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I am a 30 year old American woman. A few years ago, I read online that men and women communicate differently, specifically that men do not like to talk face to face and women like to talk face to face.

I am on the autism spectrum so I always struggled with it. So I was relieved to find men don't want to talk face to face either. Since then I went on a few dates. It's kind of hard to have a date without talking at least a little bit, but to make it easier on the guy, I always brought a book so I could read instead of talking to put him at ease. At one point, I had some work to do so I brought my laptop and we met in a coffee shop, so I worked during the date.

Unfortunately, my strategy to put my dates at ease isn't working. The guy seemed offended that I did not stop working and close my laptop when he arrived. That was the opposite reaction to what I intended. Most of the guys seem pissed off that I'm reading or working during the date. It seems they would like to talk to me. But from what I read online, men don't want to talk to women.

That also fits the example of my dad and my brother who don't talk to me at all. If I try to talk to them, they laugh at me, get up and walk away while I'm talking. The men I date don't do that, but I don't want to piss them off by talking.

These dates would start with talking at the beginning and then not. I expect them to also do something else, after all this is what I read that men want to do, that they would prefer to work on their own things too. My dates didn't say anything about my behavior explicitly, or if they hinted at it, it didn't register.

Why isn't my strategy working?

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    "men don't want to talk to women" in my experience, that's not just overly generalized, but just wrong. But I think what's much more important is what you want. Do you want to go on dates where the primary activity isn't talking and need our help on how to communicate that? Or do you just not want to talk because you think it's what they want, and need our help in how to make a date the most comfortable for the other person? – tim Oct 25 at 11:52
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    Hi all, please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation may be deleted without notice. If you'd like to answer, make sure to check out our FAQ on How do I write a good answer? first. And as always be nice; things that are obvious to you may not be to others :) Thanks! – Em C Oct 25 at 18:07
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    @Sentinel The more I think about this topic, my question, and the answers and comments here, I think I am just going on dates because it's what I'm "supposed" to do. I'm not even sure what the date is supposed to accomplish or why I'm there. – notmySOaccount Oct 26 at 2:20
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    @notmySOaccount I'd suggest a separate question for that. I'd think something that lacks a definite goal - "what is the purpose of dating" probably won't go far but maybe "what is a successful date" may get more traction (although still is pretty opinion-heavy). – baldPrussian Oct 29 at 15:55
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    @notmySOaccount (ASD myself) you've been mis-advised about what men want. I like, indeed often prefer, talking to women. Its fine to take a book in case you're early or he goes to the toilet or something but don't occupy yourself with it. He'll think he is boring you. Probably nervous too.. – bigbadmouse Oct 30 at 10:03

11 Answers 11

41

It's been a while since I've dated, but I've been married for quite a while. So maybe I might have some insight here.

When I'm on a date with my wife, I want to be her focus - and she wants to be mine. I want her to think that she's the most interesting thing in the world at that point in time. Were she to bring a book, or work to do, I'd be really insulted that our time together would be taken up with something she can do at any time.

I'm not sure who gave you that advice about not wanting to talk, but I suggest you'd be best served by never listening to them again. In some ways, men and women aren't that different - we want to feel important. We want to feel interesting. We want to feel like we matter. Reading a book during a date tells the other person that they are none of those. In response to your question of why your strategy isn't working: it's a strategy that is designed to drive people away, not closer to you.

Here's how you make it easier on the guy: laugh at his dumb jokes. Smile at him when you see him. Ask him questions about himself. Respond to him. Find areas you have in common - things you like to do, work you do, things you find interesting, places you've visited, or things that bring you joy. It's not hard if you pay attention to him.

Yes, you'll have some dates that will be duds. But trust me, the guys are every bit as nervous as you are. The both of you really want this date to work out, so relax, pay attention, and just have fun.

