Knowing what to talk about on a date is not something that comes naturally to most people. Even if you feel like you’re pretty social normally, there’s just something about first dates that make your conversation skills go out the window.
The good news is, you can learn how to have better connections on your first date. Try out a few of these habits for a better-flowing conversation!
Be mindful about talking too much before the date
When you have a date lined up, you’re probably feeling pretty excited and nervous about who you’re going to meet. And, that might make you want to learn as much as you can about them right now.
But, there are a few reasons why you might want to limit conversation between now and actually meeting in person.
On the one hand, it’s much easier to get the wrong impression of someone when you’re only getting one form of communication from them. For instance, you might think that your date is uninterested in you because they’re not texting back right away. But in reality, they turn off their notifications at work. Or, you might start to idealize someone from the way they text only to find that you don’t have great chemistry in real life. It’s much better to form your opinions about someone when you’ve spent some time with them in person.
The other risk is that when you get all of the basics out of the way in a text conversation, you’re not left with much to talk about face-to-face. Small talk is actually kind of an important part of a first date. And if you’ve already talked about things like family, where you went to college, etc., you might feel pressured to talk about more intimate subjects before you’re ready.
That being said, don’t completely ghost your date before you meet them. You can have some light conversation about how their day has been or what they’re planning on having for dinner. Keep it casual and fun to let your date know you’re still interested. And if they keep trying to steer the conversation to more intimate topics, let them know that you’re excited to talk in more detail during your date.
Consider date ideas that don’t center around conversation
If you’re nervous about what to talk about on a date, choose a date idea that isn’t conversation-focused. Here are a few options:
- Have a coffee walking date. Coffee walking dates are great! Whether you go for a stroll on the boardwalk or walk around your local park, you won’t feel so pressured to stare deeply into each other’s eyes while you talk.
- Exercise together. If you’ve already talked about your mutual love of cycling, rock climbing, or cross-country skiing, plan your first date around it!
- See an indie film. Independent films are generally shorter and more thought-provoking than blockbuster movies. This will mean that it doesn’t take up too much time from your date and that you have something to talk about afterward. Just, be careful with your choice so that you don’t end up seeing a film that’s too off the wall.
- Get the dogs together. If you’re both dog owners, taking the pups to the park or dog beach can be a great first date. That is, as long as they’re both well-socialized and comfortable with other dogs!
- Go bowling. Bowling is a low-stakes game that can help you loosen up and have fun. We would suggest getting a drink or appetizer beforehand so that you can spend a little bit of time chatting before jumping into a game.
- Play tourist for a day. If you live in a big city, there are probably lots of museums, landmarks, and parks that you only visit when you have relatives in town. A first date is a great excuse to refamiliarize yourself with the best that your city has to offer.
Start off on a positive note
When you meet up for your first date, you want to make a good first impression to set the tone for the rest of the evening. Try these icebreakers out:
- Tell them how excited you are to meet them. Acknowledge that you’ve been looking forward to your date as a way to set the stage.
- Offer a compliment. When done right, a compliment can make a big impact. This early on, it’s best to play it safe by admiring their outfit or, if you met on a dating app, their profile. For instance, if they wrote a clever profile bio, you might say something like, “Your profile had me in stitches. I can’t wait to see that sense of humor in action!”
- Ask them about their commute, or their day in general. We know, this can feel like a mundane question. But sometimes, mundane questions can actually work to quell anxieties.
- Get the drink orders in. If you’re having a traditional date in a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop, you’ll both feel better with a beverage in hand. Their drink of choice can also be a conversation starter.
Ask them about something you saw on their profile
These days, almost everyone meets on dating apps, so you don’t have to pretend you didn’t scour their profile in anticipation of your date! Here are a few things that you can pick out to spark conversation:
- Pictures where the background looks interesting. Did they take their profile picture at the beach? A winery? The Coliseum?
- Their hobbies. Most people include their hobbies in their bio, whether it’s exercise, spending time with their pets, or staying up to date on the latest reality show.
One thing we will say is that spending too much time learning about someone from their online presence is not a good look. You can talk about things that they included in their bio, sure, but try to limit how much of their other social media platforms you’re consuming before you meet.
Get to know more about their work
Work is another neutral territory to build rapport and get comfortable with one another. Ask your date what they do for a living, whether they have a long commute, and how they like their job.
And if you don’t know anything about what they do for a living, that’s okay! Instead of nodding and waiting for this part of the conversation to be over, it’s completely fine to say something like, “I feel silly, but I don’t completely understand what it is that you do. Can you explain it to me a little more?” This will show that you really do care about learning more about them and aren’t just listening to be polite.
