Having a fulfilling social and dating life has been a bit challenging lately, hasn’t it? If you are anything like me you might be feeling slightly out of practice when it comes to interacting with new people. This is where being part of the online community gives you a great advantage. When face-to-face dates might not be possible or difficult to arrange, your screen means you can still meet new faces and chat, whether it’s via messaging, emails, phone calls, or video dates. Or maybe you’re able to meet in person, over a coffee or on a walk, and want to know how to develop your connection. Here are a few suggestions for early conversations with someone new.
Show you’ve read their profile and appreciated it
Being able to refer pleasantly to something they’ve written about themselves is attractive. It shows you find the person interesting enough to have made more than the minimal effort. For example, “You mentioned living in a city – do you like city life? What do you enjoy about it?” Don’t overdo it and turn it into a job interview though! Think about gently building a rapport, rather than an interrogation.
Ask a question to open a window onto someone’s world
“How’s your day been?” or “What have you been up to?” are easy and relaxed ways of opening up to talk about the elements that make up our day-to-day lives, which can then lead on to more thoughtful conversations. For every question you ask, think how you yourself would answer so that you have something to give back in conversation terms. If appropriate, remember to reflect back, “And how about you?” when answering one of their questions.
Classic questions for the ‘unprecedented times’ we live in
The world is going through the sort of times which prompt some tailor-made questions – things we wouldn’t have imagined a year ago. It might be helpful to ask about looking back: “Can you remember, what was the last film or live music or public event you went to?” or looking forward: “Is there anywhere you’d really like to travel when it’s possible again?” You could dig a little deeper into the emotional impact of the pandemic: “What have you missed most?” or “What will make life feel back to normal again for you?” These questions are great for generating a feel-good atmosphere caused by reminiscing about fun times in the past, and projecting forward to more enjoyable times to come, as well as allowing you to learn about what matters to each other.
What about ‘Icebreaker’ questions?
Dating advice can include the suggestion of using ‘icebreaker’ questions. You know the sort of thing: “If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, who would you choose?” Personally, if I had been asked this on a first date I would have racked my brains to come up with the ‘right’ answer and my mind would have gone blank! The answers could also act as a distraction. If, in the early days of getting to know my husband (a scientist-cum-would-be-rock-guitarist), I had asked him whom he would like to have dinner with, he might have answered, “Isaac Newton” or “Steve Vai”. I would have thought, “Boring,” to the first, and “Who?” to the second. It was irrelevant. And yet, here we are, seven years later, happily married.
Go with whatever you’re comfortable with – these questions do stretch you mentally and that might be a good fit – but the early stages of getting to know someone are more about learning to feel at ease together, so might be better left till later.
‘Let there be spaces in your togetherness’
Don’t feel it’s up to you to fill every lull. Listen as much as you talk. Have a breather. Give the other person space to initiate their own conversation. In situations like these I’m also aware I’ve got a tendency to speak too fast through nerves, so I’ve learned to mentally remind myself to Slow. My. Words. Down. It comes across as being calm (even if I’m not), and often has a visibly relaxing effect on the other person, making the conversation more natural and enjoyable.
And finally, before you start conversations with other people, it’s good to have a conversation with yourself: “Be your warm, friendly, likeable self. Relax, and enjoy it.”
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