How Do I Handle It If a Guy Does All The Talking On Our Date?

How Do I Handle It If a Guy Does All the Talking On Our Date?

I often find when on a second or third date, the guy will begin to “talk at” me – telling me “how it is.” My friends have found this, too; we laughingly refer to it as a man “going into full lecture mode.” My married sister, a whiz when it comes to understanding the male mind, says that this seemingly-unpleasant behavior is actually a sign that a man likes you; he’s trying to position himself as an expert because he wants to earn your respect.

As an example, on a recent second date I had a fellow ask me (more or less out of the blue) if I fell more on the right or left end of the political spectrum. When I responded, he proceeded to talk at me for a good quarter hour about how my views were completely misguided and pick out examples of how (he assumed) “people like me” thought and then explain why these beliefs were wrong. I could have gone into debate mode (and probably could have rhetorically kicked his ass); instead smiled and gently tried to steer the conversation into less treacherous waters but he was a dog with a bone. Later, he seemed shocked and hurt when I declined a third date.

How should I handle these kinds of things? I know that you’ve described yourself as an opinionated dude who enjoys debate but I don’t want to argue with a man I’m getting to know (especially not since everything I’ve been reading lately seems to point to the fact that we educated white women are seen as b*tchy, angry cows) and I certainly don’t like being talked “at.” I try to maintain my humor and compassion; I know plenty of people are nervous on dates and many were never taught the art of polite conversation. But I haven’t yet found a way to defuse what I find to be annoying, tense situations.

Many thanks,

On behalf of all male lecturers, I’m sorry. We know not what we do. We’ve been this way our entire lives. We don’t even realize that we’re not asking questions, because we’re so caught up in what we’re saying. Yet the most interesting thing about being a know-it-all is that it often serves us well.

It may be hard for you to see that when you’re rolling your eyes that you haven’t spoken for twenty minutes, but it’s true.

Contrast the confident, opinionated, alpha male with the insecure, introverted beta male.

The extroverted man is dynamic. He’s well-read. He’s well-traveled. He’s experienced with women. He can tell a funny story that holds you spellbound. He’s not worried about what you think about him. He likes himself so much, he assumes you’re going to as well.

It may be hard for you to see that when you’re rolling your eyes that you haven’t spoken for twenty minutes, but it’s true.

The introverted guy may be just as interesting, funny, and well-read, but if he never offers his opinions, stories, or theories, what exactly do we know about him? Not much. Apart from being a good listener, the shy man doesn’t reveal enough of his personality to make any sort of impression. Women go out with him and say things like, “He seemed nice, I guess. I just wasn’t that attracted to him.”

Why you weren’t attracted to him is simple: because he doesn’t believe in his own product enough to speak passionately about it. By offering no opinions and taking no stands, he comes across as a boring, wishy-washy guy. This doesn’t mean he IS boring and wishy-washy. It does mean that he tends to make such a negligible first impression that he may not get a second date.

Of course, most people fall somewhere in the middle. And you should probably choose men who do.

There are undoubtedly some quiet men who have great observations and sharp wits — that are only revealed when you get to know them.

It doesn’t matter if he’s great when he gets to know you; you don’t have a few months to discover if he has a personality.

And there are some know-it-all men (ahem) who are genuinely inquisitive people, who, despite their penchant to offer their opinions about everything, have the capacity to make you feel important.

It’s largely up to you to figure out where a man falls on this scale. No one would blame you if you cut loose a guy who talked over you — and aggressively argued with you — for two hours straight. That’s an unpleasant and unaware man, and you’d be hard-pressed to have a nice life (much less a nice evening) with him.

Similarly, no one would blame you if you refused to date the guy who has nothing to say. It doesn’t matter if he’s great when he gets to know you; you don’t have a few months to discover if he has a personality.

To your original question, Henriette, I have no doubt that I’ve been some version of “that guy” on a first date. At the same time, the rest of me always ended up shining through. All I can offer you is this: if you were attracted to him, had fun, and think that his lecturing side is only a small percentage of his personality, give him a second date and see what happens. But if you found the whole thing to be rather unpleasant, it’s not your job to teach him to be polite. Find a guy who gets it naturally.

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  1. 1

    Hmmm. The “lecture” lasted only a 15 minutes. My hunch is it was more of a debate/discussion, and at the heart of it, both were on opposite of the spectrum, and she didn’t like the fact that he didn’t care ;). In my volumes of experience socio-political position is a huge thing for a woman (esp. hot button topics, even when largely irrelevant to the couple itself) whereas most guys pretty much won’t care, unless it’s extreme. I agree that this “this is how it is” mentality is how confident high market value men interact with the world, and in specific to dating, ultimately a way to test for compatibility whether he realizes it or not. I also agree that he should not have been kicked to the curb unless the “lecture” was extreme.

