My Date Won't Stop Talking
September 2, 2010 8:03 PM   Subscribe

What should I do when my date won't stop talking?

I keep having this recurring experience: I'm on a date with a nice gentleman. He's courteous, kind, and generous. The date (sometimes an internet date, sometimes an old-fashioned date) begins well, with each of us asking questions of the other. The conversation is going swimmingly. Then, at some point, the gentleman begins to talk about himself. And does. Not. Stop. The questions about me cease, and everything I say is simply a launching pad for him to bring up something else about himself.

There are a few possible explanations (he's so excited about what he's discussing that he gets carried away and doesn't realize that I haven't spoken in ten minutes; he sense I'm a good listener, and simply runs with it; he's nervous and trying to impress me, etc.), but this is a HUGE turn-off to me. Listening is incredibly important to me, which is why I try to be a really good listener, but it really bums me out when the other person isn't playing the same game.

So I have two related questions:

1) Is there something I can do or say in the moment to gently make the conversation a bit more balanced? I feel like these are generally good guys, and I want to give them a chance. And if they knew what a HUGE turn-on it is for me when they're actively engaged and interested in me, I have a feeling they would make an effort.

2) OR is this simply a trait that I should recognize, realize it's sort of a deal-breaker for me, and take it as a sign that this won't be a good fit?
posted by airguitar2 to Human Relations (42 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I vote for option number 2. If they're so intent on proving to you how fabulous/knowledgeable/clever/funny they are, to the extent of excluding you from the conversation, it ain't gunna get any better.

But then again, I'm single. YMMV.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 8:11 PM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Under the circumstances, I feel like I should say, "How interesting. Could you say more?"

Seriously, been there, and two thoughts:

1. Early in the conversation, consider complaining in a light-hearted way to the dude about a friend (or prior date) who wouldn't let you get a word in edgewise. If that signal isn't picked up, more likely you have an issue.

2. I wouldn't conclude anything, or try any dramatic strategy, until the second meeting at least. People are probably so nervous, so eager to make a good impression, that they don't.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:12 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

The best way to get someone to stop talking is to stop talking yourself. Sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but I've found that if I just shut up, watch the person intently, and just wait for them to stop talking, they'll often notice how much they're blabbing and shut up. It's particularly effective if it happens several times in a row: you ask a brief, one-sentence question... and then wait. At the very least, the results can be interesting and even surprising.
posted by koeselitz at 8:14 PM on September 2, 2010 [18 favorites]

Not 1.

Maybe 2, or not. Someone who keeps talking is telling you a lot. What he says and what you pick up can only determine if the person is worth it.
posted by xm at 8:24 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a lot of experience with this. I hate monologuers but I tend to attract them for whatever reason. Probably because I will stop talking and just let them go on and on. But that's a bad strategy because it just encourages them. They expect you to break in, and if you don't, they will continue talking because you haven't given them the signal to stop. They love it but it's unbelievably boring. My advice: Don't be afraid to interrupt them after awhile and don't be afraid to draw the conversation to yourself and talk about yourself. They always say that's a dating don't, but it's something you sometimes have to do to salvage your night out with a monologuer.
posted by amethysts at 8:25 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you giving them second dates? I found that earnest, intelligent, nice young men were often a bit babbly on a first date ... they were nervous and felt awkward and, especially if they liked you, wanted to keep you engaged, so kept up a running stream of consciousness on whatever was in their heads -- which was mostly about themselves. It's not usually nearly as bad on subsequent dates. I think a lot of it is inexperience combined with nerves.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:26 PM on September 2, 2010 [19 favorites]

I'm a little unclear on the problem. Is it that you can't get a word in edgewise, or that these guys begin to seem uninterested in you and just want to talk about themselves?
posted by clockzero at 8:27 PM on September 2, 2010

Clockzero: It's that during the conversation, I suddenly am on the receiving end of a monologue, which is, practically speaking, extremely boring. I'd like to find a way to not be on the receiving end of a monologue. So any tips on how to turn the conversation from a monologue into a dialogue would be great.

