How to Talk to a Potential Date

Some singles say they would rather get a root canal than go to a party where they don’t know everyone.  Social phobias rank right up there with fear of public speaking. There are lots of people who are terrified of group settings, talking to strangers, and trying to make interesting comments around any subject at all—especially with potential dates.  Are you one of those people?

If you worry about what to say, how to say it, and the skill of carrying on a fluid conversation when you are trying to socialize, here is a guideline to remember when meeting someone new.  Don’t let yourself become one of these conversational styles:

In your eagerness to make an impression, you may want to jump into a dialogue by telling a follow-up story.  The danger in that conversational style lies in sounding like you want to top the last story told, as in, “You think that’s funny?  Listen to this!”  Unknowingly, you would be dismissing the relevance of what the last person said.  It’s better to listen carefully to others and then ask a question about what you’ve just heard.  You could also make a complimentary remark, like, “That’s the most amazing (hilarious, beautiful, spooky) story ever!”  Everyone wants to feel that someone is listening when they share.

Right on the heels of being a conversation “topper” comes the habit of interrupting the story line of others.  In general, women tend to do this more than men.  When they are with their girlfriends, conversation can be a free-for-all, with people talking all at once and jumping into the stream of things when they feel like it.  Men tend to wait until the other person is finished talking before they speak up.  These differences are important to understand when you’re out meeting potential dates so you won’t do something that is perceived to be rude.

Pretending to listen to someone when you can’t hear them—or understand their accent—is an innocent and understandable problem …but it can lead to serious misunderstandings.  Imagine two people meeting and having a conversation that goes something like this:

“I used to work in a large company in this city, but I got laid off last week.”

“Excuse me?”

“I just got laid off.”

“What did you say?”

“I got laid off last week.”

(Still not hearing the person, the pretender says with a big smile, “Wow! That’s great!”)

Large rooms with lots of people talking can make it impossible to hear a person sitting right next to you.  Ambient noise, a soft-spoken person, or someone with a strong foreign accent can lead you to experience some embarrassing consequences.  It’s best to not fake it and just tell the truth— “Sorry—I can’t hear you.  Can we write each other notes until we find a better place to talk?”

If you notice an interesting looking person in a bookstore, you need to muster up the courage to initiate a conversation.  However, if the person is a “one-worder,” the interaction may sound something like this:

“Hey – that’s an interesting title to that book you’re holding.”


“Have you read other books by that author?”


“Do you come to this bookstore often?”


“Are you from this town?”


The “one-worder” gives you nothing to grab a hold of so you can get into a dialogue.  You can only give up and walk away.  If you notice that you tend to answer questions with a one-word answer, however, and you would like to get to know the person who is trying to talk to you, answer in sentences and paragraphs of information so they at least have some idea that you are interested in talking.  (Note: People who answer questions with one-word responses are a TV or radio interviewer’s worst nightmare.)

When it comes to trying to have a conversation with someone who has an attitude of detachment, you may despair.  If someone you are talking to is rude, sarcastic, arrogant, angry, or negative, excuse yourself and walk away.  You are not obliged to tolerate someone who is offensive.  You can’t really have a conversation with an “attitude” anyway—you are simply a prop to stand by and listen while they posture, pose, and deliver their take on the world.  Being polite and paying attention to the person is not in your best interest.  Being dignified and elegant while you move away from them is.

If you are nervous in social situations, just remember that most people are seeking your approval and are concerned about whether you like them. Smile, make eye contact, and ask a question.  Introduce yourself and ask their name.  You can do it.  This is how you become… a SAVVY dater.

About Tonja Weimer: Published Author: 8 Books, her latest book, Thriving After Divorce, is on shelves now.  Her books have won over 25 awards.· Columnist: Weekly syndicated singles and dating columnist (over four million readers in the U.S. and Canada) · Media: Coverage on TV, including CNN’s ShowBiz Today; rave reviews in USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher’s Weekly · Author: NBC/USA TV Network, selected author for articles on dating and singles for website · Articles: In House Beautiful, New Woman, GRAND, and other national magazines · Coach: Master Certified Singles Relationship Coach; Associate Certified Life Coach; International Coach Federation; Relationship Coaching Institute; Institute for Life Coach Training · Keynote Speaker: Regional, National and International conferences in U.S., India and Europe · Academic: BA; MA in Human Development; U.S. Dept of Mental Health full fellowship
Visit Tonja’s website for more exciting dating tips!