    1. 1.1

      “I also agree that he should not have been kicked to the curb unless the “lecture” was extreme.”

      So she should keep him around even though she didn’t have a good time and his lecturing made her uncomfortable? He’s not a puppy she adopted and has an obligation to. He’s just a guy she was trying to get to know.

      1. 1.1.1

        I agree Jenna. Anytime your date begins a sentence with “people like you” you know it’s bad. I wouldn’t have been as nice as OP though….I would’ve told him ” I feel like I’m in a classroom than a date” then got up and left.   If he feels so strongly about his political   party, he should stick with women who believe in the same things and leave the rest.

    2. 1.2

      I would have declined to answer that question. There’s no way I’m going to talk politics with any date… until I get to know them much better. That’s way too volatile a conversation to start with… Same when it comes to religion and x’s. Don’t have to go down that conversation road until date 3 or so…

  2. 2

    “The extroverted man is dynamic. He’s well-read. He’s well-traveled. He’s experienced with women…. The introverted guy may be just as interesting, funny, and well-read, but if he never offers his opinions, stories, or theories, what exactly do we know about him? Not much.”

    I would not equate the outspoken type with extrovert and the shy/quiet type with introvert. Extroversion and introversion are not about how much talking is going on. There are extrovert people who are quiet and not opiniated, and introverts susceptible to go into “lecture mode” when a topic they are passionate about is brought up. I’m one of those! And I’m also a dynamic, well-read, well-traveled, experienced with men, introvert : )

    Regarding the Letter Writer question, if the guy talks “at” you, and/or if he agressively argues with you on a early date, I’d say: Next!

    Seriously, anyone who has A clue knows how important it is to share the mike. Anyone with A clue also knows that it’s best to avoid some topics on early dates or at least refrain from judgment if they are brought up. So if a date is that clueless and that un-self-aware that they either lecture you or argue with you on a early date, they are not likely going to turn into a great partner. A good partner is someone who is self-aware of their quirks, aware of their audience, able to suspend judgement and express opinion in a respectful manner. Oh, it’s also someone who can balance good listening with self-expression. If a date shows their fatal flaws that early on, dodge that bullet fast!

    1. 2.1

      I agree here, although I understood the point, I guess the more accurate descriptors would be “outgoing” vs “shy”, not extrovert vs introvert. Shy and introvert are different. Introvert is a way of being and has nothing to do with confidence. Shy is just a glossy word for “fear of socializing”. My ex was introverted and was more outspoken than me, used to “talk at me” or start debates if I had a different opinion on something. It was annoying. lol and I didn’t realize he was an introvert at first, his introverted nature began to show up in other ways.

      Me on the other hand, I classify myself as an introvert but I have a more extroverted nature than he did when it came to other areas, since I enjoyed doing a variety of things that involved other people and I’m well traveled. However I am more socially “shy” (read: afraid and less confident), especially with men and I’m working on that.

  3. 3

    Similarly, no one would blame you if you refused to date the guy who has nothing to say. It doesn’t matter if he’s great when he gets to know you; you don’t have a few months to discover if he has a personality.

    Hi there Evan – yes I have experienced the gabbler and also, the acutely shy type. I think I have more patience with the shy type as long as they come forward in some way.

    1. 3.1

      The “apparently shy” ones can come forward and give an endless lecture on some “introvert favorite” of a topic at dinner as well, Judy. Do keep an eye out for those.

  4. 4

    I think it is completely reasonable to be turned off by this type of lecturing. @SAL, if you think 15 minutes is not too long for a lecture on a date, you are sorely mistaken. I think the question is not really about the specific instance used in the example, where it was enough to kill the man’s chance at a third date, but more in general how to deal with this type of interaction. I think if this type of thing bothers you, then you should feel free to state your case. If he is turned off by the fact that you don’t want to be lectured then that’s his problem and you’re probably not a good fit. Simply saying “Let’s change the topic. I don’t want to get into a political debate” (in a friendly kind of way, not as if you are pissed off) should be perfectly acceptable on a second date. If he can’t change the topic off of whatever he was lecturing about, then that will tell you something. If he’s happy to move on to more fun topics of conversation, then great.

