You know the feeling: you find yourself in a conversation that's stuck on the superficial. You're talking about the weather; about how you both hate getting up early in the morning; about what the local sports team did last week; about how sushi is okay but katsu sauce... man, that's where it's at.
Basically, small talk. But, small talk that's beginning to seem like it's not even getting you to big talk.
You start feeling like this conversation is taking you nowhere.
You've just realized you're in a polite conversation. And this post is about helping you get out of that.
Last weekend in the post on talking to lots of girls, a reader, Lau'Ren'Tay, made the following request:
Could you please write a comprehensive about socializing with a woman. If your not wasting your time in conversation or are? I don't know if you have something covering that, or related to that.
Sure thing, Lau'Ren'Tay; I don't believe I do have on up here like that, so I'm happy to oblige. Here then is the post on recognizing whether what you're in or not is polite conversation – and on how to get out of it when you are.
Conversation That's Going Nowhere
I'll start by defining polite conversation.
Polite conversation is the kind of conversation you get into that stays on very surface-level topics and never reaches anything substantial. It dances around, touching lightly on a variety of topics, quite typically topics that both of you talk about with everyone and including commonalities that are far too common. It often feels rather awkward, but you can't quite put your finger on why.
So let's put a finger on it.
The goal of conversation with someone new is typically to get to know her. Polite conversation prevents you from doing this. When you're talking with a girl and it's merely polite, you're not really getting to know her.
Talking about the weather doesn't get you connecting. Talking about things you share in common with everyone ("This place is great!" or, "Don't you just love reading?") doesn't really build any bridges between the two of you.
And then, things start feeling awkward because you both know it. You both know you're trapped in a conversation where you're trying and failing to build a connection.
Guys who are beginners might not be aware of this awkwardness. They might not even realize things are amiss until they begin noticing a pattern of women consistently bowing out of conversations with them early on into the conversation. Eventually though you begin to be able to feel when conversation isn't going all that well.
There are a few ways you can identify when you're trapped in a polite, go-nowhere conversation:
- You're finding yourself unable to get onto meaningful topics.
- You're failing to deep dive and get beyond the surface on what you discuss.
- The girl you're talking to only gives you short, simple answers.
- The girl you're talking to asks you very few questions, or none at all.
All bad for various reasons. If you're not getting onto meaningful topics and you're not deep diving, the conversation won't get very far. And if she's giving you very little in response to your questions and statements and she's asking you nothing or next to nothing about you, she's not carrying her weight in the conversation – and you can't do it alone.
A conversation takes two people. You'll normally be the one steering it, but she has to be contributing too for it to work.
And when you identify that she isn't contributing, you know right away that it probably isn't going to fly.
Why People Get Trapped in Polite Conversation
A good conversationalist doesn't end up in go-nowhere conversations too often, but even if your conversational abilities are exquisitely honed, you'll still run into the odd wheel-spinning talk every now and again.
This is because the fault of ending up stuck in neutral may lie with you, or it may lie with the girl.
When you're starting out, most of the fault is normally going to lie with you, as you seek to perfect your conversational abilities and learn how to consistently engage women in good conversation that progresses things forward. As your skill at doing so develops, you'll increasingly find that the conversations where you're stuck in the polite zone are stuck there because the girl doesn't want things to progress further.
The two reasons then that people end up in polite conversation:
- The man failed to lead the conversation to meaningful topics, or
- The woman simply isn't all that interested.
But things aren't as simple as they seem.
Let's say you meet a girl, and try to engage her. You try to move her off the ordinary and into the intriguing. But you just can't, and getting information from her feels like pulling teeth. You give up and leave, feeling like she just wasn't all that interested.
And, that may have been the case. It might also have been, though, that she was shy, or that she hadn't gotten herself into a social state.
You will meet girls at times that simply need more time and coaxing before they start opening up. So be wary of writing women off too quick and thinking they just weren't interested; it might have been instead that they were but they weren't showing it.
If you're a beginner, you should operate on the assumption that any conversation that fails to make it off the polite and onto the substantial failed to do so because you failed to make it do so. This is the healthiest attitude for learning and the one that will help you advance the fastest.
