Show me the "real" you.
June 22, 2006 7:42 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite subtle questions to ask, while in the early stages of dating, that'll help reveal some insight into the real personality of your potential S.O.?

Ok, so you've met for the initial cup of coffee and that went well. Maybe you've been out a time or two since then. The conversations are past the point of "Oh, you like that too? Yes, I do. Wow, that's cool" and now you'd like to dig a little deeper, while at the same time not making them feel like they're under a microscope or being interviewed. You want to start finding out about the little, yet oh-so-important nuances of who they really are. Tell me, clever ones of Ask Metafilter, what kinds of questions do you ask?
posted by peewee to Human Relations (50 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I don't bother. After it takes its natural course, you'll know, and before that point it's too easy to posture and elide that I'd rather not play junior detective .. I just enjoy the person and take mental notes naturally. Sufficed to say, I believe that instinct is key.
posted by kcm at 7:48 PM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I say don't bother. Why do you need to know right away anyway?
posted by delmoi at 7:54 PM on June 22, 2006

As per scarabic in this thread

"Is it more important in a relationship to be loved or understood?"

Which I haven't used yet but I plan to on a coffee thing I have next week.

I think you learn a lot about a person based on very general questions that lend themselves to exploration and self-reflection like that.

It's better than "beatles or stones" anyway...

Alternately, "whats your favorite kind of apple and why" is a favorite.
posted by softlord at 7:54 PM on June 22, 2006

I always like to randomly ask them if they like croutons, as the great Space Ghost once asked Donny Osmond.
posted by kindall at 7:59 PM on June 22, 2006

I like to ask, "The Simpsons or Friends?"
posted by shokod at 8:05 PM on June 22, 2006

Ask them to tell you stories about their family, relations with parents and siblings, etc. That can tell you a lot about a person.
posted by extrabox at 8:05 PM on June 22, 2006 [4 favorites]

Do these pants make my ass look too big?

If a hot lesbian couple got you drunk and wanted to do you, would you cheat on me?

Do you do anal?

Do I smell OK?
posted by Meatbomb at 8:06 PM on June 22, 2006

Oh, and I forgot:

What's this stuck in my beard? Could you pull it out?
posted by Meatbomb at 8:08 PM on June 22, 2006

Books and music. Sounds prosaic, I know, but if books and music (and film, for that matter) matter to you, then typically it bodes well if s/he can speak intelligently about such things. Generally speaking "and why" is a good thing to append to any question, anyway -- anyone can "like cats" or "really love U2," but the why is always the interesting -- and telling -- part.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:09 PM on June 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

I try to avoid being too subtle, otherwise you never get a straightfoward answer. For example, my first/second date with my now boyfriend-of-three-years included the throwing-around of our values regarding religion, family, education and career goals and sex. I was overjoyed to meet someone as frank and straightforward as I felt myself to be. He said he was relieved that I brought it all up within the first two dates.

Otherwise, just sleep over. The morning after sharing a bed is, well, telling.
posted by sian at 8:12 PM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ever been to an orgy?
posted by justgary at 8:18 PM on June 22, 2006

Response by poster: Meatbomb- I enjoyed your great answers, but at the same time realized that I ought to mention for the sake of clarification that I'm a 30 year old straight male, looking for something serious and real. Thanks for the chuckle!
posted by peewee at 8:20 PM on June 22, 2006

"Do you know how to use chopsticks?"
posted by Soliloquy at 8:31 PM on June 22, 2006

Best answer: From bitter experience, find out VERY early if they voted for Bush.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:59 PM on June 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

"flight or invisibility?"
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:59 PM on June 22, 2006

Ninjas or pirates.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:09 PM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Speaking as a bit of a Myers-Briggs hobbyist, it can be interesting & potentially useful to try to work out somebody's M-B type. It shouldn't take much internet reading to learn out how to do this, and the questions (or observations) can be subtle & unintrusive.

Take it all with a grain of salt, but also recognise that it can shed light on things that otherwise might take a while to notice - eg that a highly "J" person (who loves lists, schedules, plans, timetables etc) and a highly "P" person (spontaneous, go-with-the-flow) are likely to have problems in a relationship.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:10 PM on June 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

I prefer to use my intuition. I don't have a set of questions designed to capture the hidden essence of that person's personality. I just have a normal back-and-forth with the person. If I like her personality, if I think she has a decent sense of humor, if I find her physically attractive, and if my gut feeling says "Yes," I ask her for a second date.

