You’re out and about. You see a guy you’re interested in. You get his attention with welcoming body language. He approaches. Introductions occur. There’s a nervous, excited vibe between the two of you.
But what follows is just… nothing. Silence. Because neither of you seems to know what to say. How to start. How to draw the other person out.
Eventually you break the silence. Ask what he does. And he answers. With a single sentence. Followed by more silence.
So you ask if he likes his job. His answer: “Yes. It’s good work and I like it.” And then nothing.
Your brain races as you desperately grasp for things to say. Frustration sets in. Desperation. Embarrassment. Maybe even annoyance.
You blame yourself for not doing better. Or him for not trying harder. And it’s not long before one of you is looking for an exit.
The result: a missed connection. And probably more anxiety the next time a guy approaches. Because you do not want to go through that again.
We expect conversations to have a natural flow. A comfortable back and forth. To be smooth. Almost effortless.
When that happens, it’s like magic. Like you’re dancing with each other. Like you know the right moves without even having to ask.
Unfortunately, most initial interactions are not like this. There are stops and starts. Wrong steps as you feel each other out.
Especially if the goal is a romantic connection.
Because it makes both of you feel a bit anxious. So you’re more focused on not saying the wrong thing.
Which makes the conversation awkward. Stilted. And that can lead to one or both of you giving up and walking off.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Most people think that the secret to keeping a conversation going is to talk. But that’s not true. What you should do instead is get him talking.
You do this by using the principle of inspiration and invitation. And I’m going to show you how.
I’m going to start by illustrating these two principles in basic terms. To help you understand the core idea behind them. Then I’ll show you how to use them in a more advanced way.
Let’s start with Inspiration. This means saying something that inspires the other person to speak.
For the sake of contrast, let me first show you an example of dialogue that lacks inspiration:
GUY: Seen any good movies lately?
And now here’s one using inspiration:
GUY: Seen any good movies lately?
YOU: Yes, I really enjoyed the new Ghostbusters.
The difference is simple. In the second example you are giving him something specific to react to.
So never stop at “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” Take it a step further by getting specific with your responses. Getting specific generates “inspiration” for your listener. It makes it easier for him to know what to say next. It “inspires” a follow up comment.
The next principle is Invitation. This is more direct and literal. It’s where you make a direct request for the guy to respond.
Here’s a simple example without invitation:
GUY: Hey, how’s it going?
And one using invitation:
GUY: Hey, how’s it going?
YOU: Fine. How are you?
Yep, that’s right. Invitation is just finding a way to literally ask a question or tell him it’s his turn.
Okay, so let’s take it up a notch!
Those examples were pretty basic. It’s likely you’re more sophisticated as a conversationalist. So how can you improve your skills with these two principles?
Here are a few more advanced samples of ways you can put the principles to work:
|What You Say…||Could Inspire Him to Say…||Why It Works|
|“This place is fine. But it’s not my favorite.”||Where do you like to go?
What don’t you like about it?
Really? I love it! It’s got the best…
|Your statement shares your opinion, which can encourage him to share his. It also leaves questions open about why you hold that opinion in the first place.|
|“I work in marketing. For now, at least.”||What kind of work do you want to do?
Are you thinking about switching careers?
I’ve been thinking about a career switch myself.
|Your statement shares both information about who you are – and begs questions about where you want to go.|
|“I’m waiting on my martini. I was feeling like keeping it classy.”||Well, it’s certainly working for you. Maybe I should keep it classy with a martini, too.
I’m not sure I’ve ever had a martini. Mind if I try and take a sip?
|You shared both the drink you chose and why you choose that drink. This reveals something about your motivation, which encourages him to be open and honest too. And it allows him to express interest in your drink choice.|
|What You Say…||Could Invite Him to Say…||Why It Works|
|“I’m an accountant. What do you do?”||Me too! What a small world!
I’m actually a dancer. Not one you usually hear, right?
I just went back to school for my master’s.
|You don’t stop on sharing what you do. You ask a question to draw information out of him.|
|“I’m not a fan of the rain, but I love snow. What’s your favorite type of weather?”||Rain! Really, you like snow better? Don’t you love how rain…
I love fall. Crisp air, falling leaves, the smells…
|Comments on the weather generally fall flat. But by asking an open-ended question after your comment, you can learn more about him.|
|“Vonnegut’s more my style. Who else do you like?”||Love Vonnegut. I really wanted to like Faulkner, but he’s just so dense.
Depends on my mood. For pleasure reading, most of the time I default to sci-fi, fantasy, or horror.
|When you touch on a common interest, keep it going. Inviting more of that conversation can mean a deeper connection.|
Now, you may still have trouble drawing him out. And the conversation could continue to have awkward pauses.
But now you have two valuable tools. Tools that can help to alleviate the problem. And if you continue to use them, you’re more likely to hit on something that interests him.
Which is ultimately the goal. Because that will make him more invested in the conversation. He’ll loosen up and become more willing to show you glimpses of his real self.
Accomplish that, and he’s far more likely to enjoy himself. All because you were able to keep him talking.
So when you hit a wall, remember those two things. Inspire. Invite.