When you go on as many new girl dates as I have (about 60 at this point!) there are bound to be ones that are better than others. During some, the conversation flows. It feels as if you’ve met your long lost soul mate, and suddenly a million things you didn’t know you’d been holding in come pouring out. You’re telling her about your job and childhood and that time in 3rd grade when you stole Sally’s chocolate chip cookie (it was a dark dark day that I’d rather not talk about). Others aren’t quite so easy. As with romantic dating, there are some first girl-dates that are a disaster from the start. You can tell immediately that you don’t click, and you learn just how long an hour is when you notice every…second…passing.
The hardest part of bad girl-dates, for me, is the awkward silence. You can almost see it coming down the pike. You both sit there, staring at each other, trying to think of something—anything!—to fill the void.
One of the first tenets of improv is what’s called “Yes, and…” The idea is that you always want to take what your partner gives you in a scene and build on it. So if you say “Billy, it’s so strange that Mom made us wait for her in this dungeon,” a great partner won’t say, “This is the basement not a dungeon, stupid, and that wasn’t even our mom it was my teacher.” Instead she’ll say “Yeah, that is strange, especially since this dungeon is at the bottom of a castle and mom is terrified of castles.” This way you’re building a story, adding layers with each line of dialogue. As my teacher would say, saying no closes the door, saying yes opens it.
I’ve learned over time that this “Yes and” approach works for real-life conversation too. No matter how painful a get-together is, accepting and adding to whatever your date gives you will keep the conversation going. It might even lead it in a positive, not-entirely-unpleasant direction.
The correlation between “Yes, and” and real-life socializing hit me the other night while I was in a cab. My taxi driver started chatting away the minute I closed the door. Normally I would have smiled and nodded but remained silent, a deliberate indication that I’d rather ride in silence. Instead, I decided to “Yes, and…” him.
When the cabbie volunteered that he spent his blizzard days catching up on movies like Green Hornet and Wolverine and X-Men, I countered that, “Yes, I know those movies but I haven’t seen them. You must really like action flicks. You might like The Fighter. Not action, per se, but fighting.”
To which he replied that he was more into “movies with guns” than boxing movies, though “as Oscar contenders go, I really liked the King’s Speech.”
“Yes,” I said “I loved that movie. And I thought Geoffrey Rush was stellar.”
Suddenly my cab driver and I were having a perfectly nice, and totally unexpected, chat about awards season. If I had responded to the comment about his snowy day with “Oh, I didn’t have cable,” it very well might have stopped the conversation before it had begun.
Try it out on your next friend-date. Accept what she says (you don’t have to agree with it, just be open to taking the conversation in that direction) and then add to it. It’s not going to make you suddenly like someone you can’t stand, but it will help the hour pass by faster, which, when you’re stuck in a nightmare encounter, can feel like a miracle in itself.
What are your tricks for getting a bad girl-date on track? If you are out with someone who is clearly not a potential BFF, what helps you get through it?