And I'm also wondering if monologe-ers are simply at nature that way, and no amount of gentle redirection will cure them of their ills. If so, I'll have to bid them a fond farewell...
posted by airguitar2 at 8:44 PM on September 2, 2010

it really bums me out when the other person isn't playing the same game

Aha. There's a whole chapter about this in Mars & Venus On A Date. To summarize:

A woman will make the mistake of demonstrating her interest by asking a man a lot of questions. As he talks, she continues to listen patiently. She assumes that if she listens with great interest, he will be more interested in her. This is true on Venus, but not true on Mars. The more a man talks, the more interested he becomes in what he is talking about. For a man to become more interested in a woman, she needs to do more of the talking about herself.

On Venus, the way to demonstrate consideration and caring for another person is to ask lots of questions and be careful not to dominate the conversation. When two women get together to talk, one starts out by asking questions and listening with interest. After some time they switch roles. Even if one of the women talks for a long time, the other woman does not mind because she instinctively knows that her friend will giver her the chance to talk. Men do not instinctively understand this ritual. When men have conversations, they don't spend time thinking how to invite the other men into the conversation. The very fact that they are talking to another man is evidence that the other is invited to speak whenever he likes or whenever there is a pause.

John Gray's advice? Just interrupt. Start in with a phrase like "That reminds me of a time when I..." Or try "That's very interesting. I think..." Acknowledging that what a man is saying is interesting before sharing you point of view will make him more interested in what you say. Or "That makes sense. I remember an experience I once had..." Or "Hmm, I would never have thought of that," and then just change the subject.

If he is talking, it's a sign that he's interested in winning you over. If you then interrupt, it allows him to become interested in what you have to say and in you. The more you join in the conversation, the more interested he will become.

If he can use everything you say as a launching pad for talking about himself, you can do the same. Don't worry about being "polite."
posted by thebazilist at 8:52 PM on September 2, 2010 [33 favorites]

I'd say the monologues are more a result of nervousness than anything. Silence on a first date is terrifying! Try to do something to diffuse their nervousness, and they should stop.

Order them more drinks?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:54 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Well, don't give up without at least trying to give them a hint, or a statement if the hint doesn't work!

You'll have to guess a bit - what will work without offending depends on the person, of course (you could consider what kind of person you *hope* he is and go from there). Humor? Try raising your hand. You could say something like "It's all too much to take in! I need a break or I'm afraid I won't be able to give your words the attention they deserve. Can we try changing the topic?"

Or: "Wow, that's pretty interesting. I do hope you're not going to go on and on like the last person I went out with. He may just have been nervous, but he didn't seem interested in me at all and I ended up feeling rather superfluous by the end of the evening."

So, if your date is monologuing, why not interject? What have you got to lose?
posted by amtho at 9:18 PM on September 2, 2010

You might find something of interest in this previous thread.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:23 PM on September 2, 2010

If this is a recurrent problem for you, one inference is that you are doing something to prompt or invite this behavior. And if that is the case - if your conversational style lends itself to the other party speaking at length - then it's entirely possible that it would continue to happen no matter how many hints you dropped.

Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to know how'd you correct this, but at a guess: you style yourself a "great listener", so that leads me to wonder if you would rather sit silent and be in the right, as it were, rather than trying to interrupt and change the tenor of the conversation.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:24 PM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think you should just listen to whatever they are saying and if you have something interesting to say while they are in the midst of a monologue, just do it.

I suddenly am on the receiving end of a monologue, which is, practically speaking, extremely boring.

Are you just going out with boring guys then? If it's really 10 minutes, which I don't believe, then yeah that sucks and it's excessive. Hopefully you can get with someone that doesn't bore you to tears on the first few dates. That's pretty bad since they are probably lying out their best goods at that time.

