How To Break the Ice On a First Date

Five minutes into a first date, and you're already afraid she'll start looking at her watch or text-messaging friends about how awful you are.  Quick - compliment her on her appearance.  Whew. 

Okay, that exchange lasted all of ten seconds.  How on earth will you ever make warm, entertaining conversation and turn this first date into something memorable for both of you?

  1. Relax.  While good conversation and relaxation tend to grow out of each other on a first date, you first have to be relaxed enough to inhale and then use that breath to form words when you open your mouth to speak.  Remember, if this date fails miserably, it's not the end of the world (one would hope).  Take a deep breath!  The two of you haven't been dating for years.  If you want to look at cold probability, it's unlikely that you're soul mates.  There should be no real expectations.  Just relax and create a positive, fun atmosphere for your date.
  2. Honesty is the best policy!  If you're fumbling for the right topic and can't think of a way to break the ice, then start by revealing to your date that you're usually not this nervous.  She's likely to take that as a compliment.  Not only that, but she might be struggling with nerves, too (after all, it takes both of you to achieve complete silence).  If that's the case, then already you've found a way to relate to each other.  Not bad, not bad...
  3. How did the two of you meet?  If you can't think of a way to begin conversation, recall how you met each other.  Was it at an ice rink?  Then ask her if she ice skates regularly; that could lead naturally to stories for both of you.  If a mutual friend introduced you, then ask her how she met your friend.  If you met online through a dating site, talk about the unpredictable experience of using such a site - its benefits and amusing aspects as well.  The point is that you already know about two shared experiences - birth and the circumstances of your previous encounters - and since birth probably won't make a very good topic, use the other shared experience as a starting point.  If she says, "That was my first time skating.  I hated it," then ask her what activities she enjoys.  If that fails, then talk about birth.
  4. Laugh and smile.  If your date is quiet, it's possible that she's nervous as well.  No two things will help her relax more than if you seem relaxed and have a good, friendly disposition.  Don't scowl or look around nervously - if she wanted a date with Nixon, she would have gone down to Yorba Linda and probably been either arrested or committed.  By being calm and smiling gently (not creepily, though!), you can encourage her mood to change.
  5. The romantic comedy technique.  If all else fails, imagine you're in a movie theater watching this date play out on the screen.  It's funny, isn't it?  Pathetic, maybe, but funny.  What makes it funny?  The oppressive silence?  The bead of sweat you imagine rolling down the tip of your nose?  The utterly joyless looks on your faces?  Laugh about it with your date!  A little self-reflective humor will demonstrate that you have a sense of humor and aren't too arrogant to laugh at yourself.  Besides, someone else in the restaurant is probably laughing at you already.  By taking a humorous look at your own dating behavior, you can break the ice enough to stir up some better conversation too.  This method isn't romantic in itself, but might be a means to a romantic evening.
  6. Plan ahead.  That's right, you can treat your first date kind of like a job interview by preparing a few potential conversation-starters and committing them to memory.  When the conversation dies down, bring up one of those memorized gems.  For this first date strategy, your best bet is to memorize some questions to ask her.  You might ask her what she likes to do in her spare time, or whether she's seen any good movies lately.  Virtually any broad question can stimulate conversation and reveal whether you share common interests or are utterly incompatible.  By asking questions, you can demonstrate not only that you're interested in her, but also that you're generally a good listener (definitely something women appreciate).  Just don't blow it by interrupting her with a raucous belch or something...

Guys, among all of these tips, the most important rule by far is to relax.  If we don't relax, then we have an uphill battle ahead of us.  Silence makes you nervous on a first date, but being nervous leads to more silence.  So break the vicious cycle!  Right now, you have no relationship to lose and a potentially wonderful relationship to gain.


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