Edit: there are several good ideas below that I'm going to incorporate into this to make a better answer. (Credit to Upper_Case, RainBacon, and BKlassen)

I have a relative on the spectrum; for him conversation is a real challenge. The authors I reference above make a really good point: have a date be to do something. If conversation is hard, don't make the date around conversation: make it around doing something. Go somewhere you share a mutual interest. Take part in a charity activity. Visit a museum together. Visit a comedy gallery. Do something that he really enjoys - that way he'll have a good time and will remember a good first date. Then do something you enjoy. The purpose of dating (in my mind) is to get to know the other better, and there's no better way than to see someone engaging their passion. That way you have a common experience you can talk about, and won't have to spend so much time trying to make conversation happen.

Edit in response to OP's comment: For my relative on the spectrum, humor is hard. He can make jokes and has a really neat sense of humor, but he doesn't really get jokes. So I can sympathize with you there. A good date will work with you on that and understand your challenges understanding humor - it's definitely not a problem with intelligence but rather with facial/social cues and references. But I digress WRT the question. Let's put aside your dad and brother - if they were in my family, I'd have some very strong words for them. After the first joke falls flat, I'd suggest telling your date that - "I'm sorry, but some kinds of humor just escape me. I'm enjoying your company; if I don't laugh at your joke it's not because of anything you're doing wrong. It takes me a while to understand when people are joking around." No need to bring up the spectrum here. Just be up front about this challenge when the time is right and allow yourself to explain to your date (in small chunks) how to interact with you. A good caring man will accept that.

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    I have a hard time telling when someone is joking. If I know they're joking then I fake laugh out of politeness, but I have a hard time telling if something is intended as a joke or as serious. I have no sense of humor or ability to detect humor. I have been on so many dates when the guy makes a joke but I don't get it, then he has to explain to me why it's a joke and why it's supposed to be funny. – notmySOaccount Oct 28 at 22:46
128

So, I also saw that research once in a training, and I think that one of the reasons why your strategy is not working might be related to a misinterpretation of

...specifically that men do not like to talk face to face and women like to talk face to face

Men do not like to talk face to face means that they don't like to be positioned facing the person they're talking to. It means that they like to be positioned BESIDE the person they're talking to, because frontal face-to-face for them comes across as agressive. Here are more details. And here, provided in the comments

It doesn't mean they don't want to talk to the other person or talk very little. They can be quite the chatterboxes if you let them.

The second reason is that bringing a book (or worse, a laptop) to the date and use it while on the date is downright rude. It shows you're not interested in the person you're dating and that you don't value the time you're spending together.

What you need to do is take a seat on their side and not across from them. Show that you're interested and listening. Ask questions about them - probably related to common interests.

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    I like this answer for the most part, but some of the wording seems like it's revisiting an issue from the OP (drawing a meaningful conclusion about specific individuals based on broad conclusions about a larger group, and that conclusion is informed by non-scientific writeups of unobserved sources). I won't try to impose any edits, but that stance (assuming it's what was intended) is strong and the linked sources are a bit light to support such a conclusion. – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Oct 25 at 18:15
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    That's how a bar is set up so you can sit side by side at the bar without a table. When I did that the same problems happened. – notmySOaccount Oct 25 at 18:49
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    Also, the way men talk to other men is not the same as they talk to women. I'm a men and I rarely look in the face my male friends, even if we may spend a lot of time talking. I do it a lot more with my female friends; when we are talking I look them in the eyes most of the time. – carlo Oct 28 at 11:37
116

I think that the major reason your strategy isn't producing the results you want is because you've overinterpreted a very precise piece of information, and have based your entire approach around that overinterpretation

The single most difficult element of your situation seems to me to be this:

A few years ago, I read online that men and women communicate differently, specifically that men do not like to talk face to face and women like to talk face to face.

...

But from what I read online, men don't want to talk to women.

That is a very strong conclusion, and one which you seem to be assuming is 100% correct in all circumstances with no nuances.

This is one of the many, many situations where a generalization about a group is wrong (or, at least, unhelpful). Do some men not want to talk to any women, under any circumstances? Almost certainly. Do all men feel that way, under all circumstances? Definitely not. For a facile, not-scientific example, consider that I am a man, and I have no aversion to speaking with a woman simply because she is a woman.

