Some people can breeze through first dates without a sweat. They never experience a weird silent pause in between conversation and actually consider the prospect of meeting a new person in an unfamiliar environment exciting and stimulating. They’re the types who like dating apps and probably consider the worst first date an opportunity to make a new friend. These folks are magical unicorns.
For the rest of us, first dates are the purest form of torture known to man. There you are, sitting across the table from a stranger, hoping you stumble upon at least one topic that you share in common. You make a joke — they don’t get it. Your date discusses their job for 45 minutes — you stifle a yawn. Sound familiar?
Of course, first dates don’t have to be bad — they can actually be really enjoyable if you would only stop putting so much pressure on yourself to find the perfect soul mate and lifelong connection. No matter how sparkling a conversationalist you are, it helps to have first date icebreakers in mind before you meet with your future spouse/good friend/person-you’ll-kiss-and-never-see-again. Relationship expert April Masini at Ask April provides six amazing first date icebreaker tips that will help you kiss bad first dates goodbye forever.
1. Bring a prop
No, not like a sword or light saber (though to each her own) but think: an interesting book you’re reading or a souvenir you picked up on your recent trip to Thailand. “A prop is a great icebreaker, because it alleviates the pressure to be a great conversationalist,” Masini says. “For instance, if you know his birthday, cut out the horoscope from the local paper, for both of you, and bring them to dinner to read to each other. This is a fun way to break the ice and get the conversation going.”
More: 12 Things successful couples do to make their relationships last
2. Plan a date around a common interest
Anyone can have dinner together, but unless you’re both seriously into a specific type of cuisine that will spark conversation, you may want to plan a date that incorporates your shared interests. “For instance, if you’re dog lovers, take your dogs for a walk in the park as a date,” Masini says. “Talking about your dogs is a great way to cultivate a common interest and a jumping off point for other conversations.”
3. Cook together
Instead of sitting next to one another at a restaurant and waiting with bated breath for the waiter to arrive with your plates, Masini suggests making dinner together as a great way to break the ice. “You can do the shopping together as part of the date, then go to one of your homes to prepare the meal,” she says. “Choose something you can both participate in cooking — duck à l’orange may be too complicated to co-cook — but a Bolognese sauce with pasta isn’t.” Taking a cooking class could be a safe alternative if you’ve never met and don’t want to invite a stranger into your home.
More: 11 First date questions that separate the men from the boys
4. Take a class that does half of the work for you
Young children learn about others and the world around them through parallel play, and the same concept can work wonders on a first date — plus, it puts the pressure off of you. Masini recommends going to a painting class or a ceramics studio as a date so that you can do something separately in a parallel play model. “You’ll have the event to do together — whether it’s painting, sculpting or painting ceramics — and you can talk about what you’re doing as you’re doing it,” She says. “Some of these classes will make some wine and snacks available, which smoothes the rough edges of a bumpy first date.”
5. Group events
There’s safety in numbers and feeling the presence of other friendly couples might make you feel more at ease on a first date. “A restaurant like Benihana where you’re seated with 10 or so others at a restaurant where you enjoy the chef making all your food at once, can be a lot of fun — especially if you’re seated with other couples, both new and established,” Masini says. “Not only does it break the ice between you, but you’re perceived as a couple by others you might chat with at the table, and that reinforces the date dynamic between you.”
6. Active dates
Forgo static dates like dinner or coffee meet-ups for those that will force you both to move around, expend energy, laugh and discuss what you’re doing. Masini says shopping trips work because you can chat about what you’re seeing, looking for and buying — and you get the advantage of getting to know each other’s taste, as well as how they handle money. If you’re sporty, try ice skating, shooting hoops or even organizing a baseball game with a few friends.