10 Easy First Date Conversation Starters

first date conversation starters

These words are potential first date conversation starters! (image by patti haskins, via flickr)

What do you talk about on the first date? These conversation starters will help you avoid those awkward silences and uncomfortable moments.

The most important thing to remember is that the happier and relaxed you are, the more you’ll enjoy your date. And if you’re enjoying yourself, so will your date!

Before the tips, a quip:

“A gossip is one who talks to you about others; a bore is one who talks to you about himself; and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself,” says Lisa Kirk in New York Journal American.

That’s one of the best tips for first date conversations: talk to your dating partner about him or herself. Ask questions; listen sincerely and attentively.

It sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly difficult to really listen and be curious about other people.

If you’re worried about dating – and you’re not ready to throw in the towel and sit home with your cat every night – read The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible.

And, here are a few tips for making small talk on the first date…

What to Talk About on the First Date

Even shy, introverted personality types can use these tips to avoid awkward silences on first dates. These tips range from discussing “the elephant in the corner” to knowing when to “fold ’em” — and they’ll make your dating life easier and more enjoyable.

Talk about the “elephant in the corner”

If you notice that there seems to be nothing to talk about, then your date is probably noticing the same thing. Talk about that!

I often say this to start conversations: “Isn’t it awkward when you feel like you have nothing to say?” Then you’ll start talking about that – and you’ll both be more relaxed. Try it – it really is an effective first date conversation tip. You’d be surprised at how fun it can make your date!

Brush up on the news

I’m not a big fan of American politics, the war in Iraq, or the Canadian housing economy – but I listen to CBC and scan various news sources so my hubby and I have something to talk about at dinner (because sometimes old married couples need conversation starters, too!). Find stuff to talk about from the news, sports, your community, or politics.

One of the most interesting conversations I had on a first date was about a feminine hygiene exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery. On display was used feminine sanitary products. I thought it was disgusting; my date thought it was fascinating. Our conversation was a blast!

Share the highs and lows of your day

Here’s a great “first date conversation starter” that works for any get-together: family meals, first dates, or huge galas. Ask for the highs and lows of the day, and share yours. Did you lose your keys or find $100? Maybe you ate at a new restaurant recently, or found a great new CD. Making small talk is about sharing the little things — which, by the way, is important even after you’ve been married for years!

Comment on a piece of clothing or accessory

Even better, wear a funky brooch, scarf, or necklace. If you’re talking to someone wearing any accessory, ask where it came from or what the significance is. Being observant about people and your surroundings is a great conversation starter for first dates.

If you’re tired of small talk tips, read When You Can’t Think of Anything to Say – Connecting With People. It’ll help you connect on a deeper level.

Ask questions about what your date says

There’s nothing worse than talking to someone who’s eyes are flitting all over the place. When you’re making small talk, follow up on what your conversation partner is saying. For instance, if they say they’re “doing excellently”, ask why. If they mention that they’re exhausted, follow up on it. This is a good way to make dating fun – and get to know your date better.

Recall your past conversations

Even if it’s a first date, you can highlight what you talked about on the phone as you were setting up the date. Here’s a first date conversation tip that will carry you to second and third dates: file away bits of information, such as  their favorite vacation spots, the tie they were wearing the last time you met them, or where you were the last time you saw them. Then, make sure you ask about those things.

Ask open-ended questions that require an explanation

For instance, “How are you?” isn’t an effective first date conversation starter. Making small talk is easier if you ask “Whatever happened with ‘__________’ “? or “The last time we spoke you said ________. What happened with that?”

Avoid close-ended questions, such as “How was your day?” and “What’s your cat’s name?”

Ask what funny movies or books your date has seen recently

Someone once asked me that at a party –and this is so much more than a first date conversation tip. When I was asked what book I was reading, it felt like contrived conversation – which it was – but then we had a fantastic discussion about the book! Even the obvious conversation starters can be effective, especially for first dates…you’ll never know where it’ll go.

