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The first date

The art of smalltalk

Do first dates find you lost for words? Does your vocabulary shrink to prehistoric levels? If so, there is no shame in falling back on smalltalk: it can prove wonderfully useful.

The art of smalltalk

You might think that small talk is superficial and meaningless, but don’t be too harsh in your judgement: it can play in important role in human relations on a daily basis, and it’s a great way of getting to know people the first time you met them - unless you think that Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams is a better subject for a first discussion than what was on TV on Saturday night. It sometimes pays to take the easy option, and, if everything works out, you’ll have plenty of time later for deep and meaningful discussion. So put your prejudices aside and see smalltalk for what it is: a great way of striking up an acquaintance.

Something you prepared earlier ...

There’s no need to learn poems or lines to make sure you have something suitable to say, but you do need to go into your date with a positive attitude. Remember that any anxieties stem from pessmistic thoughts on your part - in this kind of situation all of us tend to think of what could go wrong ... the other person could make fun of us, tell us where to get off, or maybe video us with their mobile and put it on YouTube. Most of this is highly unlikely, of course, and if the other person decides you are not to their taste, you are just going have to take it on the chin. If you go in expecting the worst, it’s hardly conducive to favourable developments. As for smalltalk, it’s not as if you’re looking to win a prize. Don’t worry about being especially witty or intellectual. Just be yourself.

Choosing your subject matter

You’re with your Parship date - in a bar, in a park, in the zoo. You’ve made your introductions, but where should you take the conversation now? Take a look around, because obvious themes are often the best. Scientific research has shown that we are not really interested in how a conversation starts; what matters is to get one started, maybe picking up on your environment ...“How do you like this bar?“... “What’s your favourite season?” …” What do you think of those penguins?” A question like that gives you a point in common and is easy to answer, helping to break any ice that may be obstructing your date’s flow of conversation.

Rain or shine?

Well, you can always talk about the weather. No, seriously it makes an excellent subject for small talk: everyone has something to say about it. Just look out of the window and you have material an extended chat. Yes, you’ll probably need to change subject after half an hour or so, but that should happen naturally by association.

You should also think about things you have in common … such as Parship. Ask your date what kind of experiences he or she has had with the site, though neither of you should give away any personal information on other members and what they have told you in confidence.

Another excellent subject: the person you’re with

The weather, the place you find yourselves, things you have in common - you now have a number of starting points for your conversation. But the best subject is the person you’re with. Express your interest in finding out more about him or her and you’ll have plenty to talk about. From your date’s Parship profile and the contact you’ve had so far, you know something about his or her life, so you can ask some relevant questions … “So, why do you collect fountain pens?” …”How does a fork-lift truck actually work?” … “Did you hate sport when you were in school too?” Any of those could turn into an interesting discussion, because you are showing an interest in what the other person has to say. And you can always turn to more general subjects such as the news, new films and books, clothes, hairstyles … The choice really is yours, but you need to take care with jokes, because not everybody has the same sense of humour. It’s also not a good idea to be negative about things or have a moan - and you should avoid talking too much about yourself.

Keeping the conversation going

What do you when a conversation that started well suddenly gets a bit sticky? Here are a couple of tips on maintaining the momentum: if possible, ask open questions, in other words, questions which can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, such as “What do you think about …?”, “How do you like…?”, “What makes you say that ?”. It’s also important to listen well. Sometimes it’s not so much a question of what you say, more of the attention you pay the other person … and their thoughts will provide material you can pick up on to further the discussion.

More than words can say

Words say a lot - but they don’t necessarily say everthing. If you want to flirt a little with your date, you need to use your body too. For instance, eye contact is important: look him or her in the eye - not all the time, but don’t omit to do so at appropriate moments. Your body language is also important: turn towards him or her, which expresses openness and receptivity. And, if everything has gone well and, as with millions of couples before you, discussion about the weather has helped lead to some kind of personal connection, you can maybe introduce your thoughts on Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams - without creating a nightmare for your date!

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