  5. 5

    For me, the problem isn’t just that he “lectured” on his opinion, it’s also that he talked about how the OP’s views were “completely misguided” and picked out examples of how (he assumed) “people like her” thought and then explained why these beliefs were wrong. That is condescending and argumentative, and it also shows an intolerance for Henriette’s political views. A smart guy who likes you tries to find common ground, not dissent, on an early date, so it sounds like a sign of incompatibility.

    1. 5.1

      I agree.

      I didn’t perceive the guy to be a confident alpha with an opinion….but rather an as*hole   who thinks he’s always right and isn’t open to communication. Relationships are give and take-if she can’t be herself around him without him scolding “people like” her it ain’t gunna work. I applaud her for not seeing him again.

      1. 5.1.1

        I totally agree. He wasn’t just a mansplainer, he also was condescending. Ugh. Major red flags in my book.

  6. 6

    Reason #34279 to continue dating geeks. I never got a lecture in my life. The only “too much talking” my dates have ever done was when they’d get carried away telling me about their work project or their hobby. No one has ever tried to tell me, on a date, that my views on anything were wrong in any capacity. Of course, I behaved in the same manner towards them. Plus, none of my dates seemed to want to get into a political or religious debate on first or second dates. They might’ve been saving that stuff for Thanksgiving dinner with their parents, who knows? but they never had the urge to have that discussion with me.

    Once, when a man was walking me back to my car, he strongly disagreed with where I said I’d parked, and tried to walk me in the opposite direction, where, in his opinion, I had “really parked”. That was the closest I got to being told “how it is”. I chalked it off to the fact that he was 10 years older and probably felt like a father figure to me, but you’re right, he might’ve been the alpha type as well. What can I say? I’m not going to fight other women over this type of guy. I’m happy with my geeks, thank you very much.

    Fusee #2 – I’m nodding in agreement with all of your post!

    1. 6.1

      “The only “too much talking” my dates have ever done was when they’d get carried away telling me about their work project or their hobby”

      Please don’t minimize this kind of behavior, Goldie. It can turn into a “perceived superiority” complex far too often. You’d be surprised how many XBox v. Playstation “battles” still go on, especially now that gaming is recognized as a commercial industry with clout … and how many men participate in this sort of thing and its attendant mindset that you’d think would have been way past growing out of it.

      I had a respected family friend & professor emeritus tell me point blank I needed to be looking for a “nerd” for a husband. Setting his own lecturing tone aside, especially on such a tender topic – because he’s not the type, generally, to do that kind of thing – I looked at him for a second before replying carefully, “Sir, these days, quite frankly it’s a little more complicated than that …”

  7. 7

    Have to add that I disagree with Sal’s version of events:

    “My hunch is it was more of a debate/discussion, and at the heart of it, both were on opposite of the spectrum, and she didn’t like the fact that he didn’t care 😉 ”

    As much as I would like to believe this, he “didn’t care” about this issue so much that he initiated the conversation out of the blue, and spent the next fifteen minutes telling her what her views are (?) and how they are wrong. She further says she tried to change the subject, but he wouldn’t quit. Now which of them didn’t like the fact that the other didn’t care? 😉

  8. 8

    My father and my brother both exhibit this behavior and I’ve dealt with it my entire life. I have been comfortable with making my own decisions for as long as I can remember, and it does seem to bother them both that I don’t need their input to make decisions.

    I realize that familial ties and dating are not exactly the same thing, but what they have in common is the man’s perspective. Early in my life I was labeled as the crazy/hormonal/b*tch for speaking my mind. I can sympathize for Henriette.

    There was one time about seven years ago when they both started lecturing me, and I got angry with both of them for lecturing me with their unsolicited advice. I pulled out the logic and reason card, and it shocked them both that a woman (it doesn’t really matter if you are a family member, you’re still a woman) they’ve labeled as “crazy” could make a logical and reasonable argument that pointed out their behavior was totally inappropriate. My dad finally stopped doing it, but my brother and I still butt heads because he sees himself as the patriarch of the family now, and he expects everyone to follow his rules.

    I like Evan’s response here. I also agree with the way Henriette handled the situation. I don’t think it does any good to explain, debate, coerce or reason with men, because it doesn’t change anything. Granted, I might be jaded because of my family situation, but it would be a major red flag for me if a guy did this to me on a date.

  9. 9

    Reading Cassie’s comment @4 made me realize that the Letter Writer’s question is indeed about how to deal with any annoying/judgmental one-sided conversation on the date itself, not about saying “Next!” after the fact.

