Statements vs. Questions, with Tall Anna

by GK on January 29, 2011 · 6 comments

Settle down, class, because I’d like to introduce you to the new girl, and we’re going to try something different at Club GK.
Joining us today for an e-mail exchange is Tall Anna, aka Freebird No. 4 from a previous post. We had one date together, and I can’t promise I won’t hit on you again someday, but I’m happy to have you as a rad female friend (stay tuned for a podcast with Rob about this very topic). How tall are you again, Tall Anna?

ANNA: 6-foot-1! Well, actually, it depends on who’s asking. Technically, I’m 6 feet and three-quarters of an inch. My online dating profile will tell you I’m 6 feet even, but in general conversation, I tend to round up and say 6-1. When I was 14, my orthopedist told me, after looking at X-rays of my growth plates, that I’d grow up to be 6-2, but I’m hoping I’ll get that extra inch only in my patent leather heels and not an awkward, late-20s growth spurt.

Thanks for letting me blog crash, GK. I’m definitely happy our night of boisterous dancing and an attempted date turned into a budding friendship sprinkled with picnics on the beach, international travel storytelling over cappuccinos and, of course, even more dance parties.

So, you’ve done a solid job of providing your readers (and admittedly me, on occasion) with some sound dating and getting-yourself-out-there advice, but I think there’s something to be said for the female perspective.

I’ll say this upfront: I’m not an expert, but I am an extrovert who has spent quite a bit of time over the last 10 years crushing over, talking to, dating, sleeping and living with, writing about and giving a plethora of advice to the male persuasion. I guess it’s also helped that my mom’s a couples therapist and sex educator, and I’ve grown up comfortable talking about stuff most people would never talk about with their parents, let alone at the dinner table or on a first date.

So, I’m here. I’m all ears. I’m not afraid to let you guys know what of GK’s advice is spot-on, and perhaps that which makes my eyes roll. In any case, I hope I can help.

Where are we headed today, GK?

GK: Well, I’m headed for a date in a few hours.
Oh, you mean for this article. I’ll get to that in a minute, as I ponder how gay you’ve just made our friendship sound. First, I wanted to say I’m honored to have you here as a contributor. Six-foot-one, volleyball-playing blondes who have written about dating and sex don’t exactly grow on trees, and I think you’ll have some great perspective to offer — not just for our readers, but for me as well. Even though I’m never wrong. At least not for the last 10 minutes.
Anyway, for our first collaboration, we’ll be talking about statements vs. questions. If you know about the Big Four that Rob and I are into, you know that we’re big on a guy talking about himself when he meets a woman. But when you and I were having coffee the other day, I believe you had a dissenting opinion on this. Correct?

ANNA:  I did, indeed.

When I first read your post about the Big Four (and yes, I may have been Internet-stalking you at the time), I got the sense that you were advising these guys not to ask questions.

No questions?! How the hell am I supposed to know that my date’s interested in who I am, and not just interested in himself, if all he’s talking about is how cool he is? What — am I supposed to just interject when he goes to take a breath, or pauses to remember the name of his hot scuba guide from last summer’s trip to the Great Barrier Reef?

Questions, to me, express genuine interest in the person, show that you’re actually present on your date (and not off in la-la land thinking about the girl you made out with the night before), and show that you’re not simply a narcissist. I’ve dated a no-questions-guy once, or as some of my friends and readers know him, Man #11. I’ve never been on such one-sided, exhausting dates: all him, no me, all the time. There should be a balance, you know?

