Recently, I was in the crosshairs of a first-date situation at a local wine bar.
You know when you’re sitting a little too close to the people next to you because it’s crowded and you end up listening to their conversation without really meaning to? Guilty.
So let’s set the scene. They’re seated at the bar, the guy looks like he’s in his mid-thirties and the girl maybe slightly younger. They could’ve passed for boyfriend-girlfriend and actually didn’t look bad sitting together. The wine and cocktails flowed… unfortunately, their conversation did not.
Talking and listening (My turn, then your turn, you know how it works)
The cookie-cutter conversation started off normal enough: where they both lived before choosing to live in the awesome city of Oakland, what they did for a living, the weather, how they got to the bar. (Uber or BART?)
The guy talked a little about himself before the conversation took a sharp turn. A dark, viscous, sharp turn.
This girl dominated the conversation. She proceeded to give this guy a monologue of her life story, for the next hour. She might as well have stood up on stage with a mic and spotlight, comedian-style. Except she wasn’t as interesting as a comedian because she didn’t share any self-deprecating stories, embarrassing moments, or anything even remotely funny.
She did what lots of people on first dates do, which was to bring her best representative. Hey, aren’t I awesome?
I’m shocked she had time to talk and finish her drink in between all of her bragging. Let it be known that she’s smart and well-traveled! (Law school, elite lawyer-y conferences, exotic adventures in far away countries.)
Not once did she stop to ask him a single question. He looked bored and the initial spark in his eyes dimmed down to a distant, bored twinkle. He sometimes looked longingly at his phone, and even picked it up a few times.
How much you talk about yourself?
The next time your spouse, friend, or colleague at work talks to you, stop and listen. (If not for them, do it for this poor guy!)
Ask questions. Don’t respond with an automatic, “I…”
I get it — it’s human nature to want to connect with someone about something they’re talking about so you can bond. If Fred went fishing last weekend and caught some trout, naturally, your brain goes to that time you went deep sea fishing and fell off the boat and nearly drowned. Great story, but it’s not about you, so hold off until you ask two or three more questions about Fred’s fishing trip.
Don’t ask because it’s the polite thing to do. Ask, because you care. Don’t just listen so you can come up with witty or interesting responses.
The more questions you ask, the more you will listen and learn to become genuinely interested in what others have to say.
It may help you to become a better listener. You may even form deeper and more meaningful relationships with others.