15 Icebreakers for a First Date (& 5 Topics to Avoid)

22. October 2010

First dates can be painfully awkward. Ironically, it seems as though the more compatible a couple is, the more awkward the first date can be, as neither party wants to be the one to “mess it up.” While the most important thing to do is let the flow of conversation dictate what you talk about next, it can be a good idea to stockpile a few talking points, just in case you stumble upon an awkward lull.

THE “YOU” CATEGORY

It is always a good idea to ask people about themselves. It is everyone’s favorite topic, and the easiest one to discuss. The following all fall under the “questions/statements about you” category.

1. You look nice

Most people refrain from saying this most basic and fulfilling compliment for fear that it will sound too heavy-handed or forced. However, stating the obvious is a must for those who have never stated it before. It is simple, complimentary, usually true, and reassures the other party that their hard work has not gone unnoticed.

2. Let’s talk about your job

Everybody has one, and if they don’t, it is a good idea to find out why. Asking about a job can be enlightening on several levels. By asking this seemingly surface question, you can find out exactly how successful and ambitious he is, or lazy and unmotivated.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure to decipher the difference between somebody who is comfortable in a mediocre job, and somebody who is ambitiously trying to climb up from their low-paying job. Just because someone may be behind the curve now doesn’t mean they won’t be setting the curve in five years. Being able to tell the difference can be an invaluable skill in choosing a life partner.

3. What’s your favorite TV show/movie/book?

Finding out these vital facts can help you to imagine whether or not you could spend a comfortable night at home on the couch with this person, or whether or not you’ll have to take turns sharing the DVR. While nothing from this category should be a deal breaker, finding out what the other person enjoys watching should add some insight as to the depth of their character.

4. What kind of music do you listen to?

For whatever reason, music seems to connect people on a far more powerful level than any other media. Even drastic differences in music style preferences can be overcome if two people share the same passion for music. While differences of music opinion won’t necessarily drive two people apart, similarities in music taste will almost always bring two people together.

5. What are your life goals?

Life goals encompass the maximum achievements in career, family, and hobbies and give a pretty decent insight as to where a person’s priorities lie. Life goals are the end game in compatibility, and therefore similar goals (or goals that sound appealing to you) are absolutely vital.

6. Would you rather?

This drinking/party/sleepover game can be fun for adults looking to find out a little more about each other, without the pressure of mechanically exchanging questions. Finding out if someone would rather be rich or have the ability to fly may not seem like pertinent information, but the bonding experience can be invaluable.

7. How do you think it’s going?

Ironically, this question can only be asked when you already know the answer. And it should only be asked to convey the fact that you’re having as good of a time as they seem to be having. If those conditions apply, asking this question is a gem of a flirt that could lock up a second date before the first one has even ended.

THE “ME” CATEGORY

Talking about you is something that should generally be kept to a minimum. However, since it is a first date, the other person wants to hear as much about you as you want to hear about them. By using these starter statements, you can easily draw a question or two about yourself without sounding like an egocentric maniac.

1. I heard about this place

Remember, a broad statement can be enough to produce ten minutes worth of material. By simply stating that a friend spoke highly of whatever restaurant you are enjoying, you now can talk about this restaurant, all restaurants, and the fact that you have a friend.

2. It’s nice to be out

Stressed from work? Lonely at home? Finally losing that secret baby weight? Whatever the reason, this statement reassures the other person that you are having a good time, but that you also have other things going on in your world.

3. There are other things going on in my world!

While it is important to not sound too cynical or snarky, everyone loves a little bit of a venting session. Getting some life stresses off your chest will not only make you feel more relaxed, it will also make you (and your date) feel much more comfortable and acquainted in a hurry. Adding familiarity to a relationship where there is none makes the rest of the night sail smoothly.

4. I’m kind of a big fan of…

As long as the next words out of your mouth aren’t something sex related or “Justin Bieber,” you’ll be fine. Chances are good everybody has one thing they really love, and it’s a good idea to talk about it just a bit on the first date. That said, be careful not to dominate the rest of the night talking about your stamp collection.

5. I don’t really like it when…

Pet peeves are perfectly fair game for first date chitchat. Be careful not to confuse pet peeves with deep-seeded political issues however, as differences in political and religious opinion should be sorted out later. Serious hot-button topics are best shared on second and third dates. Remember, this is the audition, not the callback. Talk about slow drivers and fashion trends, not Barrack Obama and health care.

