Hi Evan,

Had a date that I met on-line a few weeks ago. Just went for coffee and a muffin (first date). However, I have run into this situation many times and do not know how to handle it. The date (male) spent the whole time talking about himself. Asked nothing about my life. Had two conversations with him on the phone prior to our meeting, and all he did was talk about himself. (There was “the writing on the wall.”) He was attractive and polite and seemed decent but there was this issue. I was not his type anyway, so he is out of the picture. However, this problem still needs to be addressed. I also dated someone for a few months and he, also, talked about himself only. Was thinking of seeking professional help with this one since it is common. Thought of saying, if it comes up again, “How about we spend the time we have dividing the conversation between half of the time about you and half about me?” Is this a realistic tactic or should I just write the person off?

Please advise.

Jackie

Dear Jackie,
Did I ever tell you about the time that I was out with this woman from JDate? We had talked on the phone for a little bit before meeting, did a bunch of IMing, but when we went for drinks, she must have had a three hour monologue prepared. I couldn’t get in a word edgewise. The fact that I ended up making out with her that night couldn’t disguise my utter contempt for her disinterest in me. Her four minute long voice mail when I never called again was an instant classic.

And then there was the time that I met a JDate girl on the phone who had recently broken up with her boyfriend of six years. And when I asked her if she was really ready to date, she gave me a very detailed explanation. It was more of a dissection, really, of everything that went wrong between the two of them. Finally, when I sensed that my “uh-huhs” and “yeahs” didn’t seem to matter much, I put down the phone and went into the bathroom. From there, I proceeded to take off my clothes, brush my teeth, wash my face, take out my contacts and return to the phone, where this poor woman was STILL talking about the demise of her relationship. I never ended up making out with her, since I told her that I put down the phone on her. True story.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did you ask a question? That was so rude of me.

So enough about me. What do YOU think about me?

My apologies for all the jokes, Jackie. But what else can you do but laugh when your dates go horribly awry?

Thankfully, you’ve already taken responsibility for your minor part in the bad date; namely, that you shouldn’t even have gone out with the narcissist after your one-sided phone conversations.

But I do think you’re sort of missing it if you’re going to try that clunky line about dividing half of the conversation. Honestly, you’re not splitting a cake here; you’re supposed to be getting to know each other.

Conversation is like a tennis match – it’s back and forth and it takes two people to take a game to the next level. If you’re hitting volleys and he’s hitting the ball to himself, well, it’s no surprise that your matches haven’t been particularly memorable.

But you already know this. What you may not have considered is that good conversationalists aren’t necessarily the best talkers. They’re the best listeners. And sometimes, by being a good listener, and asking the right questions, you can create an opening for your date to be a better listener as well….

Believe me, it’s not a perfect science. You may ask a question that unintentionally leads to a twenty-minute diatribe about his office politics. By the same token, you may subtly steer the talk down a different road, one that applies to you. That’s when you need to jump in and share YOUR stories. Don’t wait for an invitation from him. Just listen to him tell you about his timeshare in Puerto Rico, and then bring up your tales from Costa Rica. If you’re a good storyteller, he may even want to ask a question about it. (Or, more likely, start telling you about his upcoming trip to the Bahamas).

Frankly, I think most folks are good people but very bad daters. They see the date as one of two things. First, they see it as an audition, a chance to impress their date with all of their credentials and A-List stories. Then there are those who see a date as an interview, where they’re the boss, trying to suss out the serious candidates. Those are the kind people who ask you if you’re serious about getting married before they even find out where you grew up. The problem is that both people – the show-off and the boss – have an agenda – either to impress, or to not waste their time.

Both agendas are unattractive.

The one thing I would implore you to do differently is to forgive these yappers for their clueless sins. They might as well be third grade boys who are pulling your hair for attention. I’m not saying you have to like them, or that you have to go out with them again. All I’m saying is that these guys are trying to share a piece of themselves and are hoping that you’ll eagerly receive it.

What they haven’t yet realized is that the way to your heart is to LISTEN to you.

But that’s another column for another day…