Speed dating is one of those things I thought only happened in TV shows and movies. After all, with all the apps like Tinder and Hinge that us old kids have these days, we have a digital version of speed dating at our fingertips.

But when my roommates said they were doing an actual speed-dating event, I thought why not? In a world where we all connect via screens, it seemed like a nice return to simpler times when a date was getting a milkshake at the nearest diner and playing DJ on a jukebox. Ok, maybe not that far back but you know what I’m saying.

I came away from the whole thing with a few numbers, a date, and a boost in confidence. Pretty standard stuff. But ironically, what I got out of speed dating had little to do with dating.

At the risk of sounding like a workaholic robot, you can learn a lot of interpersonal skills that dating apps can’t give you.

Learn To Let Silence Ring

I have a big problem with awkward silences, mainly because I perceive every silence that exists as being awkward.

But when you back off a little and let someone else fill in the gaps, it’s not only way less stressful – you actually learn something.

Allowing someone else to take charge of the silence patrol makes a conversation a lot more natural and way less like a robotic interview. Not to mention, it allows them actually to ask you questions about yourself. 

…But Also How To Keep A Convo Going 

That being said, there are people who don’t fill those silences. And it starts creeping into awkward silence territory rather than ‘natural pause’ and you just end up smiling uncomfortably and nodding to each other. The worst.

At that point, you kind of learn to flip your improvisation switch and start coming up with topics and random things that can actually spark an interesting conversation. And while that may seem like ‘Human Conversation 101,’ it gives you a weird confidence knowing that on future dates or meetings or interviews, you’ll know how to deal with those awkward moments. 

Fake It Till You Make It

Ahhh yes, the big one. On Tinder, if you don’t like someone for whatever reason, you swipe left, and they are out of your life forever in the cleanest way possible.

Speed dating? Not so easy.

While the five minutes ticks away until the next rotation, you don’t have to pretend to be into the person across from you – but you can’t just be a dick either.

There are going to be people in your life you don’t like or want to associate with. Whether it’s a co-worker you can’t stand or that one family member who keeps getting invited to stuff and always seems to find you, or in this case a date, you can at least keep up a conversation for a few minutes. You might even learn something.

How To Be Concise

Typically in speed-dating, you get five minutes with each new person – just enough time to have to prioritize what you’re going to say.

You start to figure out what the important bullet points are. Maybe the entire saga of how you liked the color blue a lot because you went on a deep sea fishing trip every year with your family and then switched to liking purple and back to blue isn’t necessary. But hey, you went deep sea fishing every year – that’s something that can spark a conversation.

Consider job interviews. Personally, I would end up rambling about something that was in no way important, and it would totally distract from the whole ‘why you should hire me’ part of my answer. You learn how to chip away the extraneous stuff and get to the core of what you want to say about yourself. 

Plenty of Fish in The Sea (Or Lake Michigan)

I didn’t come out of this thing with a life-changing new connection. I had plenty of matches, had a guy ask me for my number at the event, and even got a date out of it.

I signed up for speed dating to spend time with my roommates, but the most important dating lesson I got out of it was the simple comfort that there’s plenty of people out there who are single, looking, and aren’t just glued to Tinder for hooking up.

Plus, at the very least? You get a story out of it.