(My one complaint about Juliana's otherwise excellent answer on this same question is that the same mistake is presented as a centerpiece: even if "men" don't like speaking face-to-face on average, that tells you little or nothing about a specific man. As another personal example, I have no general preference between speaking with someone side-by-side or face-to-face. Sitting side-by-side is not a silver bullet solution to your problem.)

There are definitely specific, individual people that I don't like speaking with, for a variety of reasons, and there are certain specific times when I don't really want to speak to anyone. In those particular circumstances I would be happier not speaking with another person (a specific person in the former case, and any person in the latter).

On a date, the default assumption is that each person will pay attention to the other and will interact. Otherwise, what is the point of being together in the first place? Some people really enjoy conversation on dates, others may prefer to do activities, or have other preferences for how dates unfold. Few, if any, people like to go on a date to be actively ignored by the person they're with. I, too, would feel extremely insulted to go on a date with a woman who declined any interaction with me and read a book or worked on a laptop.

I would ask questions along the lines of "why did she even suggest/agree to coming out tonight, if she would prefer this totally solitary activity?". As a man who has had dates with women, and seen a wide variety of enthusiasm for conversation on those dates, let me tell you clearly: never once was it easier for me, nor did it comfort or put me at ease, to spend time with a woman who refused to converse or engage with me in any way.

So whatever other signals you may be sending, your dates are almost certainly perceiving your behavior as indicating a strong lack of interest in them (at minimum). Someone who is on a date with you has already indicated that they think they will enjoy spending time with you just by being on that date. I don't think that constant conversation is a necessary element of every date, but it would be wise to show some interest in the other person. Without that they might think that you are simply not interested in them, and they may not enjoy the dates. I, and many others, am not really interested in dating someone that isn't interested in me, nor in going on dates I don't enjoy.


What can you do instead?

A good first step would be to cultivate some more skepticism about things that you generically "read online". The quality of information on the internet varies wildly.

A good second step is to recall that you are not going on dates with "men" (the overall group of individual men), nor are you going on dates with men who are a composite of the statistical average of varying traits among all men. You are going out with a single, individual person. It will always be better to treat that person as an individual, and work to get to know them individually, than to assume that you have a lot of actionable information because you "know" about "men" generally based on an internet article.

A good third step is to think about ways that you can pay attention to someone you are on a date with, and engage with them. Conversation can do that, but it isn't the only way and so if you yourself are not excited about conversing there are other options. Going to see a movie is a low-conversation way to spend some time with another person. Activities, like mini golf or visiting a museum, let you do something together but don't require conversation to feel like more than nothing is happening.

23

I'm on the spectrum myself, and I understand that dating can be quite the challenge. I've had a fair bit of success with it (I'm now married), so I've got a few tips that can help you out.

Why your recent strategies have failed

First of all, it's important to understand why what you've been doing hasn't worked. While it may be true (though it certainly isn't a hard rule) that some men don't want to talk as much as some women, it doesn't mean that they want silent dates. The point of dating, particularly early on in a relationship, is to get to know someone. It's very hard to get to know someone if they spend the whole date reading a book or working on their laptop. When I was dating, I would have been quite disappointed if I had taken the time to plan out a date, only to have the other person focus on anything and everything except me.

What you can do instead

Being on the spectrum myself, I understand how difficult it can be to carry on a conversation. There are a lot of factors that you have to consider, and it can be very easy to make a mistake. I know that I personally take conversation missteps quite hard due to my autism. There are a few things you can do to try and mitigate some of the challenges.

Listen

The number one thing that you can do is to listen attentively. It's hard to try and build a relationship with someone who couldn't care less about you and your interests. You personally don't have to talk a lot in order for a date to be successful, but it is important that your date see that you are interested in them. My first date with my wife is a perfect example of how powerful just listening can be. During that date, she didn't talk much because she had lost her voice. I ended up doing most of the talking, but it was still a great date because she was listening and paying attention, which showed me that she was interested in me. Before that date, I had been on several dates where the person I was with showed little to no interest in me, and the result was that the date was bad and I didn't want to go out again.