There's one other reason conversations can end up stuck treading water, too, and it's one that most men have no idea exists. Here it is:
Sometimes girls are already sold on you and just want you to move things forward fast and/or even take them home immediately. Sometimes the reason she isn't talking is because she doesn't want to talk – she wants you to do something with her right NOW.
When that's the case, if you keep trying to build rapport it obviously won't work. Other measures are called for.
How to Get Out of Polite Conversation
So let's say that, for whatever reason, whether because you're not sure how to proceed or because she just isn't all that interested, or because she doesn't want to talk and just wants you to move things forward, you find yourself trapped in polite conversation.
What do you do to break free?
- Deep dive. Real conversation starts and ends with deep diving. Getting to know a girl – really connecting to her – is the most solid alternative to superficial conversation. Rather than jump into storytelling – which is what most men do when faced with a girl who isn't giving much – focus on getting her talking. When you try to talk about yourself to counteract polite conversation, it usually ends up looking like you're trying to force rapport, and the chances things take off decline.
- Get off common topics. A lot of the reason why people get stuck in polite conversation is because they get trapped on common topics. Yes, it sucks when you have a cold, but that's true for everyone; and it's cool that you and she like that restaurant downtown, but so do a lot of people. What makes people feel like a conversation is meaningful is when you get onto topics that aren't universally relatable for everyone – for instance, you and this new girl start talking about your experiences snorkeling and seeing exotic fish or about how you both wrote a term paper on Nietzsche. That's how you get to meaningful topics and start truly building a connection.
- Use the bored look. Seeing the bored look on your face can encourage women to start contributing. This is especially true if you've already made a bit of an effort to get her contributing, and your efforts haven't generated much. If she likes you, she'll step it up when she realizes you're bored that things aren't progressing.
- Move her. This one's sort of your last resort, but it can end up being very effective. When a girl's giving you absolutely NOTHING – when you get that feeling kicking in that things aren't going anywhere at all – try just moving her. Tell her, "Let's go grab a seat over there," or, if you're really bold, invite her home. I've had success inviting girls home very early in the interaction who weren't giving me anything. Sometimes it actually ends up being quite surprising; you're talking to a girl, it feels like the conversation is dead in the water, and then you say, "Let's get out of here," and she says, "Okay."
The majority of the time this doesn't work and the girl won't move with you, and that's fine. At that point, you can bid her farewell and gracefully exit the conversation; she's refused to move with you, so it makes for a natural exit. But some of the time, this catapults you ahead in an interaction that felt like it was circling the drain. I'd say it works successfully about 1 out of every 4 or 5 girls, which is quite good for taking a dead-end conversation and turning it into something substantial. This is also best for identifying the girls who just wanted you to take action and move things forward and are more interested in something happening with you fast than they are in getting to know you.
- Leave and return. I much prefer trying to move women than I do trying the "leave and return" tactic, but you have this available to you as well. Basically, you let a girl know you're going to go scout the area out, and then you disappear for a while and come back later. This can work if she realizes while you're gone that you're a lot more fun or attractive than anyone else she's meeting or that it's boring when you're not around, and she gets much more eager to contribute when you return. I see about a 1 out of 3 success rate with this technique, but it doesn't move you ahead as much as moving a girl, so I prefer the latter and I don't use this one a whole lot. You also risk the girl leaving or getting engaged in conversation with friends or other suitors while you're gone.
It's important to remember that attraction has an expiration date and you need to be looking to get back onto interesting conversation as quickly as possible. The longer you spend adrift in polite conversation, the more attraction fades and the less likely the girl you're speaking with becomes to start contributing or to move somewhere with you.
In other words, when you find yourself in polite conversation, do something to get OUT of there fast. Polite, go-nowhere conversations are an absolute death sentence for attraction – so rather than let them knock you off, take a focus of giving polite conversation a death sentence of its own, and simply don't allow yourself to have it with people.
With go-nowhere politeness gone, your conversations will be snappier and more engaging, people will contribute more to them and like talking to you more, and you'll find that women do a lot more with you, and are willing to do a lot more with you. Follow the steps laid out above, and you'll have a lot fewer go-nowhere conversations – and a lot more conversations that go somewhere. And, quite possibly, a lot more conversations that go somewhere good.