Don’t spend so much time preparing how you will look on your first date that you forget to prepare what you’ll say! No one wants to have their first date dominated by awkward silence and conversations that don’t go anywhere. Here are five tips to help you start and maintain good conversation on your first date.
1. Ask open-ended questions to learn about your date. The first date is an excellent opportunity to get a good idea of your date’s background. Try not to ask closed-ended questions that result in one-word answers. Instead of asking, “Where are you from?” ask your date to tell you a story about growing up in his hometown. Instead of asking, “What do you do for a living?” ask your date to describe a typical day. Instead of asking, “What kind of food do you like?” ask your date to describe his favorite meal. Asking open-ended questions will give your date something to talk about, and probably branch off into other topics to keep the conversation going.
2. Ask your date follow-up questions. When your date is talking to you, listen carefully to the details. Rather than thinking about what you want to say or talk about next, internalize what your date is saying and ask follow-up questions. When your date starts to tell you a story about football and you don’t understand a term, ask him to explain it. When your date mentions her brother, ask what her brother does for a living. Each sentence that comes out of your date’s mouth could potentially lead to a whole new conversation, and you will probably learn a lot about your date along the way. Your date will probably love talking to you, as well – people love being able to talk about themselves, and they love not having to think about what to say next.
3. Be up-to-date on current events. From entertainment to politics, try to stay up-to-date on what is happening in the world before you head out on your date. Set your home page to CNN.com. Ask the office “American Idol” fanatic which contestant went home last week. If you’ve always wondered what Fantasy Football is, now is the time to find out. Pick up a newspaper and scan the front page. Even if you don’t know every detail about a particular topic your date brings up, being aware of it would be a good start. If you have a general idea of what interests your date, concentrate in that particular area. A word of caution, though: If your date starts in on a topic you don’t know much about, don’t try to pretend you are an expert. Admit what you know, and ask him or her to clue you in to the rest. People like to teach other people new things, so giving him or her that opportunity will probably earn you some brownie points.
4. Get to know yourself before you let your date get to know you. Your date will find you more attractive if you know yourself well and can share the details of a full life. What foods do you like and dislike? What are your political and religious views (although, as a side note, you may want to save these heavier topics for after the first date)? Favorite movies? What are some excellent stories you have to share about yourself, your family, your travels, or your coworkers? Take inventory of yourself before your date. If you start to take inventory of yourself and find that you are, well, boring, then perhaps dating should take a back seat to getting out in the world and experiencing it first.
5. Practice on other people before your date. Being a good conversationalist should not be limited to your dates. Conversation is an art that should be practiced and perfected whenever you are in a social situation. Practice these tips on your coworkers, clients, friends, and family. If you know the person well enough, ask them to give you feedback on your conversation skills. Not only will this help you sharpen your skills, but the more good conversations you have with other people, the more perspectives and information you will be able to share in your conversation on your first date.
With this arsenal of skills, you should not be in danger of any awkward silence on your first date. As your relationship develops, things should only get better as you have more shared experience, grow more comfortable with deep topics, and even get to the point where you get comfortable with silence. If you ever get stuck, though, you can always talk about the weather!