First Dates Silence Is Not Golden

There is nothing worse than an awkward silence on a first date, when conversation with a complete stranger dries up abruptly. It’s enough to make you dread the prospect of dating and the more you worry about it, the more likely you’ll find your tongue and brain freezing up.

Don’t hit the mute button on your dating life just yet. With a little preparation, even the most introverted types can learn to keep the conversation flowing. It’s really just a matter of a little research.

Think about conversation with your sister, your buddies, your dad, whomever you can talk to easily, and without really thinking about it. Admittedly chatter comes more easily to women than to men in most cases, yet women seem to be less confident and reluctant to talk about themselves. Both sexes need to be aware of this. Try to channel that easy exchange when you go out with your date by warming them up with a few safe questions about their work, their kids, pets, etc.

Personal note: I am a talker. When I get excited about something (writing, books, triathlon) I can go on and on. I know this about myself and must practice self-monitoring when these topics come up in conversation. When I see my hands flying around and hear my voice getting animated, I dial it back and change the subject, usually by asking my date a question. I don’t want to monopolize the conversation.

If you are a talker, like me, get in the habit of pausing after a few sentences. Pay attention to your date’s body clues. Are their eyes sliding away from you? Are they slumping in their chair because they’ve given up getting a word in edge-wise? If so, shut up! You can’t get to know someone else if you never let him or her tell you anything.

For those of you who find small talk tedious and difficult, there is a way to ease your pain. Take a few minutes before your date and re-read his or her profile. Make notes, if needed, about what they say they like to do for fun, see if you like the same band or both have a dog. Then scan the headlines for anything funny or unusual, but avoid religious, political or sexually explicit news stories.

For example: If you see your date is from the Philadelphia and that the city will be getting more snow, you could ask about friends and family he/she might have there and the impact of the bad weather on them. See how you have asked a personal (but safe question) and wrapped it in a safe topic (the weather) but will learn something about your date. Is he close to his family, does he keep in touch with his brother, or old high school buddies? Are his parents still alive?

If you are the one sitting across the table not getting a chance to utter a syllable, don’t just assume your date is a rude jerk. Some people talk a lot when they are nervous, or they may be anxious to “sell” themselves to you so you will like them. Be ready to pounce on any break in the conversation with a story of your own, an observation or even a little humor, like, “ wow, you’ve been really sharing a lot about yourself, so I guess I should share a little, too.”

If that doesn’t work, you can always stand up abruptly and announce you need to powder your nose. A forced halt in their monologue might let them relax a little and give you a chance to take over the next topic of conversation.

You should expect a certain amount of awkward silence on the first couple of dates. You are with someone you hardly know. Conversation will get easier as you get to know one another, which means you are spending more time together which means you both feel like there’s something there worth exploring between the two of you.

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