Trust your instincts.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:16 PM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you had to lose one, would you rather lose your hearing or your sight? Why?
posted by patr1ck at 9:24 PM on June 22, 2006

Greedo or Han?
posted by gsteff at 9:36 PM on June 22, 2006

It's been my experience that you can rely on your sense of smell more than you can trust an answer to a question. Answers are fungible and change with the seasons. If this person smells good and you can do things that have interest to you both you will be blessed.
posted by ptm at 10:00 PM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

I always like to randomly ask them if they like croutons, as the great Space Ghost once asked Donny Osmond.

I like croutons.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:38 PM on June 22, 2006

Innie or outie?
posted by Mr. Six at 10:41 PM on June 22, 2006

ps - put me in with the instinct crowd, overall.

All those "x or y" questions leave me feeling flat. Not only do they reveal bugger-all, they also reek of LiveJournalism. (Sorry, guys)

Do the questions really need to be that subtle? It all sounds a bit Secret Squirrel to me, or maybe like parlour games. Why not just simple, direct questions that show an interest in the person? Remember that most people's favourite topic of conversation is themself.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:41 PM on June 22, 2006

wouldn't asking them questions (no matter how subtley; after all, a question is a question) be very interview-esque? and isn't that not the point of a date? i mean, interviews aren't very intimate or romantic...
posted by alon at 10:45 PM on June 22, 2006

Best answer: Most important questions to me: Are you religious? Do you want kids?

If we're in strong disagreement on either of these issues, we can't have a future together -- no matter how great you are otherwise.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:46 PM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

"Legs shaved?"
posted by whatnot at 11:01 PM on June 22, 2006

Marx Brothers or Stooges?

Stooges, of course, being acceptable if she's thinking of the band.
posted by sourwookie at 12:46 AM on June 23, 2006

What are your favorite books? If they light up telling me about books that have meant a lot to them, this is worth many points in my personal scoring system. (Granting that said books are not... well, completely lame).

And I'd want to see their bookshelves to assess quantity, quality, and variety.

If the answer is "I don't really read books" then I know I don't need to waste my time with this person.
posted by beth at 2:39 AM on June 23, 2006 [2 favorites]

"Do you like it better with your face in the pillow, or laying on your back?"

I kid--that question usually comes a little after the 'date' portion of the evening. I'm in the instinct camp here. Sure, there are things I like to know about a person, but I don't have a set list. If you have to ask specific canned questions, it's not going to be a natural and free-flowing conversation--and that, to me, is what's going to tell you whether there's any point in a second date or not.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:17 AM on June 23, 2006

Best answer: Disagree with beth. People can be taught to read, and taught what to read...

In every relationship, I'm interested in accountability for outcomes...

Are you responsible for the way your life has turned out? What are the results of this accountability?
posted by ewkpates at 3:52 AM on June 23, 2006 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Ah, I developed a sort of philosophy of dating that involved questions and observations and most importantly listening. (This, after making some horrid mistakes in relationships, primarily because I saw only what I needed to see in a person, and made up the rest.)

Four major component parts:

1) How does the person (man, in my case) use the language? Words are important; they mean things. If someone I chatted with pre-meeting used internet typing shortcuts, I didn't automatically cull them from the herd, but I went on notice. Grammar and spelling are indicators of how much an adult cares about presenting themselves to the world. It matters to me, so I paid attention to that. Get him talking about books, movies, or courses he's taken that were particularly interesting. Actively listen to how thoughts and ideas are expressed. Is he a lazy thinker? Or, can he make lively and interesting conversation on a variety of subjects? Which subjects make him come alive?

