What Online Dating and Public Speaking have in Common

February 11th, 2020

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

I’ve been online dating with a vengeance recently. 

I just decided “OK if I’m gonna do this, I’m doing it full-on.” 

So I started swiping right with verve & gusto.

And yes, it’s true, I now have a phd in online dating. 

Recently one of my dates asked me how my work as a speaking coach has made me better at dating. 

Hmm….interesting question. 

Here’s some of what I said: 

First of all, it’s kicked me to the curb and back a few times, and I’ve gotten up every time a little bit stronger, way smarter and a whole lot more confident. 

You know how you go around thinking “Yeah I’m cool. I’ve done my homework. I’ve gone to therapy. I’ve cleaned up all the shadowy stuff in the crevices of my psyche.” 

Then you start a business and get some harebrained idea that you can get on stage carrying the authority that says “I have something to say that is worth 30-60 minutes of your time.” 

And then BAM. Faceplant. You land right smack dab in the middle of those old messages that for decades whispered little lies into your ears about who you are and who you get to be in the world. You thought they were gone, but nuh-uh. 

Those noogly little self-doubt-demon-whispers turn into screams, to the point where you might start saying to yourself “What in the world was I thinking?”

So you meet them. You can’t let them win. And in meeting them — in making the decision that you’re not gonna let them win — you call up your strongest, deepest power from the well of your being and it becomes yours in a bigger bolder way. 

“So then I bring that bad-ass self to a date,” I said,  “and, well… does that answer your question?” 

“Wow,” he said. “Yes it sure does.” 

I’ve gotten really good at asking questions, too. And listening. 

The dates are often not so good at asking questions in return. (Yawn)  

One guy, after talk-talk-talking speedily and without pause for a long time said (based on the training he’d done on how to “size people up” on first meeting)  “I like the way you chew on ideas. I like the way you think and speak deliberately and slowly. Like me. I think we’re compatible in that area.” 

Then he kept speedy-talking. 

A previous version of myself might have politely listened, then gone home to tell a friend about the guy who couldn’t stop talking. 

But after I listened and nodded while he went on about how the data showed we were a compatible match, I said, “Thanks for sharing. But I gotta say that’s not how I experience you at all. I’ve had a difficult time connecting with you because I can’t tell you’re actually talking to me. It sorta seems you’re talking into thin air and I could be here or not here.” 

Then I winced a bit and said, “I hope that’s ok to say.”

“Wow yes. It’s more than ok. Thanks so much for your honest feedback. It’s rare to get honest feedback.” 

I was on a date with another guy who talk-talk-talked without pause, as I listened curiously, interjecting when I could. At one point I said “Hey — wondering if you’re interested in asking me any questions.” 

“Yes, I do!” he said, but then he kept talking, and told another long story. 

I said, “You know, my default is to listen & ask questions, and I do it because I enjoy it, but when it’s not reciprocated after such a long time, I start to grow weary.”  And he kept talking. 

Finally I said, with kindness and compassion, “I just want you to know I’ve stopped listening. I don’t have the attention to listen any more, so I’m not tracking your story.” 

He was a little shocked, but in the end he appreciated the honesty. Listening was still super hard for him, (he even said “Wow I really don’t know how to do this”) it did shift the conversation into a more connected place.

I could go on and on. There’s probably a book in here. 

The reason I’m telling you this is because I want to show you how getting on stage and speaking — and meeting the voices that want to keep you small — will make you a bad-ass in all departments of your life. 

I mean I guess telling a guy he talks too much is probably not gonna get me a second date. But it’s not “a second date at all costs” that I’m after. It’s authenticity, and real human connection, whatever that looks like. 

So how has my work as a speaker made me a better online dater? 

The best speaking, and the best dating, is all about authenticity. 

Showing up. Being transparent. Speaking truth. Taking risks. 

Trusting that the truth of your experience has value. 

Yes, that. That’s a big one. 

And when you own it, and speak it, and feel the discomfort of walking your own edge, it brings you closer to yourself, closer to your audience, closer to true connection and transformation — whether it’s a room of 500 people or one guy sitting across the table on a date. 

How about you? What’s your bad-ass self up to these days?

4 responses to “What Online Dating and Public Speaking have in Common”

  1. Hi Johanna!
    Great post! I just love your insight! I do have a question…feeling the discomfort of walking my own edge brings up emotions when I speak. I’ve heard that you don’t want to get too messy in front of an audience so to not make them uncomfortable for you. Do you have any tips on how to speak walking your own edge and not have an audience member hand you a tissue? Thanks!

    • johanna says:

      Great question, Marrielle. If speaking brings up emotions, that’s ok! What’s important is that you stay in connection to your audience, and not get swallowed by the emotion. When you put your attention back on your audience, then the tears are just energy moving through you, and they’re no problem. It’s when you “leave” the connection with the audience and put your attention more on yourself, that’s when it gets problematic. Hope that helps! You could also listen to this “Just Say Something” video: https://youtu.be/ztOHTCzUFcI

  2. Cheryl Trostrud-White says:

    Back in the dark ages when I was single, people used the singles bars to meet people. I was uncomfortable with silence so I talked about what I knew best. ‘Steve’ stopped me and said that all I talked about was my teaching, my horse and my daughter. I thought I had been so interesting, but he didn’t think so.
    After that, I asked my dates questions about themselves. Since I had a horrible memory, I had index cards and wrote down (later) what they talked about. I ran into a guy a few months later and after reviewing my stack of cards earlier in the evening, asked him if his sister finished the bicentennial needlepoint she had been working on. He was shocked and pleased I remembered him and our conversation.
    I discovered that asking them all these questions and listening to their answers, many of them commented how interesting I was. Very few left knowing anything about me, however…
    Eventually, I ran into a guy who told me all about himself, his work and his kids, but managed to ask me questions and listened. We’ve been married 40 years.
    I still have his index card.

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