Take deep breaths – finding stuff to talk about is easier if you’re relaxed

Your date (and conversation partner) will pick up on how relaxed – or anxious – you are and will respond in kind. And two nervous people aren’t great at making conversation! So, let your guard down with your first date, business lunch partner, or the stranger at the gala event. If you’re nervous, say so. If your shoes are too tight, say so. Knowing how to make small talk on a first date is about having fun on your date with chit chat.

Know when to fold ‘em – let the conversation die out

If the conversation feels like dragging a piano uphill with cement boots on, then let it go. You can’t connect with everyone, and some conversations simply refuse to take life! Making small talk involves knowing when it’s time to move on – because conversational chemistry is just like personal chemistry. You can’t force it to happen.

Related to Your Search

Remember that making conversation on your first date is just like making conversation with a family member, coworker, or stranger at a party. The most important thing is to be yourself – let whatever is on your mind or going on in your life come to the surface.

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39 Responses

  1. Laurie says:

    The most important thing is to BE YOURSELF! No matter how much you like him, no matter how desperate you are to make a good first impression, you need to let yourself be yourself.

    Sooner or later, your true self has to come out. Might as well be sooner, right?

  2. Cherie says:

    I have a first date tonight and I’m really nervous! I like him alot. I wish we weren’t going out for dinner because i can’t eat in front of guys I like.

  3. Laurie says:

    For me, the worst part of making conversation on the first date is small talk. I hate making small talk! I’d rather talk about more interesting, important things. This is part of being an introvert.

  4. Laurie says:

    I totally get it, Courtney! Eating in front of someone you don’t know well and maybe even are attracted to can feel weird. One major suggestion is to avoid messy food, like spaghetti or burgers.

    Another option is to avoid eating on the first date. Instead, go to a dog show or to a cooking demonstration (some fine restaurants do cooking demonstrations that are tons of fun!). Do something that focuses on something other than eating.

    But eventually, you’ll have to eat in front of your date. What makes you feel weird or self-conscious about it? Write down 3 reasons…sometimes knowing the root of an issue helps with overcoming it.

    What’s your biggest fear, with regard to eating in front of your date?

  5. Courtney says:

    I’m typically really shy, but I’ve never had problems with first dates. I use the “elephant in the corner” one alot..and surprisingly it opens up the whole night. For me at least. I, on the other hand, am self conscious about eating in front of my date. How can this be fixed?

  6. Dave says:

    I think this could be summed up in two words. Conversational chemistry. This is definetly the most important thing in any possible relationship. U need to be able to talk too the person easily and freely if u have a chance of the relationship going any further. And like the article says u can’t connect with everyone so if its not working dont press it

  7. Laurie says:

    Hi Krizix,

    I think that’s a great idea, to tell your date that you searched for first date conversations starters! You’re instantly “connectable” and likeable, and your sincerity and authenticity will make your date relax with you. If a guy told me that, I’d probably like him more.

    Although, it really does depend on the guy! Some guys might make it sound weird and needy, which wouldn’t be a good start to a relationship.

  8. Krizix says:

    I think mentioning that you went onto this website and looked up conversation starters is a good conversation piece. It would show that you were willing to put in effort towards the conversation which makes you interesting and dedicated to whatever may follow. Also being prepared shows that you are well organized, which is always a good trait to have if the person is to look at you as a potential partner. The only negative thing I could draw from this would be if the person immediately figured you were incapable of coming up with ideas for conversation yourself at this point, so I don’t believe this should be the “First” Conversation piece you should start with, give yourself time to get things flowing first.

  9. Laurie says:

    Who keeps mentioning money problems on the first date — you or your partner? I can’t tell if you think it’s annoying to talk about money problems, or if you’re annoyed because your date keeps talking about money problems.

    Either way, I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk about money problems on the first date. You should be getting to know each other in a fun, light-hearted way! The serious discussions should come later.

  10. Als says:

    Is it annoying or bad to keep mentioning money problems on the first date? Please help thanks!

  11. Nick says:

    seems like pretty inane conversation, but i could be wrong I guess.

  12. Laurie says:

    Before you know what’s “good” to talk about on a first date, maybe you need to try a few things first! Perhaps talking about the elephant in the corner doesn’t work for everyone. It’s amazing what starts conversations – if you think about how certain conversations get started, you’d be surprised.

