Is Your Date A Turkey?

Stuck sitting across from someone who’s a bore, totally rude, or obviously not right for you? Here, some advice you’ll be very thankful for.

By Julie Taylor

verybody has one now and then: The date from hell that seems to be dragging on forever, even though you’re only five minutes in. But you don’t have to just sit back and endure the pain. We’ve consulted top dating coaches to find out ways to salvage a less-than-stellar date, turn things around, or simply make the best of a bad situation—all of which may come in handy when you least expect it.

Turkey type #1: Your date is so nervous, it’s making you nervous
If your date is jittery, your entire time together can seem charged and more tense—and who wants to spend an outing feeling stressed out? Your mission: to put your date at
Out with a nervous Nelly? Admit you’re nervous yourself to put him or her at ease.
ease. “If you admit you’re nervous yourself, this can sometimes break the ice,” says Shawn David Jackson, author of Dating Survival Guide. “That way, your date doesn’t feel so alone.” He also suggests telling an embarrassing story about yourself—laughter can soothe the nerves. Plus, if your date is intimidated by you, this embarrassing story might just knock you off your pedestal thus reducing the case of jitters. Another trick is to do something active, such as playing a game of pool. That’s what Jan Franklin, 43, of Tujunga, CA, often does. “I notice if I play pool or shoot darts with my date, it takes the pressure off a bit,” she explains. “Suddenly, we’re not just sitting at a table across from each other, staring at each other like a pair of deer in the headlights.” Plus, studies have shown that physical activity can actually reduce anxiety. Game on!

Turkey type #2: Your date is totally rude
When a date constantly interrupts you or spends half the night with one ear plastered to a cell phone, you might be tempted to just bail—do not pass go, do not collect $200. But self-proclaimed “bad date expert” Hillary Kanter, author of Dating Sucks: A Single Woman’s Confessions, Obsessions, and Lessons, says it’s fine to call the person on bad behavior. “I recommend raising a question like, ‘Are you usually this upfront about your opinions?’ or ‘Do you usually talk so much on your cell phone during a date?’” she says. Then simply say you’re just not used to someone doing that and that you’d prefer to switch to a lighter subject or that the phone be turned off for the remainder of the date. Unless this person’s a complete sociopath, he or she will most likely cave when confronted with a direct request like this.

Turkey type #3: There are no sparks between you
Ever been on a date where even if you had two Bunsen burners sitting between you, there’d still be zero chemistry? Unfortunately, it happens. But a lack of fireworks doesn’t have to mean there’s no hope. Case in point: Jimmy Daugherty, 29, of Oklahoma City, OK, who had zero chemistry with his now-wife on their first date. “We just didn’t click that first time,” he says. “I was stressed from work, she’d had a bad day, and we just weren’t firing on all cylinders. Luckily, we went out again, and it was Fireworks City. Now, we’ve been married for two years. We’re living proof that it pays to give things a second chance.” But how do you cope when you’re on that non-fireworks date that feels more like the third of December than the Fourth of July? Jackson suggests getting the person to talk about what he or she is most into. “When people talk about what they love and what they’re passionate about, that passion can overflow into your date,” he says. Another way to create chemistry is to create some healthy competition: Challenge your date to a game of miniature golf or bowling. And all in all, give this person the benefit of the doubt and go on another date or two. Then see how you feel.

Turkey type #4: Your date’s a total bore
In the middle of a date filled with long, awkward silences or a stream of dull what-I-do-for-a-living info? In order to spark up the conversation, communications expert Laurie
The goal is to get to the emotions behind the facts.
Puhn, J.D., author of Instant Persuasion: How to Change your Words to Change your Life, suggests you ask your date the right kind of follow-up questions. If he tells you he likes his job, ask him to describe a project he was really passionate about. Or if she tells you that she loves kayaking, ask her exactly how being out on the water makes her feel. “The goal is to get to the emotions behind the facts,” she says. “That will help inspire a true connection.”

Turkey type #5: Your date’s views are the polar opposite of your own
We’ve all heard that opposites attract, but when a blue state person dates a red state person, sparks are known to fly (but not necessarily in a good way). Kanter recommends skirting sensitive subjects—especially on a first date. “Avoid getting into heavy stuff like politics or religion at all costs,” she warns. But Jackson feels that instead of brushing the issues under the rug, it’s better to face these issues head-on. After all, it’s going to come out some time, so why not explore your differences sooner than later? But this doesn’t mean he recommends having a no-holds-barred debate over dinner. Instead, see this as a learning opportunity to explore each other’s differences. For instance, you might say, “I see things pretty differently, but I’m curious why you feel the way you do.” This might help you understand the other person’s point of view. Sure, you might not ever see eye to eye, but you can still have an intellectual discussion, point/counterpoint-style.

Turkey type #6: You just don’t like the person at all
If there is no way you’d hook up with your date even if you were the last two characters left on Lost, it’s time to focus on the positive things you can get out of this encounter. “Try to look at this date as an opportunity to brush up on your dating skills since the stakes are low,” suggests Kanter. That way, a bad date can make you a better date in the future. Or try telling that funny story you flubbed on a previous date—maybe this time, you’ll get it right. (Remember: Practice makes perfect!) Jackson adds that bad dates are a great place to do some social networking: “Find out if your date has encountered any great new ways to meet people or discovered any new or interesting restaurants or coffeehouses lately, then take mental notes,” he says. “Treat the entire outing as a learning experience.” But what happens if, during the course of your own personal Dating 101 class, your companion is growing more and more attracted to you by the minute? “It’s fine to say, ‘I just don’t sense quite enough chemistry for me to pursue this,’” Kanter says. Even though you might fear it sounds harsh, Kanter says many bad dates have actually thanked her for being honest with them. After all, neither one of you wants to waste any precious time. Somewhere in the future, your next (great) date awaits!

Julie Taylor has contributed to Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and other publications.
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