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Forget canned lines, well-worn jokes, or amusing anecdotes that are designed to showcase what a fun person you are to be around. The single most important and effective thing you can do to have a winning date chat is to keep asking questions, and be genuinely interested in the responses you elicit.

Angle the spotlight

By inquiring about the other person’s life, you’re demonstrating that you’re not only fully present and engaged in the conversation, but also that you’re intrigued by them. The quickest way to get in someone’s good graces is to make them feel special, that they have something interesting to say.

Put aside your dastardly agenda and focus all your attention on the object of your desire, making them feel as if they are the center of the universe for a few hours. They’ll respond favorably to the way you make them feel about themselves and be much more inclined to keep the good times rolling. And while you’re listening intently to the things they have to say, you may even discover that the gorgeous person you are sitting opposite might just be the love of your life, or at least someone that you’re really pleased to have had the chance to get to know.

If you’re not dying to know where your date went to college, take the conversation in a direction that you find more tantalizing and can work with more easily. Try steering the conversation toward positive experiences they’ve had by asking questions such as “What’s the best place you’ve ever traveled to?” or “What’s the most amazing restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?”. If you fear your crush might make you weak at the knees and unable to think of any good questions at the time, have a few prepared in advance to pull out of your sleeve. When you inspire people to recall positive, pleasurable experiences, you subtly encourage them to associate those feelings with you, making it more likely that you’ll later have the chance to show them how accurate such an association is.

Of course, they’ll probably want to know a few things about you as well. Without being evasive, answer their questions in a way that’s brief, impactful, and intriguing, and then seamlessly put the ball back in their court.

Maintain a balance

It sounds counterintuitive, but a little dab of self-deprecating humor can actually help emphasize your attributes when having a flirty chat. The ability to laugh at one’s foibles is a very attractive quality, showing that you have the confidence to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Separate studies have shown that while bragging about your own competence, resources, or education will generally have people believing that you’re a person who knows what he’s doing, there’s a trade-off between competence and likability. Throwing in a few self-directed digs, then, means you can have it both ways. You’ll get the most mileage out of a self-effacing quip if it comes at the end of a bit of self-serving propaganda. Not only will it soften your boast; it will be an opportunity for you to be humorous and likable.

And relax

Lastly, although it can be hard to do on a hot date, try to relax and be your most effervescent self. When people sense that you’re nervous, they’re more likely to clam up and your hot date will become indistinguishable from a job interview. Keeping a conversational volley going is the key to building a lively, fun, and flirtatious rapport.