Any fan of the Bachelor franchise knows the power of conversation. Struck with fear that they could be in danger of going home on the night of an all-important rose ceremony, Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants will go to great lengths to “steal” the object of their affection away simply to squeeze in a chat, convinced that a few moments discussing their parents’ divorce or their last failed relationship will be the key to their continued courtship. Often, they’re right! Many stars of the franchise will, in fact, opt to keep a seemingly languishing contestant in play for another week after a conversation like this. While much of the Bachelor and Bachelorette‘s accelerated so-called “process” is vastly removed from the norms of everyday life outside the mansion (thankfully), the results of a recent study from dating site Plenty of Fish (POF) demonstrate that early conversations really are as important — potentially transformational, even — as they seem on TV.
Earlier this year, POF launched Conversation Nation, a study of more than 2,000 American singles about the power of conversations in dating and relationships. Study participants ranged in age from 18 to 70 and represent a diverse mix of incomes, ethnicities, and sexual orientation. While the survey delved into many attitudes about conversation, we were particularly interested in just how definitively it confirmed an assumption that we typically take at face value: Talking is really important. According to study results, 87 percent of singles have found someone more attractive after a conversation, and 85 percent report having found someone less attractive after the same. Don’t you just love when a piece of conventional wisdom is proven so overwhelmingly by the numbers?
“It’s basic common sense,” says Celeste Headlee, the journalist and author (We Need to Talk — her book about conversation — will release this September) who worked with POF on the study. “You can look at someone and make assumptions about them and think you’re not attracted to them, and then get to learn more about them, and maybe they have a great sense of humor! I bet there’s a lot of women out there who would not have seen a picture of Jon Stewart or John Oliver and found them attractive. But when you find out that they have a great sense of humor, they suddenly are.”
Conversation Nation proved that a sense of humor is one of the crucial elements of early chats between potential partners. Of the participants who say a conversation has made a date more attractive to them, 42 percent attribute it to intelligence, 40 percent to a sexy voice, and 34 percent to a sense of humor.
Headlee says that much of the importance of conversations comes down to the basic act of listening, especially on a date.
“You can tell a lot about a potential partner by whether or not they actually listen to you,” she says. “There’s the half of a conversation where you’re learning about [your date], but there’s also the question of, are they actually, honestly curious to learn about you? Is that person considerate of who I am and willing to let me talk?”
According to the study, other conversational turn-offs include a lack of common ground (61 percent of participants), insensitivity or meanness (58 percent), and misaligned values (57 percent).
While it’s never ideal to be disappointed by a date, Headlee reminds us that so-called “bad” conversations serve their own purpose. “In some ways, you can see [conversational turn-offs] as a positive,” she says. “The purpose of that first or second date is to figure out if you’re compatible, so there’s motivation to have a really good conversation, because you want to know if the person is interested or interesting.”
In order to ensure that those early conversations give us an authentic picture of whether or not we’re attracted to our date, it’s all about location, location, location. Headlee suggests choosing a spot that isn’t too loud, distracting, or trendy (because you’ll likely be moved quickly through a hot spot to accommodate crowds). Restaurants and coffee shops are great options, but a movie theater? Not so much.
Setting aside your phone and other devices is also key to making the most of conversations. “Science tells us that just the presence of a cell phone makes the person who’s with you more likely to see you as un-empathetic, less trustworthy, and less likable — and that’s with your phone not even making any noise,” Headlee says. “If you really think you might like this person, you might consider leaving the phone at home.”
Once you’ve eliminated e-distractions to allow you to focus more on the discussion you’re having, Headlee advises approaching conversation as a friendly game of catch. “You can’t throw more than you catch,” she says. “There’s a 50/50 split between the catching and the throwing, so try to keep your speech brief, and then give the other person some breath to talk, as well.”
With these tips in mind, we hope you’ll be able to use the discussions on your upcoming dates to determine just how attracted you are to the person across the table — and if your gut tells you that the talk isn’t so cute, listen to it.
Have you ever fallen for someone based on a great conversation? Let us know on Twitter @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)