Last month, we published Matchmaker Says: Just Don't Just Ask, a collection of first date questions professional matchmakers recommend not asking. And of course, there are certain topics it's best not to surface (credit scores, number of past sexual partners, dating history, etc.) but, are the "no-noes" always strictly black or white?
Matchmaker Marisha Dixon wades into this grey area, providing strategies on how to approach difficult topics when it's in your best interest to dive deeper...
I don't believe that anything is totally "off limits." There is an art and science to conversation, and certain situations call for tactful investigation into sensitive subject matter.
Let's start with the "science." We're wired to connect with others and it's likely that both parties really want to know the same things about the other person. So, who is going to mention the supposed "forbidden" topic first, and how?
That's where the "art" comes in. Those with conversational prowess know how to inquire to get wanted information without being intrusive.
Sure, there are questions whose answers you don't really need to know on day one, but the "sooner the better" for some things — particularly if it has to do with assessing common values.
Matchmakers must ask questions that some may consider to be "off limits."
Why? Because personal conversations are required to thoroughly screen potential matches for our clients.
How? If you learn the art and science of communicating (by actively listening and inquiring from a place of compassion rather than judgement), you can steer the conversation to empower others to open-up.
Let's set the stage...
You have a "no sex on the first date" policy. Many presume that sex is one of those "off limits" first date subjects, but your date has alluded once or twice to the topic in subtle ways, and naturally you're not sure what to think or do.
You're not uncomfortable because you already know your stance, but it's possible your date is attempting to draw you out... would he/she be interested in taking things further tonight? I recommend cutting to the chase in situations like this. Here's how to effectively have this "off limits" conversation on a first date (if it's absolutely necessary).
Say something like:
"I read in USA Today College that 42% of university students have sex before the first date. What was your take on pre-date sex back in college?
You have done a few things with framing the question in this manner:
- You've acknowledged the elephant in the room (remember your date mentioned the topic first — though, in a subtle way). You want to show that you're a good listener, right?
- You supplemented your question with a statistic about a commonly known trend. This statistic may oppose or support your own stance, though in this case we know you are team #nosexonthefirstdate.
- You directed the spotlight off of that person directly and redirected it to their younger selves. This makes a huge difference. It's way easier to talk about the silly mistakes or beliefs we had when we were younger than to be asked a personal question about the here-and-now. Asking in this way creates a safe place for sharing, and will likely develop a conversation in which you can extrapolate past (and current) feelings on the topic.
- You are actively listening, expressing encouraging body and verbal language... "That's interesting, please do tell me more," nods and inquisitive smiles — all in a nonjudgmental manner. People want to connect (the science), but you have to help them feel comfortable to get them to do so (the art).
Now that your date is sharing the details about this "off limits" first date topic from the perspective of their younger selves, you can listen for anything that gives you the impression that this is (or is not) a mentality that vibes with yours.
Again, there may be certain topics that are NOT necessary for you to know right away because it's just a first date, but in some cases you can wade into "forbidden topics" without making either party feel uncomfortable, or violated.