No matter what activity you engage in on a date, one of the most important aspects is the quality of the conversation between the two of you. Yet many of us are making mistakes that will hurt the relationship’s chances for success. In her book The Fine Art of Small Talk, conversation expert Debra Fine explains what you can do to be a better conversation partner. Below are three fatal conversation killers and how to avoid them.
Interrogators pepper their victims with constant questions. They don’t ask these questions because they’re looking for substantial information, nor do they offer anything about themselves. Their conversation partners end up feeling dissatisfied, annoyed, and exhausted.
To avoid being an interrogator, try asking questions that need to be answered with more than a yes or no. Then explore the same topic more deeply by following up. The key here is to patiently listen to the other person and slowly draw them out. You can also try sharing a little bit about yourself – explain why you asked a particular question and where you’re coming from.
Everyone’s met someone who monopolizes a conversation. He will go on and on about himself for what feels like hours. We all can be like this from time to time, but no one likes to be stuck talking to someone when he’s in this mode.
Give your partner the floor after you’ve talked for about five minutes or so. This is plenty of time to say what you need. You may think that if you talk less the other person may not pick up the slack, but if she is shy you can instead focus on encouraging her to share her own ideas.
The Know-It-All doesn’t want to learn from a conversation – she wants to dominate it. Her conversation partner feels exasperated because it can seem like there’s nothing she won’t do to appear to be on top of things.
If you think you might be this person, try asking your conversation partners for their own opinions, and then listen carefully without one-upping them. Offer a compliment about something smart or interesting that they said. This is a much more effective way to gain their admiration, and will guarantee that you’ll beat this conversation mistake.
You’ll notice a theme here – the key to great conversation is to consider your partner, and give her space to talk about herself. And as a side bonus, if your partner is talking, you’re better able to decide if this is someone you want to continue to spend time with.