First dates can be so anxiety-inducing. It’s already hard enough to prepare for a first date—making sure your hair is behaving, your outfit is selected, and you’re there on time is stressful enough—but then you get to thinking about the conversation you’ll have and the dating topics you want to cover, your nerves can really settle in.
What should you talk about? What should you NOT talk about? What if you have nothing to say? What if he or she asks too many questions? You don’t want to say the wrong thing or enter a conversation that will leave either of you uncomfortable or feeling awkward.
So to help reduce just a little bit of the stress, I put together this quick list of dating topics you should probably avoid. Next time you’re heading out to a first date, consider leaving these topics for later.
1. Your most recent ex.
A lot of people and publications advise against talking about your ex, and it seems obvious why. No one wants to spend a first date hearing about everything that went wrong in your former relationship. It’s not a good practice to badmouth your ex on a date because it may leave the person you’re with wondering what went wrong, how true your side of the story is, and what you may say about them in the future.
However, it’s okay to talk a bit about your relationship history. It isn’t always logistically possible to avoid any reference to your past relationships, so a better tip to keep in mind is to avoid talking about your last ex. Dissecting a relationship that has recently ended could muster up feelings you haven’t quite faced yet, and rather than embark on an emotional journey with this new person, it’s better to just leave it off the table.
Don’t flee at any mention of your dating history and don’t awkwardly avoid it if it comes up organically, but try to not bring it up first.
2. Something that irritates you.
If you’re a real life human person who moves through this world and interacts with others, you likely have a laundry list of pet peeves. Some of those might come up on the date—either in conversation or because your date is doing one of those things. Either way, try to steer clear of anything that will really set you off on a rant. Complaining is great, but save it for your group threads.
There are topics that may come up that the both of you can commiserate on—and that’s fine. But if it’s something you specifically cannot stand and know that you tend to rant about, maybe avoid it. Instead of going on and on about how much you hate people who answer their cell phone on the bus, try to keep the conversation lighthearted. You never know if your date is the kind of person who talks on their cell phone on the bus—and unless it’s a legitimate dealbreaker, it’s better to save your diatribe for when you two know each other better. Someone who complains about the small things doesn’t make the best first date.
3. Avoid questions that lead to assumptions.
There are a lot of questions you may be curious to discover about this new person. Are you curious how often they travel, or where they’ve explored? Do you wonder how many books they’ve read this year, or in the past five years? Is it important for you to know if they go to church every Sunday? Are you wondering what their five year plan is? These questions are all completely legitimate, but they can also feel slightly accusatory if they don’t come up naturally.
If you directly ask someone what their five year plan is on a first date, it will quickly feel like a job interview. A lot of people do not have any idea what they want to be doing in five years, and that’s okay. Five years is an arbitrary amount of time and no one wants to have that discussion on a first date. The other examples provided are not necessarily bad questions, but they can quickly make someone feel inferior. If your date has never traveled outside of the country, the pointed question of “where’s your favorite country to visit” can feel accusatory. Let it come up, naturally, or rephrase it in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re judging their answer.
4. Alcohol related stories.
It’s great if you like to drink wine or if you consider yourself a cocktail connoisseur. But it’s important to remember that alcohol is an incredibly sensitive topic for a lot of people. If you and your first date are already sharing a bottle of wine, you have likely discovered that they are a person who does consume alcohol, but that doesn’t mean you know their whole history.
A lot of people have alcoholic parents or family members and take the consumption of booze really seriously. By sharing wild alcohol related stories, you are potentially presenting yourself as a reckless person. Not to mention, if you’re over the age of maybe 22 years old, drunken stories are usually not that interesting.
5. Your social media.
It’s 2018, which means if you’re on a first date, the two of you have likely already dissected one another’s social media presence. Not only is that okay, it’s usually a good idea to verify that you feel safe around the person. Sometimes, seeing someone’s life via social media can assure you that they have friends, they love their family, and they are generally who they say they are. However, while you’re on your first date, steering away from the social media conversation is a good idea.
Talking about how many Twitter followers you have or how many likes your last selfie got isn’t an interesting date topic. There are exceptions here. Social media is a huge part of our world now. Some people are Social Media Managers by trade. Some people run their own side businesses and take a lot of pride in the art they are creating and selling, often advertised on Instagram. If your social media is a huge part of your life, or if it’s your career, you don’t have to shy away from the topic. Just make sure you aren’t falling victim to the “I have a lot of internet followers and therefore I am important” mindset.
Despite the anxiety (or perhaps because of it) first dates are thrilling. It’s exciting to get to know someone new, and for all of the inevitable nerves you’ll be managing leading up to the date, it’s potentially going to change your life. Being cautious of what you discuss on a first date is important. In order to protect your safety, not make assumptions about this other person, and not dive into a potentially offensive conversation, keep some things close to your heart and mind.
If the date works out and you get to keep discovering more and more about one another, there will be a time and place to talk about everything.