10 Conversation Tips For Dates

The way you speak often influences the way you’re perceived by a potential mate. Here are 6 words or phrases that might make a negative impression — and 4 that can draw someone closer through conversation.

By Chelsea Kaplan

hough you may engage in face-to-face communication about as often as you look up information in an encyclopedia, the truth remains that, when you’re dating someone, actual words and conversations (not just texts or emails) are crucial. In case your conversational skills are a little rusty, we asked Emilie Winter, an expert in the field of linguistics
There’s no need to present yourself as a full-on Pollyanna.
and interpersonal communication, for a primer on which words and phrases to avoid when dating or trying to woo a potential mate — and which ones are sure to reel someone in. Now you’ll have no worries when it’s time to chat with someone off-line… after you read this advice, of course!

Six things to avoid uttering on dates:
1. “OK.” For many people, “OK” is the verbal equivalent of vanilla ice cream; it’s not an exciting or particularly “flavorful” response because it’s non-committal and fails to be either descriptive or illustrative during a conversation. When you say it, it’s likely that your date will shudder at your inability to take a stand one way or another (be honest; who loves talking to someone who can’t be definitively assertive on things?). For example: when responding to the question, “Would you like to meet my parents?” saying “OK” could be very confusing to your date. It could be interpreted as, “I’d love to meet your parents!” or “I’d prefer not to meet your parents, but I kinda feel like I should say yes” or even. “I’d like to meet your parents, but I’m not sure if I should or if you’ll be mad at me if I don’t.” Just saying “OK” can actually deliver a mixed message — so if you aren’t conflicted about the question itself, answer with a decidedly positive or negative response, like: “No thank you; I’m not yet ready, but I might be as we get to know each other better” or “Sure, I’d really like to meet them. How about next weekend?”

2. “Hate” or other words with overtly negative connotations. It can be a huge turn-off to hear lots of extremely negative words like “hate” coming from a person that you find attractive — especially on first dates. Refrain from “hating” things that are “pathetic” and “the worst” in your conversations until you know someone quite well. There’s no need to present yourself as a full-on Pollyanna, but just tone it down a bit, especially if you’re in the early stages of a relationship or you’re trying to make a stellar first impression. Save the hyperbole for later; right now you’ll just seem judgmental, cranky — and, perhaps, a little bit “pathetic” yourself.

3. “Bitch.” This one applies to both men and women: it’s never classy or a good idea to put down any woman on a date. (Or ever, one could argue.) It will just end up making you seem angry, trashy and tacky, and none of those qualities are attractive when trying to impress someone new or woo your date. And try to choose another word when you’re tempted to use it as a substitute for the word “complain” — “bitch” never sounds tasteful.

4. “Ex.” Talking about an ex is a sure-fire way to kill the romantic mood (especially on first dates), not to mention annoy someone or characterize yourself as a person who still holds a candle for someone you used to date. Hold off on discussing your past loves until you’re in a relationship with someone and it’s “safer” to go there. If the topic comes up organically (“What brought you all the way from Iowa to Manhattan?”), refer to your ex as “someone I used to see” or “a person I used to date.” The word “ex” just has negative, ugly and unpleasant connotations that nearly always freak out the person you’re with on a date.

5. “Artsy-fartsy,” “brain fart,” or any other popular phrase containing the word “fart.” In an informal poll amongst friends, the word “fart” emerged as the biggest turn-off in existence. And really, wouldn’t you agree? When it’s used in a judgmental phrase, like “artsy-fartsy,” then you’re guilty on two counts. Don’t talk that way to
Using more descriptive adjectives and adverbs is an automatic turn-on.
someone when you’re courting. (And it should go without saying that you should try to avoid the actual act of passing gas during a date, too.)

6. Squeals of excitement. OK, so these are not technically words, but they’re absolutely worth mentioning in the context of dating. Ladies, this one’s for you: While expressing your excitement isn’t necessarily a bad thing, doing so in the same manner as a five-year-old girl who’s been given a puppy for her birthday is a major turn-off to any mature man. If you’re overjoyed or run into a long-lost pal when you’re out on a date, keep it together. Hugs and expressions of sincere happiness are wonderful, but shrieks and loud declarations of “oh my GOD!” aren’t.

Four words or phrases to consider using in the future:
1. “Sexy.” For many people, being with someone who casually mentions the word “sex” in conversation during the earliest dating stages can be jarring — or even off-putting. “Sexy,” however, is different. It’s softer, and when used as an adjective, it’s flirty, not crude or mechanical. “Sexy” sounds less aggressive than “sex” and most people find it to be quite the turn-on — even suggestive!

2. “Secret.” The hard sound of the “c” coupled with the smooth “s” makes this word seem soft and hard, intimate and tough. Also, “secrets” themselves are provocative and sexy, so this word does the trick on multiple levels in attracting and tantalizing a potential mate. “Succulent” has a similar sound, but usually comes off as kind of creepy and/or trashy when it’s spoken aloud — perhaps because of the “suck” part that comprises the first syllable’s pronunciation. Use that word carefully — unless you have a particularly desired message, if you get my drift…

3. Words that are particularly descriptive in nature. Using more descriptive adjectives and adverbs is an automatic turn-on, because it makes you sound as if you’re truly putting a lot of careful thought and deliberate effort into your part of the conversation. (Using them also makes you sound smarter, which is never a bad thing.) Think about it: Would you be more attracted to someone who characterized his recent fly-fishing trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming as “great,” or someone who called it “picturesque” or “rugged” instead?

4. “Honestly.” Using the word “honestly” — especially two or three times in a conversation — can send subliminal messages to your date that you are an honest, trustworthy person. Be careful to use it sincerely and appropriately, though; “honestly” tends to be used incorrectly and/or colloquially, so reserve it for emphatic statements, like: “Honestly, I’m not the type of person who really enjoys going out to bars and clubs” instead of hyperbolic ones (“Honestly, I’ve never seen a salad so large!”).

Chelsea Kaplan is deputy editor of and regularly appears as a guest on XM Radio’s “Broad Minded.” Her blog, “I’m Somebody’s Mother?” can be found at
Related Articles

print send feedback subscribe to
What kind of relationship are you looking for?

Marriage—I'm definitely looking for The One.

I'd like a committed, serious relationship, but not marriage.

I want someone to have fun with—I'm not ready to settle down.

Browse singles in your area.
About | Your Privacy | Terms of Use
Contact Us | Advertise with Us | Become an Affiliate

Copyright 2011, L.L.C.

partner sites:  HSN  Citysearch  Evite  Expedia  Hotels  Ticketmaster  ReserveAmerica  Hotwire   LendingTree 
Entertainment  TripAdvisor  CondoSaver  TravelNow  ClassicVacations  LiveDaily  Udate