Those first few dates are tricky business, and it gets worse if both of you don’t know each other very well.
Thoughts like, “Will he be intimated if I talk about current affairs?” and “Will she think I am insensitive if I crack a religious joke now?” float around in people’s minds all the time.
And when you over-think what you should or should not say to someone new, you inevitably invite in unbearable lulls in the conversation.
But remember, you are not alone when it comes to cautious colloquy on a first date.
Awkward silences – We’ve all been there!
We have all seen the recent paparazzi snapshots of Victoria Beckham and Samuel L. Jackson at Wimbledon. Two powerhouses sitting next to each other at one of the greatest sporting events in the world with nothing to say, the awkwardness amplified even more with fuzzy snapshots of the awkward tugging of jacket lapels and the fiddling of already perfectly coiffed hair. Although they may not have been on a date, awkward silences tend to creep into everyday circumstances, seeping into social cracks and crevices when we least expect them to. And this is further amplified on a date.
Seamless chatter that end with a romantic stroll along the boardwalk and a passionate kiss goodnight *or more* at the door do not have to be reserved for chick lit and summer flicks. We are all human and awkward silences are the norm, especially when we are getting to know someone new and have no idea where the ‘uncrossable’ line lies. [Read: 14 subtle signs you’re ruining your dates unknowingly]
8 easy ways to avoid awkward silences during a date
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you can’t help but feel hot under the collar as your wriggle your sweaty toes uncomfortably, all you have to do is fill in the blanks with these great suggestions and you will never have to worry about dreaded awkward silences again.
#1 Skirt controversial topics
As passionate as you are about wanting to see the destruction of the financial system, or think that all women should have the right to be pro-choice, or even if you think that the president is a douche *or not*, save controversial topics for when you get to know your date a little better.
For all you know, he or she may be heavily invested in hedge funds, be completely against abortion, or by a twist of fate is related to the president.
In general, steer clear from conversations that may lead to one person taking a firm stance against the other. As healthy and fun as a passionate debate may be, you may want to take the pressure out of your first date and save it for when you can garner a little more information on the person. The only thing worse than awkward silences during a date is to get walked out on midway through your scallop cerviche.
If you happen to land on a sensitive and controversial topic and realize that your date is a little touchy-feely about it, sidestep the issue and say something like, “Well, how about we save that little powwow for later and focus on this instead?”. Follow up by throwing in a random yet witty bit of information on anything that tickles your fancy and see where the conversation leads to next. [Read: 20 smooth ways to perfect your first date conversations]
#2 Skirt the past as well
You should also remember to avoid talking about the past, unless they bring it up, of course. Trying to weasel information about why your date’s last relationship failed, or why they are no longer on speaking terms with their parents is not exactly something to focus on when it comes to date number one. Questions like these will undoubtedly lead to awkward pauses.
Diffuse the situation by turning the subject to yourself instead. If you have no qualms speaking about your past, do it, but remember to stick to happy memories and avoid the boohoo bits. [Read: 20 clear signs of attraction on a first date]
Turn the conversation to yourself and lead it to something different with a line like, “Well, I for one do not have a great relationship with my mother, but she used to make these amazing coconut cookies, and as a kid it reminded me of the beach. Do you enjoy spending time by the ocean?”
#3 Acknowledge the silence
You will be surprised at how well honesty can work in an awkward situation. Slice through the tension with an honest response in a comical voice like, “Well, that was awkward, let’s try and avoid that, shall we? It’s a little too early for quiet time.” Follow up with a new topic of conversation completely unrelated to what you were previously gabbing *or not* about.
#4 Siblings and friends
When you are speechless and feel cornered conversationally, kickstart a topic related to siblings and friends. Most people feel comfortable speaking about the people closest to them as it is classified as non-threatening territory.
Whether it is talking about backpacking Europe with your college roommate, or attending your nephew’s retro-inspired first birthday bash, you will be able to dig up a myriad of random conversation starters by sorting through your mental Rolodex of friends and siblings.
Say something relatable and non-threatening like, “I have a four-year old niece who wants to be a nurse and you will not believe the things she makes her parents do during playtime. When I was her age I wanted to be a paleontologist. What about you?”
#5 Travel anywhere special?
Talking about our big, beautiful world is a surefire way to start a wonderful gab fest. Ask your date about where they have traveled to and what they found most inspiring about these places. Follow up with witty tales of your personal travels, the people you met, the things you ate, and the sights you got the chance to witness.
Even the most worldly traveler will not be able to resist hearing about your experience eating a fried scorpion in the back alleys of Siem Reap. If your date has not traveled much, ask them, “Well, let’s just say you get to drop everything right this minute and go off on an adventure. Where would you go and why?” [Read: 18 signs your date already likes you on your first date]
#6 Ask about achievements
People love talking about themselves. Personal experiences that encompass failures and achievements mold a person into what they are and most of the time, people are not shy to speak about what got them to where they are. Even if your date is only doing so-so career wise, they will undoubtedly have something to say about what they are doing, their career aspirations, horrible bosses, and so on.
If speaking about work is not something either of you want to touch on, ask your date about something you know they are good at such as, “Janine told me you are a great chef and a master at Thai cuisine. What made you pick up cooking?” [Read: 40 first date questions that’ll lead to interesting and fun conversations]
#7 Weekend activities
One way to diffuse tension is to speak about weekend activities. Not only is this neutral territory, it will also give you an insight into your date’s general likes and dislikes. From going to the local shooting range, to rock climbing, to taking pole dancing classes, you will be able to garner plenty of information on a person’s character just by asking what they enjoy doing.
Not just that, it will give you plenty of talking points to fall back on the next time an awkward lull pops into the conversation.
Start with something that you enjoy doing and move on from there. “I recently completed level one of a Hatha Yoga course and am very excited to start level two. What do you enjoy doing over the weekends? Perhaps I can get some tips from you on where to go and what to do once I’m done with level two.”
#8 Indulge in an activity
You can also opt to move on to something that both of you can do without the need for much speaking. Doing something together will loosen the tension and hopefully lead to another chance at a meaningful conversation. [Read: 20 signs of attraction to watch out for in a first conversation]
If you are at a restaurant or bar, suggest getting up to dance if there is music on. If you are taking a stroll, indulge in an ice cream or partake in a random word game.
Draw inspiration from your surroundings or a third party if there isn’t an activity that you can escape to. Say something like, “I was told that these chandeliers were imported from Italy. I wonder if the owner has roots there.” or “I hear that George Clooney recently vacationed not too far from here. Do you enjoy any of his movies?”
If all else fails, loosen things up with a cocktail or two and if you are still unable to get the conversation flowing after a margarita, then perhaps the two of you were just not meant to be!