I had a date Friday night with a young television anchor for one of the big TV stations in China and Hong Kong. Things started out innocently enough -- she put me in the hot seat early on, treating me almost like how I imagine she must treat her interviewees, asking me lots of questions and making it feel like an interview -- but I soon wrested control of the flow of conversation, and pretty soon things were going swimmingly. I used something known as the cold read to do it.
Before you knew it we were well into a deep dive, her telling me all about her past relationships and what she thinks the purpose of life is and what she really wants (children, namely). And it all happened, despite a little while of me being there in the hot seat, more or less effortlessly.
Even not so long ago, I struggled with transitioning into "real" conversation when I was facing women who were professional "talkers" -- reporters, saleswomen, any kind of gal who spoke effusively for a living. The problem was, women like that tend to snap into these routines of making their pitch or going into interview mode, and it can be hard to snap them out of it.
What I ended up returning to to solve this dilemma was something I've developed slowly -- almost unconsciously -- over the past half decade: cold reading.
It's largely because of cold reading that I had this girl who was so used to steering the conversation instead drinking in every moment with me, and by extension it's largely because of cold reading that I had this girl telling me how she'd drank too much (after a mere two drinks, spread across 2 1/2 hours) and all but announcing that I should invite her home to make some bad decisions.