Ask questions that prompt longer answers

I know that it's not always easy to just sit and listen, especially being on the spectrum. Listening is good, but on occasion you will need to provide input. It doesn't have to be much. If you have to talk, but can't talk too much, just ask some questions. When I first started dating, I had a lot of trouble talking because I was bad at finding things to talk about. I started to take some small aspect of what the other person had said and then asked a question about it. This both conveyed my interest, and also caused them to talk a lot more, because they could go into great detail about their interests. It's important when asking questions that you look for questions that inspire longer answers.

For example, say that someone says that they just got back from a vacation in Spain. Rather than asking something like "How was it?", you should instead ask something like "What was your favorite part of the trip?". Essentially, you are trying to get your date to tell you stories about themselves so that you can listen and not have to speak as much.

Look for dates that minimize talking

Unfortunately, you won't be able to avoid talking altogether, but the activity you do on a date can really help you limit it. Going to the movies, or perhaps a museum, is a good way to learn things about another person without having to talk as much. You'll get exposed to some of the things they like or dislike, and if you do have to talk then you have good subjects to talk about (i.e. what you just saw), which I've always found to make dates easier.

Tell your date about your autism

Something that was really helpful for me early in my relationship with my wife is that I told her I am on the spectrum. I got some great advice on How do I tell a potential partner about my autism? that helped me make that process easier. By telling your date that you are on the spectrum, you are allowing them to understand you better. You can explain how it affects you and ultimately help your date help you. I told my wife that I'm on the spectrum on our second date. From knowing that I was a little different, she ended up researching things she could do to work with my autistic traits, and it's really helped us to have a strong relationship.

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    "Rather than asking something like "How was it?"" - as a suggested improvement to the answer: also absolutely avoid yes/no questions like "Did you like it?" (and also yes/no answers). People on the autism spectrum in particular tend to be quite fond of these, but such questions are really effective at killing conversations. – NotThatGuy Oct 25 at 23:04
  • @NotThatGuy It's a two-way street. One can often give a non yes/no answer to a yes/no question, and part of social fluency is not relying on the other person to explicitly word their questions as not yes/no. I think that one piece of advice that would help many autistic people (and many people in general) is when you hear something that sounds like a yes/no question, think of how it can be answered with something more. – Acccumulation Oct 31 at 23:53
14

I have found in my dating and married life, as well as with friends and family, that everyone is different.

We do not need to generalize men as non-talkers and women as talkers that make them uncomfortable. I married a man who does not like social situations and is very quiet.

However, when we went out, our conversation was very easy. He opens up to me, because he is comfortable around me. It took a little time, and in the very beginning he actually said

I'm super awkward, but please be patient with me and it will be worth it.

He was right! You will find, I think, over time that it's not men and women that are the divide, but rather personality types. Both men and women fall into those types. Perhaps try checking out something like this website. It talks about different ways people express and understand love.

For me, it demonstrates that what I think and feel may be very different from what someone else thinks and feels, and knowing that can help form a better connection. You don't have to be in a different way, but understanding the person across from you may help, and finding someone who is willing to do that for you will be a real win!

Good luck!

8

An important point especially pertinent to the first several dates is that the goal should be to try to get know each other so that you can both decide whether to continue to pursue the relationship. In this way your current strategy is extremely disruptive and counter productive, by withdrawing into a book or your work you are not engaging with your date so they aren't able to get to know you better. Furthermore, as soon as you delve into your book or work you are essentially saying that your date is not interesting enough for you and you would rather spend your time doing something else, it should be no surprise then that your dates have been unhappy with your strategy.

What I have done and would recommend you do instead if you find keeping a flowing conversation with a new person challenging is to plan dates around an activity so that in those times when conversation topics have run out for a moment there is still the activity to focus on. Not all activities are good choices for this to work though, ideally you want an activity that both you and your date can participate in and won't fully consume either of your attention. This is different from reading a book or working on your laptop because reading or working on your laptop is a solitary action, it's not something your date can do with you.

An example of some of the activities I have used for dates include going to an archery range (always fun to have an activity that offers friendly competition), going to a rock climbing center (this is an activity I love and can share my passion with a date by teaching them) and meeting for a walk in your favorite park. Note that with each of these activities they are not so active that you can't talk during them but can also give you space to think when those awkward silences happen.

