Ladies, picture it with me—it’s five pm on a Friday night, you’ve put together an outfit (or several variations, I don’t judge), maybe carefully applied mascara and a swipe of lipstick, a spritz of perfume, a toss of freshly washed hair. You’re ready to meet your date; you’ve been looking forward to it all day.
And then you get there, and he stares at you from the other side of the table like a startled rabbit on a highway who doesn’t know which way to run. That’s okay, you think, I’ll just put him at ease with some questions.
So, you ask questions, and he answers. And keeps answering. The minutes tick by—5, 10, 15, 20. You leave pause after pause, drop hint after hint, and yet…he won’t stop talking about his uncle from Canada, and you realize, slowly, as the main course is served, that he has no intention of enacting any level of curiosity outside of himself and is entirely content to explain to you, again, that he’s only doing DoorDash as an interim and has big plans for next quarter, he swears.
You smile, nodding—maybe you try to assure him that there isn’t anything wrong with Doordashing, but he’s quick to assure you that he went to college. You finish your entire entrée while his sits untouched.
You try to be as interested as possible for the next half hour, wondering how quickly you can leave after dinner without being rude.
You go home and remove your makeup. You collapse face-first into bed—your phone chimes. You open the message—I had a great time tonight, it reads, so, like, can I see you again?
You sigh a lament-filled sigh.
Everyone, say it with me: Yikes.
We’ve all probably been on a date like this before—male or female—and wondered how someone gets through life like that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about listening to people and getting to know them, but I think we can all agree that there’s a difference between sharing and completely commandeering a conversation to the point of oblivion. (There’s also the shudder-inducing other version of this date where the startled rabbit stare never ends, and you’re left to fill the space alone.)
Every time we engage with someone, we have two options from sentence to sentence: We can choose to learn, or we can choose to share. When someone shares something about themselves, we can choose to either ask a follow-up question and learn more about the person, or we can choose to share a personal experience or thought that relates to what they’ve shared, allowing them to learn something about us, or something new in general.
When a conversation feels energizing and engaging, I’ve found there is an equal amount of learning and sharing between the parties involved. And, of course, chemistry helps.
Almost every type of conversation can be boiled down to learning and sharing, it’s only a matter of which column we choose to lean into based on the goal of the conversation and the context of the connection.
By paying attention to the level of sharing/learning present in the conversation, we create a better chance for a connection where each person leaves feeling heard while also having gained knowledge.
These same principles apply to written communication as much as verbal, simply a different vessel with, naturally, fewer cues to read, which is always tricky.
Regardless, there are times to learn and times to share. The conversation that remembers that is fruitful and the difference is plainly felt.
And, yes, this is partly inspired by how many times I’ve been across from a man who has not asked me a single question in hours and then said they had a great time speaking with me as if I had anything to do with it. (my guy friends are exempt from this!)
I’m not here saying I’ve mastered this—absolutely not!—like most things, it’s a constant pursuit of improvement. I’ll always be looking for ways to be a better conversationalist.
But all of this is to say that nothing beats a good conversation. You can have the best style, the biggest bank account, or be perfect on paper, but all of it falls into nothingness if there is no respect for the art of conversation.
Thank you for reading and I hope you have a great convo today!