Some people have absolutely no problem making conversation on a date or even with perfect strangers. However, many people admit to being shy, especially around people they don’t know or those who they’re interested in.
In my recent article, “Do You Talk Too Much On a First Date?” we looked at both the talkers and the quiet types. So for all of you who freeze up and don’t know what to say, I want to suggest practical ways to start up a conversation.
Many people have asked me for advice on how to break the awkwardness of going on a date or talking with someone they don’t know. Whether you are meeting a perfect stranger in a group setting or are on a date with someone you don’t know, the following questions will help to start conversation and keep it going. While these suggestions may seem simplistic and obvious, they’re a good place to start. (Obviously, the first couple will not apply to someone you are already on a date with).
- Say hello to the person.
- Introduce yourself with a smile. “Hi my name is _________.” After they give their name in return, shake their hand and say, nice to meet you. Look them in the eyes and smile.
- From there, you can take a couple different routes. Career or Fun. Let’s start with career since everyone knows that Americans like to talk about work. You might say, “So, what do you do for work?” “Oh, I’m a doctor.” You may follow up with, “Do you love your job?” Or, “Is this your dream job?”
If the answer is YES: “Wow, that’s great. What is it that you like about your job so much?” or “What made you want to go down that path?”
If the answer is NO: “Really? What is your dream job? If you could do anything, what would you like to do?”
These questions can potentially spark a good conversation and tell you a lot about the person in the process.
Every time a question is asked, listen closely while looking for those things you both have in common. If you both work in the medical field by chance, then you will have a lot to share and talk about. If you don’t, you will need to ask additional questions to understand her work more. If the person has manners, he will ask you what you do in return. Both sides should be interested in the other and be ready to share.
After you have finished the work topic, move onto the fun.
- “So, what do you like to do for fun? What are some of your hobbies and interests?” This is a great question because it tells a lot about a person. It is also one of the easiest ways to spark a good conversation and reveal potential compatibility. They may say, “I like the outdoors: hiking, camping, taking long bike rides, going to the beach, etc. I also like to play board games, or on occasion, to read a really good book.”
Again, it is important to listen to the other person and to find that common ground. For example, if you happen to like any or all of those outdoor activities, you will probably have a lot to talk about. “Oh really, I like hiking too… How often do you go? What’s your favorite place, and why?”
Asking open ended questions are always more beneficial. Or, perhaps maybe you love books, and while he or she only likes a good book occasionally, it’s still a topic to cultivate. Each topic you embark on is a potentially good conversation in the making. After these topics start to dissipate, if the person is polite and cares about you, they will ask these same questions or others in return. “So, what do you like to do?” This will bring about another list of likes and another round of lively conversations.
Some people will connect right away, which is ideal. Others, won’t click with right away, but will after a time. A relationship may grow and become more comfortable.
But at the same time there may be others who have no connection and conversation is difficult even with these questions. Most likely, these aren’t the people you will be compatible with. Making good conversation is an art that doesn’t come easy for everyone, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and the more you cultivate an important skill needed for the rest of your life.
What opening questions do you ask on a first date or in a first interaction? I would love to hear the ideas that worked for you. Feel free to add them in the comments below.