D5X: Extreme Dating Fitness for Christian Men, Part 2: Conversation
Nota Bene: this is Part 2 of a 5-part series that I have, inspired by Tony Horton, decided to call D5X: The Extreme Dating Fitness Program for Christian Men. If followed to the letter, it is a program that will get your relationship muscles trained and ripped in just five days. (Hopefully, your most important muscle—your heart—will not get ripped. If it does, there is no money-back guarantee. But Jesus will be there for you.)
I’m writing primarily to Christian men who are young, single, and in college. Oh, and ones that generally don’t want to be considered socially inept, creepers, or cowards.
If you haven’t yet read my previous post, “Debunking the Ministry vs. Matrimony Myth,” you might want to do that now. You will find it in the September archives. Among other things, it explains the biblical and philosophical rational for pursuing marriage and why I—a 37 year old single man with a receding hairline and odd appreciation for Nicholas Sparks books—have a right to speak to this issue. If, however, you don’t think I do, then go read one of the million books on how to raise godly kids by couples whose kids are still toddlers. Or just start a blog and write your own posts attacking my ideas, which will inevitably drive traffic to my site. And if that happens, my friend: checkmate.
Ready to move ahead? Okay! Let’s decide. Commit. And succeed together!
In general, I am opposed to any sort of strenuous physical exertion—such as exercise—but there is one skill-demanding, energy-consuming sport that I love: water skiing. I don’t know why, but I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I successfully balance the skis, steady my body, and pull myself up onto the water. The first time I water skied, it turned out I was a natural: I pulled myself up on the first try. But the moment I tried something a little more difficult—such as skiing across the wake and staying up—I wiped out. It’s one thing to pull yourself onto the water; it’s another thing to stay up and learn to navigate the waves.
Making eye contact is like pulling yourself up onto the water, but to really stay up and enjoy the waves, you’ve got to learn, once you’ve said hello and introduced yourself (two skills I didn’t think needed to be taught), how to sustain a conversation with a woman.
Here are three important tips for how to do that:
First, ask open-ended questions that show interest, but not intrusiveness. To begin with, if you really want the conversation to go somewhere, don’t ask yes-or-no questions. If you want to discover her favorite music, books, or movies, don’t ask “do you like the song Thriller?” or “did you ever read Everyone Poops?” or “have you seen the movie Iron Eagle IX?” Instead, give her a little dash of self-revelation and then invite an extended conversation by sailing an open-ended question her direction. Something like this: “I really love polka music. Especially Frankie Yankovic. What kind of music do you like?”
But remember: think of her personality as a glass of wine she’s letting you sip, not a keg of (root) beer she’s allowing you to chug. Don’t ask too much of her. In general, shy away from questions like, “what’s the most emotionally traumatizing thing that’s ever happened to you?” Or “how would you assess your overall body image?” As a first-conversation-rule-of-thumb, questions likely to incite weeping should be avoided.
There are, however, exceptions to every rule—especially if the question is addressed to women in general, rather than the woman in particular. Before I started dating Kasia, I had a three-hour-long conversation with a woman that began with the question, “what do you think is the most unmet emotional need of women?” (That wasn’t a pickup line, by the way. The whole thing remained purely platonic.)
Second, respond to what she’s saying, but don’t interrupt. In order to include this point in my post, I had to bind and gag my girlfriend, who—at the beginning of our relationship—I interrupted more times than she could count. I tried to explain to her that I wasn’t really interrupting her, but rather graciously and enthusiastically inserting high quality sentence-by-sentence commentary and color analysis into the conversation. But to no available. I finally stopped talking over her so much once she implemented the policy of He Interrupts/She Erupts. (Just kidding.)
In all seriousness, while we men may be eager to share our answers to our own questions, we really do—most of us—need to learn to just shut up and listen. It shows we genuinely want to hear what she has to say.
Then again, my girlfriend lived in North Dakota for a couple years and she said that she would say something to the men there—and there was always a five-to-ten second delay in their response. It drove her crazy. Almost as if they were silently counting, “One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand…” I don’t know. Somewhere between quick-draw conversationalists and tortoise-speed talkers, there’s got to be a happy medium. Find it.
Finally, know how to combine small talk with deep thoughts—and lighten up the serious moments with a little comic relief. If you think about the movies that are popular and keep our attention, they tend to feature a wide variety of scenes. Even really serious movies almost always give audiences a break from the intensity with one or two lighter scenes or moments of comic relief. And funny movies are often punctuated with moments of depth or seriousness, made all the more poignant because they are rare. If you can swing it, try to vary the emotional complexion of the conversation—this makes for interesting and engaging conversation.
Ask her a light-hearted question to get to know her better: “What was it like growing up in England?” Respond with a tidbit of personal information—and, if you can, throw in some humor: “I’m fluent in English.” Probe her thoughts a little deeper: “what do you think of the whole constitutional monarchy thing?” And then show her that you connect with her in some way—that you are empathetic: “Man, didn’t it suck when Princess Di died?”
Ahem. Which brings me to my next point: if you can’t pull this off, don’t try. Just keep it simple.
Stay comfortably within your own style. Be yourself. As my mom says, “you can’t do the wrong thing with the right person.”
Up next: screwing up your courage and securing a date