Somewhere along the line it became common wisdom that the key to being a good dinner partner is to keep the conversation focused on the person you’re with, and then “be a good listener.” So now, who knows how many restaurant meals consist of one diner having to answer 75 questions before she or he has buttered the first roll.
“Yes, you do have to listen,” says Susan RoAne, a California business networking consultant and author of What Do I Say Next? and How to Work a Room. “But if all you do is ask questions, I’m going to clam up and my attitude becomes, ‘What’s it to ya?’ ”
The bottom line: Instead of grilling the person across the table from you, bring something to the party yourself. Good conversation strikes a balance between giving and receiving. “Naturally you want to show you’re interested in your dinner partner,” RoAne says. “But you want to be interesting too.”