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Paul Carrick Brunson: Lessons in Love

In the last three years, Paul Carrick Brunson (also known as the modern-day “Hitch”) has become internationally recognized as one of the most successful matchmakers and relationship coaches. As the pioneering African American matchmaker in the world, Brunson has served more than 267 clients directly and collectively through live events and social media and matched more than 3,000 people on dates. He also served as the first male speaker for the 2011 Black Enterprise Women of Power Conference and was the keynote speaker for the 2011 iDate Matchmaking Conference, the largest Internet dating conference in America.

Courtney Penn Blevins: I understand you started out on your journey as a portfolio manager. How in the world did you make that jump?

Paul Carrick Brunson: Yes, it truly was. My wife and I began to talk about what this meant and how we could begin to combat it. This is what ultimately led me to doing this work.

I started in investment banking and then went to managing private investments. I was working for a wealthy family in Turkey and part of the compensation package I worked out was that they would help me with a non-profit. Founded in 2003, the non-profit (named Level 10 at that time and subsequently renamed, Give Love Build Hope) now has seven full-time staff and is focused on providing underserved youth with academic testing assistance. In the summer of 2008, I was contracted to run a summer program through the organization. During registration, I realized that of the 100 children entering the program, not one, not one had a two parent household.

Courtney Penn Blevins: I read that: that is staggering.

Courtney Penn Blevins: Wow! What an interesting way of looking to solve this epidemic that is really tearing our society apart. And it’s wonderful that you started this with your wife. Speaking of your wife, you have been married for some time, now and you’ve recently welcomed a son to your family. Congratulations! How much have those huge changes impacted how you do your business?

Paul Carrick Brunson: That’s a double-edged sword. I get, “I’d never go to a match maker unless they were married,” and I also get: “You’re married; you cannot understand what’s going on out here.” Now, the first argument I understand; in my opinion, that would be like going to a dentist who’s never had teeth! But, when people say they think I’m out of touch because I’m married, the fact of the matter is there are few people as in tuned to the single situation as I: I work with singles: my hundreds of clients.

Courtney Penn Blevins: There is a lot of competition in the world of “love coaching”. How do you manage to set yourself apart from the crowd?

Paul Carrick Brunson: Yes, there is a lot of competition. This is an immensely large industry: $2 to $3 billion in North America and its growing at ten percent per year, but I set myself apart in a couple of ways. First of all, I’m the first full-time Black matchmaker, which gives me a unique point of view. Also, I’m younger than most and have been married longer than most which also offers me a unique point of view. And, finally, this industry is ultimately about social sciences and business: my background.

Courtney Penn Blevins: Well, I’m sold! So, what are your thoughts on interracial dating? How do you respond to the single African American woman who is thinks (falsely so, I might add) “All the good ‘brothers’ are with white girls!”

Paul Carrick Brunson: This is exactly why it’s important for our business to be based on fact. The fact is the percentage of Black men married outside their race is less than twenty percent. Both Asians and Latinos tend to marry outside their race more than African Americans. Media is overexposing the high profile instances of interracial relationships, and so ultimately my job is to create hope, to keep everyone focused on the facts and not what we’re shown.

Courtney Penn Blevins: Speaking of creating hope, you’ve recently come up with a unique way of doing just that: Flow Dating. I’ve read about it, but how is it different from speed dating or a nightclub, even?

Paul Carrick Brunson: You know, it’s really cool. This is something I invented two years ago because I had a good friend who had an incredible level of participation during a speed dating event in New York City. Also, at the conclusion of his events, his hit rate is between sixty and seventy-five percent.

Courtney Penn Blevins: Hit rate?

Paul Carrick Brunson: Yes. Hit rate refers to the number of people who went out on a second date with a person they met at the speed dating event.

Courtney Penn Blevins: That’s impressive!

Paul Carrick Brunson: Absolutely. Particularly when compared to the fact that the online hit rate is four percent. So, my question was if speed dating was so popular, why weren’t more Black people participating? Why weren’t more young people participating? And the answer I came up with: it’s not cool! Have you ever been to one of those things?

Courtney Penn Blevins: I have. It was awful. The one time I went, I realized staying single forever would be better than staying there one more second.

