When it comes to dating, getting to the first date isn’t the hard part anymore—it’s having the first real life conversation with someone. Forget chemistry, what you ask and what you say can inevitably be the deciding factor in whether the relationship will make it to date number two. An easy, organic conversation is always best, but naturally, we’re all a little nervous on first dates, which either makes us shy and quiet or turns us into chatter boxes or interrogators. That’s why we came up with 12 fist date conversation tips to help your convo flow smoothly.
1. Admit you’re nervous.
Chances are your date is nervous too, so coming out and admitting it can be an excellent icebreaker. Being honest is important and letting your date know how you’re feeling may help take some of the pressure off. Just make sure the conversation is still about getting to know each other. If you don’t give the other person the chance to know more about you, they may not ask you out again.
2. Ask questions.
Conversations should flow back and forth. If you’re not asking the other person questions and are only talking about yourself, you’ll either look A) not interested, B) self-absorbed, or C) both. Asking questions conveys engagement. If you’re shy or unsure of what to ask, remember to think about topics ahead of time. (And if you need some help, check out this list of 75 Creative First Date Questions to Ask Anyone.)
3. Ask about their favorites.
Who doesn’t like talking about their favorite food, hobby, or sports team? Asking your date what some of their favorite things are keeps the conversation light and fun. And, if you both seem to love mint chocolate chip ice cream, then you may have just found a reason to extend the date.
4. Don’t spill your guts.
Be forthcoming and real, but don’t turn the date into a therapy session. “Ease into talking about yourself—remember intimacy is a bit at a time. Let him or her reveal a little, then you reveal a little,” says relationship counselors and co-authors, Drs. Judith and Bob Wright.
5. Avoid politics.
They say there are two things you should never discuss at the dinner table—religion and politics. The same holds true for the first date. When you have strong beliefs or opinions, it’s easy to get overexcited and even judgmental. Of course, where your date stands on certain issues is important to a long and healthy relationship, but wait a few dates before diving into the political discussions.
6. Don’t lie.
Fudging the truth—even a little—on a first date means you’re starting the relationship with a lie. “When wanting to be liked, we may embellish, hide relevant data, and say anything to make ourselves appear more authentic. However, if you continue to date, the truth will eventually come out,” says Dr. Judith.
7. Don’t “one up” them.
Your date mentions taking their first trip overseas to London. Don’t follow up by bragging about how you’ve been to every European country and visit there three times a year. Nobody wants to feel like their experiences are insufficient. Instead, be more congratulatory and respectful. Everyone has different opportunities for different experiences.
8. Ask about their job, don’t ask about their salary.
It’s fine to discuss work and jobs but how would you feel if someone asked you how much you make, if you own or rent, or what kind of car you drive? Those kinds of questions make it seem a little like all someone cares about is how much money you’ll be able to spend on them.
9. Talk about past relationships but avoid too much ex-talk.
Unless you’re specifically asked, avoid getting into relationships past. A recent survey by the dating site and app Zoosk on what’s okay to disclose and when, shows that nearly half of singles say past relationships, including recent breakups, shouldn’t be discussed until after a few weeks of dating.
10. Speak up.
If the other person does something that makes you uncomfortable—subtly puts you down, is rude to the waitress, makes snide comments—don’t just take it like a punching bag; say something! Dating is about finding the the one, not about torturing yourself with bad company.
11. Don’t start asking about the next date too soon.
You may be thinking about the next date, but you’re still on date number one, so be present. “If you worry about what comes after the first date, chances are you’ll be anxious, appear needy, and may try harder to impress the other person. Be on the date you’re on now,” says Dr. Bob.
12. Don’t talk negatively about yourself.
Modesty is appealing; low self-esteem is not. There’s no need to announce all your flaws on the first date. Joking about how bad you are at dating is also a huge turn off. It’s okay to admit you’re nervous but telling someone on a first date that you’re bad at dating is like a director coming out before the movie to announce that it stinks. It kills interest or motivation the other person might have had.
When it comes to having a good first date conversation, it’s ok to stumble and make a few mistakes. There’s no getting around it, first dates are hard and can get awkward at times. But if you keep talking, remember these tips, and focus on getting to know the other person you might surprise yourself by how easy the conversation will flow.