2) How does the person seem to relate to the significant people in his life? This means friends, family, coworkers. If, when asked about his work, he complains about his stupid boss or that idiot woman who sits next to him, my ears perk up. If he has an ex or exes (at my age, a man better have at least one ex... I wouldn't date anyone who hadn't at least tried to sustain a committed relationship) how does he speak about her / them? Is there friction? Animosity? Has peace been made? I didn’t want to walk into a festering cesspool of après divorce creepiness. Life is too short. How much time does he spend with his offspring? Could I get a sense of the quality of his parenting? How often does he spend time with his family? Ask about brothers, sisters, family reunions. Have him share a story from his childhood, and then grow the conversation from there. Oh, keep an eye on how someone treats the incidental people in their lives… the waiters, salespeople, taxi drivers, et al. Watch for signs of impatience and rudeness.

3) What does he do to feed his soul? By this I mean what activities or pursuits fill his non-working hours? Does he read? Write? Watch network TV? Hike? Bike? Go to movies? Paint? Watch NASCAR or get up at 3 am to watch the start of an F1 race in Monte Carlo? How a person replenishes the critical part of themselves that makes them alive as a human being is really key. If you hate NASCAR, you’ll want to know this little gem right away.

4) Does he dance? Or, at least make an attempt to dance? If a man is comfortable enough in his own skin to get out in front of strangers, hold me close and move rhythmically, it tells me a lot about how he feels about himself. Even if he thinks he's the world's biggest klutz on the dance floor, his willingness to at least try is meaningful.

There are more points to this philosophy, but these four things were great starting points. It helped me to narrow down my dating choices to men who were compatible on some key issues. I'm now madly in love, and living with
1) an avid reader and writer…
2) who has an ex-wife that I get along with fabulously and a 15 year old daughter who he adores and is an absolute joy…
3) who spends his free time reviewing mystery books and writing his own…
4) and, dances with me in the moonlight.

Also, a big yes to what CunningLinguist said: From bitter experience, find out VERY early if they voted for Bush.
posted by Corky at 4:03 AM on June 23, 2006 [18 favorites]

Best answer: I guess I'm in the instinct camp. But with a caveat, people will tell you who they are, immediately. Listen for it. Listen for the new person on the job who comes in late and says "I'm such a flake, I never do anything right" (They're telling you they have low expectations of themselves, and they expect to continue aiming low. This will not be the last time they are late). Listen to the boy at a college get together who meets you, tells you his name and says, I am an asshole, I hate women. Also see the people who open doors for strangers without expecting the door to be held for them, the strangers who say "bless you" to a person who sneezes, and the men (or women) who maintain strong friendships with their childhood or college friends.
posted by bilabial at 4:09 AM on June 23, 2006 [6 favorites]

Finding out whether they talk during a film is extremely important to me during the screening phase.

Also, "What would you do if you never had to work again?"; "Where would you go to live if you had to permanently leave the country?"; "What's your favorite season/landscape/word?".
posted by xanthippe at 4:16 AM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm firmly in the instinct camp here - figuring out these pithy questions to ask for your psychological profiling project seems so... awful.
posted by sluggo at 4:37 AM on June 23, 2006

I've always thought the way a person got along with their family was important and tended to provide clues about the way they'd end up getting alng ith a potential mate. It's relatively subtle to just ask, "So what's your family like?" or something and you at least begin to get a sense of it.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:37 AM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Speaking as a bit of a Myers-Briggs hobbyist, it can be interesting & potentially useful to try to work out somebody's M-B type.

After nearly a decade together, my girlfriend and I happened to take a Myers-Brigg test and found that we were exactly the same type (ISTJ). Not that compatibility requires identical types, but it sure proves to be the case for us.
posted by intermod at 5:37 AM on June 23, 2006

"Is it more important in a relationship to be loved or understood?"

No, no, he's got it all wrong. "Is it better to be loved or feared?" Machiovelli? sexy.
posted by bleary at 5:47 AM on June 23, 2006

Best answer: And I'd want to see their bookshelves to assess quantity, quality, and variety.

See, I'd fail at this miserably. Not everyone can afford to buy every book they want to read. If I did that, I'd own a few branches of the St. Louis Public Library.

