won’t hear from for a while who then magically reappear and act like it’s totally normal to go weeks between communicating.

I needed to hear from my sister that, if I’m not interested in a woman, it doesn’t help to beat around the bush or offer up lame excuses to avoid another date. I certainly shouldn’t be texting her as if I am interested if I don’t have the intent to do anything about it. Or so I’ve learned, thanks to my lil sis.

03. Treat her well even if you’re not interested. (Trust me, it’s a helpful reminder.)

This should go without saying (or without me having to learn it), but it’s worth making the point nonetheless. I know that it’s much easier for me to be gentlemanly toward a woman to whom I’m attracted. In fact, I think many of us—men and women alike—can get so stuck on finding “the one” that we treat people as less when we decide they aren’t our future spouse. Sometimes we say or do things we would never say or do if we were trying to impress, such as looking at our phone in the middle of a conversation or not asking the other person questions and engaging in conversation.

This is where that golden rule comes in again. Hearing stories about men who treated my sister disrespectfully on dates angers me, but it also makes me think about my own actions. Sure, I’m primarily interested in finding the woman of my dreams. But odds are that I’m going to go out with some less-than-dreamy women, and I can either treat them as obstacles to my goals, or I can treat them like they’re someone’s sister.

Most of us will find ourselves on a date with someone whom it becomes clear we are obviously not interested in. Sure, it can be awkward and annoying, and it might even seem like a waste of time. But I try to make the most of that time, and I try to treat that person well, if for no other reason than my relationship with my sister. I would want—even expect—a man to show that same respect to her.

So, ladies, reach out to the men in your life, and talk to them about dating—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Maybe you have brothers. Maybe you have guy friends you talk to about your dating life. Or maybe there are other gentlemen in your life who might be worth talking to as you wade through the crazy world of modern dating. Help a brother out, and give him a little perspective straight from the source. I’ve benefited a great deal from my conversations with my sister about dating, and maybe you will, too.

Photo Credit: Erynn Christine Photography