• Two people in silhouette having a conversation

How to have better conversations on dates (or anywhere else)

We all like to think that we're great conversationalists. But be honest: how much time do you spend truly listening to others, choosing your own words carefully and knowing when to stop and give someone else the floor?

Investing some time in your conversation skills can have wonderful consequences for your dates and relationships. As radio host Celeste Headlee discusses in her TED talk, by following the ten rules she uses when she interviews guests on her show, you can "prepare to be amazed" by the positive results. Whether you're single and dating or already in a relationship, she urges you commit to mastering just one of the skills.


That means put down your phone, stop fidgeting, stop running mental to-do lists in your head or wondering how you can change the subject. Or to put it another way, fully commit to to the conversation. Be mindful and be present. Thought will naturally come into your head (Buddha called the "the endless chatter") but with practice you can learn to let them flow right back out again. Even if it's not the most important conversation you'll have today, it'll be all the better for your focus.


All to often, we describe people as "great conversationalists' when what we really mean is that someone is a "great talker". But smart oration isn't a conversation. For a conversation to be great, two people need to get something out of it. As the TED speaker says, "If you wanted to share your opinion without any opportunity for response or argument or growth...get a blog!"


This one can be a real game changer. Imagine someone is telling you a story about something really scary that happened to them. You might be tempted to ask a closed question like "You must have been terrified"  The person is going to focus on the strongest word in that sentence: terrified. And you'll get a one word response or a simple agreement. But if you switched up the question: How did you feel? What was going through your head? Why do you think you reacted like that? The other person has to pause for a moment to consider their response, and the conversation will be all the more interesting for it. 


Someone tells you a story about a traumatic event they recently experienced, or shares some good news they just had. Be honest: how often are you tempted to interject with your own "similar" story? It's never nice to have someone tell you they know "exactly how you feel". Because bottom line: "It’s never the same, all experiences are individual and more importantly – it’s not about you. Conversations are not a promotional opportunity."


You're telling your date a story about a funny thing that happened in a meeting at work. Do they care that the meeting took place on a Wednesday (or hang on, was it Thursday)? Do they care which meeting room on which floor? No, of course they don't. They want to know about the characters involved and the feelings invoked. So scrap all the meaningless trivia and cut straight to the point. 


It was Buddha who said: "You're not learning if your mouth is open." This is perhaps the most important rule of all when it comes to the quality of your conversations. The more you invest in really listening – and that means listening with your eyes and your heart as well as your ears, the more you'll get value out of talking with others. 


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Author: Rebecca

Rebecca lives in London with her husband, daughter and dachshund. She hopes her dating blogs for Flame Introductions will inspire you to seek out the best London and UK locations for brilliant dates, and discover some tips along the way to help you find your perfect partner.