How many times have we been on a date and leave feeling like we don’t actually know the other person at all? Sometimes I feel that I’ve monopolized the conversation and other times, my date hasn’t appeared even remotely interested in what I have to say. Have you ever been out with someone and could only get monosyllabic answers from them?
I’ve been guilty of this one.
Last week, I was preparing for a date, and Verily magazine posted this rather timely article on “The other-centered date”. It got me thinking of ways to put my date at ease by asking questions and listening, but without seeming like I’m interrogating or avoiding talking about myself.
A date can often seem more like a high-pressure interview than a relaxed get together, which doesn’t make anyone comfortable. Of course, we are dating to find out if someone is a good match and will make a good spouse and parent. However, there are ways to ask questions that help you get a better idea of who your date really is without firing questions at them. Sometimes just keeping a conversation alive can be a lot of work, and this is why you should always have a plan.
When I was getting my Master’s degree in Library Science, we had whole classes on “The Reference Interview.” We learned that it is actually very difficult for most people to put their ideas and information searches into questions and as librarians, we would have to ask leading questions to try to understand what our patrons really wanted from us. Often, we would have in-class exercises where we would enact hypothetical scenes from a library and think up questions that couldn’t possibly have a yes or no answer. While we all thought this was silly at the time, I use hints from these Reference Interview classes daily at work, and now I’ve realized how helpful they can be on a date.
When you ask questions to find out more about a date, what sort of answers are you getting? One syllable? Five minutes? Temperaments aside, very often the questions are too easy to answer or aren’t thought-provoking enough to elicit a thorough answer. I am a textbook melancholic/phlegmatic introvert—if there’s a way to answer a question with as few words as possible, I’ll do it. My way around this possible conversation killer is to ask questions that require some thought and might fire up a new track to a conversation. Here are some suggestions:
1. Ask your date about siblings.
2. If you find out that he has nephews and nieces, compare notes on how you each spend time with the little ones. (I teach mine piano and talk a lot of baseball.)
3. If you talk about travel, ask your date what his favorite city is and why.
4. What places does he or she recommend you visit? (I love Granada because of all the history and culture that formed it.)
5. Don’t just ask what someone does for a living. Find out why they chose that career path, what they enjoy, what they’d like to change.
Not every date is going to be a winner. A date might talk about himself so much that there’s no need to even think about a question to ask. However, having a game plan is a good mental exercise and a great thing to fall back on if the date isn’t going well. Think of some topics that you are able to converse about easily and come up with ways that you could ask a question to really find out who this person is. Sometimes the answers will give us important insight into a person’s character.
Your date has four nephews but doesn’t really like children so he rarely sees them? Your date coaches baseball and babysits his niece? Your date doesn’t have a job and isn’t looking for one because he really doesn’t like anything? Your date loves his job and is working with upper management on a new project that will make him happier?
Remember that a yes or no answer isn’t always going to show us the true character of a person. If we really want to find out about others, we have to make a sincere effort to ask the right questions and be willing to listen to the full answer.