Talk more about your leisure time activities
You might have already touched on this when bringing up hobbies, but it’s a good idea to dive deeper into how this person spends their free time.
Are they, for example, more likely to spend their weekends curled up on the couch? Or, do they get up early even on a Saturday to go for a run? How do they unwind after a particularly bad day? Do they consider themselves more of a homebody or a social butterfly?
These questions will help you get to know your date better, but they’ll also help you gauge compatibility. To be sure, relationships can thrive when both people are interested in their own things. But drastically different lifestyles can be difficult to overcome.
Another interesting conversation topic for this area is entertainment. What kinds of movies, shows, books, or podcasts can they not get enough of? Again, if you’re not familiar with their entertainment of choice, that’s okay! You might even ask for a recommendation to try it out yourself. They’ll be flattered that you would be willing to learn more about something that they like.
Ask about their family
Asking about family is a good way to move beyond small talk into more personal territory. You certainly don’t want to get too deep into things like family drama or difficult childhood experiences. But getting to know more about their family dynamic is important in understanding someone. Ask questions like,
- Do they have siblings? Nieces and nephews?
- Do they have a tight-knit family?
- Do they have family in town?
- Where is their hometown and do they still have family there?
- Do they spend holidays with family?
Remember, also, that many people consider their pets to be part of their family! So, don’t forget to ask whether they have any furry friends at home.
Ask about their childhood (in a lighthearted way)
Like talking about family, bringing up a conversation about childhood should be done lightly at this stage. Ask fun questions like,
- What were you like as a kid? Were they the class clown? Did they always do their homework?
- Did you play sports? An instrument? If so, do they still play?
- What’s the cutest thing you dressed up as for Halloween? Bonus points if there are pictures!
- What is one snack from your childhood that you would gladly eat every day now? What we love about this question is that if things go well, you can surprise them with their favorite childhood snack on your next date.
Make space for celebrating accomplishments
Maybe you know that your date has gone to grad school or done a lot of world traveling. It may be something that they don’t want to bring up for fear of bragging. But, if you make them feel comfortable to share, you’ll be able to learn about their amazing accomplishments.
Always remember that everyone defines success differently. If they can’t think of anything particularly noteworthy to share, encourage them to tell you something they’re good at or proud of. You can celebrate accomplishments as small as being able to make an amazing cup of coffee or having a good sense of direction.
Give them a crystal ball
Talking about the future is common on a first date. But often, the way it’s introduced (“So, where do you see yourself in ten years?”) is a bit boring. Instead, make the conversation more interesting by giving your date a metaphoric crystal ball and asking them what they want to see. You can start it off by saying something like, “You have a crystal ball in front of you. What would you want to see in five years? Ten years?”
By bringing playfulness into the conversation, your date will think of this question more imaginatively than practically.
Play a game
While we’re on the subject of playfulness, first dates are ideal for getting-to-know-you games! Try these out with your date:
- Two truths and a lie. In this game, you and your date will think of two true things about yourselves and one lie. The other person has to guess which one is the lie.
- Your most useless superpower. If you could have a superpower that was only useful to you, what would it be? Would you be able to fold an entire load of laundry in the blink of an eye? Make all dogs instantly fall in love with you? The sillier the better.
- 30-second soap-box. We all have something that we feel passionate about that we wish others would too. This is your date’s moment to rant uninterrupted about something that really grinds their gears. Maybe they think we should abolish parallel parking. Perhaps they think horoscopes are ridiculous. No matter what it is, give them the floor for 30 seconds and see what they come up with! To make this an even more potent bonding moment, be sure to encourage them as they go. Slap the table emphatically, nod dramatically, and clap when their time is up.
Some final things to remember about what to talk about on a date
In this article, we’ve given you a few ideas for things to talk about on a first date. If you’re still feeling nervous, keep these tips in mind:
- Your date is also nervous. Sometimes it can feel like you’re a bundle of nerves while the person across the table is cool as a cucumber. But remember that your date probably also feels the same even if they don’t show it. So, relax!
- First dates should be fun. When you loosen up a little, first dates become much more enjoyable. It’s much better to come off as a bit silly than to sit in awkward silence.
- Sometimes there’s just no forcing it! Not every date is going to give you the fireworks feelings, and that’s okay. If you had some moments of connection and spark during the date, you might try again when you’re both feeling a bit less nervous. Or, if there was really no chemistry, well, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be. This list of what to talk about on a date is bound to work better with someone you have a genuine connection with!