But back to the launching pad stuff, isn't that just how a lot of conversations go more or less? Someone shares something and then the other person says, "Wow, blah blah" and then tries to relate by telling a life event\sharing knowledge? Rinse, Repeat.
It's an easy way to get conversation going back and forth without playing 20 questions.

I will say that if you're talking and you can tell that they are just waiting for the slightest pause in breath to interrupt instead of listening to you that would be more of a red flag.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:30 PM on September 2, 2010

People are really nervous on the first couple of dates, and that can result in blabber. This seems like a pretty harsh "dealbreaker" to focus on right away.
posted by hermitosis at 9:35 PM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

Jump into the conversation and quit leaving these guys doing the heavy lifting. With a close friend you can have comfortable silences, but on a first date? Being listened at intently causes me to babble to fill the fill the quiet. I would probably consider you passive or uninteresting if you weren't picking up the conversational ball, or even tackling me for it. /Woman from mars.
posted by Iteki at 9:45 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

What thebazilist says is true of all monologuers, regardless of sex. I monologue - my husband knows that I am expecting him to interrupt me.* Nervousness, like when you're on a first date, makes this habit worse. I don't like to monologue (and I'm trying to stop), but it's like biting your nails, sometimes you don't even realise you are doing it.

I'm also not in the habit of asking personal questions, under the mistaken belief that everyone is just like me and if they wish me to know something, they will tell me. I feel like asking questions is prying. But I realise that this is just me, and I'm trying to train myself to ask more questions about other people.

So, yes, I would interrupt them, and take the initiative in the conversation. And give them a second date, to see how less nervousness affects them. But if they continue this way, and you don't like it, there are lots of men who don't do this. (About as many as women who do).

*(Sometimes he doesn't - he just lets me go on and on, and calls it "Radio JB").
posted by jb at 9:46 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I get caught with a person like this, I usually signal that I'm losing interest in the conversation through body language. If you're zoning out and thinking about how you wish they'd shut up, but still nodding and smiling and appearing to be interested, they'll never notice that you're not interested.

Try being a slightly less good listener- look away from them for more than a few seconds, don't make eye contact, don't give the little "Oh wow" and "Mmm hmm" responses, and use slightly negative body language. You don't have to push it into being rude, but generally a few of these signals will cause someone to peter off eventually unless they're really on a tear, drunk, or completely and utterly socially oblivious.

It is being a little rude, I guess, but I see it as a more gentle method than saying something and kinder than letting them fumble the date completely because they're nervous and babbling. If they do peter off, smile, lean forward, and change the subject to something interesting about *you*. If they respond well and let you talk, great! If they nod impatiently and continue talking about themselves... well, maybe there isn't anything you can do.
posted by MadamM at 10:00 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

You know, it's fair for anything to be a deal-breaker. It really is. If this is yours, it's not wrong.

That being said, if you think you could like the guy, why not just give him a little redirection? Let's say you're out with a particularly fetching gentleman who, after some great conversation, has suddenly begun monologuing. Here is what I have done in the past:

Stop giving off 'active listening' signals. Don't go full-on cold-shoulder hostile, this is a guy you think you might like, right? Just remove the active signals like nodding. Then sit quietly and still for a few beats. Think 'relaxed' when you're still, not 'frozen.' Wait long enough to be socially noticeable, but not long enough to be cutting or creepy. It's a fine line--you have to gauge in the moment. The beats of stillness are important, because unless dude is totally out to lunch, most men I know will notice that their date has gone very still and quiet. With people who are nervous talkers, however, this may escalate the talking. It's okay.

Then try to catch his eye and if he makes eye contact, hold his gaze and give him the prettiest, most genuine and slooooowwwest I like you' smile in your entire repertoire. The 'slow' part is crucial. First off, it's an extremely clear 'I like your company' signal. If he's even a bit interested, and you are pulling out all the stops on the smile, it will get his attention and he will almost certainly stop talking immediately. If this is executed properly, while you have his gaze and you're letting the smile fade naturally, you should have a few seconds while he blushes/smiles/re-collects his thoughts/tries not to appear flustered to say something very brief to redirect the conversation.

