When I was 38 and single, I tried speed dating. It seemed perfect for my direct personality, and my desire not to waste time on long, painful dates with men I didn’t want to spend time with.
With speed dating, in the space of one hour you meet 10 different men, for about five minutes each.
What I found was that in a five-minute conversation, each of the 10 men that I “dated” was only capable of talking about himself.
The men had no idea how to have a conversation, really. They didn’t seem interested in me; they seemed only interested in telling me about themselves.
Now in their defense, I bet they were nervous, and also new to dating.
I began watching other people in conversations, and I am amazed at how often people don’t know how to have a conversation. And nerves had nothing to do with it. It’s just a skill that many people don’t possess.
Time moved on, and I married Warren (we met online, not at a speed-dating event); and as married couples are wont to do, we argue occasionally.
Recently I was out of town on business for a week, which meant that our conversations were over the telephone.
By Thursday, I had gotten quite angry with Warren because of his “me-me-me” conversation style.
Here is how our conversations would go (more or less)
– greeting, pleasantries, starting off nicely
– then I would ask him about his day at work
– he would tell me
– I would ask him about what he did in the evening (did he play hockey, go for a run, meet with his mom, etc.?)
– more general questions about what he did, how he slept, etc.
Then the conversation was over.
I would then jump in and tell him all about my day, about my presentation, my travel, my hotel stay… because I got the sense that if I didn’t volunteer the information, he wasn’t going to ask for it.
By Thursday I was angry that he never asked me any of those questions himself. He appeared content to tell me about him, but didn’t ask about me. Of course, Warren was unaware that I was getting worked up about this.
On Thursday after we had gone through the standard questions, the conversation stopped, and I didn’t fill the empty space. When it seemed like we were finished talking, Warren said that he guessed he should let me go.
I said, “Don’t you want to know about my day?” Then of course (in typical Rhonda fashion), I proceeded to explain my frustration at our conversations all week, and how I felt that he really wasn’t interested in me, he was only interested in telling me about him.
You can imagine the rest of the conversation.
He did apologize and he acknowledged what he’d done. Since that conversation, he hasn’t made that mistake again.
Many times the “me-me-me” conversationalist is completely unaware that he’s not asking questions back.
I bet none of the men I speed-dated knew why we didn’t connect, and why I wasn’t interested in meeting any of them again.
The difference between a conversation and an interview is intent. Do you intend to have a back-and-forth discussion, or are you just answering questions? If it’s a conversation, it implies that you are interested in what the other person has to say. If you aren’t asking prompting questions, you’re giving the impression that you aren’t interested. When the conversation is all about you, and not at all about the other person, you have become a “me-me-me” conversationalist.
Warren was interested in my day; he just didn’t realize that we hadn’t talked about it.
A conversation is like a tennis game between opponents who are equal. The ball goes back and forth smoothly and evenly across the net. Each has a turn and then gives the ball back to the other player.
A conversation is not like a golf game. Golf is mostly a lone sport. Eighty per cent of the time you worry about your ball and about hitting it as far as you can.
Make sure your conversations aren’t all about you. Make sure you turn the conversational table back to your partner once in awhile. Finally, make sure you really listen to what they have to say.
So, how is your day going today?