The Private Man

Attraction and dating information for all men

Reader Email – A Question About Conversational Skills

Chris writes:

Brief question: how do you salvage a beta-ized conversation? I’ll realize I’m getting stuck in one (talking too much, demonstrating too much eagerness, humor attempts misfiring, etc.), but when I try to steer it back on course I end up digging in deeper. Seems like the ideal thing would be to cut it off ASAP, but that leaves a pretty sour taste (even if I could cloak it in an aura of mystery). Any tips for making a clean recovery?

This is an excellent question and is near and dear to my formally (mostly) beta-chump heart. In the ebb and flow of a good conversation, it’s quite easy to fall into old habits. I feel Chris’s pain, I do.

A couple of points to be made here to help a man avoid this situation to begin with: First, if verbal Charisma doesn’t come naturally yet, then easy on the alcohol if it’s around. Booze can too easily lubricate a man’s verbal output to the point of stupidity. Don’t ask me how I know.

Second, curb your enthusiasm. Respond with fewer words, ask lots of questions. Women love love love talking about themselves and their feelings. It’s just what they do. Use that to make for a more mutually rewarding conversation ‘twixt you two. Also, a taciturn approach maintains mystery.

But Chris has a more challenging situation at hand. He’s lost control of the conversation and has prudently seen his own mistake. Kudos to Chris. The solution lies in the bounce. Just like bouncing venues, a conversation can be bounced.

“I don’t want to talk about that anymore. So what do you feel about [insert completely different and safe topic here]?”

This transfers the conversation away from the guy and onto the woman. Note the very important use of the verb “feel”. This puts the discussion into a safe realm for the woman and she will likely not notice the sudden shift because she’s now in her conversational comfort zone. She’ll wax forever about her feelings and while doing so, the man can re-frame and wait for an opener to deliver a playful tease.

For general conversational skills, practice is vital. Small talk and chit-chat don’t come naturally for a great many guys. Men are goal oriented, not social comfort oriented as are women. It is important to practice the conversation bounce. Small talk is the realm of the feminine and for men, it can be treacherous ground.

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5 thoughts on “Reader Email – A Question About Conversational Skills

  1. The Art of Manliness has an excellent series on conversational narcissism. I prefer to keep questions to a minimum since they often stilt the conversation with direct, dry, to-the-point answers. Instead, let observations and statements be the brunt of your conversationalmseeding. Even if they are totally incorrect, they’re great fodder for flowing conversation. Once flow is established, a direct question can be inserted occasionaly without being stilting.

    • This is interesting because I do believe at some point in the conversation a man must make observations and statements. That conversational tactic shows confidence. Chris’s question is relevant to how he sinks into beta-style conversation and is looking for a way out. The question about how a woman feels about something is a good conversational bounce.

      The real challenge is to be conversationally aware as the conversation is progressing. I suspect that men are not good at that and women excel at that.

  2. Sabina on said:

    I agree with most of this. I would feel slightly hurt & turned off if a guy I barely knew said “I don’t want to talk about this anymore”. It sounds overly sensitive or easily offended.

    The most attractive first date conversations (& those men have had long term success with me) have been when: he leans back in his seat and I “surveys” me, asks questions calmly & then makes an observation (calmly & thoughtfully) based on my answer. I cannot read any attraction cues like this & my interest if attracted, increases.

    This is in contrast to the many first dates when the guy leans forward, excitedly asks many questions, makes expansive movements, and talks nonstop.

  3. Thanks for kind words over at HUS. Plus I’m tearing it up overseas; one of the Plankton bloggers just asked me “whose blog site is this anyway?” (Movie II)

  4. Just experienced this myself. It’s a weak point. Was on a day date Monday. I had her laughing a lot but the mistakes I make are to veer off into the mundane or too beta – ordinary things, or to elaborate too much. I need to talk less.

    I’m great at making idle chit-chat with about anyone, women included, but put me in a date situation and I go a little full retard. I am good at comfort generating talk but totally suck at attraction generating conversation.

    It’s not that I was nervous, it’s just that aloof, a-holish things to say don’t spring readily to mind. I feel like a frigging actor on audition that has lost his lines sometimes. Ghey.

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