At this point, if he's a usual nervous talker, you should be free to take the floor. Break the gaze after redirecting, but glance back with another, briefer, version of the same smile, as you take the floor, just so you establish there's no serious offense involved, and you're still having a good time.

If you have a good teasing relationship, you can tease him when you bring the conversation around, otherwise just...bring the conversation back. Don't tease people when giving a social nudge that includes a bit of reproach or 'hey, now, let's change it up,' unless you already have that rapport.

If you can't catch his eye in the first place, touch his arm, leave your hand there until he pauses and looks at you, and say 'Hey.' Then execute smile, etc. If this does not work, I sometimes try once more. After that, just let them get on talking, because why waste your best smiles?

FTR, this is not a one-way rule. Anyone can do it, regardless of the gender. I have been thoroughly charmed by patient dates/partners who used a similar trick to get me back on track.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 10:02 PM on September 2, 2010 [11 favorites]

I'm also wondering if monologe-ers are simply at nature that way, and no amount of gentle redirection will cure them of their ills. If so, I'll have to bid them a fond farewell...

I don't know if it's generalizable, but my now-spouse was eventually able to cultivate a decent amount of control over his nervous verbal diarrhea. Right after the first date I thought to myself, "This guy talks way to goddamn much and is too oblivious to my 'bored now' body language for me to be interested," but on the second and subsequent dates, he demonstrated some fine qualities that revived my interest despite the ongoing monologue problem (pheromones probably contributed to my change of heart too). After we became exclusive, I brought it up gently. He took it well, said he appreciated my honesty, agreed that his habit of going on for 30 minutes at a time needed to be changed, and started implementing cues to himself to ask me a question at shorter and shorter intervals. Seven years on, he still sometimes does monologues with new people, but his conversations with me and people he's comfortable with are normal.

And along the lines of what jb says, I'm now remembering an ex-bf and his sister, both of whom customarily went on and on about themselves, often at the same time...because, I eventually discovered, in their family, if you had something to say about yourself, you jumped into the conversational fray to volunteer it. As loudly as possible, so as to have a chance of being heard. The sister, it turned out, had been wondering why I had said so little about myself! "Why is she holding back so much?" kind of thing.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:15 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't help but wonder if those monologue guys are on some other boards somewhere asking "what am I doing wrong? I keep trying to bring up interesting topics, but she just nods and never says anything".

It takes two, and you can't expect someone you've just met to psychically understand what your rules are without you telling them.
posted by foobario at 10:27 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Men and women have somewhat different conversational etiquette. Men will signal that want to take a turn talking by going "uhm ... uhm ... uhm ..." (as opposed to "hmm-hmm ... uh-huh ..." etc., which signals keep talking). You could try doing this.

Women will simply interject something like "That's interesting. I think / that reminds me ..." when they want to say something. (That's my impression anyway.) Men consider doing that really rude when the other person is still talking (thus the signaling). It's possible you've learned to avoid doing that when you're talking to men because they consider it "interrupting," but you're not doing male-style signaling that you want to take a turn either, the result being he just keeps talking (especially if he's nervous).

I have no idea if this will work, or if that's what the problem is. I'm male, so obviously I have no experience as a woman trying this talking to a guy. It's worth a try though.
posted by nangar at 10:30 PM on September 2, 2010

Are you really so sure that your own monologue would be that interesting to someone else?

You want them to be fascinated and interested, buy maybe you're not showing them how fascinating and interesting you are.
posted by fleacircus at 11:07 PM on September 2, 2010

generally speaking, in conversations (especially with people I don't know too well), I hate being interrupted when speaking, so often times I will wait until the other person has clearly stopped speaking before I myself start.