    When I work hard to make conversation, I often fail. But when I’m genuinely curious about other people and ask about their lives, I can start good conversations. It does help to know a little about them, though, so you can ask about stuff they’ve already talked about.

  13. shadow says:

    I completely disagree with ‘talking about the elephant in the corner’ technique. Whenever someone has done this to me, i take it too personal and think i’m the one making it awkward. And every time, just from that one little comment, I become uncomfortable and awkward for the rest of the night. It doesn’t work and it’s kinda rude.

  14. Laurie says:

    Some silences or conversations gaps are perfectly fine – most people don’t talk all the time! Well, maybe women friends do…and some male/female combinations. But my husband and I went out for sushi today, and our conversation was slow and quiet. We just didn’t have much to say to each other, which sometimes happens.

    But, when you’re getting to know each other, you definitely want to keep talking! One of my favorite ways to start conversations is to ask what people like best about their jobs, and what they like least.

    Again, making conversation on the first date boils down to being genuinely curious about your dating partner. Is he owning or renting? Where did he take his last vacation? What was the last concert or play he attended? Does he have pets?

    And don’t just pepper your date with questions — make sure you answer your own question, so there’s some give and take happening!

    I hope this helps, and welcome your thoughts.


  15. Emma says:

    so i met a guy and we really connect but when we sat together there were alot of silence moments
    what can i say or do to carry on an inteseting conversation ?


  16. Krish says:

    Hi Rachel,

    Go forward, without allowing your mind to feel shyness. Always feel that you are dominant over the guy with whom you are talking.


  17. rachel says:

    Hi, can anyone help? I’m 28 year old lady and all I want is to find a decent guy. I’m shy and quiet and although I’ve been on dates many times before, I just get so nervous beforehand. Usually dates go ok but find it hard to find things to talk about and follow up on conversations. I always worry so much about being quiet and not having nothing to say and start thinking this way so it becomes a vicious cycle. It would be so nice to meet a nice guy and keep him, and him not mind that I’m quite shy but I think this scares them off. Any great tips to give me? I’m also currently reading Paul McKenna’s instant confidence book and hope this will help me in my life too. Thanks :)

  18. Real Man Real Life Real Style says:

    1) be confident 2) approach. 3) Speak. 4) Remain confident. 5) Enjoy

  19. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    This article about making conversations on the first date is one of my most popular articles, yet nobody has a thing to say!

    If you have any questions or thoughts on making small talk on a first date, please share here…I’d be happy to help you out!

  20. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Thanks for your comment — I’m glad you agree with my first tips, about talking about how difficult it can be to start a conversation on the first date!

    I like your additional tips….and wish I’d known them before I wrote the article :-) Good stuff.

  21. Conversation Arts says:

    I read the article and I agree with point number one a lot. Most of the time people ignore silence instead of confronting and using it as part of the conversation. Another one that I’ve heard from Gretchen Rubin from the Happiness Project once the conversation is dying is “Surely we can make better conversation than this?” And then smile, and usually that relaxes people down.

    As for you point number 4, something I personally use to dazzle people on a date is to not just compliment their accessory but to compliment something I value in their own personality. Such as the fact that they’re playful, or that they are so friendly and open. This way it makes them feel good for who they are, not just what they wear or their appearances.

  22. Mitch says:

    Thank you Laurie,

    The quiz said I’m in the middle, but I scored on the introverted side of that group. I feel that’s an accurate assessment, and I’ll definitely use introvert advice to my advantage.

    After introspection, I think it may be more of a psychological thing than a personality thing. Everyone that has gotten to really know me has either left me or cheated on me, but having recognized this, I’ll keep in mind that those incidents are not a result of my problems but theirs. Anyway, your response has led me to this conclusion, so thank you.

    As far as the date goes, I now feel much more comfortable about the whole thing due to your words. Hopefully my calmed nerves will help me to practice talking about myself and using your conversation tips.

    I can’t thank you enough, Laurie.