Paul Carrick Brunson: [Laughs]. Yeah. They can be pretty bad, so I thought what if we facilitated this differently? The basic set up is that everyone sits in a circle, and I ask a thought provoking question or request a display of their favorite dance move and they have four minutes to respond.

Courtney Penn Blevins: And the dancing?

Paul Carrick Brunson: Movement. The way a person moves is very telling.

Courtney Penn Blevins: Yes, it certainly is! And how do you decide on which questions you will ask?

Paul Carrick Brunson: The questions I ask are not arbitrary: they are designed to facilitate real, genuine dialogue. For instance, I always try and ask politically based questions, because where someone stands politically is a very important factor in relationships.

Courtney Penn Blevins: I have to say, this sounds like it has the potential to be kind of uncomfortable, but still fun. And, it sounds like a lot of work. I read you’ve had over 9,000 participants so far: that’s incredible!!

Paul Carrick Brunson: Yes. We’ve had Flow Dating in DC, New York, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, LA: each event has just around 300 people.

Courtney Penn Blevins: 300? That’s a lot of people!

Paul Carrick Brunson: That’s what most people say then they arrive. That and, “I had no idea there were this many single people here!” And that’s exactly what we’re hoping to achieve: that visual of all that opportunity is imperative.

Courtney Penn Blevins: And is there a cost?

Paul Carrick Brunson: Yes, between $25 and $50 a session. That includes the actual event as well as a forty-five minute conference call where I walk the participants through what they can expect from the event and pointers on how to be successful.

Courtney Penn Blevins: What is the funniest or craziest thing you’ve ever heard from one of your clients? Is that what you call them, clients?

Paul Carrick Brunson: Yes. I call them my clients. Um, do you mean funny “ha, ha” or funny scary.

Courtney Penn Blevins: I mean funny “ha, ha”.

Paul Carrick Brunson: Well, one my clients had a date that she felt was going really well, until just as they were finishing up, when he asked her what she did with her toenail clippings. She, of course, asked him to repeat himself and when he did, she realized the date was over, but she couldn’t help but ask why he wanted to know.

Courtney Penn Blevins: Of course she had to know! I have to know!

Paul Carrick Brunson: He told her he was just checking because he put his clippings in a silk kerchief stored under his pillow. And you know what the worst part of this is?

Courtney Penn Blevins: Um, that he felt it was alright to share that information on a date!

Paul Carrick Brunson: Well, yes, but no. What worries me the most is that man went home, didn’t hear back from this young lady and thinks, “See? Black women say they can’t find a good man and she won’t go out with me again? See, they’re too picky!”

Courtney Penn Blevins: I … I… I’m almost speechless. So, outside of avoiding the collection of toenail clippings, what is the one mistake most commonly made by daters?

Paul Carrick Brunson: I hate to get all psychological, but the most common mistake is cognitive dissonance.

Courtney Penn Blevins: Cognitive dissonance? The discomfort that results when one holds conflicting ideas?

Paul Carrick Brunson: Exactly. Everyone makes assumptions about what is best for them: women think their guy has to be over six feet; men don’t want a woman too attached to her family, etc. If you dig enough, you find these assumptions are based on innuendo, bad advice and false information. Additionally, these assumptions are not truly attributable to the assumer.

Courtney Penn Blevins: So, once the assumptions can be torn down, the cognitive dissonance is removed and healthy dating can begin? That’s incredible. How are you able to work this into Lovetown, USA, the project you’re currently working on with Oprah Winfrey on OWN?

Paul Carrick Brunson: Oh, this the most incredible experience of my life; it has changed me and how I interact with people. The show began with connecting singles, but the concept has evolved throughout our time there. Oprah wanted to focus on how “love” is different than “romance”. We had to identify all areas of love, compassion and forgiveness and examine how to bring them out in this town in every way in thirty days, all while working around the concept that in order to be loved, you have to be love.

Courtney Penn Blevins: This sounds incredible! Are you surprised to be involved?

Paul Carrick Brunson: Well, I’m a Christian and in Christianity, we say, “Our steps are ordered,” and my steps have been ordered. When I look at my life and think back on all the experiences I’ve had, it was all in preparation for this experience. I will use my skill sets: all my skill sets: to work on this endeavor.

Courtney Penn Blevins: Well, it sounds simply incredible and I cannot wait to see it. I have a good feeling about this. We: all of us humans: really need this right now.