I have found that with many people (?who seem used to being interrupted?) this means I can spend well over an hour without actually saying anything.
posted by jannw at 11:09 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm also wondering if monologe-ers are simply at nature that way, and no amount of gentle redirection will cure them of their ills. If so, I'll have to bid them a fond farewell...

A guy friend who I see semi-regularly for short periods of time monologued at me for probably the first year or so that I knew him, to the point I thought he might have some sort of issue preventing him from understanding the norms of social interaction. Turns out he was just really nervous. One day he apparently suddenly decided he felt comfortable with me and it was like flipping a switch. Ever since, there has been much more of a dialogue going on when we talk, he asks questions and actually pays attention when I speak rather than nervously launching into another lengthy spiel as soon as I take a breath. He's actually a really nice person and has since become one of my favorite people to talk to.

This would be an extreme case, of course, and if I had been dating him I probably wouldn't have seen him more than a couple of times. But the point is, I don't think that monologuing is a fixed part of his nature... it's just how he deals with being nervous with someone he doesn't know well. *

So if you really think a guy is nice, it might be worth giving it three dates or so. If he hasn't stopped babbling by the third date, he may just be full of himself or clueless.

(*also, as stated above, I do engage in behaviors which encourage people to talk: nodding, smiling, giving brief verbal feedback, and not interrupting ever. So there's probably something to the suggestions to stop giving "listening cues" and being more assertive about grabbing the floor. I'm taking notes on this thread.)
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:10 AM on September 3, 2010

I can't handle those types of people.

The guy could be nervous or he could just love talking about himself. Either way, it's a tough situation.

I've actually never been on a date with that type.
I think I'm good at feeling people out before it's date or friendship time - maybe that's why.
For example, I stay away from dates with salesmen. Not my type. Super extroverted people - not my type. Smooth suave men - not my type.

I have met almost of my exes/dates online as I don't like "surprises". So, if they dominate the emails/IM conversations by talking about themselves - I lose interest and say I have to go somewhere - then I block them.

I'm not sure how you're meeting these types of men - but maybe try and screen them a little better before the actual in-person date?

As for being stuck in that situation in person - I guess I would just say something like, "Yeah, I did that too!" and then see if that leads into, "You have? What happened?" Instead of just nodding your head hoping he will stop.
posted by KogeLiz at 6:08 AM on September 3, 2010

Also, when I find myself talking a lot on the date - it's because the guy isn't saying anything. I do tend to date shy/introverted men, though.

Maybe you are leaving too much "dead silence" or not speaking enough? So he feels he needs to lead the conversation?
posted by KogeLiz at 6:10 AM on September 3, 2010

I love men and I'm a great listener but oh god I am so over these types of men who feel a need to go on and on about themselves. Yes, I've read Men Mars / Women Venus and I've lived through 30 on and off years of dating. And once you get to a certain age this monologuical nature of some men becomes a 15 minute deal-breaker. Who has the energy not to mention inclination during the best-behaviour-introduction to spend time thinking about when to interrupt? And why is it my deal as a woman to play along with the 'male way' of behaviour? Fuck that for fun.

If you're anything, anything at all like me you may like the type of guy who doesn't feel a need to talk about his achievements, not at first anyway, and is instead more interested in yours. If you meet one, hang in there and see what he's about. Until then don't feel bad about having such a clear radar.
posted by Kerasia at 6:18 AM on September 3, 2010

Give the guy a break. He's probably nervous. First date jitters. He probably thinks his job is to impress you.

Help save him from himself. I'd say don't be afraid to be direct but gentle, with a tinge of good-natured teasing.

"Whoa. I think you've overloaded my brain a bit. Can you summarize what you said in 25 words or less?"

"I like you. I do. You're an interesting guy. Now can I have a turn? We have all evening, you know..."

