Does the thought of conversing on a first date make your heart pound with fear? Are you afraid that you’ll get so tongue-tied you won’t know what to say? Rest assured that there is a powerful tool that can help you ease into a meaningful conversation with your date – the open-ended question.
Questions are the key that cause the secret door of the psyche to swing open. – Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
People love to talk about themselves if the right environment is set up for them. Remember, this is an opportunity to glean as much information to determine if you would be remotely interested in dating this person again.
An open-ended question is designed to encourage a full, meaningful answer so that you get an idea about your date’s feelings, attitude, likes and behaviors. Unlike closed questions that can be answered with a single word answer, using open-ended questions enables you to get to know your date on a deeper level. Open-ended questions typically begin with words such as:
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- Tell me about…
Examples of closed and open-ended questions
- Do you like what you do for a living?
- Do you like to travel?
- I see from your dating profile that you have two children.
- Tell me a little about your line of work.
- What was one of your favorite trips?
- You have two children like I do. How do you feel about being a parent?
The power of active listening
Once you have asked open-ended questions sit back and become an active listener. Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others. It focuses attention on the speaker. You suspend your own frame of reference and fully hear what the other person is saying. Active listening means fully engaging with the speaker. You are not waiting for the other person to hurry up and finish what they are saying so you can talk. You should listen 75% of the date and speak about yourself 25% of the time.
In most instances, active listening consists of a few deceptively simple techniques:
- Offering encouragement by nodding or saying “uh-huh” or “I see”
- Restating the basic ideas, using terms such as “If I understand you correctly, …” or “So what you’re saying is …”
- Reflecting on the feelings that your date is trying to convey: “Seems like that bothered you a lot …”
While most people think they are good listeners, in reality they are really just good hearers – they hear the words and make the appropriate faces, but they aren’t really listening with all their senses to what is being said. If you truly are actively listening, you can use their responses to help you formulate other questions. Taking this step promotes meaningful dialogue
Tap into your date’s interests
If you have pulled their profile off one of the internet dating sites then you know some of their interests and can simply ask them to tell you a little bit more about their interests. Let’s say it was golf. You could simply say, “When I read your profile, I noticed that you like to play golf, what made you take it up as a hobby?”
Share information about yourself
You can also use the method of disclosure in which you reveal some information about yourself as a lead-in to questions. For example, you could say. “I’m at a point in my career where I want to be and I’m ready to develop some hobbies. How about you?”
So, as you can see, the open-ended question is a great dating tool that can help you uncover the overall essence of your date. From there, you can make the decision if a second date is in the cards. Instead of dreading a first date, you can feel empowered knowing you have the ability to orchestrate a meaningful conversation that showcases your date’s personality.
This article was written by Melinda P. Neisser, MS, PLC. Melinda is a life coach for women and owner of Path Seekers Life Coaching. She attended the Institute of Life Coach Training and holds a B.S.W in Social Work and M.S. in Human Resource Management.
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