Why Does He Only Talk About Himself?

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

Dear Gwen,

So many women have this experience! They also ask “why does he only talk about himself?” 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!

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5 Comments

  1. I recently signed up with a dating site. I saw a man on there that I thought was very attractive and I liked everything he talked about in his profile. We texted for about a week. I suggested that we meet and he declined saying he was a little nervous about Covid and had not been out at all. I understand that. So a few days later I suggested that we talk on the phone or maybe FaceTime. He said he hated FaceTime that he was not a very techy person. I understand that I’m 65 years old and he is 69. We talked on the phone for about a half an hour, and he only spoke of himself. I tried to interject into the conversation but he did not acknowledge anything that I said. Now he is wondering why I’m not responding. I told him that the conversation was much too one sided. He said we will talk tomorrow and try to change that. What do you think?

    1. Hi Joanie,

      You’ve shown yourself to be assertive, empathetic and flexible – a great combination for dating success!

      Congratulations for telling him what didn’t work for you in the phone call. It sounds like you’d have ended it there, if he hadn’t asked to try again. (“points” to him for not getting defensive/withdrawing, more points for an apology and a reasonable explanation).

      In future dates with others, consider intervening more strongly if initial tries don’t work. It’s empowering to tackle it in the moment. eg. “Whoa! I need to stop you here.” (repeat if needed) “ I keep trying to say something and haven’t been able to get any acknowledgement.” Give him a chance to respond. If he can’t make the space for even that, or responds poorly, you have your answer.

      With this man, (especially because you’re not invested at this point), you have utter freedom to be even more direct – and find out if he might be a good potential partner. This includes, accepting your influence and changing behavior based on your input.

      I’d suggest you start with asking about his experience behind the ‘wall of sound’.
      For example,
      in a calm, relaxed voice say something like: “I’m not opposed to giving this one more try, but I’d like to understand what happened on that first call.”
      Give him the space to think about it and answer you.

      And you can gently inquire further, without blame, lead with curiosity: What was going on for him when he heard your interjections but didn’t respond? What was his idea of how he was going to get to know you? What’s his idea of a good conversation? Has this issue come up before?

      Of course, you’ll be looking to answer important questions for yourself like, How willing is he to process difficulties? Does he show insight? Have ideas about what he can do differently going forward? Take responsibility? Regret having (inadvertently?) shut you out?

      I’d expect you’ll have a much better sense of his character and potential after this. And perhaps more importantly, you’ll be developing methods for learning early on, if a man has the skills for lasting intimacy.

      Good luck!!

      Feel free to fill us in on your progress ????.

      Or if you’d like a complimentary private consultation, contact me at datewise@icloud.com.

  2. I am on date 2 (and many hours of phone calls) realizing a new guy just LOVES to talk. It could be nervousness as he said after our first date that he thinks he “friend zoned” himself. I wouldn’t say he rejects my own story interjections but I don’t see that MY stories light up his face the way his interesting adventures excite me. He has shared so much about his past self, I will say it has helped a few times when I bring him back to the present and ask what he likes now or how would he react NOW instead of hearing some funny old story. I have a tendency to be an overthinker/”storyteller” myself so find it funny (and boring?!) to now have to sit and listen and am not sure exactly where to go from here. I’m not sure if I want to have the relationship he has spelled out in all his long opinionated stories so far, so is your advice to just be more direct in my interjected questions as I assess him or more direct in how I communicate my own goals so he knows and can evaluate with I value?

    1. Hi KcK,

      You’ve posed a series of questions. I’m going to answer them inline in italics below.

      I am on date 2 (and many hours of phone calls) realizing a new guy just LOVES to talk. It could be nervousness as he said after our first date that he thinks he “friend zoned” himself.

      So he realizes his behavior was off-putting? You could ask him why he thinks he “friend-zoned himself.” That let’s you segue into his over-talking, and it’s fine to bring it up after the fact. You can mention anything you enjoy about his stories, but agree with him that conversation has felt one-sided, and you’d like it to evolve past first-date jitters into mutual sharing. Then get his response. Possible follow-up questions:

      – is this common for him in relationships? (important info for you in evaluating likelihood of change) Either way,
      – is he interested in trying something different with you? (if not, dealbreaker) if so, how would he go about that?
      – would he also like to hear your ideas about how conversations could work better for you? (if not, dealbreaker) if so,
      – offer a suggestion or two for each of you that would make a difference. Whatever is agreed on, you’ll need to be more willing to indicate in the moment when it’s not working for you.

      Since the current dynamic sounds like a deal-breaker, there’s little to lose in a kind, direct conversation with him to see if it (he) can shift in response to your needs. The most successful heterosexual relationships are characterized by the man being willing to receive influence from the woman – so this is an excellent test for key relationship skills – your skillful influence and his receptivity.

      I wouldn’t say he rejects my own story interjections but I don’t see that MY stories light up his face the way his interesting adventures excite me.

      Yes, listening involves not only ceasing his own talk, but focusing on you, asking questions, indicating curiosity/understanding/empathy.

      He has shared so much about his past self, I will say it has helped a few times when I bring him back to the present and ask what he likes now or how would he react NOW instead of hearing some funny old story. I have a tendency to be an overthinker/“storyteller” myself so find it funny (and boring?!) to now have to sit and listen and am not sure exactly where to go from here.

      He’s missing so much of what you have to offer by monopolizing!

      I’m not sure if I want to have the relationship he has spelled out (eg. you being consigned to the listener role/the way women have figured in his stories?) in all his long opinionated (you sound annoyed, understandably) stories so far, so is your advice to just be more direct in my interjected questions as I assess him or more direct in how I communicate my own goals so he knows and can evaluate with I value?

      You’re no doubt competent at asking questions that allow him to expand. The problem is that the focus doesn’t successfully shift to you.

      I’d start with a tight focus on the behavior(s) that don’t work for you – spoken slowly, expressed in short sentences, in a calm, matter-of-fact tone, with eye contact and open body language (uncrossed arms and legs, angling your torso towards him). Those stylistic touches give him the best chance to receive your input as friendly and aimed at connecting, rather than as judgemental/rejecting. If he’s capable of responsiveness, this will give you the best chance to see it. If he’s not, you can move on with greater clarity and confidence. If you end up practicing being more direct/assertive with him and the conversations remain unsatisfying – then you’ve made use of the opportunity to strengthen that skill for your next relationship. And gotten even better at negotiating conflict in any relationship.

      If you’d like to talk over details, prepare to handle other possible responses, or explore other ways to shift your part of the dynamic – I’d be happy to offer you a complementary consult. Please feel free to hop on my calendar at: http://www.datewisenow.com

      To your growth,
      Gail Weiner, LMFT

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