Your non-verbals in the delivery can put him at ease and give him a more or less graceful means of correcting for talking too much. And his reaction to your gentle interruption will tell you a lot about him.
posted by cross_impact at 6:24 AM on September 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

I had this happen to me recently, and I finally interjected with, "So, do you want to hear about my weekend?" and he said "Yes, of course!" and I began to wonder if it was not that he wasn't interested, but that he was waiting for me to interrupt him and so just kept rambling to stave off silence.

Which, in retrospect, seems a little socially retarded. Because, as you have experienced, it begins to seem like his interest in you is as little more than a sounding board, rather than a genuine interest in who-you-are.

So, my advice is to interrupt (he may just be nervous) and launch into your own on-topic diatribe, or barring that, it is okay to acknowledge that you'd rather be with someone who has the confidence and wherewithall to listen and affirm you instead of talking, talking, talking and taking, taking, taking your attention and energy all night long.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 6:34 AM on September 3, 2010

Wow-- fascinating responses. Go Metafilter! I'm realizing also that there are a variety of monologuers. I think there are nervous/jittery guys, there are guys who are just a little socially awkward, and then there are guys who are just, at core, primarily interested in themselves. I do think part of growing up and being an adult is being interested in others, and I guess that's one of the traits I'm looking for in a fellow. (I'm 33, FWIW.)

I'm really not interested in a dynamic in which I have to *interrupt* to be heard; it's exhausting, and I want the person to be interested in me enough to actually ask questions. And yes, I have dated wonderful men in the past who have this quality, so I don't buy the Mars/Venus dichotomy.

I like the "gentle ribbing" ideas a lot more... I'm taking notes on all of them. Raising my hand is genius! And the smile/arm-touch. Any way to signal, "Hey, let's switch talkers!" without being rude would be helpful...

Yes, kerasia, I think I am like you-- I'm pretty modest about my achievements, etc., and yeah, am interested in guys who want to know my thoughts and ideas because they're curious about the world in general-- not just themselves...
posted by airguitar2 at 7:33 AM on September 3, 2010

Speaking as a lifelong monologuer...

I agree completely with those who've said that there's a compulsion to fill silence, and indeed I've spent a number of conversations (and dates) wishing that the other person would shut me up and give me the opportunity to listen, but not everyone is forthcoming or responsive in such situations.

But let me address another part of your initial complaint - "everything I say is simply a launching pad for him to bring up something else about himself."

In my case, this is how I naturally relate to people. I think in terms of analogies and connections, and the way I try to make sure I'm understanding something is by connecting it to my own experience. (And yes, I'm probably doing this right now.) It is entirely possible that his attempt to show you that he really gets what you're talking about, and actively show interest, is unintentionally coming across as narcissism. Just a data point.

(And this is where I agree completely with those above who've recommended the gentle redirect.)
posted by rhymeswithaj at 7:58 AM on September 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Does this happen to you much outside dates? I wonder if it has to do with your conversation style in general.
There are all kinds of ways that people interrupt each other that are not as complicated as counting beats and giving certain smiles and raising hands and touching arms and all that. In general, when the talker is talking they often look away midstream but resume eye contact right when they are ready to hand over the talking role. You 'catch' their eye contact and that gives you the cue to start talking, at which point you will usually take an eye contact break of your own. Looking really eager to catch the eye contact is usually enough to indicate you have something to say, but we also make little mouth motions, tiny sounds, little gestures that indicate something is waiting on the tip of the tongue that we really want to tell our conversation partner. Maybe you need to ask a friend if you're generating too many 'patiently listening' signals, and not enough of the 'impatiently listening because I have something cool that relates to what you just said!' signals. Yes, interrupting midstream is rude, but you need to change something about your style or body language if this is happening to you a lot and the only common denominator with these men is you.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:01 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

This may sound cynical, but why not use the opportunity to play detective? Most of the people I've broken up with-- or just stopped dating-- have told me in those early monologues exactly why I was going to break up with them. Like the one who went on and on about he believed in honesty turned out to be a big honking liar. A character in an Erica Jong novel says: "Right when you first meet them, they'll tell you how it's going to end." Jong has an old-fashioned view of male-female dynamics but I think that comment was very accurate. So, if a date starts saying something that sounds like it could be revealing, try to push forward with that by showing more interest. If they talk about their ex or their mother, ask some "why" questions. If they talk about model railroads, that's a little tougher, but just pretend you're Jessica Fletcher; you'll find out something.