  23. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Hi Mitch,

    Hmmm….that’s interesting that you feel awkward about answering questions about yourself…have you ever read anything about introverted personality traits? Introverts generally don’t like to talk about themselves, and would prefer to listen than talk. They’re more comfortable with one or two people (as opposed to big groups).

    This test for introverts might interest you:

    A Test for Introverted Personality Traits

    Other than that, I’m not sure why you feel so awkward. Do you think you’re uninteresting or boring? I don’t like talking about myself because it’s FAR more interesting to learn about other people…maybe you feel the same way?

    Regarding your internet date…it’s important to remember that you’ll ALWAYS have awkward silences! I have them with my husband, my friends, my family — and I use conversation starters all the time. It’s normal to have pauses — so don’t let them freak you out. Instead, refer to your handy dandy list of things to talk about.

    You don’t need an actual list of conversation starters…during the day, I’ll often make a mental note to tell my husband or family about something I read in the news or saw as I was out and about. Whether it’s your first date or your 50th wedding anniversary, a great habit to get into is to make mental notes of interesting topics.

    And, don’t forget that you can follow up on what you’ve previously discussed. What have you been talking about online? Bring that up, and go a little deeper.

    Another possibility is to talk about your online experience. Were you nervous about it, did the company do anything special, did you meet other people?

    One last thing — before I got married, I asked my husband what we’d talk about for years and years of marriage. He picked up the salt shaker, and said “this.” He meant that we’d talk about anything and everything, no matter how trivial…and we do!

    So talk about the salt and pepper shakers, or anything in your line of vision. You’d be surprised at far a conversation like that can last….

    I hope this helps!

    All good things,

  24. Mitch says:

    I’m a great listener and can hold a conversation about my partner fairly easily, but for some reason I’m really awkward when it comes to answering questions about myself. I have nothing to hide, so I’m baffled by this tendency. Do you have any suggestions?

    More importantly, I will be meeting an internet hookup for the first time. Do you have any additional tips if there’s an awkward silence? I anticipate several of these moments because we’ve been talking online for a fairly long time, and I fear I may have exhausted many of what would be first date conversations.

    Thanks in advance.

  25. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    I think the best way to give the best of yourself (and get the best out of your dates) is to be genuinely interested in the other person. Not only is this a great way to start conversations, it’ll make your date like you more!

  26. Harvey says:

    You get the best out of your dates when you give the best of yourself.

  27. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    I hope these tips help — first date conversations can be difficult!

  28. Jereny says:

    These are good tips for starting a conversation on a first date. I’ll try the elephant in the corner one because that is easiest to remember.

  29. Chris Robinson says:


    Hi im Chris. I read this and noticed it was a while ago but just in case something like this comes up again or if someone else needed some help. I not very old. Im 21. I wanted to put that just in case people wanted to give some experience or argue that i dont know what im talking about. But him inviting you to hangout with him is good, it shows he is comfortable enough to see you and let his friends try to give him a hard time. I know its hard because everyone finds those first date things as getting to know the person as much as possible. But when faced with this dilemma just take it for what its worth. A hangout. Maybe he is trying to see what you like with a bunch of people. Maybe he wants to see if your outgoing and will try to make a fun time out of something that can be seen as awkward. But after thinking, if i was put into this situation and i invited a girl to come out. I would be thinking the same, i want to talk to her but i cant ignore my friends. So have fun and talk when you get chances. He will probably be hanging out waiting for the chance to pull you aside after hanging out and maybe take a quick walk to talk about the evening and get to know each other. So maybe it was used as a feeler, like oh if i dont like her very much she can hang out still and i wont want to shoot myself counting the seconds until we are done. So just in case other women have this problem, just be fun, exciting, funny, and extroverted and then when you have a quick second pull him aside and have a real moment where you guys talk about goals, aspirations, travel, etc.