Some activities that haven't worked that well for me:

  • movie dates, this is a classic idea but as you won't be able to talk much during the movie you again won't be getting to know the other person very well.
  • dinner/coffee dates, this one is a personal preference I don't like because this puts the success of the date almost entirely on your ability to keep a conversation going and there is nothing to cover for awkward silences, on top of which if you end up sitting across from each other it can feel far too similar to an interview and I don't find that fun at all
6

You're dating without a purpose. Stop.

As you mention in a comment, you're not sure why you're going on dates, just that you're supposed to. This is where you are coming undone. You have no aim, so you're aimless. And that is how you are making a first impression of a nose in a book.

That isn't on your radar, clearly. And when you discuss it, from my perspective you are stumbling into the fundamental "nature vs nurture" question. In essence you are saying you struggle socially because this is your nature, your disability, characteristic or limitation. I see it as the other end of the, um, spectrum: I see human interaction as all-nurture. It's something a reluctant child must be trained for years. However a smart person who wants to learn these skills could pick it up a whole lot faster.

When you interact with a cultured person who stands up to greet you, listens attentively to what you say, and lets you down easy -- that isn't some "normalcy" at work that you don't have. That is a superpower, from 20 years of training. The person has learned 47 ways of rejecting you without making you feel bad, and it's automatic because it's a trained response. For all you know, the person is worse than you on the spectrum, but has simply dropped into the ruts of habit.

It is habit because of training. Or as my partner always said, "fake it til you make it".

Apropos: one thing that consistently throws unusually-minded people is the fallacy of "rising to the occasion", that one ought to be able to get ones brain to do the right thing at the right time, and others are somehow able to do it, and I suck. Bunk. They can't do it either. What really happens under pressure is people sink to their habits. The whole point of training is to cause a different habitual response. That is why training is drilled and repeated: to make it your muscle-memory response instead of one chosen from a menu of options.

"Muscle-memory" like if I magically yanked a Cessna pilot into a 747 simulator that's screaming "Stall! Stall!" The pilot will push power and stick forward (max power/nose down) and do it almost instantly. That's training.

But of course, I had believed "training" to be too pedestrian: why waste the time, why not just "think" the right thing to happen? Well, that doesn't work. You have to learn the right thing, then train the right thing. Or the wrong thing will happen. And that's true for everybody. I'll say more: when I see those who cultivate the rewards of long training in tasks I deem trivial, my expectation is I can just "pick it up" and I get frustrated when I can't. In fact it is my deeming that is the error; the tasks are not as trivial as I think.

In other words, they cultivated a skill. Called etiquette. There are books of the stuff. When I would make a mistake, they'd ask "Did you follow the rules of etiquette?" Well, no, I didn't look the person in the eye and give my undivided attention. "Well, that rule is there so the person feels heard and included, and as such, gives credence to you."

And yeah, disorders or mistraining can make it harder to follow the rules. But "hard" is not the same as "impossible".

Etiquette: the long-lost skill

In recent years, I note a huge amount of social tradition is being tossed out with the bathwater. Some tradition was horrible and bigoted. Some of it was outdated. But I have spent a lot of time in very alternative communities, and I see a lot of people taking the viewpoint that it all needs to go in the bin. They disagree with the awful stuff, but they toss out the "how to be nice" guidelines that are part of it.

That is unwise. If you're not going to follow the rule, you at least need to understand the wisdom behind the rule, and follow that. Or else you'll be repeating the mistake that got the rule made in the first place. So I see a lot of people struggle and fail in these alternative communities because they cannot put together an alternative rule-set that works.

I have been on both ends of conversations where people with more etiquette and social skills were able to get along great with someone with poor skills, but had to "do all the heavy lifting" in the conversation, cue up topics, keep talk flowing, etc.

Also on date night, it's extra frustrating to find that a date sucks, because you passed on going out with someone else, to be here.

5

There are books and articles that say men don't like to talk face to face, but the meaning is the particular geometric orientation, not that they don't want to talk.