As far as how to interrupt: jump in like what they said got you so excited to ask a question that you just can't help it. "Wait a minute-- I have to ask..." Don't sound impatient, just really, really curious.
posted by BibiRose at 8:02 AM on September 3, 2010

"I'm realizing also that there are a variety of monologuers. I think there are nervous/jittery guys, there are guys who are just a little socially awkward, and then there are guys who are just, at core, primarily interested in themselves."

I think this is very true, and I think the nervous and socially awkward deserve a second date to try to get over the awkward. I think part of the key is developing good radar for the guys who are just self-involved and ONLY want to talk about themselves.

Possibly differentiater -- when you do get a word in edgewise to say "I'm a big reader," does the guy enthusiastically say, "I love books too! In fact, the best book I read this year was ..." or does he say, "Books? I'm more of a jetskiing man myself. This one time, when I was jetskiing ..." If he's bouncing off your interjections to take the conversation in that direction, I think that's nerves (or cluelessness of a charming sort); if he tries to discard your interjections as fast as possible to get back to what interests HIM, that's a douche signal.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:05 AM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I hate to say it - I'm sure you're a lovely person! - but your conversation style is actually terribly passive-aggressive.

The gentle ribbing techniques might seem like a great plan to you because they feel more comfortable than wading into a conversation without invitation, but a word of warning: they're incredibly rude. If someone asked me a question, listened to my answer, then disengaged from the conversation (that's what you're doing; your silence is what is prompting them to run on about themselves), and then raised their hand as if they weren't allowed to get a word in edge-wise - that would be our first and last date. And I would suddenly become very tired and be just about ready to call it an evening.

As someone who interviews for a living, I'll assure you that the only normal, polite way to get someone to stop speaking is to start speaking yourself. You don't have to interrupt - and to equate the two is to make a grave oversimplification. You follow the cadence of the other person's speech, and as it slows (and I assure you it will, even with a monologuer), you begin speaking. If you'd rather they start to control the conversation, do not ask another question, but merely make a statement or observation.

Many people HATE the forced back-and-forth. "What is my favorite color? My favorite color is blue! What is YOUR favorite color?" That's unnatural. And most people assume that, if someone has broached a subject, that they will then be willing to share their own thoughts on the subject without requiring a subsequent obvious re-prompt... or that they have an idea where they would like to take the conversation. I feel like Anne Sullivan when someone asks me a question and then just sits there doe-eyed while I prattle on giving my answer, eventually trail off into silence, and have to start them up again with an awkward... "....and yoooou?" But I accept it as a fact of first dates. You're building a base of knowledge about the other person upon which you will build subsequent conversations. And that's just an awkward phase no matter how good a conversationalist you are.
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:24 AM on September 3, 2010 [9 favorites]

I had a question a little while ago, about the opposite problem.

I'll say that coming up with questions constantly can be mentally exhausting for me, possibly as exhausting as it would be for you to have to interrupt.

When you say, "I try to be a really good listener," what exactly do you figure that means?
posted by RobotHero at 9:43 AM on September 3, 2010

Interesting. Just this week I had a (first and only) date with this one woman (I am a straight man, early 30s, she was 39, just in case that means anything to anyone) and I had the exact same experience, she was the one monologuing and I was the one sort of patiently listening. I don't know if she was just nervous or what—I mean, I think we were probably both nervous, but I didn't feel the need to talk and talk. It was very frustrating to me.

