This is the final installment of a three-part series on first-date conversation.
The first blog post was on asking questions that get a deep and meaningful conversation going, the second blog post was how you can answer those questions through captivating storytelling, and today’s post is about the bridge between the first and second – attentive listening.
The way you listen is even more important than the way you talk about yourself and the questions you ask. If you’re not listening well your date will not feel comfortable being vulnerable (because what’s the point of talking about deep topics if you’re not really being heard and understood!?) There are few things more wonderful than someone ‘getting’ us, wouldn’t you say?
Here are some tips on how you can listen in a way that makes them feel like talking…
1. Put your phone away. It’s incredible that this still needs to be said but you need to put your phone away. This is such a bad habit in Hong Kong, it drives me crazy! If you’re on a first date the best way to tell a person you don’t value their time and presence is by keeping your phone on the table. Even if it’s facing down you are signaling that you have other priorities. If you expect an important message or call tell your date at the beginning so they know you’re cognizant of what having the phone visible implies.
2. Listen without thinking. Does that make sense? When I first heard of this concept I was perplexed because how can you understand what’s being said if you’re not thinking, right? But the point is to listen but not make judgements or conclusions until the speaker has stopped speaking. It’s quite hard because we usually have an internal narrative running through our head. But we don’t want that internal narrative because that distracts us from what is being said.
3. Wait before talking. Did you know that, on average, the typical gap in a conversation between one person finishing their sentence and another person starting theirs is just 200 milliseconds?! That figure is pretty much universal; existing across cultures, with only slight variations. It’s even prevalent in sign-language conversations. That’s because we’re listening and thinking and coming up with our poignant and introspective answers. Dude, slow down. Give your date a second or two more to finish off their thoughts – even if it’s tempting to jump in there with your comments. Don’t think this will come easily — It takes practice! Trust me I should know, I have been practicing a lot because when I interview prospective matchmaking clients and ask them personal questions, which are hard to answer, it’s vital I leave some silence so they can finish thinking and articulate any thoughts they are still putting together in their head.
4. Let the story develop. Try your best not to focus on a detail and hijack the conversation so it goes off on a tangent. Let your date take you through the story, from beginning to end.
5. Reflect the feelings. Ideally, when the story gets happy you will reflect that happiness and when it gets sad so will you. This shows you genuinely understand the feelings and/or messages they are trying to convey and it can create an environment that allows you both go deeper.
If you click on the links you will find even more suggestions on how to be an active listener. If you want some practice ahead of your next first date send us a message to schedule a few sessions where we can work on your conversation techniques, figure out what are the best questions for you to ask/share, how to segue to them so the conversation is seamless, and listen like a pro.
This article originally appeared on Maitre Date
Photo: Getty Images