Dating Games: That awkward silence

Two people trying to avoid silence by talking too much or asking too many questions is a recipe for disaster.

Cartoon 521 (photo credit: Pepe Fainberg)
Cartoon 521
(photo credit: Pepe Fainberg)
When men complain about dates with Jewish women, the women usually fall into one of two categories: the incessant talker and the persistent inquirer. Men consider these to be two of Jewish women’s stereotypical negative traits. Trying to carry a conversation is not a Jewish characteristic (or even necessarily a woman’s characteristic); rather, it is a trait of someone sitting on a first date full of nerves and scared of that awkward silence.
The incessant talker is the woman who talks about herself (or anything else) so much that just about anyone (a date, a relative, a complete stranger) could be sitting across from her.
She forgets to ask the other person questions and comes off as self-involved and egocentric.
The incessant talker doesn’t even realize that she’s been monopolizing the conversation or that her date hasn’t been able to get a word in edgewise. She will gab about anything, goes off on tangents and barely stops chattering long enough to eat. At the end of the date she will probably think it went well, not aware that she didn’t learn anything about the other person. The incessant talker thinks she is being positive and upbeat and thinks she is doing the date a favor by not letting a moment of silence fall upon their table. The incessant talker isn’t afraid of sharing too much information because she is too scared of the alternative: having no information to share.
The persistent inquirer is the woman who asks so many questions that she doesn’t even give her date a chance to get to know her. She’s so concerned with filling every second of the date with conversation that her efforts come off as overly eager and insincere. The persistent inquirer asks textbook questions and makes her date feel as though he’s on a job interview. She asks questions but doesn’t give her date the opportunity to show interest in her, doesn’t let the answers develop into a conversation and isn’t even really listening to the answers. Like the incessant talker, she will probably think the date went well, not aware that she didn’t really learn anything about the other person. The persistent inquirer thinks she is being positive and upbeat and thinks she is doing the date a favor by not letting a moment of silence fall upon their table. She isn’t afraid of asking inappropriate questions because she is so concerned with filling the silence.
Perhaps it’s the men’s lack of conversational skills that drive women to acting this way on dates. Men are not typically known to be the most talkative bunch. Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth when trying to get a man to engage in conversation.
They give one-word answers, don’t ask questions and tend to get distracted easily.
So, men: rather than getting annoyed by women’s attempts to make the date less than awkward, why not appreciate the lack of awkward silences instead? These women are trying to be helpful and considerate but they’re also nervous and scared.
Sometimes these social cues are missed by men while the women are the ones being steamrolled. Men can be just as guilty of saying and doing things to avoid letting in a second of silence.
Over-sharing, talking with their mouths full, drinking too much and asking questions without listening to the answers are not gender-specific.
Many of my girlfriends have called me post-date to complain about the guy who rattled off all of his academic and professional achievements without hesitating to take a breath, or gabbed about how spectacular he is because he knows so-so and parties at such-and-such a club, bragging and namedropping, which are turn-offs.
Silence can be golden.
Don’t be concerned about filling that silence unless you have something productive and useful to say. Even just listening to your date’s answer to a question can create a natural conversation: either follow up with a related question of interest or respond by relating a similar experience.
Suddenly you will have established a commonality and be able to build upon that foundation.
Unless one of you enjoys being a blabbermouth and the other is more the silent type, then this date probably isn’t going to be very successful.
Two people trying to avoid silence by talking too much or asking too many questions is a recipe for disaster. Instead, let the date breathe like a fine wine and give your date a chance to show you that he or she is interested.
If the talker makes a little less of an effort at chitchat and the wallflower is forced to make a little more of an effort at conversation, hopefully the date will have just the right tempo.
By the way, awkward silences aren’t always so bad; if by chance the silence ends up not being so awkward, you may have found your match. My Bubbe says you need to find someone that you will still want to talk to 50 years from now, but I think it’s just as important that you find someone with whom you can comfortably sit in silence now.