How to Strike up First Date Conversations That Make Sparks Fly (Expert Advice)
Conversation topics can make or break your first date
Whether you’re new to dating or you’ve been on many first dates, we all know how it goes: the butterflies in your stomach, overthinking the awkwardness of the interaction, setting expectations, and likely not being sure who your date will really be IRL.
Or maybe you’ve become cynical because you’ve been on dozens of first dates without experiencing a real connection.
Whatever the case, figuring out what to talk about on a first date is no easy task. With so many possible conversation topics, it’s easy for things to go wrong!
Knowing what to talk about on a first date is definitely important if you want to make online dating work. So, what do the experts have to say?
Create connection through emotion, not logic.
Matthew Hussey, dating expert, life coach, and author of How To Get The Guy book, speaks about how to create attraction during the first-date. Creating a connection through emotion can come in the form of asking “Why” questions as opposed to “What” questions.
For example, start asking “Why do you love reading as a hobby?” Or “Why do you hate social media?” Starting out with “Why” questions helps fine-tune what the other person values, and you can easily get insights into their motivations, intentions, and passions. Being able to understand people on a deeper level can ensure a stronger connection and as a result, lead to a better first date conversation.
Talk about what YOU love. Talk about what THEY love.
Matthew Hussey also specifically talks about how logic does not create attraction. Emotion does. When thinking of first date conversation topics, aim for questions that go after emotion and not a logic trail of thought.
Asking open-ended questions instead of closed-ended questions can be a great first date conversation starter. In addition, focusing on your date instead of on yourself can also make a first date conversation go very well. People love it when you take an interest in their lives and genuinely listen to them.
Avoid controversial conversation topics on first dates.
For the first date, conversation topics you should generally avoid are politics, religion, sex, your ex, money, and/or your “must-have” list. You want to keep it relaxed and smooth. You can delve into these topics later if the relationship moves forward.
“Asking in-depth questions about your date’s exes and other past relationship details on the first date is a recipe for failure,” said psychologist Samantha Rodman. This is a date, not an interrogation. Keep it light and engaging, and as the conversation flows you will be able to get to know your date better and better.
Best first date questions according to a monk.
Jay Shetty, a former monk and public speaker, spoke on his podcast On Purpose about the best questions to ask on a first date. Here are some of his favorite conversation topics:
Become an expert in body language.
It doesn’t matter how good a conversationalist you are if your body language betrays you. Body language speaks VOLUMES more than the words out of your mouth. Professor Albert Mehrabian of the University of California in Los Angeles found that words account for 7% of the overall message, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55%.
Always make clear eye contact. If your date leans in, it means that they are interested and engaged. Another tell-tale sign that your date may be into you is if their pupils dilate.
Conversely, if your date is looking away or have their feet or legs not pointed towards you, it could mean that the are not interested. Be aware of these signals during your first date conversations and you can lead things in a smooth direction.
“ Words account for 7% of the overall message, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55%.”
Don’t speak about who you were in the past because frankly, no one cares.
Stick to the present moment and focus on who you are today and who or what got you there. Speaking about how your body looked in the past or who you were in the past does not matter.
What is more important are the lessons you have learned and who you have become today. The reality is, people, care about who you are today, where you are headed, and what you are looking for in a relationship. Keep this in mind when having your first date conversation.
Nothing turns off another person more than giving off fake vibes. Lying about who you are or your past is never a good way to start off a relationship. Be real and authentic. Be yourself.
According to an article published in Personality and Individual Differences called “Be Yourself: Authenticity as a Long-Term Mating Strategy”, researchers discovered that being yourself may be an effective mating strategy for those seeking meaningful long-term relationships. It takes courage to be honest, transparent, and authentic and a person willing to have those traits despite rejection is proven to be loyal in a long-term relationship.
Set positive intentions towards yourself and the date.
Setting intentions about how you want to be treated, and what your boundaries are, is extremely important. For example, setting up expectations in terms of communication style such as the preference of texting during the day versus calling. Another instance is understanding personal space boundaries.
A related first date conversation topic is how much time you need to yourself and how much you like to spend time with your significant other. Making sure you are on the same page is essential for establishing healthy boundaries.
Ask the famous 36 first date questions.
Asking more in-depth and meaningful questions can be a great way to drive a first date conversation and a great way to break the ice. First date conversations can be aimed at getting to know the other person well and certain questions if asked, can help you create a better overall picture of your date.
Northwestern University Psychology Professor Dan McAdams studied what it takes to truly get to know someone and came with it with a full 36 questions that will drive meaningful conversation. A few questions you can start off with are “What does your perfect day look like in an ideal world?” Or “If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?” Getting clear on these questions can help you create a stronger connection on your next date!
Go deeper than the superficial and understand what they value.
Understanding what you value and what your date values is one of the most important indicators of a successful date. The best conversations dig deep to uncover what matters most to the person sitting across from you and gives you insight into whether their values align with yours,” says Samantha Burns, dating coach and author of Breaking Up and Bouncing Back.
Some first date conversation starters can be, “If you did not have to work, what would you do all day with your time?” Another question can be, “What are you most passionate about?” Questions like these can give insight into your date’s personality and/or value system which can ensure a better match success rate.
Final Thoughts on What to Talk about on a First Date
It is also important to keep in mind which dating apps you are using to connect with and converse with to potential partners because specific apps can really drive the direction of a first date conversation.
For example, if you are using Tinder, you may be looking for a fling or hook-up (and if you’re not, you had better figure it out if your date is!). If you are using eHarmony, on the other hand, chances are you will be scrolling through people who want more of a long-term relationship.
Keep in mind what dating apps you are on and what goal or objective you want them to help you accomplish in terms of your dating and relationship goals. Online dating requires you to be selective in which apps to use depending on your specific purpose for using them. Dr. Lara Hallam, a researcher in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Antwerp, where she’s working on her Ph.D. in relationship studies summed it up: “Use apps according to your partner preferences.”
When it comes to figuring out what to talk about on a first date, remember that it is ok to be nervous or just go with the flow. First dates can be hard and awkward at times. But if you keep the conversation going and keep these points in mind, you might be surprised by the discussions you end up having with potential partners.
Need even more ideas for what to talk about? Check out our list of 55 first date conversation starters.