I’m going on a date tonight, and I’d love some tips on how to keep the conversation going. Our pre-date communication was quick, to the point and not very involved; we set a time to go on our date (she responded to my date idea, which was “How Hookup try one of the rum punches at Cienfuegos”) and that was that. When I get nervous, I either clam up and give one word answers, or I overcompensate and talk too much. What can I do to ensure that I’m a good, entertaining and not over-bearing conversationalist? –Male, 28

First off, good date idea: Alcohol is a delicious salve that will help calm your nerves and hopefully keep your word diarrhea at bay. So, yay! You’ve already got that going for you.

[Related: The 3-Step Formula For a Great First Date]

When it comes to being a good conversationalist, it’s best to remember a few pointers:

People love talking about themselves. No, really, they love talking about themselves. I do, don’t you? And if you appear semi-engaged and interested in what your date has to say, making conversation should be no problem. I’m not advising you bombard her with an endless list of questions — it’s a date, not a police interrogation, dude — but starting off with a few basics and then branching off from there is probably a good way to go. Ask her about her day, her neighborhood, where she grew up — and actually listen to her answers. Keep it light and easy: Ask her about the weirdest or funniest HowHookup date she’s seen posted on the site, or talk about what movies you’d like to see. If you do this, conversation should flow pretty naturally.

[Related: 20 First Date Conversation Starters That Aren't Played Out]
Pay attention to her social cues. You said that sometimes you have a tendency to ramble. We all do. The best way to figure out if you’re rambling is to check in with your date every once in a while by looking at her nonverbal cues. Is she looking around the room for an escape? Is she yawning? Leaning back? Then maybe it’s time to cut your yammering short. On the other hand, if it seems like she’s really into that story you’re telling about the time you went scuba diving with Ron Jeremy, by all means, continue.

[Related: 5 Common First Date Fears You Really Don't Need to Worry About]
It’s a conversation, not a competition. It’s a date. Nobody’s keeping score. Again, when your date’s talking, concentrate on listening to her, not coming up with your next pithy remark. You’ve got great stories and funny things to say, but let them come out naturally. Make the conversation an exchange, rather than a series of short bursts punctuated by awkward, soul-crushing pauses. Nobody likes those.

[Related: 20 Questions We Wish We Could Ask On a First Date (But Never Actually Would)]
“Your Girl Friday” is your reliable source for honest advice. Every Friday, she’ll demystify whatever dating problem is plaguing your love life so you can start the weekend off right. No question is too small, too silly or too weird.