I don't know if it was just about her though. I think that I couldn't figure out how to interject properly, and I've sort of trained myself at this point in my life not to talk too much and to shut up and listen, because I've felt in the past that I've been too much of a talker. But, more to the point...

I hate to say it - I'm sure you're a lovely person! - but your conversation style is actually terribly passive-aggressive.

greekphilosophy, I don't know, is it really that? I mean, I feel like on a date it's really, in the end, about finding (or not finding) a natural way of interacting with someone. While I don't dismiss the possibility that there are people who, at first I may not be able to interact with but then later I can develop a natural style with, I also know that with some women I just "hit it off," a.k.a. I have chemistry with them, a.k.a. we seem to interact very naturally: we find the places in the conversation that feel right to interject, we find it easy to make jokes and laugh at each others', etc.

I guess my answer to the OP's question is, it may be a deal-breaker if only because it takes some effort to get past this kind of awkwardness, and if you are not willing to then maybe there is a good reason you are not willing to. As I said, I know with some people at first I've had awkward interactions and then eventually figured out how to really click with them. But it's not necessarily true for everyone—I think you have to take it on a case-by-case basis.

And I should add, to respond to some of the stuff folks have said above, it's definitely not about men vs. women. Women are just as capable of this sort of behavior.
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 10:42 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with greekphilisophy! I think, generalization ahead, that most men would prefer to have a David Mamet overlapping conversation with someone who's engaged and involved, than a patient listener who just sits there, letting the words flow through her. (And me, too, and I'm a woman.)

First date jitters aside, I know that I find myself rambling when the other person isn't responding. The empty air on a first date isn't the companionable silence that comes from long familiarity.

So, I'd say--jump in! Even if the guy says--Wait, I'm not done", you can probably charm him out of that, right?
posted by Ideefixe at 11:52 AM on September 3, 2010

I experienced this same thing on a "date" with a friend from high school I hadn't seen in 15 years. Things were going well initially -- normal flow of conversation, but then he just kept talking about himself. After a while, he realized he was yammering on and stopped to ask me what was going on in my life. I started to talk about me, but he cut me off and continued talking about himself.

And for me, this happened a previous time with another old friend from high school, but this time on the phone. He ended the "conversation" by saying that next time I'd get to talk about what was going on in my life.

I think it's just that these two individuals were very self-absorbed and really had no interest in what I had to say. On the other hand, perhaps these guys were always around other outspoken people and perhaps were used to talking and being interrupted.

Perhaps, too, they were simply reliving their role in my life from high school (where I rarely talked at all), and thinking that I had not changed at all.

I was reassured that it wasn't just me because I've met with other friends and had lots of give and take. And comfortable silences.
posted by indigo4963 at 1:18 PM on September 3, 2010

Don't give up just on the first date. As posted before, a first date can be nerve recking..
I found that being a good listener helps you know the person better, don't be turn off just because of that, give it a second try!
posted by Cheirinhos at 3:20 PM on September 3, 2010

hey all,
ok, i think i may have inadvertently painted myself as some sort of passive listener. when i say "good listener," i mean actively engaged and interested in what the other person is saying, and ready to jump in with a related idea or comment as soon as feels natural. when the other person creates no breaks to jump in, or when i relate an idea or thought, and the other person immediately redirects the conversation back to himself, this is supremely uncool.

i'm actually an extremely extroverted person, and have lots to say. but my enthusiasm for sharing my thoughts begins to wane when i *begin suspect the other person isn't all that interested.* it takes two to make a conversation lively. i'm also polite, and i'm just not going to walk all over someone else while they're talking.

the more i think about it, the more i realize that this is just something that's really important to me-- being able to have a natural back-and-forth in which both people are interested enough in the other to stop talking once in a while and ask questions. and being with someone who gets this.

so yes, a few dates is probably enough time to tell if this is jitters or congenital narcissism.

and daters of metafilter, let this be a lesson! don't monopolize conversations. it is wayyyyy unsexy. :)
posted by airguitar2 at 12:21 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

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