6. I have a job. Here are my thoughts…

Just as you need to hear about the other person’s career status, goals and ambitions, sharing your own is a vital part of the first date. Remember, this is your opportunity to tell your side of the story, so be honest. Whether you love, hate, don’t need, can’t find, or just quit a job, this is your opportunity to explain why, and outline where you see yourself in three years.

7. Did you know?

J.C. Penny used to take all of his potential hires out to dinner, and if they salted their food before tasting it, they would never get the job. He viewed this as applying a solution to a problem before confirming that there was a problem. Maybe it was Montgomery Ward. And maybe it wasn’t true. Either way, don’t be afraid to bust out some random trivial pursuit skills when needed, to show that you’re (somewhat) intelligent and well-read.

8. I’m having fun
Reassuring the other person that the date is going well is the easiest way to lower defenses, relax tension and get to a comfortable place in a hurry. Of course, if you are not having fun, then it is probably a good idea to replace this statement with any one from the final category.

THE “NEVER” CATEGORY

There are some fast and easy ways to torpedo a first date without even trying. Busting out any of these gems is a one-way ticket to awkward-town, and therefore should be avoided at all costs.

1. Blah blah blah MY EX blah blah blah…

DO. NOT. TALK. ABOUT. YOUR. EX. In any capacity. Ever. Do not say how much they suck, or how much you are over them, or how much they would lose their mind if they could see you right now, because no matter what you are saying, all the other person hears is “I’m still thinking about my ex.” If you are still thinking about your ex in a manner that simply HAS to be expressed, kindly excuse yourself and text your thoughts to your best friend from the bathroom. Otherwise keep it to yourself.

2. I think this might be something special…

So assuming you are not thinking about your ex, and assuming the date is going phenomenally well, it is important to resist the urge to say anything more than “I had a great time tonight.” Pouring it on too fast could turn a fun, low-pressure evening into a high-intensity booby trap situation that makes the other person run as fast as they can. Once again, discretion is key, and once again, this is why God (or possibly Snooki) invented the best friend bathroom text.

3. Do you want to be a part of the following plans?

Making solid plans for a second date before the end of the first one has ended is risky, but can be done if done properly. Inviting the date to a party, two concerts, and a wedding is NOT how it is done properly. Trust that the person is not going anywhere, and that you can make plans together as you go along. Once again, too much commitment too fast can be a terrifying thing, even from someone who likes you.

4. I have a whole bunch of crazy I’m working through

Avoid telling stories about the time you followed a girlfriend home to prove she was cheating on you, or how you found some girl’s number in your boyfriend’s phone and proceeded to smash it with a hammer. Even stories about college pranks, drunken nights, or public dares are better left unsaid. These are stories for when you have proven yourself logical and sane, not for when you are still informing others of your dominant traits.

5. You know, we might have sex one day…

Although the perfect set-up for a cheesy line or sexual reference may present itself, choose to be classy. Even if you think it is in good-natured fun, men run the risk of looking like perverts and women run the risk of looking like tramps. Everybody knows what might or might not happen later that night, week, or month. Calling attention to it only minimizes the chances of it ever happening.

Conclusion:

Although a first date can be a stressful and trying experience, it is important to remember that a successful first date does not end in fireworks, symphonies, or wedding bells; a successful first date only gets you to the second one. When people stop endowing first dates with the pressure and importance of the next 50 years, they find it remarkably easy to sit back, relax, and enjoy the company of somebody else. Doing this makes dates more enjoyable, stress-free, and successful.

Image Credits:

  1. http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/files/2010/06/first-date_9658041.jpg
  2. http://cdn.sheknows.com/articles/2010/04/bad-date-with-video-games.jpg
  3. http://mashable.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/bad-date.jpg
  4. http://www.posterboy.info/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/0805-couple-date-restaurant_li.jpg
  5. http://www.poorlittlerichgirls.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/bad-date-1.jpg
  6. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_CAXRcebhcYs/S8DCX5q-agI/AAAAAAAAFIo/KeHpkVPQhpY/s1600/l_1279935_dd024afa.jpg
  7. http://static.blogcritics.org/09/10/31/117821/bad-date.jpg
  8. http://blogs.abcnews.com/photos/uncategorized/2009/02/06/nm_bad_date_080512_main.jpg

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