Don’t get me wrong: In general, men are in awe of women’s date-night conversation skills — which are, hands down, far superior to their own. Even so, though, you ladies do still insert your stiletto’d foot in your mouth every once in awhile — or, conversely, miss prime opportunities to make a remark that would raise your stock in our eyes. Curious about whether you’ve got the right choice phrases in your back pocket and avoiding the bad ones? Check out this list of things guys love (and hate) to hear on a date!

Five things men love to hear on a date:

1. “Then what happened?”
It’s only human for a man to want to think that his life is reasonably interesting. And while interrupting him, changing the subject, or acting bored are well-known nails in the conversational coffin, it’s not enough to just sit there, smile and say “uh-huh” every few seconds. Actively egg him on with comments like, “You’re kidding! What happened next?” or “Go on...” That way, he’ll know you’re genuinely interested versus just being polite.

2. “That’s pretty impressive.”
Maybe he placed in a local triathlon recently or got a promotion at work, or he figured out how to fix his air conditioner by himself. Whatever he’s done, if he’s mentioning it on a date, he’s most likely proud of it — and if you feed his ego by applauding his efforts, you’ll make him feel like a king.
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3. “Thank you.”
No doubt about it, manners matter — and are sorely lacking in today’s less formal dating scene. Tap into your inner Emily Post, and it’s sure to make you stand out. So, thank him when he tells you that you look pretty tonight. Thank him for paying for dinner. Thank him for walking you to your car. It’s such a small thing, but it’ll make a huge difference to him.

4. “What do you do when you’re not at work?”
Although a man’s job might be of primary importance, he also has other things in his life that he values. Does he juggle? Work on his car? Play an instrument? With a little probing, a woman can hit upon hidden passions — and convey that she’s interested in getting a complete picture of him as a person and not just what he does to earn his paycheck.

5. “I’d like to get your opinion on something.”
It’s the damsel-in-distress call, and it’s pure catnip for men... and that’s because we love feeling useful, and seeking our advice definitely fits the bill in that regard. So whether you need tips on buying a digital camera or how to handle a tricky situation with your boss, he’ll be glad to help you. (He will be less eager, however, to comment on shopping, knitting or his dating past...but you already knew that.)

Five things men hate to hear...

1. “My last boyfriend...”
All we can say is, why? Why mention that your ex was a jerk to your date? Why mention that you and your ex are pals? Why mention your ex, period? Whatever you say, all we will hear is, “I’m out with you, but I’m still thinking a lot about another man.” Although men like to compete, they don’t like to do it on a date with men who aren’t even in the same room.

2. “Do you mind if I take this call?”
Of course we mind! We won’t say that we do, but trust me, we do. So unless it’s a dire emergency involving your kids or grandmother on her deathbed, let your voicemail pick up instead. An hour paying attention to your date won’t kill you, right?

3. “So how do you feel about abortion?”
This type of question is known among men as a “litmus test” — a touchy topic that women raise to gauge whether we’re politically, morally, or spiritually on the same page as themselves (the death penalty, gay marriage, and the war on terror also fit the bill). Sure, we probably have strong opinions, but we’re not interested in getting into them with you; at least, not yet. After all, this is a date, not debate club. Let’s have fun and save more heated back-and-forth discussions for later.

4. “And then I found this cute pair of sandals...”
Granted, you and your girlfriends can spend hours gushing about shopping, shoes, and new hairstyles, but you’re not out with your girlfriends right now. You’re out with a guy, remember? And since we wouldn’t subject you to talk about stocks or our favorite sports teams, please, do us the same favor.

5. “How do you feel about having a family?”
Pop this question during those first few dates, and most men will assume your biological clock is ticking fast — and that’s not a good thing. It’s not that we don’t want families; in fact, many of us do — it’s just that we like to get to know a woman first before doing so. And we also like to know you that like us as more than just as a potential baby-making machine. After all, where’s the romance in that?

Robert Harris is the author of 101 Things NOT To Do Before You Die.