On most of my first dates, the men talk all about themselves and barely ask any questions about me. What’s going on? Don’t they want to get to know me? – Gwen
So many women have this experience! In fact, it’s the most common complaint I get from my dating clients. Let’s take a closer look at four reasons why he may be talking all about himself and not asking about you, on the spot assessments to figure out why the conversation is one-sided and some ways to decide if it’s worth seeing him again.
1. He is Relying on Male Bonding Behaviors: Men often connect and learn about each other through shared activities, not shared vulnerabilities. They typically exchange stories more than feelings and are more comfortable supplying practical help over emotional support. Of course, some men are fluent with feelings and skillful at reading your cues. But they often relate to women initially in the well-worn conversational grooves they’ve developed with other men, and in the ways that come most easily.
How to Assess:
Assuming that you can get a word in edgewise, show you’re willing to share, while modeling the communication you want. For example, let’s say you’re ordering food at a Thai restaurant. You remember when you discovered you love Thai food, and that it was a special time in your life. You could say something like,
“I love this soup. I remember the first time I tasted it was at the start of college. I couldn’t believe all the flavors exploding all at once. Wow! I didn’t know flavors could be that complex. It was a great start to all the changes college sparked in me.“
You’ve then left the door wide open for him to be curious about you. And you’ve primed him to touch on his feelings and deeper stories. When he’s talking, keep in mind that by asking “how” and “why” follow up questions, you will invite more sharing about his inner life.
2. His Empathy Is Gender Blind: Men can miss the mark by drawing on their experience about what makes for a comfortable date, and assume you want something similar. I’ve had male clients whose approach is to resist asking a woman “too many” questions on first dates. They prefer to give the women endless “space” and “no pressure.” Afraid they might intrude, or stumble into disrespecting a woman’s privacy, these men take what looks like a safer route – hoping the women they’re out with will volunteer whatever information is comfortable. While well-intentioned, for most women, this kind of “gender-blind” consideration feels more like disinterest than empathy.
How to Assess:
Speak up! Grab some of that space! If he interrupts, or seems less engaged when you’re the one talking, that’s a sign there’s something besides misplaced kindness going on. But if he engages, you’ll have discovered that he is interested in learning more about you.
3. He Is Locked into “Alpha Male” Behavior: The term “alpha male” was coined in the study of animal behavior, to describe the dominant male of the group who has successfully fought off other males to secure first rights to mating and resources.
How does that contest influence dating behavior? The man sipping his coffee across the table from you may be thinking about the other men he imagines are vying for your favor. But he may get too busy trying to beat his perceived competitors, skewing his attention towards his performance instead of your mutual connection.
All of the talking he’s doing about himself could simply be his attempt to show off in order to impress you (more than other men have). He wants your good opinion, but this way of vying for it makes you feel unimportant, even invisible.
Sometimes you can see a version of male display (think peacocks with their tails spread) in his online profile. For example, if the profile is jam-packed with photos of his boat, motorcycle, expensive car, etc. he could be showing off that he has discretionary income and wants women to imagine the fun time he can show them.
Though it’s easy to interpret his display of goods as “I love my toys,” or “See all the money I can throw around,” it may be his way of signaling something he considers essential to his identity – that he is a provider who can take care of you. Whatever you may think of such claims, his perspective, having resources and an implied willingness to share them is a defining part of his masculinity. Does this mean he’s insecure, too invested in “winning,” a show-off? Or is he just expressing a natural instinct?
How to Assess:
Redirect his conversation to find out if he can allow some vulnerability by setting up the following conversation and asking some of these questions:
You seem really good at a lot of things. I’m curious. We all have things that are harder for us. I know I do.
- What’s something that’s challenging of you?
- Has anything ever made you change your course?
- Would you be willing to tell me about a time you’ve doubted yourself? How did you deal with it?
You can offer your own example of a challenge, course correction or moment of self-doubt and how you handled it to show that you don’t expect him to be the only one to take a risk and share. Risking some authenticity at the outset is a good way to indicate the kind of relationship you’re looking to create, where part of the adventure is sharing “your perfect imperfections”, as John Legend sings so poignantly.
If your date deflects, minimizes, changes the subject, laughs it off and refuses to be brought back to a real answer, that indicates some guardedness. Most people who are secure, confident and know themselves can admit they have a growing edge. If he has to seem “together” at all times, consider this a red flag.
4. A Man Who Dominates an Initial Conversation May Be a Little Scared. Some male clients of mine have worried that if they stop trying to impress a woman too soon, she’ll see his flaws before he knows if she can accept them. This type of man doesn’t yet know how kind his date is, or if she’s quick to judge. To minimize the risk, he may keep trying to control her perception via his performance. The motivation for talking to much here has to do with entertainment and distraction, while he tries to find out if it’s safe to be himself more fully with her.
How to Assess:
Try to determine if he is scared or simply self-involved. Segue from his story to one of your own. Does he go with it? Listen well? Ask follow up questions?
To make this transition, you can convey that you want time to talk by saying:
- I’d love to tell you about ….
- Is there anything you’d like to know about me?
Or, you can be more direct:
- It’s been interesting hearing about you, but it’s starting to feel a bit one-sided.
- I wonder why it’s gone that way?
If you’ve listened to too much of your date’s chatter for too long, you may not care about the reasons he’s monopolizing the conversation, just that he’s interfered with a rewarding night of Netflix. Believe me, I’m not encouraging you to submit to pointless torture.
The male monologue is discouraging and one of the biggest turnoffs when meeting a new man. But remember, we are talking about a first date. Fear shows all of us at our worst. Habits are often unconscious. We can all make the wrong assumptions. He doesn’t know you yet or if you’re capable of patience, acceptance and compassion.
Given all that, if he’s off to a bad start, could he still be worth a second try? Remember that you have the power to find out a lot in the first few dates: Can he respond with some vulnerability and/or flexibly shift his focus to you? Can he listen, share and act with empathy? Does he show signs that he’s capable of an equal, respectful partnership?
So, if you otherwise like him — if there’s some charm, insight, self-deprecating humor even; if he seems kind, funny, smart underneath his bravado; if you’re attracted, or simply if you love the same authors/dive bars/cuff links/you-name-it — then test his capacity to respond to your influence before writing him off. Doing so will empower you on future dates. And you may find a wonderful man just below the surface!