For example:

Intercultural Communication:

Girls and women talk face-to-face; boys and men prefer to sit at an angle

Talking shoulder-to-shoulder, not face-to-face:

men often talk shoulder-to-shoulder and not face-to-face

Dating for Dads: The Single Father's Guide to Dating:

Women talk face-to-face. Men talk shoulder-to-shoulder

So I think you are taking the "men do not like to talk face to face" concept the wrong way.

Certainly if you ignore your date, male or female or anyone, and look at a laptop or book or phone, your date will not go well.

So, for example, to quote Ray Bradbury (1960 statement):

In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap opera cries, sleep walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction

3

I would like to add some personal experience and observation of mine that probably applies to many people but certainly to many men: We often like to have something to do when we get together with someone. A personal conversation without a specific topic or incentive, just in order to socialize, can feel a bit awkward.

Note the typical venues where men gather: Billiard, table soccer, darts, golf, sports bars with big screens showing a game.

My suggestion for an enjoyable date with a man is to have some activity together, depending on your tastes: Go to a theater performance or a poetry slam, a non-trivial movie, a concert, classic or punk. It does not have to be a big or expensive thing. You'll learn a bit about your date already during the activity: Are they attentive, are they funny, are they quiet or extroverted. Are they knowledgeable, are they good observers. Afterwards go out to dinner and the conversation will have an anchor which allows you to express opinions and tastes; first about the show, then, if you like each other and are curious and the conversation flows, about other things.

Meeting for an activity also takes some of the awkwardness of a date away: You can always pretend that you just met for the show; anything else is accidental. And if you were lucky and it was an enjoyable show it was a memorable experience in itself. If you collect a number of nice memories going out with somebody that may be a hint.

  • +1 But I think you could do with saying at the start "Men not liking to talk doesn't mean that they want to meet up with someone and ignore each other as they do seperate things. If it's a date they'll expect to be doing something together, it's just that it doesn't need to be based around talking." – AndyT Oct 28 at 15:43
3

An almost-universal expectation that people have, when they go on a date, is that the other person (you) will pay attention to them. Hopefully, they will also have the intention to reciprocate by attending to you, although unfortunately that's less of a given. Either way, the goal of the date is for the two people to become better acquainted. Merely sitting in physical proximity to each other does not achieve that goal—to become better acquainted, some form of communication is necessary. By agreeing to spend time coming on a date, the other person has effectively committed to, and is expecting to engage in, this communication effort. So, your putting your attention elsewhere (book or laptop screen) deprives them of the attention they expected, and prevents communication. Hence it's frustrating for them.

The extent to which women like to talk, or to which men dislike it, is subject to a large amount of individual variability. This variability will dwarf the effect-size of whatever difference you have read about, even if it is a statistically significant one. Such differences cannot be guaranteed, and cannot be taken as absolute. To use an analogy, it is generally a true tendency (certainly, a statistically significant one) that men are taller than women. However, (a) it cannot be guaranteed to be true for any randomly chosen pair of people, because there is a lot of overlap between the genders on this trait, and (b) the difference is usually small relative to our absolute height, and there's a limit to how short or tall people actually are in practice. A person who is so averse to communication that they are comfortable sitting opposite another person who appears completely inattentive to them while on a date, is about as unusual as a person who is 50cm tall.

In fact, when we're talking about people, this principle of overlap applies very widely, and beyond differences of gender. Whenever you hear that one group or subtype of people is different from another, on a given trait, remember: even if that tendency is true (in the sense of being statistically significant) there will nearly always be a lot of overlap between the populations. The large potential for overlap invalidates any policy based on prejudice: you'll generally get bad results if you reason, "this is a person of type W; therefore they will undoubtedly like X/believe Y/behave in manner Z; ergo I will act accordingly". Instead, you will get better results if you base your behaviour on what you learn about the individual's preferences, not on what you assume in advance about their type. And so we have come full circle: to learn about the individual, you need to pay attention to them as an individual (and not to a book or laptop) while you have the opportunity. A date is supposed to provide such an opportunity.

