Learn how to break the silence during bad dates

Autumn McCabe, 43, walked out of her condo complex towards a man waiting inside a Hummer. The man peered behind his messy hair and dirty jeans and said he had been sick with diarrhea for three days, but was currently on medication.

McCabe was on a blind date.

“I’m thinking, ‘I don’t even know you. I can’t believe you just told me that,’” McCabe said.

Karen Howells, who runs the Calgary-based company called Your Successful Dating Coach & Relationship Expert, said when a date starts to get awkward, there are four tips you can use to ease the tension.

1. Bring up favourites. Ask the other person about their favourite movies or foods to find something in common, Howells said.

2. Talk about sports. Most guys like sports, said Howells, and if a girl is into at least one sport, the guy can say he knows a little bit about that and go from there.

3. Check out the surroundings. Make a mental note that if the situation gets awkward, there are more active options such as going for a walk, shooting pool across the street, or engaging in a competitive game of some sort to get the blood flowing, Howells said.

4. Laugh and giggle. Howells said many people start laughing because they don’t know what to say, and it ends up being something comical between both parties.

Despite McCabe’s first impression of her date, she agreed to take a drive to Banff. She said the conversation turned to what they do for a living. When she asked, he replied he hadn’t been working for a while because he isn’t allowed into the United States anymore, and needed to travel for his job.

“I’m thinking, can I even be in the vehicle with this person?” McCabe said.

“So I asked him why he can’t go to the States, and he gave me some story that he had trouble in Atlanta.

“I’m thinking well this is all bologna because I’m in the travel industry, and this can’t be true.”

Howells said asking what people do for work is an excellent judge of character.

“Once you ask the question, if the date becomes all weird about it may be that person isn’t as comfortable with who he or she says they are,” she said.

Evan Rasmussen, 22, also believes it’s important to ask what people do for a living.

He said, “I think it’s a good tell of how they see themselves and what they want to do with themselves; how motivated they are, and where they will be in the future.”

Howells said in order to move past small talk into more meaningful conversation, both parties must ensure the other is comfortable.

Rasmussen said his uncertainty about how to approach one particular date resulted in awkward moments.

“I hadn’t talked to her for a month. So it was just a little weird that I called her out of nowhere and didn’t really bother to give an explanation why,” Rasmussen said.

The solution, Rasmussen said, was to full-on pursue the girl and not be shy about it. Then it’s up to her to decide if she’s into it or not, he said.

Karen Howells, who runs the company: Your Successful Dating Coach & Relationship Expert, said women tend to base the rest of their lives off of one date, and men have a tendency to focus on a woman’s physical appearance during dates.
Photo Illustration by: Jenica Foster
Howells has different ways of approaching dating for men and women. She said men approach dates focusing on what the woman looks like, and women visualize their life six months down the road.

McCabe said at one point during her bad date, she got up and turned to rummage through her coat pockets.

“He was staring at my body and he made this sound. I’m way too embarrassed to even mimic that sound, but he made this really gross groaning sound,” she said.

“I turned around and just looked at him and said, ‘Oh, don’t. Oh, don’t.’”

This isn’t the type of behaviour Howells would suggest on a date.

She teaches men to ask open-ended questions that allow them inside access to the person behind the figure.

She also said she teaches women to slow down their inner fantasies, because they are there to engage in conversation for a couple of hours, not the rest of their life.

But in McCabe’s case, it was the man who was thinking ahead.

The bill was set down on the table. McCabe said her date insisted she pay for the meal and he would get the next one. She let him down easy and said she was enjoying the conversation, but they weren’t compatible.

McCabe said, “A convict who lives at home, who’s not allowed in the country, and he has diarrhea. That was my date. That was my fabulous evening.”

jfoster@cjournal.ca