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MASTERING THE ART OF CONVERSATION

So you're out with the perfect girl when you get a phone call from your ex. How do you play it cool? Or maybe you're with your family and your sister starts talking about that sweet girl you used to date, asking, "Whatever happened to her?"

Dating is hard, that's for sure. And finding the right girl is hard. So why is it that when you finally do find the right girl, it seems the whole world is out to try to mess it up for you?

Would you consider yourself a fast thinker? A smooth talker? If so, you've got an edge in the sticky world of dating. If not, then you need a quick brush-up in the art of interpersonal communication.

What do you do when you find yourself in one of those critical situations where the conversation takes a turn for the worse? Can you talk your way through it? Are you able to smooth things over and leave with your girl smiling and thinking you're great?

Conversation is one of the most important parts of a relationship. If you cannot communicate properly, you may find it difficult to make it to the relationship stage of dating.

So how do you handle those situations where conversation is not going so great, or when it's make you look not so great?

First of all, always be aware that while you can't control what other people will say or do, you can control what you say and how you react. How you react to a situation actually more important than the situation itself.

Here is a list of five techniques you can use when communication problems arise.

1. Laugh it off.

This technique is perfect for handling embarrassing situations, such as introducing your date to your parents. For example, what do you do when Mom decides to tell your date all those humiliating stories of when you were little?

The best advice is to take it in stride. The stories may feel humiliating to you, but your date may find them fascinating or at the very least an amusing glimpse into your babyhood.

In this situation, a bit of self-deprecating humor might be just the ticket. Or, you could just grin and shrug. Hey, what can you do? You were a kid, right?

2. Honesty.

Imagine that you're sitting around with your best buddies and your girlfriend. Suddenly, someone decides to mention that time back in college when you all made a bet on who would get a girl into bed first.

Being the great friends they are, your friends take advantage of your girlfriend's presence to really play it up, laughing, and making you look like a total clown. Your girlfriend looks at you critically. How can you ever smooth this one over?

Well, you could deny it. But most likely she won't believe you.

You could laugh and reminisce along with the guys. But most likely she'll lose a lot of respect for you.

Instead, try the honest approach. "Yes, that happened back then, but it was a long time ago and a different sort of time. I must have learned my lesson, because I certainly haven't done it since!"

3. Explain only if necessary.

Honesty may be the best policy, but sometimes it is better not to explain especially in those situations where your explanations sound like excuses.

Imagine that you are out on a date and things are going great. She's into you, and you're definitely into her, and the sparks are flying.

Then you notice your very bitter ex-girlfriend glaring at you from the other side of the room. She stands up and, before you know it, is at your table, warning your date about the perils of dating a guy like you. When she leaves, it's as if a thundercloud has burst over both your heads.

Needless to say, this can leave you in an incredibly awkward situation with your date. You may feel as if you need to explain why your ex acted like that, justify yourself against the accusations she made, and explain that your ex really is a heartless bitch.

Don't give into the temptation to fill the silence with explanations. Consider this the perfect opportunity to practice the art of saying as little as possible.

Apologize for the disruption and simply tell your date that the woman was an ex who is still bitter and resentful over the way things ended. Calling your ex names or insulting her will only make you look just as bad as her at this point. Even if your date asks for specifics, tell her that you don't feel comfortable discussing it at this point; why don't you move on to a more pleasant topic?

When you show your date that you are mature enough to deal with tough situations, she will respect you for it.

4. Busted!

You're on a date with your dream girl and another woman calls. How do you handle this one?

In this situation, my first question would be: why is your cell phone turned on when you're on a date, anyway? One of the biggest first-date spoilers is the ring of a cell phone. DON'T give into the temptation to take calls or texts when you are with a new woman for the first time. She'll assume that you aren't into her enough to give up your cell phone habit and she certainly won't be the one calling back.

Typically, I would ignore the call and return it at a more convenient time. But if you really must answer, either explain that you're occupied at the moment and can't talk, or excuse yourself so you have some privacy. Whatever you do, don't talk long, and return as quickly as possible with a warm smile on your face only for your date.

If your date wants to know who you're talking to, make light of it. You might say, "A friend who obviously doesn't know I'm with you right now." Then, let her know how sorry you are for the interruption and how happy you are to be with her.

5. Handling Disagreements.

Arguments are bound to happen. Whether its politics, religion or music, there's going to be something about which you don't agree.

Sometimes disagreements can be fun and playful. Other times, they can be passionate and racy. But when disagreements become defensive and bitter, you need to do something to get things back on track again.

One of the quickest ways to lose a woman is to put her down or make her feel inferior for her beliefs. But sometimes we just don't really want an argument. You recognize that it doesn't matter in the slightest why you started arguing, and you just want it to stop and go back to the way things were before.

The first line of action is to listen to her, all the way through. Allow her to speak her mind completely, and don't break in at the first pause in her words. Let her know that you have heard her. Then, tell her, "Thanks for telling me that. I don't agree, but I appreciate hearing how your mind works so that I can understand you better."

With that simple statement, you have shown her that you do care about her. You have shown her that her ideas and beliefs are important to you even if you do not agree with them.

PREVENTING FOOT-IN-MOUTH SYNDROME

These tricky situations have a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it, but you can take preventative steps. Do your best to avoid Foot-In-Mouth situations by avoiding the following topics when dating.

Be friendly to everyone you meet when you go out together.

You never know if that person is someone she knows or cares about, and you wouldn't want to start off poorly by insulting or offending him or her.

NEVER, ever say anything negative about your date's clothing or appearance.

Don't even say anything that could be taken as negative. Obviously your date has tried to look her best to impress you, so don't destroy her illusions by saying, "Is that what you're wearing?" or "What happened to your hair?"

Try to avoid having to say white lies or be sneaky wherever possible.

When it comes to the possibility of a confrontation, human instinct often leads us to cop out or cover up for ourselves. But the truth almost always catches up to us eventually. Even if we never get caught out, we often feel guilty for having lied. So do your best to be truthful wherever possible. Remember that partial truths (such saying that "a friend" called when it was actually another woman) are always an option, and certainly easier to pull off than a white lie.

It's worthwhile to remember the old advice: think before you speak.

 

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