Let’s talk about conversation

Sometime this past week I was trawling OKC for potential dates (Amy Webb agrees with me about how you gotta reach out first, but that’s a whole other post heh), and a new chap had popped up. He had a 90% match*, was 28, and seemed quite interesting. Little-bit bleeding heart–lots about cycling and NGOs and so on, but that’s hardly a bad thing. So I opened with a casual invitation to chat, and he responded with ‘why not’.

excellent
so what brings you to okc?

And then I got this rather obnoxious response.

Certainly not the desire to get interviewed.

So I told him he could keep his attitude and moved on.

There are two things here that I find strange. One the virulence of the reply, and two the interpretation he placed on a conversation opener. What did he expect? I would say ok. And then? How does a conversation move without any questions? Now I know I ask a lot of questions and I even laughingly tell guys they can take over the interrogation at any point, but I really am curious to know how all these whiny guys think conversation works. Do you have some ephemeral osmotic mind connection? You just know what subjects to talk about? Are you only interesting in holding forth about yourself without finding out anything about the other person? Is your life so secret and special that it’s a violation of privacy and government contract to tell someone about it?

The thing is, if guys would actually engage with me, I wouldn’t need to ask questions. I know I’ve cribbed about this before, and it led to an email conversation with a commenter,  who told me that when he goes on arranged-wala dates he gets freaked out because why do you need to know how much I make? That is fair enough. But my questions are more along the lines of what do you do, where did you grow up, what do you read, what’s fun for you–all very casual surface questions that will hopefully unearth something that will lead us away into a conversation. I suppose I could go with how do you feel about AAP, but I can’t help but think that rabid political debate is more like second date stuff heh.

I’ve sat at dates where I’ve only gotten monosyllabic answers, where the guy never asked me anything. And I’m exhausted at the end of the hour because I have been talking constantly, and I have no desire to spend any more time with this tiresome and frankly boring person. It really makes me wonder why someone is on a date or how they can think they are showing interest in a person. Asking questions is not an insult–it’s a compliment. If I ask you something it means I want to know you more–how is that a bad thing on a first date (or in a first email)?

 

*I really miss OKC’s friend %. It was always a far more accurate predictor of whether I was going to like someone than the match percentage. That is because I’m convinced OKC give far more weightage to hypothetical sexual questions than other ones in the match section, but these are irrelevant to the friend equation.

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46 thoughts on “Let’s talk about conversation

  1. Now this is an excellent post. I really can relate to all of his. You are absolutely right girl….

    One very good thing about you (now this is only about me) that is that you are a morning person and I get to read all your mails right in the morning along with my morning chai….wonderful…keep it up…cheers…have a rocking day ahead

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha yes! i love being up in the mornings. and most people don’t get it. and thanks, if you think i’m right remember to ask questions the next time you meet someone in any context =D

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      • :)
        I have a very curious mind. One should always ask all the questions till he/ she is satisfied. I am a sucker for intelligent conversations. But sadly this technology is killing all this old world charm. I hope you are getting me on this

        My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company – Jane Austen

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  2. That kind of response and behavior in general just seems utterly odd to me. If you’re meeting someone via OkC, the person is presumably a complete stranger except for the information in the profile, so why would you NOT ask questions? And not expect questions? I’ve been on first dates where there was a lot of good, free-flowing conversation, but that invariably arose from initial questions, and there were certainly additional questions interspersed throughout the conversation. And, as you say, questions show interest and, hopefully, engagement. How/why would that be a bad thing?

    * I definitely think the Friend % info was very handy to have and added significantly to the whole Match % thing, which seems much more arbitrary.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wonder if he knew about the blog and was not happy about the project. I can’t figure out why he would have such a strong response to a very standard question.

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  4. Someone who works for an NGO that I presume helps people and has this attitude? That’s really sad! Do you think he may have known about your blog?

    I ask some questions on dates, basic ones really. Occupation, Schooling, Friendships etc. Most times conversation will flow if I am asked questions rather than ask them myself. I haven’t figured out why. I’m mostly blank and there will be more than one awkward pause during the date. Women in general seem to have better memory. They can relate interesting anecdotes from the day, the last week, or any period in time. Even if I racked my brains I wouldn’t recall a thing. May be it’s just how my brain is wired. I see how things behave to natural stimuli and react to them. I wouldn’t throw input (ask questions), observe output and theorize.

    Or may be it’s deeply seated in how men-to-men relationships work – based on (as Seinfeld puts it) nothing. There’s no premise, only circumstance and a natural course of discovery. Women-to-women relationships involves a lot more conversation and exchange of ideas, perhaps?

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    • Well, I would like to raise my objection here. There is nothing like man to man relationship dynamics. It changes form person to person. We can’t generalise these things. Can we?

