It’s go time, folks. You’re in a coffee shop facing the actual human you’ve got a coffee date with. It’s a golden opportunity to make a doozy of an impression and maybe even a supporter for life. So… how do you do it?
Captain Obvious says: make it about them
Most expert types (including me) go on and on about the importance of listening, of focusing on the other person, of not talking too much and ESPECIALLY not too much about yourself. That’s all correct.
You want to pay attention to the other person like it’s your ever-lovin’ JOB. I have had several actual jobs (high end server, community fundraiser, hotel salesperson) where it actually was my job. I’m here to tell you it works.
If you want a bit more meat on the bones of this advice, check out this great video from radio host Celeste Headlee about using interview skills to have great conversations. My favourite line is when she skewers all that advice you’ve heard about “active listening” by saying,
Ha! So true! She’s brilliant.
Shocker: I’m a narcissist and it works
HOWEVER, I have to be real about this. As much as I believe in the importance of listening and focusing on the other person, I often screw it up myself. When I’m in a one-on-one conversation with someone, I try really hard to listen, draw them out, and focus on them. But half the time, I end up on a rant about something that’s got my goat at that moment.
Guess what, though? It doesn’t seem to do me any harm. In fact, over the years, I’ve noticed it actually seems to make some people like me more. WTF is up with that?
Here’s my theory: how is anyone supposed to get to know you if all you ever talk about is them? You gotta give ’em a little something to let them know what YOU are all about; if you’re their jam, or if you’re even interesting enough to bother with.
When you get personal (within reason – it’s not a therapy session), or when you go off on a rant about something that you really care about, you’re serving up a little peek into your soul, your values, your real personality. That’s gold, people!
So yeah, pay attention to the other person. But don’t be afraid to take your turn, too. For a really good connection, you’re going to need a bit of both.
Balance, amirite? Comes back to that every time.
The kiss of death, though, is if you do all the talking and you don’t talk about anything interesting. The textbook example would be a salesperson who doesn’t let the other person get a word in edgewise and only talks about their product. Without even finding out if they could use that product:
Salesperson: “Blah blah blah furnace cleaning blah blah blah residential ductwork blah blah.”
Victim: “I’m a renter, I don’t even have any of that stuff. Leave me alone”.
OR – someone who talks about the other person a lot, but in a really condescending way, like they’ve got the other person all figured out:
“I can tell you’re the kind of person who cares about their appearance. What you should do is…”
That’s insufferable. Pretty please with sprinkles on top, DO NOT be that guy.
Can you guess what makes those two examples AWFUL? Trick question, it’s a couple of things:
- no vulnerability – they’re not revealing anything, not risking anything. The irony, of course, is that they’re actually risking the whole relationship and revealing that they’re no fun to be around, but they don’t get that
- no concern for the other person – they might as well wear a hat that say, “I am here for me, screw you”. They are not thinking about what it feels like to have coffee with them, they are thinking about what they want out of this coffee. The H-E-double-hockey-sticks with that, no one wants to have coffee (let alone a long term connection) with that guy
That’s the point, really, isn’t it?
You want the other person to go away feeling like you understand them a little, they understand you a little, and you’re a person they’d like to have in their lives.
Whether you talk a lot or they do, whether you drink tea or kombucha, whether you nod your head or laugh out loud or whatever, that’s what you should give a d**n about.
Work on drawing them out a little, let a little of your inner awesomeness show a little, and you should be fine. You are just two humans, trying to make a connection as humans have done since the dawn of time. Keep that in mind, and you’ll do great.