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On a date, some people just do not open up. At all. When you feel like you're pulling teeth, reach for a topic thats neutral, that will tell him something about you (or vice versa), or where you can add some bit of information. For example, if he says hes the oldest child in his family, you can mention you read somewhere what his birth order says about his personality.

Sure he can buy flowers, but can he converse?

In conversation, steer away from religion or politics. Stay away from topics that make you take a turn to Negativetown, like work, if all you can talk about is why you want to take your job and shove it. Go with topics that lend themselves to anecdotes or factoidsbut dont be a Cliff Clavin.

When you hear crickets, here are a few topics you can fall back onbesides (yawn!) movies and weather!

1. Great bars and restaurants (like the one where youre sitting). If you like the atmosphere or vibe of the place he selected, you should compliment him on his choice. And based on that, you can also suggest other places he might like. New Yorkers, for example, looove to swap venue names like kids trading baseball cards.

2. Exercise and sports. If you both like to work out or watch sports, this subject will allow both parties to exchange tips, preferences, exercise M.O., and news. Plus, it will tell you something about his fitness philosophy and daily routine.

3. What brought him to this town. Its always interesting to hear why people landed where they did, and where theyre from. Sometimes answers can be very telling: Did he come to the city for a job or to escape his evil ex-wife?

4. What the couple next to you is doing. Pose questions such as, Do you think theyre on a blind date? Do the man and woman look like theyre in the same league? Remember, gossip bonds two people faster than anything. To wit: when you ask the new girl in the office, Did you see The Bachelor last night, she will likely bypass all pleasantries and immediately answer, Can you believe he got rid of so-and-so???

5. Pet peeves. This one is tricky because you dont want to start a bitchfest, but think about it: everyone has a pet peeve. Some of them are pretty funny, too. Just keep it light and hopefully youll be laughing and agreeing on people who chew loudly or who talk on their cell phones while running on the treadmill. Maybe only try this topic as a last resort, but it should work. When interviewing a subject, journalists hunt for the person's hot button issue because thats where you get the best quoteswhen someone is either pissed off or passionate about something. And the words just flow because theyve probably articulated how they feel about the issue before.


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