Now, if you've had bad results talking to men (your father, your brother, ... also others?) then of course some of this may be because of their personalities. But some of it may be because of the particular content of what you've chosen to say. The questions of how to talk so that people will enjoy talking to you, and of what to say when you're on a date specifically, are deep ones and there is a lot of material out there giving advice. Many people who are not on the spectrum struggle with these questions too. If you have trouble with this, a good start might be (a) talk less and let the guy do the talking, but (b) when he runs out of words, ask him something about his life, or whether he likes [insert some random thing that you like] and (c) try to look as if you're looking at him and listening to him while he answers. If he shows signs of finding something you have said awkward or uncomfortable, then it might help to make a frank statement that you're on the spectrum, and/or that you find it difficult to know how to talk about particular things. Those signs of awkwardness when you have just said something might include him not knowing what to say and falling silent, and/or looking down or away suddenly, or laughing in a quiet, higher-pitched-than-normal way that indicates nervousness.

Another good workaround is to arrange a more active date that involves doing something together, beyond just sitting at a table. Examples might include a movie, mini-golf as mentioned in one of the other answers, or any one of a number of easily googleable ideas. Then the date consists more (but not entirely) of shared attention on the activity and less (but not none) of the direct attention on each other. The getting-to-know-each-other communication happens less face-to-face, and more through the side-channel of observing how the other person responds to situations and external stimuli.

1

I would like to point out that people are different and any generalization about people is by default wrong.

It is not true that "men" do not like to talk face to face. I'm a man, and I like to talk face to face, especially when I'm dating. I'm sure there are men who do not like to look at the woman they are dating, but I do.

In the same way that generalizations about people are untrue, generalizations about how to behave are also untrue. Some people like to talk face to face and others don't. And one and the same person may like to talk face to face sometimes but not at other times.

Social behavior is not about knowing the rules, but requires that you read the cues that your opposite sends and flexibly reacting to them. When you meet a person, they will signal whether they would like to talk face to face (usually by positioning themselves face to face with you and looking at you when they speak and/or listen), whether they enjoy it (they smile and/or look attentive), or whether they are uncomfortable (they keep looking away when they listen [note that some people look away to think while they talk]) and would prefer another position (by turning their heads or bodies away from you).

Signals are more complex than I make them out to be, and sometimes they are quite vague or hidden (because the person doesn't want you to know they are uncomfortalbe or want something), so reading other people is difficult even for normies. But there is one simple trick that people employ to get along well and that is open for anyone, from those with to those without Asperger:

Speak.

Don't assume what people need from generalizations on the internet. Ask them.

  • Ask them, how they would like to sit. They will tell you.
  • Ask them whether they would prefer to talk or be silent, if you are unsure. They will tell you.
  • Tell them, you don't know how to do dates. They may not know either, and it will take the pressure away from you and them to perform without mistakes.
  • Speak openly about yourself and what you want. If you want to talk, tell them you'd like to talk and ask if they would like to talk too. If you need to be silent for a while, tell them and ask them if that's okay with them.
  • Ask, what you don't understand.

The whole trick about communicating with people is to communicate. Communication isn't learning some rules about what to do when or to guess what people want, but to listen to what the other person says, asking questions, when you don't understand them, telling them what you think and/or feel, and letting them know what you need.

While you, having Asperger, may feel that everyone who doesn't have it is completely different from you, those who don't have Asperger are quite different one from the other, too. Persons without Asperger don't usually know how the other person feels and what they need just from looking at them, and they too have to communicate what they need and what they don't want. That's the whole point of human language, and people get along best if they talk about what goes on within them.

Specifically I believe you should be open about having Asperger.

When you date someone, you want them to want to spend part of their lives with you. You want them to want to be in your presence, to feel comfortable around you, to enjoy you, and so on. And for that, you need them to know about you.

So simply tell them – ideally when you are arranging the date, but at the latest when you first meet – that you have Asperger and what it means for you. You do want them to want you with that aspect of yourself, so having it out in the open right from the start is the best way to build trust and filter out those that don't want a partner like yourself. You don't want to fake being someone you are not and create a relationship with a person who doesn't want the real you. That's both stressful for you and will lead to big pain in the future.

Good luck!

  • Cues might be a problem in this particular case. Perhaps address that in the answer? – Peter Mortensen Oct 27 at 21:09

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