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Boring date? How to make the most of it….or escape gracefully

image of boring conversation from Wall Street Journal

Image courtesy of Wall Street Journal

This morning, I did my normal things---fed Luna, got my coffee fix and read the WSJ online.  An article entitled “How to Be a Conversation Killer When the Chitchat Gets Boring”   grabbed me.

Thanks, Elizabeth Bernstein.  (I like her writing and follow her).

We need to take a lesson from rats.  (more later on this)

All right, since my dating life is pretty much an open book, I thought back on an online date with a doctor.  Bob* and I had lunch on our first (and only) date.  After the first 10 minutes, I wanted to flee.

Not that he was bad-looking.  Or poorly groomed.  Or chewed with his mouth open.  Because he started talking non-stop.  There was no pause where I could interject. (Disclaimer: while a dating coach/expert for 30 years, I’d been married for 24 years and this was in my first week of dating again---yes, I had a bit of angst!)

Hmmm. I could feign an emergency.  A heart attack?  Nope, he’s a doctor.  Then, I thought of the effort I’d already put in---45 minutes to blow out my hair.  Choosing a cute outfit.  Putting makeup on. (a rarity) Shoes. Jewelry.   Time investment: 90 minutes plus 10 minutes’ drive time.

Ok, I’m staying.  Plus, I was hungry.   So, I decided to be a super good listener, an active listener.  He was an expert on skin care (yep, plastic surgery is his jam) and I began looking at this hour as a free consult.  Wow, was he informative.  If, and when, I decide to go that route or the injection route, I have some useful info.  And no, he didn’t ask a single question about me.

So, you are there…and you want to be a gracious person, right?  Not a doormat, but kind, pleasant.

So, here’s some tips:

1.       Don’t run off in 15 minutes

Yes, our time is valuable, just as your dates’ time is too.  But give them 45-60 minutes.   (Unless something offensive occurs, then you can walk away immediately).  It’s just polite and who knows? You might learn something.   Kara, 57, a client in Washington DC was describing this exact scenario---a boring date, nothing in common.  But, at the end of the lunch, he mentioned a think tank happy hour on Friday and would she be interested in joining him as a friend?  Reward:  she met the man she’s been dating for 5 months at this event. 

2.      Change the subject

Easy.  They are rambling about the Red Sox.  You “that’s interesting.  So, what would you like to know about me”?   Done.

3.      Be kind

Someone who is excessively talking on a date might have a reason.   I’m using the WSJ example I read this morning:  A woman was sitting on a flight when the man next to her struck up a conversation when all she wanted to do was get back to her work emails.  At the end of the flight, he said to her “Thank you, this was wonderful.  I haven’t enjoyed a conversation like this since my wife recently passed away”.     Yep, you never know what another person might be going through.

4.       It’s OK to flee

So how do you do this gracefully?  Give the 3-minute warning.    “I’m afraid I have to go in the next few minutes, but I’d love to hear the end of your story before I do”.  Classy. 

5.      Be an interested listener instead of an active talker

What a bygone art. I’m watching a “Gentleman in Moscow” mini-series right now. (Read the book too).  He personifies this point.  So, listen.  Ask good questions.  You might learn something new and get the Final Jeopardy clue correct!

6.      68% of people want the conversation over in 10 minutes

Huh?  This is where the rats come in.  When they were put in a maze, they typically just hang out.  But then when they get a trigger (like heating up the floor or a shock to their feet) they quickly discover how to get the heck out of there.  It’s called “escape conditioning”.   So, you need a trigger---an interesting topic generally will fix the boredom.

7.      It takes a lot of mental effort to stay engaged when we are bored.

I know this firsthand from running It’s Just Lunch because once it got big (110 locations worldwide), there were a lot of meetings.  UGH.  (Some of you ask me why I started when I didn’t need to work---well, here’s part of it---I love the client contact and when they meet someone and am not cut out for corporate life which IJL was quickly becoming).  So, I employed the yawn.  Loudly.  Then another yawn.  Our senior VP Nancy (my best friend) would try not to crack up.  Soon the room was yawning.  Meeting over.

So, first dates and corporate meetings shouldn’t last more than 40 minutes.  

Oh, one last thought---I like this first-date trend.  Get coffee and take a walk. No sitting at a trndy coffe house or a packed Starbucks.   Walk and talk.  We all have more energy when we are not sedentary.  And it’s fun.  Gotta get those 10,000 steps in.

Happy dating all.  If it’s not happy dating, maybe it time for a chat with me.  Click Here.  It’s 15-minutes and we can see if we are a good fit.  If not, I’m happy to point you in the right direction.




*not his real name


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