It’s all in the talk

How conversation goes on first date is tell-tale sign of success or failure

By Barbara Pierce

date talkThe way she talks with you on your first date tells you whether she’s interested.

If she talks about herself a lot, she’s interested in you. For a man looking to connect with a woman, when she’s saying “I” often, it’s a good thing, a sign she feels comfortable with you.

If she uses phrases such as “I mean,” or “You know?” those are a good signs too. These phrases are warm and friendly and suggest she is looking to connect with you.

One of the ways a man signals he’s attracted to her is by laughing at her jokes. Another is that he limits the range of his pitch. Research suggests women associate a monotone voice as masculine.

These predictions of whether a man and woman will go on a second date are based on how they talk with one another on their first date. A team of scientists studied hundreds of daters to determine what predicts whether a couple will feel a connection and want a second date. Daters took tape recorders with them to collect data.

They are reported in the book “Everybody Lies: What the Internet can tell us about who we really are,” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. The author says that in the privacy of their keyboard, people confess the strangest things. They lie when you ask them in person; they don’t lie to their keyboard. This is because there are no consequences to our online answers and no real person reacts with disgust when we tell the truth.

He surveyed Google trends regarding how many people searched for what topics to find data that supports his premise. We search for things we’d never admit to anyone. This data gives us a new look at human behavior. “Google searches reveal a hidden world very different from the one we think we see,” he states. For example, more people search for porn than search for weather.

In sharing his data showing this hidden world, the author takes what seems to me a detour to discuss the analysis of how people speak on their first date. But it’s an interesting detour.

Men, women have preferences

In addition to the way men and women speak, the researchers found women, on average, prefer men who are taller and share their hobbies. Men, on average, prefer women who are skinnier and share their hobbies — Nothing new there.

The data tells us there are plenty of ways a man can talk to raise the chances that she will like him. Women like men who follow their lead. Maybe not so surprising, a woman likes him more if he laughs at her jokes. Also, it’s beneficial if he keeps the conversation on things she has brought up, instead of changing the subject to those he wants to talk about.

Women also like men who express support and sympathy. If a man says things like “That’s awesome!” or “That’s really cool!” she is more likely to report a connection. Same thing with phrases like “That must be really tough,” or “You must be sad.” Those show he “gets” her.

For women, there’s some bad news here: The data confirms something we’ve suspected about men. Conversation plays only a small role in how men respond to women. Physical appearance trumps everything else in predicting whether a man will report feeling a connection with her.

For a man, it’s a great sign on a first date if she talks about herself a lot. She is more likely to report a connection after a date where she has talked a lot about herself. A second date is likely.

One clear indication of trouble in a date is lots of questions. If there are lots of questions asked, it is less likely that both the man and woman will report a connection. You might think questions are a sign of interest, but not on a first date. On a first date, questions are a sign of boredom. That’s what happens when conversation stalls.

Other interesting data Stephens-Davidowitz found: “Men Google more questions about their sexual organ than any other body part. One common question is “How big is my penis?”

Women don’t care about penis size, he says. “Women have as many questions about their vaginas as men have about their penises. A strikingly common concern is how to improve its odor.”

We’ve said that women prefer men who are tall and men like women thinner, but the author has reassurance for those who don’t fit this mold: “A point that becomes quite clear is that there is someone for everyone.” There are women who search for “chubby guys” and “fat ugly old men.” Also, there are men who search for “big women” and “women with tiny breasts.”

• Barbara Pierce is a retired licensed clinical social worker with many years of experience helping people. If you would like to purchase a copy of her book, “When You Come to the Edge: Aging” or if you have questions for her, contact her at