According to a study published in Science, the average person speaks around 16,000 words a day. And while it’s a common myth that women use more words than men, this isn’t actually true. What is true is that almost all of these words (we’re assuming at least some of you tend to talk to yourselves) are used as a means to communicate with another person, and this is incredibly important when it comes to dating and relationships.
Around 90 percent of singles believe that “great conversation” is one of the most important markers of a good date. This makes sense because humans are innately wired to communicate with other humans, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy or effortless when you’re sitting across from a relative stranger at dinner and trying to fill the silence. It’s normal to feel nervous about whether the conversation will flow naturally or you’ll have anything in common to talk about, but a little preparation — and positive self-talk — can go a long way.
So how do you ensure a great conversation on your date? First, you don’t. It’s important to realize that expecting an instant connection with everyone isn’t realistic, so take a deep breath and take the pressure off. Try not to overthink the conversation and just let it flow naturally. It’s usually a fair bet to start with something innocuous like the weather or the place you’re meeting and then move on to discussing how your day or week has been. By this point, you both will probably be feeling more comfortable with each other and relaxed enough to keep things going, but if not, here’s a list of possible conversation starters — or restarters:
- Positive influences, whether friends, family or celebrity personalities
- Goals or dreams — these could be long or short-term
- Job and career history
- Fun places you’ve visited or would like to
In general, anything that gets you excited or that you feel passionate about — in a good way — are safe bets.
Bonus Tip: People generally enjoy talking about themselves, so if you’re having trouble keeping the conversation flowing, ask questions about things they’re interested in or fun experiences they may have had.
Remember that conversations are two-sided, and it’s important to give as much as you take. If you’re constantly providing one-word answers or not asking questions of the other person too, it can come across as disinterest and even self-absorption. If you’re someone who struggles with unfamiliar social interactions and small talk, it may help to practice in small doses, such as with the cashier at the cafe, where there’s less pressure.
If you suddenly find yourself in the midst of a conversation that’s going south quickly, be ready with an exit strategy. Simply changing the subject is enough in many cases, but if the other person doesn’t seem to share your desire to move on to other topics, it may call for more drastic measures. Excusing yourself to the bathroom or otherwise physically leaving the space for a minute or two can provide a natural changing point for the conversation. You can also just simply state, “I’m not comfortable talking about this right now. Let’s change the subject.” If your date refuses, it may be time to call it an early night.
Everyone has their hot button topics they’re passionate about. While this can sometimes be a good thing if you’re both passionate about the same things and share those intense views, there are some subjects that are just best left avoided until you’ve gotten to know the other person better. Common examples are any polarizing conversations, such as religion or politics, and topics that can end up in a downward spiral, such as mental heath, addiction or other emotionally intense subjects.
Being able to keep up a good conversation is one of the most important factors in a date going well. Whether you’re looking for someone to go out with once a month or a new life partner, lively banter and genuine conversation can help you feel more connected and have more fun when you’re out. While it’s normal to take some time — and even a date or two — to feel comfortable talking to another person, if the conversation still feels forced or stilted after a while, it may be a sign that this isn’t a great match.
Before you go out, make a list of possible conversation topics. This doesn’t have to be too formal or rigid — you don’t want it to come across like a talk show interview. But you might want to think about some things that you and the other person have in common or anything particularly noteworthy going on in your town that you could discuss.