Dating is great. It’s exhilarating, you get to meet lots of interesting people, you get to step out of your comfort zone and try something new, and even if it all goes terribly wrong you’ll probably get some good stories to share with your friends. However, some people find dating pretty stressful – and that’s completely understandable. Meeting new people can be draining, and if you’re looking to settle down, get married or start a family you might find that you’ve put a lot of pressure on one dinner. To help, I’ve put together a list of things you could discuss with your date to avoid uncomfortable silences. By no means is this a play-by-play, just some ideas that you can use.
To start, the things you know about each other and what you have in common. How did you first start interacting with your date? Romcom ‘meet-cutes’ aren’t really a thing any more, and a lot of couples either meet online or get set up by their friends and families. This actually makes things much easier: if you met online, you may have already had a conversation about their hobbies and interests, so use these topics as a ‘springboard’ to see what they’re excited about and what they’re looking forward to. Take a genuine interest, and they’re likely to respond positively. And if you have hobbies and interests in common, even better! If you’ve both got the same kind of pet, swap stories and show a picture, and if you both support the same sports team talk about the latest matches, newest players or any live games you’ve seen.
If you were set up by a mutual friend, you could discuss them. How they met, or any funny stories, anything you want. It’s a personal touch that can help you feel closer to your date and allows you to know the date in a familiar context.
Next, think of what you’re looking for in a relationship. A lot of problems in dating and relationships come from bad communication. If you’re looking to settle down, be clear about this. If you’re having fun and want to see how things go, that’s fine too. What’s best is to be upfront about everything: it’ll save you, and your date, time. However, you can – and should – be tactful about this. Don’t mention that you want to buy a house in a particular suburb so you can be close to your parents and have three children, and also don’t say that you’re planning on sleeping with them and then ghosting, because that makes it feel like you’re not going to take their opinions or feelings into account.
The next one seems obvious, and yet I have had numerous dates where this subject was brought up. DON’T talk excessively about your ex. Once, in passing, sure – but if you go out with someone and talk about another person all night you’ll almost certainly put them off. It’s a good idea to talk about breakups with someone, but a potential future partner? Bad idea. If you say anything too positive it’ll seem like you aren’t over them, and if you’re too negative it makes you sound petty or vindictive, and there’s a good chance your date will assume that you will talk about them in the same way. Also, it’s probably a good idea to avoid politics.
Next, story time. If there’s something about a mutual friend or interest, good, and if it’s funny, even better. Try to tailor it to their interests – if they love horror films, mention a local ghost story. If you’ve both just moved to a new city, you could share the moment when you felt like you belonged – when you knew to avoid Time Square in New York, or how you got confused in London and ended up in Edgware instead of Edgware Road.
Finally, know when to shut up. No, seriously – take an interest in what they’re saying and listen. Few things come across as more obnoxious than someone who won’t stop talking about themselves. Ask your date open questions and respond thoughtfully. This is also much more relaxing, which is better for everyone. If the date finishes and your companion knows everything about your life and you know nothing about them, it’s been a bad date. There is a balance to this: bombarding them with questions will make the date feel like a job interview, so try to practice ‘active listening’ (nodding, smiling, laughing and giving short responses when required to show interest) to keep them talking.
Hopefully these pointers can buy you a couple of hours of a pleasant conversation, and then all you have left to do is figure out how to say goodnight!