Never Run Out Of Things To Talk About

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Normally on Wednesdays, I run your questions for Ask Dr. NerdLove and try to help you all out with your relationship issues. Sometimes, however, I get a letter that’s a perfect segue into a topic I’ve been meaning to cover for a while. Today’s writer, frequent commentator Ancom brings up a common set of problems that I hear about with great regularity from my readers: how you avoid running out of things to talk about with someone you’ve just met and – importantly – how to transition from “great conversation” to “getting the number” and  “asking them out on a date”.

Ancom provides some specific examples of what hasn’t been working, as well as an example of some of the game he’s been spinning, so we’re going to be taking this in more of a Post Mortem style than the usual Ask Dr. NerdLove’s.

Strap in folks, it’s gonna be a long one.

Hey Doc,

I recently found your site and I’m impressed by your tendency to cut to the chase. Let’s hope you can help me with something I’ve tried to resolve on numerous PUA sites prior to coming here, because I have a very big problem that I’d really appreciate some input on.

First off, I’m 28 and I’ve never really had a problem landing a relationship or a ONS. I have a pretty great job in addition to having a good life and taking good care of myself, so I always manage to bump into women who can sort of “sense” this from the way I carry myself, and they tend to be willing to meet me without me having to do all too much work.

For future reference: starting off a letter like this generally makes it sound like you’re trying to brag – and then when you get into your problem, it calls this part into question.

However, when it comes to actively carrying a conversation with women, I’m completely unable to do it regardless of the sitaution. It’s really frustrating for me because I feel like I’m missing out on an important part of life that everyone else seem to have no problem with, and it’s preventing me from hooking up with people I’m interested in.

Well, not to put too fine a point on it but… you are. If you’re going to be putting yourself out in the dating market, whether you’re looking to get laid that night or if you’re looking for something long-term, you need to be able to talk to women. I can’t over-emphasize the power of conversation as a tool for building attraction; it’s part of how we find commonalities with one another and how we bond on an intellectual and emotional level. There’s a lot to be said for pure physical attraction, but even the studliest of Studly GoodNights can only get so far before they have to open their damn mouths.

I’ve looked all over the web for a solution and feel like I’ve tried every suggestion in the book, but they all seem to have major flaws.

For example:

1) I’ve tried talking to women like I’d talk to a friend or any other person, but the social dynamics between two strangers are too different from the social dynamics between two friends, and I find that despite being friendly, inviting and making non-threatening casual observations, I never really get a reaction from women beside a courteous laughter or yet another question (which leaves me back at square one of having to keep talking). With a friend you’re just talking about boring day-to-day stuff. It’s not something you’d want to tell a stranger.

First of all: non-threatening casual observations? I’m going to presume that you mean “observations that aren’t of a pointedly sexual nature for fear of making the person I’m talking to uncomfortable” rather than “That’s a nice dress! I bet the material would absorb a LOT of blood if I were to stab you later.” It’s good to make a point of avoiding coming across as “creepy” by accident, but you’re making a classic mistake here.

You seem to assume that the social dynamics of the situation are binary: either you’re talking to a friend – in which case must stick to strictly boring, platonic topics – or you’re talking to someone whom you want to bone and therefore have license to flirt. Now, I don’t know about you, but my friends and I talk about a lot more than just boring “here’s what I did today” stuff. We swap stories, we bullshit, we commiserate about bad days, annoying co-workers, joke around, make plans, discuss philosophical ideas (which may look like geeking out about movies and comics, but I assure you carries weighty metaphorical subtext… weighty, I say!). Occasionally we talk about serious matters: relationship concerns, plans for the future, things we’re worried about. It’s almost never boring unless we need to talk about a boring topic; we wouldn’t be friends if we bored each other after all.

What this sounds like to me is that when you’re talking to a woman “like she’s a friend” is that you’re not expressing interest or flirting; you’re keeping it strictly to small talk, which is profoundly unsexy. If this is someone who might be interested in you, she’s going to be wondering why you’re not giving her anything to work with – it’s hard to figure out whether a guy likes you or not when he’s only talking about the weather or his job.

Second: If she’s asking you questions, that’s generally a good sign that she’s interested in what you have to say.  This is your opportunity to tell some stories to let this person know who you are and why she should want to get to know you. This is where you get to brag a little, in an amusing and charming fashion. You want to show off that you’re a cool person with a lot going on in his life and she would be crazy if she didn’t want to be a part of it.

"Wow, I had no idea library science could be that interesting! And did I mention I *love* tweed?"

2) I’ve tried using canned stories mixed with some questions and casual talk. This works to some extent, but that only gets me so far. How am I going to make that last for 3-6 hours?!

When you say “canned stories”, I’m assuming that you mean stories you’ve told enough times that you could tell them in your sleep, rather than using pre-generated routines that you’ve picked up from PUA sites. While there is some value to the canned routines that some PUA schools advocate – mostly in learning the rhythms and mechanics of a good story and how to hit certain emotional switches- trying to use somebody else’s material is usually a substitute for having a personality and lifestyle that women find attractive.

The way you make this last three to six hours is by being interesting to talk to. How do you do that?

Well, to start with, be interested in what she has to say. This means being an active listener; you need to do more than make the “uh huh” noises, you need to be asking questions and paraphrasing what she said in your own words to make sure you caught everything. You use what she says as a springboard to other topics, either through a transitionary phrase like “you know, that’s like this one time I…” or “So if you did X, have you ever done Y?” You can also ask open-ended questions like “So what are you passionate about?”

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