    Although it’s never happened to me, I think I would reflect back what I’m seeing while offering a chance for a 180 turn if the guy happened to get the clue. Examples:

    – When he goes all “lecture-style” about a topic, saying: “Wow you really look passionate about that topic! I though I was going on a date but now i feel like a student in college!”. Ideally, he smiles, says he always gets carried away when talking about that stuff, and ask a meaningful question to allow you some airtime. If he does that, another date is an option just to see if this is a one-time issue or a pattern. Pattern = Next!

    – When he goes all judgmental on your opinion, saying: “So now that you have screened me based on my politics (or whatever he asked), and realized that I’m so terribly wrong in my opinions, what are you suggesting we do? Are we finishing our coffee/dinner before moving on with our respective lives, or shall we just say good bye right now?”. Ideally he realizes what happened, apologizes, says something funny to encourage pursuing the date, and never demeans you ever again.

    – If the annoying behavior is too annoying/continues/comes on top of other issues, I’d suggest to shorten/abord the encounter, especially if it’s the beginning of a longer date. It’s fine to suck it up for a dinner, but not really for a day-long hike, right? If you prefer not rocking the boat, using the “It’s getting late/I’m tired/not feeling well” excuse works fine. If you want to make it a teachable moment, how about: “I’m having a hard time enjoying this coffee/dinner/hike as it looks like we’re really not compatible communication-wise, so thank you for the coffee/dinner/whatever and have a good day!”.

  10. 10

    In the exact situation the LW describes, I would attempt maybe two times to change the subject, and if that doesn’t work, I would leave. I wouldn’t care about any niceties as I am doing so, I would just get up and leave. Honestly, my free time is much too valuable to waste it on somebody so unpleasant, and I know I’ll only end up being angry at myself if I to any extent put up with that.

  11. 11

    There was something in the movie The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo that really struck a chord with me. It was when the killer said to Mikael Blomkvist that he didn’t force him to come into his house, he didn’t drag him in – Mikael came in of his own volition, even though he felt something was off. He did it so as not to appear impolite, to avoid a confrontation.

    I never read the books, but iirc the serial killer then continued his speech on how he got all of his victims that way – people who complied purely out of fear to offend another person.

    That really stuck with me. Obviously murder is the most extreme example of this, but there were so many irksome situations in my life that could have been easily avoided if only I didn’t try to be so diplomatic. And, as I already stated above, I only end up being angry at myself.

    1. 11.1
      Mrs Happy

      I saw an enlightening Opera episode on this very topic, Erica @ 11.

      A domestic violence expert was thrilled; his specialty seemed to be deceased women, so he usually had to retrospectively analyse why they (the now dead women, victims of violence) had been/stayed in certain situations. But the woman on the episode had been found and saved by smart police detective work (her ex had placed her in a barell locked in his storage unit over state lines, to freeze/dehydrate to death).   So the expert got to speak to her and better understand. She had walked into her ex’s house, feeling something was off; he had smashed her unconscious with a baseball bat I think.

      Anyway, the expert bemoaned the fact women won’t listen to their gut instinct and just leave a situation that doesn’t feel right. They stay, partly out of politeness sometimes. He said, no other animal does this. Any other animal would avoid walking into a situation where they scented/sensed danger would be. Any other animal would scarper.

      I like the idea of women leaving an unsettling situation as soon as they realise something isn’t right. Don’t know that this is what this post is quite about, but just wanted to agree with Erica. I suppose I’m saying that maybe being in tune with our gut feelings and instincts about a guy, are under-appreciated talents, and we should act on them more readily.

  12. 12

    Personally, and I’m sure this goes for most everyone else on the planet, I don’t like to be told that my belief structure is wrong. I also don’t like it when people assume they know all about me solely based on my political views.

    I consider those people ignorant. I don’t care what the argument is past 5 minutes if I’m being debased for my beliefs – which are an essential part of me. People are different for a reason. Accept it.

    If this “talking at women” situation is indeed an epidemic, I haven’t experienced it to a great degree. I’d say maybe a handful of times out of many, many dates.

    There are opinionated people in this world, and then there are asshats. Crowbar of separation…

  13. 13

    Incidentally, the first time I thought of that movie in regards to dating was when Evan posted those Worst Date Ever contest winners.

    (Sorry about so many posts!)

  14. 14

    Love this topic… and though I know they are totally into me and trying to sell themselves… if I can’t get a word in edgewise then it just doesn’t work for me. I agree somewhere in the middle..