GK: Funny, I’ve been talking about the Great Barrier Reef ever since I got back a month ago! Alas, I had no hot scuba instructors there.
You’re absolutely right about needing a balance between statements and questions. And any guy who does nothing but talk about himself is better off masturbating while reading a Shakespearean monologue than spending time with you. But here’s why I prefer it in the Big Four:
Yes, questions can show genuine interest. But if I’ve just met this woman somewhere, or on a first date even, and she doesn’t know GK from GQ, I’m less likely to get genuine answers from her. When I first got involved with Charisma Arts, a lot of their students were mocked for asking girls they just met, “What’s your passion?” Indeed, I found that when I tried it, I’d usually get a shrug or some weak answer from her.
Then I’d try asking another question. Another weak answer. Suddenly, confused on what to talk about, I found myself asking what we call a Question Train. But the destination for this train is usually, “Well, I’ve gotta go.”
And perhaps “what’s your passion” is just the question you wanted to hear from Man #11. But that’s because he was no longer a stranger. And nothing de-strangerfies a guy like offering details about who he is. Then, if she can relate to him, his questions will mean a lot more.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t add this. You did sleep with that guy, so he must have been doing something right.
Maybe this is where online dating and offline dating differ. Perhaps Man #11’s profile already revealed his guitar-playing or passion for his career (though I’m guessing he saved the self-love details for later), so he felt like less of a stranger on your first date. I’m less experienced online, though I do have my second-ever date in two hours. 
ANNA: Whether you met online or off, I think it comes down to what questions to ask and when.

I’m totally guilty of the nervous question asking — my natural response to a slightly uncomfortable date situation. Because people love to talk about themselves, and it’s an easy thing to lean back on to get the ball rolling. At least it’s better than nervous rambling.

Before a girl is going to open up to you, she needs to feel safe doing so. Safe from judgment, from mocking, from the sarcastic eye roll or smirk. This is definitely where talking about yourself helps set that tone.

Be genuine, and she’ll reciprocate (hopefully). Share about you, and she’ll share about her. Sometimes, though, she might be a little nervous and uncomfortable regardless of the made-up, at-ease face she’s wearing. Giving her a little prompt — conversational hand-holding, per se — is a good way to ease into naturally flowing conversation.

So yes, setting the tone with some witty, or at least entertaining, storytelling is a prime foundation for connection and relation. But if you have the floor, don’t forget to share it. After a bit of monologuing, offer your date a chance to pipe in with a question that relates to what you were just talking about, what you like about her, something you’ve observed or, in the case of online dating, what you remember reading about her.

Perhaps: “So, do you have any scars with funny stories behind them?” or “What are some of your favorite spots around the world?” Or gently touch, or caress, her wrist and ask “So tell me about this bracelet.” 

Questions not to ask, however, especially out of the blue:

  • What’s your passion? (For what? I only get one?)
  • What drives you? (To do what? Get out of bed in the morning? To create the Pandora stations I do? To write excessively long emails? To live until tomorrow?)
  • What’s your philosophy on life? (You will want to know this sooner or later, but let the answer reveal itself naturally through getting to know her better rather than putting her on the spot. Best to keep it a little more light-hearted at first.)
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? (What is this a job interview?)

I’ll give it to Man #11. He was a good storyteller. And obviously, something about it worked. Mind you, only for a little while. It’s just that there comes a point where I want to story-tell, too. And if my date keeps talking about himself, and only himself… well, the destination of that train is “Well, I’ve gotta go.”

GK:  I have to say, you beat me to the punch when you used the words “set the tone” in regard to statements. That’s exactly what I was going to say. When done right, it’s sort of like the intro to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Within 15 seconds, you know exactly what you’re getting: the awesomest pop song ever. 
And I agree with everything you said about right and wrong questions (Just Say No to passion). If she seems interested in something I said, I’ll often turn it around and ask her about it. When I hear her respond with, “Good question!” as she did the other day, I know I’m doing something right.
Hmm, after all that fussin’, it sounds like we’re kind of in agreement: Saying relatable things about yourself and telling a good story are great ways to help a woman understand you, and then it’s a good idea to ask genuine questions of her so you can understand her better. Does this sound right to you?

ANNA: While I may not agree with you that Billie Jean is the best pop song of all time, I definitely do agree with you on the rest.

Mutual understanding and having the right vibe are crucial. Anyone who’s read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink,” or has any sense of intuition, knows that in the first few minutes — seconds, even — you can tell whether or not you’ll like a person. (It’s for this reason I don’t think the first kiss should be at the end of the date but rather in the middle of it. But more on that in another post.) And getting to know her through an exchange of stories and questions is a good way to confirm whether your first impressions are spot-on or way off.