Take her to Borders and see what sections she browses.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:49 AM on June 23, 2006 [3 favorites]

If you want to know something, ask questions, be blunt. If I even had a hint that someone was trying to test me like that, I'd deliberately skew the results and then play the game backwards. Then I'd say goodbye. I don't have time for coniving, dishonest assholes who don't have the courage to just ask a question.
posted by doctor_negative at 6:01 AM on June 23, 2006

The best way to avoid sounding creepy is to put the soul-searching burden on yourself. Don't ask questions, tell stories. Volunteer a story about yourself ("oh, man, so this one time...") that reveals something important about YOU, or about what you like and want. Anything from "I voted for Kerry" to "books are very important to me" to "I have an unspeakable sexual deviance". Or whatever. If she's being open with you, she'll react in a meaningful, telling way.

And a favorite questions is, simply, "What are you thinking?" It fills the awkward silences with productive dialogue.
posted by miagaille at 6:36 AM on June 23, 2006 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Relationship questions are good. I like to know how they feel about their exes. Does he complain that they're all bitter hags or does he still get along with them? Usually I can swing a reasonable question about his last relationship and how it ended (kind of a "so, what brings you to singlehood?" kind of deal). I eliminate a lot of controlling, jealous people quickly with that one.
posted by stefanie at 7:05 AM on June 23, 2006 [2 favorites]

I find the most telling is what is said repeatedly, whether it's something as simple as "I drink way too much coffee", or a value like "spending time with people" or "I've got so many projects to finish that matter so much". It shows how a person talks to (or about) themself. There's usually little clues as to what they're really trying to say by what they're repeating (it's seldom exactly what the words say).

I drink too much coffee, can turn out to be...I have an erratic sleep schedule, or I need to eat better, or this is my nervous twitch. (Ok, for me it's possibly all three).
posted by ejaned8 at 7:57 AM on June 23, 2006 [5 favorites]

You can discern a great deal about a person by the way they treat their waiter.

Also, I always find out if they can pronounce "nuclear" correctly.
posted by shifafa at 9:11 AM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I like to ask, "The Simpsons or Friends?"

This one sounds good to me.

Alternatively, Deadwood or The OC?
posted by synecdoche at 9:37 AM on June 23, 2006

Best answer: Following up on what Corky said:

Probably the best way to see the "real you" is to see "you" in a less specialized situation than one-on-one dating. In other words, if I am out on date with you, you are (presumably) on your best behavior and trying (anyway) to edit how you are coming across.

But if I am with you in another sort of situation, say, a party with a lot of people, or some kind of participatory volunteer event (say, manning a table at a charity 10K), or even just having a meal with a few friends and family -- well, then your attention is shifted away from your exclusive fascination with me and I can observe how you treat people you are not hoping to hook as your next husband. (Or, to put it a more delicate way, people you are not obsessed with boning.)

Does he insist on running the activity, or is he more of a cooperative type, or is he a follower? When something goes wrong, how does he react? Does he get angry? Does he stay angry? Does he get discouraged, or does he (as the saying goes) look upon the problem as an opportunity?

Basically any kind of activity that involves interaction with other people, really. Is he polite to the busboy in the restaurant, for example? Does he lose his temper when the taxi driver makes a wrong turn? When a cell phone rings during the movie, how long does he grumble under his breath? (Or does he stand up and yell, "Turn that damn thing off, asshole!") These situations provide clues into How Well He Plays with Others.
posted by La Cieca at 11:12 AM on June 23, 2006 [7 favorites]

Scale of 1-10 are you an optimist or a pessimisit?
Do you spend more time thinking about the past, present or future?
What's the scariest thing you ever voluntarily did?
Do you believe in God? Why?
posted by Four Flavors at 11:18 AM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think instinct is a great answer for people with good instinct, but such a person probably wouldn't be interested in this question and many people have bad instincts. I also suspect that women in our society, in general, have more at stake in the early relationship, so there's a good reason why they should be wary.

That being said, I'm a firm believer in the Waiter Litmus Test that a couple other posters alluded to. Generalized: How does this person treat people who they will never see again?
posted by Skwirl at 3:29 PM on June 23, 2006

Best answer: I like to ask, "The Simpsons or Friends?"

This one sounds good to me.

Alternatively, Deadwood or The OC?

How about, "television, or not so much?"
posted by kindall at 4:46 PM on June 23, 2006

Arrested Development or Everybody Loves Raymond?
Twin Peaks or Scary Movie?
bible or metaphysics?
what is the capital of England? (you'd be surprised)
posted by uni verse at 6:32 PM on June 23, 2006

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