Dating After 50: Make Sure You’re A Good Listener - dummies

Dating After 50: Make Sure You’re A Good Listener

By Pepper Schwartz

Here’s an important tip for having a successful date when you’re over the age of 50: make sure you are a good listener to your date. Here are the top five elements of effective listening:

  • Steady, focused eye contact

  • Smiles and facial expressions that show you’ve understood and that you’re attentive

  • Questions asking for more information

  • Allowing breaks in conversation so that you don’t jump in just because there’s a pause in your date’s comments

  • A compliment about what has been said to show your appreciation of something that struck you as interesting, clever, or moving

These aren’t optional. To be a good listener, you must follow each of these points. Otherwise, your date will feel unheard and unappreciated. Furthermore, these instructions help you avoid the worst thing you can do: bore your date to distraction. The most boring conversation is a conversation where only one person talks.

If you’re nervous, you may be prone to fill up any white space with conversation because you don’t want any awkward silences. Your motives are good, but the outcome is bad. How prone are you to talking too much? Here’s a set of indicators; if you answer affirmatively to anything on this list, you may need to work hard not to dominate all the air space.

  • When I’m nervous I tend to talk more.

  • I feel responsible for keeping the conversation lively. If there’s too long a pause, it makes me uncomfortable.

  • When the conversation lags, I’m likely to jump in, often with some anecdote about myself.

  • I think I’m pretty entertaining. I often keep the conversation going in my group of friends.

  • I often end up telling a lot about myself, but I don’t hear as much about the other person.

To become a better listener, think of questions you want to ask ahead of time. If your date is in marketing and you’re not sure what that is, ask her what kind of training and education she had that gave her the skills she needed.

Or, if your date works for a community organization, ask what kinds of projects or campaigns she’s worked on. Here are some other listening and general conversation guidelines:

  • Restrain yourself from jumping in on a topic of your own as soon as your date stops talking. You don’t want to sound like the only reason you asked a question was to get your turn to speak!

  • Restrain yourself from giving long-winded answers or lectures. Answer briefly and see whether your date asks you a follow-up question on the same topic. If she asks you a follow-up question but on a different topic, chances are she’d like to change the subject.

  • When your date tells you something interesting, go deeper. Ask a follow-up question that shows you understand and want to know more.

    For example, if your date mentions that her classrooms are overcrowded, making her teaching job difficult, ask her what she does to compensate for those conditions or whether there’s any effective movement going on to change the situation. Here’s a sample exchange when a person asks his date why she became a police officer:

    • “Because I wanted to help communities be safe and because everyone in my family was in that field.”

    • “But weren’t you worried about the dangers?”

    • “Things happen, but no, I was never afraid.”

    • “Is that because no one in your family or squad was ever hurt or because you’ve never been roughed up or shot at — or have you just always been brave?”

Here’s what happened in this short exchange: The person closely tracks what his date says, digging deeper to know more. She can see that he’s really interested and wants to know her better. Then, he gives her a compliment (intimating that she must be brave) that’s appropriate to the conversation.

Don’t dominate the conversation, but don’t be passive, either. If your date is dominating the conversation, help him out by turning the conversation toward something you think he may be interested in. It’s too much effort to be the only one who’s talking. If he feels like he’s the only person putting out any energy, he’s going to be bored or annoyed.