GK: Well, as experiments go, I think this one was pretty damned good. I hope you guys enjoyed it, and I look forward to having Tall Anna back for some more experimentation. Whoa, that sounded wrong.

{ 3 trackbacks } | anna hennings » Blog Archive » On Dating: Statements vs. Questions
February 4, 2011 at 7:42 pm
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September 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm
What height means to women, with Tall Anna (Pt. 1) « pinkkittens
September 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm


1 andy January 30, 2011 at 4:44 am

funny greg had a date?

by the way
well done my son 😉

2 scn January 31, 2011 at 6:20 am

I think Anna takes “No Questions” to mean a man not expressing interest in the girl and only talking about himself. Nothing could be farther from the truth! The entire goal of the man is to create a personal vibe with the girl including getting her to speak from the heart. No Questions just means the man should use statements about himself to accomplish that goal.

In polite society, directly asked questions create conversational pressure. Refusing to answer or evasively answering a question is socially awkward. Girls loath being forced to be socially awkward. So direct questions inherently have an element of forceful extraction to them that does not encourage a girl to let down her barriers. Personal questions especially risk seeming invasive or presumptuous.

By contrast statements the man makes about himself demand nothing from her. She’s free to not respond at all and “just listen.” She can move the conversation to another subject without awkwardness. Or she can volunteer her own personal statement that conveys her own choice of emotions or story that she most wants to share. Whatever her response, it’s coming more from her real self and engaging more of her creative energy. She contributes more meaningfully to the interaction, committing to it more.

The hard work for the man is that the statements he makes about himself. They must invite and prompt her to give of herself. This is not easy. For those unfamiliar with Charisma Arts techniques, some examples:
The man should not say: “What are you afraid of?” (directly asking a personal question)
The man should not say: “I’m scared of dogs. And getting hit by a car. And getting sued. I this, I that, etc. ” (ignoring her)
The man should say: “I’m embarrassed to say this but I’m scared of dogs. When I walk by homes with dogs that lunge across the yard growling at me I startle and jump a few inches in the air. I don’t know if anything makes you feel that way. Actually you seem pretty fearless to me. It’s hard for me to picture you being frightened by much of anything.”

I also agree with GK that it’s important for the man to first talk about himself freely in a few different areas in order to de-strangerfy himself (love that term!). People don’t get personal with strangers. And men must lead. They must take the initial conversational risks. By making personal statements first, the man sets the tone of the conversation for her to be able to respond to and follow, like a dance partner. His vulnerable statements create an emotionally respectful space between the two of them where she can feel safe to reveal her feelings.

Oh and I really like Anna’s idea of kissing in the middle of the date! Kissing in the end suggests the kiss is a transactional reward for performance on the date. Ick. Kissing in the middle suggests the kissing is for its own sake because the vibe and relationship between the couple is right!

3 rob January 31, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Yeah dude I once sat through a 5 hour car ride from Ann Arbor to Chicago with a girl named Meg who HATED my job and everything I had to say, and it all seemed to center around the fact that I thought that guys should make statements and avoid questions. (I mean it should work that way in theory, but in practice you have to ask SOME questions; it just comes naturally if you’re actually interested in the other person. The reason we tell guys to make statements is so that they don’t do the boring “First date interview shit that is SOOOO played out and safe and platonic.) To make a long story short, I’ve met a few women who hear out statement vs question advice and immediately speak up that it’s the worst advice in the world, etcetera. This usually comes from a bad experience that they had with a guy who was too self involved to date anyone. Think Narcis from Greek mythology who falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water.

So I have empathy for girls who have had bad dates with guys who obnoxiously bragged about themselves, but it’s because those guys are douche bags. The issue isn’t with statements vs questions but with their choice in dating partners. Having said that, I once went out with a girl who was like Narcis and only talked about her job at an ad agency and it was horrible. So maybe I should do better as well.

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