    Its not hard, always act yourself. Guys want to see who you are, maybe not right away, maybe not all at once, but we do want to see it. Good luck, i know you guys are going to have great dates, the fun ones are always the best, save the wine tasting and walks for romantic times on 6 or 7 dates in, make the first few exciting. You will always be put in a spot of awkward silence, if there is something to do they wil look past it as, oh they were just thinking before they did ___. After being comfortable and having fun dates, maybe then its time to break out the astronomy book and cuddle up close to recognize some constellations or maybe play a game where you each pick out stuff to feed the other and do it with blind folds on, thats always such a fun time. Even just talking after about why they chose that, what were you thinking or wow you know me well i love ___. Good luck i hope i helped a little with this.

  30. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:


    Thanks for your tip for first date conversations — I’m just getting back from a 2 week vacation in Maui, and could probably talk about it for hours :-)


  31. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Hi Evan,

    Funny — this is an article I’ve been meaning to write! Conversation starters for married couples is a great idea…I’ll write it and post the link here.

    Stay tuned :-)


  32. Oliver A. says:

    Since my marriage split up three years ago, I’ve been going on tons of first dates! My favorite conversation starter is travel. I’ve been visiting different countries since I was 14, and love sharing travel stories with my dates.

    These tips are good too, of course.

  33. Evan Jones says:

    Hi Laurie,

    How about some tips for making conversation with your spouse? We’ve been married for 10 years and don’t seem to have anything to talk about besides the kids.


  34. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:


    Thanks for your tip for men who are dating. I agree that making conversation on the first date (and ALL other times spent together, even after getting married!) is about being sincerely interested in the other person. This is a solid foundation for a happy relationship.


  35. Leah says:

    The best way to start and hold a conversation on a first date is to be interested in the other person. I went on a date last night with a guy I met at church, and all he wanted to talk about was his job, home, and car. He didn’t ask me a single question about myself, and I never want to see him again.

    For all you dating men: get interested in the woman you’re with!


  36. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Just a reminder to BE YOURSELF when you’re on a first date. I know how nerve-racking dating can be, but if you can relax and let your authentic self come through, you’ll enjoy it much more!

  37. Joey says:

    For another related article about making conversation on the first date, click my name. It takes you to NaturallySeduce, and I found it very helpful enjoy!

  38. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Hi Karlene,

    This is a very interesting question — quite the dilemma!

    My initial reaction would be to hesitate to meet a man for the first time (the first date!) with his friends around. I totally agree, it’s not a great way to get to know each other. Also, it sounds a little “youngish” (immature?), to meet up with friends around. By age 42, adults should be eager to date without their friends around!

    On the other hand, he may just want to squeeze in as much as he can while he’s in town…and thus he wants to bring everyone together for one fun night. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; and, you will see a whole different side of him if you spend time with him and his friends.

    If I were you, I’d say exactly what you said here. You want to meet him, but feel more comfortable if you meet him alone. Perhaps you can meet him for a drink an hour or two before he’s booked to meet his college buddies. I also suggest not commiting to meeting his friends — I’d just arrange a drink and leave the next part of the evening open.

    I hope this helps a little, and I’d love to hear how it goes!

    Best wishes,

  39. Karlene Corneliusen says:

    I’m a 48 year old attractive woman who’s been divorced for a little over 4 years now. I was married most of my adult life and now find it difficult to date, simply because I don’t know how! I’m not one to hang out in bars, that’s not exactly where I’d like to find a partner in life. I recently joined an on-line dating site and met a man a few yrs younger than me (he’s 42) and lives about an hour from me. After a few emails and a conversation on the phone, he’s asked me to join him and a few friends this Sat. night. He’s going to be in town getting together with a few of his old college buddies. I told him I didn’t want to intrude on his night out with his friends, but he insisted he wanted me to come. I’m not sure how to deal with this situation, as it will be our first meeting and technically, our “first date”. I’m a rather outgoing person, so meeting his friends isn’t that big of an issue for me, however I don’t think it’s going to offer much of an opportunity for us to have a “get to know each other” session. I really would like to meet this man, but am hesitant about this particularl meeting. Do you have any advice on how I should handle a situation like this? It’s a new one for me and I don’t want to monopolize his time with his friends but at the same time I’d like to get to know him and hope for a second date with him. Please help…I really need it!!

    Thank you,
    Karlene Corneliusen

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