5 Ways to Avoid Awkward Silences on Your First Date

The first date is at once the most exciting and most terrifying step in the dating process. On one hand, you could be starting a new era of your life ― one filled with love and connection to a person who truly understands you. On the other hand, a first date is almost certainly going to be a big awkward.

Fortunately, with some preparation, you can mitigate the worst of the unease. Here are a few ways to cut silences short and get comfortable on any first date.

1. Have a Plan

Most people cannot claim improvisation as a strength, so the more you can plan ahead of time, the more comfortable you will be during your date. At least the day before your outing, you should know exactly what the two of you will do together and exactly where you will do it. You might even plan other aspects of the date, like your outfit or your topics of conversation (see below). Then, when the first date comes, you will be thoroughly prepared to overcome any awkward challenges.

Having a plan serves an even greater purpose than mitigating any first-date awkwardness: It shows that you have initiative and forethought, which are subtly sexy traits most people want in their mates. Still, it is considerate to inform your date about your plans in case he or she isn’t keen on certain activities.

2. Learn Some Icebreakers

Getting to know a complete stranger is stressful ― how can you possibly understand another human being? Do you start with softball questions about his or her job and hobbies, or do you go straight to learning his or her life values and future plans?

Most experts advise against delving too deeply into potentially traumatic or controversial topics on the first date, which means you should stay away from issues like politics or past indiscretions. You should also avoid snore-inducing lines of conversation, like recent dreams or minor health problems. Instead, you can peruse icebreaker lists to find inspiration for your first-date chatter. These will help you and your date reveal important information in a lighthearted and comfortable way.

3. Pay Attention to Body Language

A famous study found that people communicate primarily non-verbally: More than 93 percent of a person’s thoughts and opinions are conveyed through his or her body language and tone of voice rather than the content of his or her sentences. Therefore, it is crucial that you pay attention to your date’s non-verbal cues to understand what he or she is saying. You will be better equipped to steer the date away from any looming awkwardness, especially unwanted physical interaction.

It is important to watch your own body language as well as your date’s. Sometimes, you might encourage the wrong opinion with subconscious actions or behavior, and being careful about your expression and limb placement will help your date understand you, as well.

4. Get Active

The simple act of sitting across from your date is actually one of the hardest ways to achieve first-date success. When you are limited to the dinner and drinks on your table, you and your date will likely run out of conversation topics fast.

A much easier date ― and usually a much more memorable one ― gets you both up and interacting with the world around. Not only do active dates provide a built-in distraction during lulls in conversation, but they allow you to hide your nervous, fidgeting fingers. Here are some suggestions for lively first dates:

  • Attend a local arts or food festival
  • Walk around the park
  • Hike an easygoing mountain trail
  • Bike around your favorite neighborhood
  • Play a round of golf (or mini-golf)

5. Sink Into It

Ultimately, unless you and your date were made for one another, you will experience a bit of awkwardness on your first outing together. However, a tiny amount of discomfort isn’t a good reason to end the date early. Those mutual feelings of self-consciousness arise from positive emotions, like excitement and attraction, which means nervousness is a good sign: It shows you want to make a good impression.

While it is definitely a good idea to have a plan and to keep your date engaged, it can also be useful to allow a little awkwardness on your date. When a silence starts, you should try to feel comfortable in it by feeling the sensations in your body, noting your breath, and sinking into the tension. Perhaps your date will find your coolness in the face of awkwardness even more attractive.