      Sienfeld is absolutely wrong here

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      • Oh I dunno. There are trends in willing to say are true up to 80% of the time. But I try to be open to surprises. Like a guy quoting Austen :D

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  5. :) Well, I don’t read Jane Austen. I am more of a history kind of guy
    But that quote came from one of my friend. I just happen to remember it and to use it here :)

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  6. Interesting. Coz this was the very reason I gave up and disabled my OKC account entirely. The conversation kinda sucked and then well the deceit factor very high (most men married and separated but claiming to be “single”). Also I find that even when a few of them respond to questions, they don’t take the conversation forward to the next ping/chat. It’s like they are hesitant to be first to initiate the chat even after having chatted before. Know what I mean?

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  7. (Unsurprisingly) I call shenanigans on the “men talk like this” and “women talk like that” theory. That is way too heavily mediated by context and upbringing (not familial but cultural) to generalize based on gender. Toss in acculturation regarding how to communicate with a member of the opposite sex, shifts between verbal language and written/digital language, ideas about what contact via a dating site entails, etc. and it gets way, way more complex than simply gender. Are there trends? Possibly, but even our readings of those trends will be based on prior assumptions, personal experience, and our own contexts.

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    • Uff excessive subjectivism. I will argue here that I’m talking about men of a certain class raised in India. And that group I can make generalizations about, with provision for exceptions

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    • Don’t her comments re. questions and other strategies apply also to conversations in general, though? I didn’t read the post as “men talk like this” and “women talk like that” really–beyond the fact that yes, she’s looking to date only men on Okc, so those are the conversations she’s privy to mostly. I’ve faced similar issues even when connecting with women, online or off. (And ok fine, I’ll confine my comments to Indian middle class women of a certain age-bracket–they hold true regardless.)

      And yes all of this is contextual, esp. given the tricky dating waters in India and differing expectations therein (50Dates keeps pointing out how much people misunderstand her use of the verb “date”). I think though that one of the biggest factors may hinge on different communication styles and person’s level of comfort with the written word–you’ve also pointed this out above. I’m a chatterbox, and excessively verbal in the ways I communicate, but most people I encounter don’t fall in that category, and then online conversation especially becomes a pain. You can’t drive a conversation forward without questions, but it’s also so much more. Adda is an art-form, as far as I’m concerned. Perhaps Bengalis just have an edge there? :P

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      • Agreed, NK (you saw that coming). My comment about the shenanigans was not in response to the post, actually, but to voxgn’s comment about men-to-men and women-to-women communication.
        And I totally thought about the Bengali adda thing. I’ve personally never been much for the adda, substantially preferring one-on-one communication, but I’m pretty sure being born and raised around lots of very good and fluid conversationalists has been quite handy in teaching me how to talk comfortably to people of varied backgrounds, genders, classes, sexualities, nationalities, etc.

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      • Hoy, one-on-one communication *definitely* qualifies as adda also! It’s a particular type of (usually) agenda-less wide-ranging creative conversation I think, and that is entirely possible between 2 people.

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      • insert joke about faffing your day away instead of working… hee. but seriously though, i totes agree NK about it being a general conversational problem with people. i go to parties and people rant about god how can you ask someone what they do it’s nt what defines them. annoying. i mean what can you ask a total stranger? how do you know person who is throwing party? what if it’s not at a party? eyeroll.

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      • @ Shil’s “you’re likely a better Bengali” comment: Eeeeeeesh. Mawron!

        @50Dates: Faffing away my days instead of working—I think you’ve summed up my life there, woman. Sooo perceptive.

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      • The bit about knowing Bongs biblically (which is precisely what I thought you’d meant) made me think about a follow-up blog concept. Come to the USA and do someone from each state, calling it 50States!

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      • The 50States idea sounds similar to an India-wide one my friends and I had planned once: A Horizontal Guide to India :D

        Another project idea: Bongland, or Fapping Away the Days.

        (Ok, ok, I’m leaving!)

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      • 50Dates, the Horizontal Guide was supposed to be a collaborative project if you know what I mean. Heee. Less work, more fun all around!

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      • hahaha shil #whattodo
        NK but then you'[re compromising the value of your data. horizontal guides are subjective, you can’t compare if you don’t have the same criteria across the board! =D

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  8. My guess – being the snob that he is – the guy expected you’d start with acknowledging and appreciating all that he put on his profile page. When that didn’t happen and you actually put him in a situation where he had to answer, it created an imbalance in the way he views himself and that manifested in to that silly retort.

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  9. People are sometimes awkward. And they let it become your fault. Don’t let them. Anyone who is too paranoid for conversation should not be on a dating app. Isn’t that way dating is, first and foremost – a conversation?

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