  15. 15

    This is an easy one. Men can’t help but have opinions and go on about them. Just hit the SNOOZE button. Example: when my husband gets on his soapbox as he inevitably does, I just reach across the table, press down on his cute but prominent nose in mid-sentence and yell,”Snooze!” Then he has to be quiet for 5 minutes while I talk. I find it works very well. I, of course, do not have such a function as I am cute and cuddly and everything I say is correct. 🙂

  16. 16

    Having grown up with a younger brother with LOTS to say, I’ve mastered the art of smile and ignore!

  17. 17

    First of all, THANK YOU, EVAN for posting my letter. And second, THANK YOU to you posters who took the time to share your insights. Each of you has given me “something to gnaw on.”

    My sister (a now-married former-expert-dater) used to insist that only guys who really liked her, bothered to lecture her. Her theory: men tend to think that they’ll impress a woman by being strong, confident, “in-charge” and so many see the forceful monologue as showing their sexy alpha side in all its glory, like a peacock fanning its tail. I’m not sure I agree…. but I appreciate the way that ~ as usual ~she turned even the most negative experiences into proof that dudes adored her. 🙂

    I don’t mind fellow Extroverts; goodness knows that I can be enthusiastic and bubbly and talkative on dates. What I do mind is men on dates “telling me like it is” and talking At me rather than With me. Since I witness this kind of behaviour most often on second and third dates, my own theory is that it usually stems from men not knowing how to go from the initial “where did you grow up and what do you like to do for fun?” conversations that are typical of 1st dates to more substantive topics; it’s a symptom of them feeling awkward and not being adept at the art of conversation. I try to take Evan’s wonderful wife’s advice and “give a guy a mulligan” if I think he’s a decent fellow who just got swept away by nerves.

    1. 17.1

      I agree with you, Henriette. I just would like to figure out a way to move from “at” to “with” conversations in a kind, non-offensive way

  18. 18
    David T

    Henriette 18

    “I do mind is men on dates “telling me like it is” and talking At me rather than With me.”
    That makes all the difference, IMO. Is it his way or the highway, or is he genuinely interested in what you think and your opinions? I have a great friend who I am at odds with regarding certain lifestyle choices (she is about as crunchy as they get. I am moderately crunchy myself, but some of her stuff is excessive and not backed up, IMO.) We have GREAT debates; I will pepper her with sources and citations AND I will listen to her, and extract some value from what she has to offer, and frankly it makes my life a bit better. Who knows if we will ever date (my biggest concern would be more about how she keeps herself busy with work about 37 hours a day) , but if we do I am confident we will disagree on some things and appreciate each others perspectives (we already do that. 🙂 )

    Henriette, you have to judge your dates yourself, but it does sound like Bachelor Number One might not have been open minded or even respectful of your perspective. . . of course you never found out. Personally, as a man, I would like it if a woman gave me some of her rhetorical juice and made a good case. . . .and then talked me down to steer to more fun and getting to know one another topics. You didn’t do that. I would have recommended you go for another round.

    I had a second date a month or so ago where she *wanted* to debate a rather sensitive topic (faith belief systems) and I really enjoyed her and the challenges she presented. I don’t think either of us noticed at the time, but while the conversation was intellectually very stimulating and fun, it was not at all companionable or easy and I think that killed any future potential. The debate was fun and healthy for us to have, but not at the cost of becoming comfortable around one another and laughing and connecting emotionally rather than just intellectually/spiritually. In an established relationship, maybe a few dates in, that would have been OK. In this case it killed any magic and later I remember thinking “Gee, I should have steered us towards making jokes and being playful after 15 minutes of that.” Sure enough, date number 3 never happened, largely due to a mutual lack of interest.

    On future dates with promising guys, engage the debate a little instead of nodding and smiling. You will find out quickly if he will respect you and your own boundaries. Then steer it back to the fun zone. You will both enjoy the whole date more…and still have something to debate next time. 🙂

  19. 19

    Following up what Fusee suggested, there’s always the Carolyn Hax response when someone really lays a whopper on you (e.g. informing you in no uncertain terms that you’re wrong): “Wow, why would you say something like that?”

  20. 20

    I know for myself when I have an online “meet & greet” I tend to talk more than the woman for the most part depending what topic we roll into. I wouldn’t say I’m talking at her or “lecturing” her at all about anything. I think that I tend to over elaborate on a topic or thought out of nervousness so that the conversation doesn’t trail off into awkward silenceville. I’m hoping that she’ll chime in with her side of the conversation and keep it equal. I’ve also found that if we go on a second or third date things calm down, even out, and settle into “normalcy” depending on the personalities of both of us.

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