I’ve been on this first date way too many times. You meet somewhere and exchange pleasantries. If you’re lucky, you start talking and you have an interesting, fun conversation. If you’re not so lucky, you nurse your drink while your date launches into story after story about himself. You know how these go.
You ask a simple question, and he thinks you just gave him permission to perform a 15-minute soliloquy about himself, his interests, and experiences. You try to participate by telling an anecdote about yourself. He pauses for a half-second as if he just might ask you a question. Instead, he takes a deep breath and continues with his story as if you hadn’t said anything at all.
This goes on the entire date. You’ve said about a dozen words. He’s said about a million. You can tell he thinks it’s going well because he grins as he tells you nonstop stories of his adventures. He has no idea this first date probably will be the last time he ever sees you, and he will be genuinely surprised when you don’t want to go out with him again.
What do women do when we encounter these men? We could say, “Do you want to know anything about me?” That might jumpstart a conversation. If it doesn’t, we need to weigh whether he’s worth a second date.
I’ve met so many of these guys that I’m tired of them. Is it my job to teach them how to talk to a woman? I’m amazed they seem not even to notice my silence. They must think I’m so enraptured by their stories, I just don’t have anything interesting to add to the conversation. I must be stunned silent by how incredibly interesting their stories are. Right.
First dates are nerve-wracking for everybody. We put on our best face and hope for a connection. Maybe he’s nervous and that gives way to word vomit. It happens. We get it. Guys, if your heart’s racing and your sentences are coming fast and furious, take a deep breath. Shut up for a minute. Look at your date. Is she smiling like she’s in pain? That’s a bad sign. Is she sitting there stone-faced? That’s a worse sign.
Maybe you’re a shy guy, so you overcompensate for it. Your friends say you’re too quiet. So you go the polar opposite and monopolize the conversation. Sound familiar, ladies? Your date is so busy concentrating on talking, he’s forgotten to listen. And guys, are you paying attention if your date has said much of anything? A good conversation doesn’t mean you do all the talking and we do all the listening. This is a date, not an audition. You’re not trying to win a part. We’re here to get to know each other.
We women know men are accustomed to being the center of attention. We’ve have been conditioned to yield the floor to them. Too many of us are trained to be quiet and attentive. Think about your male coworkers. How do they behave in meetings? Men are notorious for sucking up all the air in the room. They show off. They brag. And they get rewarded for it. Women exhibit the same behavior and we’re called aggressive or bitches. So we back down and let the men take the stage. We carry this same behavior into our dating lives. We allow men to lead and we follow.
Let’s stop that nonsense right now. Men shouldn’t be leading conversations to the extent that our stories remain unheard and our opinions unasked.
Outside of work, we know men aren’t nearly as social as women. Maybe that’s why, when it comes to conversation, they lag far behind us. Their idea of a good date is the same as a good interview. They spend the entire time trying to convince us to hire them for a second date, then a relationship. But the idea of listening to that same guy on a second date is depressing. While he’s running his mouth, I’m running down a list of reasons I would go out on a second date with him — if there are any. For most women, communication with our significant others is challenging. While some men understand this, too many minimize it.
That’s not to say men don’t want interesting conversations, but those conversations are different from the ones women want and need to have. We accepted the date to get to know you. Just as importantly, we want you to get to know us. It’s frustrating to go on a date and the man doesn’t ask us any questions. Not a single one. Men, if you’re trying to impress us, this isn’t the way to do it. Work with me here. If you’re not sure what to ask, Google “questions you can ask on a first date.” You will be surprised how much more fun the date will be when we’re both engaged in the conversation.
Remember the reason we’re on a date in the first place: We want to get to know to each other. We want to discover who the other person is and see what we have in common. We’re not taking you on an audition. We want to find out who you are, and we want you to do the same.