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Asian dating: Do you really know how to have a conversation?

After reading the title you may have thought 'what is she on about, of course I know how to have a conversation, I'm an adult not a child and I'm a successful professional who converses all day long...' And whilst this may all be true, when it comes to Asian dating & relationships, some people really do forget the art of good conversation.

The other night I received a text message from a friend of mine:

"Help, I don’t know how to get this guy of the phone!!!"

I responded back with:

"What do you mean?"

To cut a long story short, a family member had given her number to a single guy to call her and see if they got along and wanted to go on a date. The only problem was that this guy (in his late 30s) clearly didn't know how to have a conversation. Every time my friend interjected with an opinion, he would interrupt and say "yes that’s great, now where was I..." this went on for 40 minutes before she finally plucked up the courage to say, "sorry it’s late, I need to go now and I will speak to you soon". She remarked that he actually went silent for the first time during the whole conversation. It was probably through shock as he thought that the conversation was riveting. By the end of the phone call, she knew his life history and what he had for dinner that night. Conversely, he knew absolutely nothing about her apart from her name and what she did for a living. Needless to say, she will not be going on a date with him.

The truth of the matter is that it is never easy making a phone call to someone that you have never met. Within the Asian dating world, often guys do have it harder than women. Your family gives you a woman's number to call and the onus is on you to make the first point of contact. As a guy you also feel a degree of pressure to ensure that you drive the conversation and avoid any awkward silences. However, in the case of my friend above, she was trying to engage in a two-way conversation, so he did not need to compensate for her lack of input. Arguably, when you get nervous sometimes you can ramble on but surely if someone is offering to take the 'pressure of' so to speak, why wouldn't you jump at the chance and let them have their say? Another friend had a similar but face-to-face experience. In his own words:

"She just jabbered away for an hour, I tried to interject a few times to contribute to the conversation but didn’t have much luck. In fact, she actually frowned when I tried to talk and just carried on her with her babbling. I daydreamed for a bit then clocked the exits and pretended to receive a phone call. I went outside and phoned a friend to arrange a drink, made my excuses to her and ran for the hills".

Arrogance is one of the most commonly cited turn-offs amongst both men and women who I have interviewed for Tantric Club's personal matchmaking service. It's not surprising, as it is also one of the biggest conversation killers. Another friend of mine, went on a dinner date with a successful professional. Whilst the conversation was interesting, she felt that he did not make much of an effort to ask her questions, or comment on her opinions. In terms of the conversation, he spoke 70% of the time and she spoke 30% of the time. Coming across as confident with an air of arrogance and having a lot to say may fly in your professional life but can work against you in your dating life. A conversation about me, me and me, whilst it may be interesting to you, it’ll get boring for the other person. Eventually, if a person has to keep interrupting another to say something, subconsciously they will feel that the other person is not interested, or does not deem what they have to say as important. Consequently, they withdraw and disengage. The irony is that the person hijacking the conversation may interpret this as the other person being a good listener, when in fact that person is sat there with a poker face, mentally putting their weekly shopping list together. Cheque please!

On the flip side there are people who do find it challenging to sustain a conversation on a date. Perhaps it’s nerves, a lack of confidence, or dating experience. As a result they give monosyllabic answers, offer the shortest answer possible or say something stupid that they do not mean to and come across as unintelligent, when clearly they’re not. Another friend recently went on a coffee date with a successful city professional. Within 30 minutes she decided to end the date. In her own words:

"It was really hard to have a conversation with him. He just kept giving me one word answers although I was asking open-ended questions. If it wasn’t for me rabbiting on, we would have just spent half an hour staring at one another. Just to give you an example, he asked me how my week had been and I went into a little detail about work and then onto how I had spent my personal time. When I asked him, how his week had been, his answer was ‘long & busy’. No details, which is fine but he didn’t even bother to follow with another question. He just sat there waiting for me to say something..."

Perhaps the worst culprit is the bad listener. Synonymous with the person who enjoys the sound of their own voice, it’s probably one of the most insulting experiences to have someone repeatedly ask you the same questions again and again, or forget key information because they didn’t bother to listen to you in the first place. "So Ketan, are you going on holiday this year?" "Actually my name’s Chetan and I’ve just remembered, I forgot to let my cat out..." Ok it’s a slight exaggeration but you get the drift.

So when it comes to dating, how good a conversationalist are you? Did any of the above resonate with you? They key for men & women alike, is to strike a balance between talking, listening, engaging by asking questions and being genuinely interested. If you know that you have a tendency to have a ‘louder voice’ or are a bad listener with a low attention span, become mindful of this when you ‘re on a date and try to make an extra effort. If on the other hand you struggle with conversation on a date, plan conversation points before your date. For example, read up on the latest current affairs, films, music, sporting events and so on. This will help you to feel more confident and fill any gaps in the conversation, should they arise. Looking at the bigger picture, the purpose of a date is to find out what you have in common with someone and whether you connect enough to warrant a second date. But the reality is that you’re not going to get a true insight, unless you have a balanced two-way conversation...

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