“What do you like most about the city where you live?”
“What’s your favorite activity?”
“Do you have heroes or heroines? How do they motivate you?”
“What’s your passion?”
“What do you like to learn about a person in order to understand them better?”
Not a bad set of conversation-starters when you’re sitting down with someone alone, for the first time. First dates can be silence suckers if you ask questions and make remarks that lead to pleasant conversation. Get past the sense of wondering “What should I say?” by knowing that the answer to your question is “Talk about upbeat ideas.” You can also ask exploratory questions, the who/what/why/how/when and where stuff that journalists and therapists use to understand situations and people better.
First date awkwardness is something that people would like to avoid as much as having surgery, taking the SATs, or giving a speech. Finding things to talk about with a potentially new loved one is a struggle, though most of us chat comfortably with people familiar to us. But there are ways to get past the problem with a person new to your life. Use a sense of humor. Put your best conversational skills to use, and let’s look at the possibilities.
Find out what the person does for fun. Are they into books, movies, theater, sports, hobbies, volunteering, or something else? Ask why they find it rewarding. Talk about favorites. When you notice the person going off on a tangent with a smile, pay attention. They’re focusing on happy memories. Talk about them, and you’ll gain insight into what makes the person before you wake up each day, energized to do something specific.
Here’s what to avoid:
- Don’t risk a hostile conversation that ends your date let alone your future with the person.
- Talking about your last date with someone else.
- Calling your date by your ex’s name.
- Asking for financial and six references. Or should you? Well, save that question for when you’re considering marriage or a business merger, but don’t ask for a portfolio when you’re getting to know a possible romance partner.
- Mentioning that “I Googled you last night.”
- Going to a theatre to see violent movies or performances.
- One-upmanship. Proving that you did something better or worse than the person before you is not a comfortable situation for your listener. Don’t compare the two of you.
- Berating yourself. Confessing to everything wrong about you is not the stuff of stimulating or fun conversations. Save your confession for a priest or a therapist. If a long-term relationship develops later, definitely discuss your negative traits as appropriate. But first dates are never the right times for doing so.
- Everything you’ve regretted doing on a first date.
Pauses in the conversation will happen. That’s normal. You can smile and chuckle over the uncomfortable moments, sharing them gracefully. That puts both of you at ease. If the date, or your waiter, behaves rudely, though, speak up matter-of-factly. Point out the problem without lecturing the person. Deal with discomfort. Your courage will alert both of you if this is a relationship to pursue.
Ask the person before you what they’d like to discuss. Praise their thoughtful or interesting comments, too. Remember: Many people enjoy talking about themselves. All you need to do is to let the conversation flow.