My latest piece for Happen Magazine was originally called “Just Being Honest”. It talks about how saying everything on your mind (i.e. being yourself) isn’t always the best policy for a first date. The article is directed towards women, but can apply to men too. Listening is an incredibly powerful and underrated tool when you want to get someone to like you; it may even be more persuasive than talking.
When it comes to off-putting dating behavior, men commit plenty of dumb moves. He wears sneakers at a nice restaurant. He goes on and on about his boring job. He asks you pretty much nothing about yourself… and still tries for a good-night kiss at the end of the date (as if). If you find yourself on a date like this, I don’t blame you for passing on another encounter. But what about those cases where the guy does win you over… and yet never calls? Have you ever stopped to wonder what went wrong? While you might think a man’s favor largely boils down to your looks, you’re wrong. Below are five key things that well-intentioned women do that make men bail. Keep them in mind as you search for your Mr. Right.
Reason #1: You talk, but don’t listen
Women are sharers. It’s culturally ingrained. You may talk to your best friend or mom five times a day and think nothing of it. Every detail is relevant, and nothing can be left out in the telling of a story. Problem is, men don’t generally communicate that way. So try to consider the ebb and flow of a normal conversation. If he hasn’t spoken in awhile, ask him a question (and not a vague “So tell me about you” which will make feel self-conscious and put on the spot). If he’s telling a story, try doing a follow-up query instead of refocusing the spotlight on yourself (“You like to travel? Let me tell you about how I backpacked through the Amazon!). And if it’s occurred to you that you haven’t yet learned a thing about your date, try listening for a bit. It’s not that we’re not interested in getting to know you, it’s that we’d be thrilled if you were interested in getting to know us, too.
Reason #2: You see conversation as therapy
Talking about your evil ex-boyfriend. Talking about your hatred of your job. Talking about your strained relationship with your mother. It’s not that the bad stuff is irrelevant, it’s that it’s inappropriate. Being negative might be an effective way of winning an election, but it’s not exactly endearing on a date. Even if you feel compelled to touch on such subjects, consider your tone in doing so. And consider how you’d feel if a man were to share his inner turmoil with you too soon.
Reason #3: You’re a little too enthusiastic about him
It’s normal to get excited about a date with potential. It’s normal to consider what kind of husband that date might be. It was also normal to write your grade school crush’s name on the back of your notebook… but you wouldn’t show it to him, would you? Of course not! There’s an unwritten rule in dating that governs the energy flow between a man and a woman: When one party tries too hard, the other party pulls back. If a stranger has ever bought you a costly gift on the first date or called you seven times the day after you had coffee, you know what I mean. We’re not saying you should act cold; just don’t get carried away in front of him. Keep your projections to yourself until you have a better idea your affections are reciprocated.
Reason #4: Your idea of chit-chat is politics, religion and other heavy topics
So you don’t complain about your ex, your boss or your Mom. But you have a bone to pick with the President, the U.N. and the Pope. Hey, if your date is up for a surprise appearance on Meet the Press, that’s cool. Just know that not everybody likes to swim in the deep end of the pool so early. Sometimes, you’re better off sticking with banter about favorite travel spots or good movies or even funny online dates from the past. It’s not that intellectual topics should be off-limits, but until you know where someone lands on the political spectrum, you may want to tread lightly.
Reason #5: You’re not relating to him—you’re testing him
Dating should be fun. Getting to know a fascinating stranger, sharing information about yourself to an interested date… these are the things that keep us optimistic about the process. Where it all goes wrong is when you inadvertently turn him into a defendant and yourself into the prosecuting attorney. “How long was your last relationship?” “Where do you see yourself in two years?” “Do you want kids someday?” The answers to these questions are really important — they may well determine whether you choose to see him again — but great dates do not occur on a hot seat or under a microscope. Try reading between the lines instead of asking him these things point-blank.