So you’re all set for that first real meeting and you’ve planned to meet in a neutral location such as a coffee shop. I’ve previously mentioned some conversation topics to avoid (though I’ll be going over those again in the next article) but you may be wondering what CAN you talk about?
Remember that you’ll both likely be a bit nervous, and it’s okay to break the ice by saying that or making a little joke about it. Say something like: “I haven’t been this nervous since I went on my first date when I was seventeen!”
If you sense that your nerves are giving you a bit of verbal diarrhea, take a breath and deliberately turn the stage over to your date. It’s important to ensure that the conversation is not one-sided – neither you nor your date should be doing ALL the talking. For example, you have been chatting about how you love travelling and suddenly realize that you have started a dissertation about every place you have ever visited as if you were making a documentary for National Geographic!
Stop, and ask your date where is the most memorable place that they’ve ever visited, and let him or her elaborate.
Nerves can also make people clam up so if this happens, put on your listening cap and ask questions to draw your date out. “What was the food like?” “Did you go on any sight-seeing tours?” “What made you want to go to Ireland?” “How did you find the people there – I hear the Irish are very friendly and fun loving.”
Here are five good topics for conversation to help keep things light. They will help you discover some interesting things about your date and most importantly the interests you share in common:
(1) Hobbies – what kinds of things do you love to do? Think of things that you do to make you happy and talk about it. Maybe it is a pastime like genealogy or quilting. Maybe cooking is your thing, or maybe you volunteer at the local hospital. Don’t assume that reading is bland and boring. Your discussion about favourite authors, books, plays and movies can be a great way to discover your shared passions.
(2) Travel – places you have been or would love to go. This doesn’t have to mean exotic international destinations; it could mean a great resort in cottage country two hours away that you visited.
(3) Favourite foods. This is a great way to see how open-minded and flexible your date is plus it is a good way to find a common ground for a potential future meal together. You may just discover that your date loves Indian food as much as you do!
(4) Exercise and fitness. This is another good way to discover commonalities for a future date. Maybe you both love to walk, or sail or do Tai Chi. Imagine planning a picnic in a place near the boardwalk where you can walk for a mile together and enjoy each other’s conversation, while taking in the fresh air and beautiful scenery.
(5) Family – talk about your kids and grandkids in general terms, but be cautious not to blather on and on about them. You may be very proud that your daughter graduated from Harvard with her PhD in law and your son is the chief surgeon at some huge hospital, but if you spend two hours talking about them and their accomplishments it takes the spotlight away from YOU.
Remember that the purpose of the date is for you and your date to get to know each other – not each other’s kids! Also if your date has kids but doesn’t really want to talk about them, this may be a signal that there is some trouble in paradise. This will all reveal itself naturally as the relationship develops but don’t talk too much about your kids if you sense that this may be an uncomfortable subject for your date. Remember to find the common ground!
If you are not much of a drinker, or allergic to cigarette smoke, don’t be afraid to say so. If your date drinks heavily and smokes like a chimney, these behaviours are difficult to change in people, so they can end up being deal breakers. But it is better to get that on the table early on.
If there is a real connection between the two of you however, your date can decide how and if they want to adjust their habits to accommodate you, especially if you have a health issue associated with those habits. Conversely YOU may be the one with the habits that offend your date. You may be faced with a situation where you have to consider whether you like this person enough to want to change to be considerate to their needs.
Remember, try to vary the conversation up so that you cover a variety of subjects and try to avoid all the negatives and deeply personal things. If the relationship develops, your ability to share your personal life will gradually happen in time, so don’t be in a rush to talk about it on the first date.
It’s imperative in the early days to find as much common ground as you can, on which to build the foundation of the relationship. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about things that make you unique and special, on the contrary. But try to read your date’s signals of what to talk about and what NOT to talk about. While it’s important to draw conversation out of your date by asking questions if they are nervously quiet, don’t push too hard. Try a little humour to relax them.
If you end up with someone who doesn’t let you get a word in, you will have to judge for yourself if this person is an arrogant boor who loves to talk about themselves, or if they are just so nervous, they don’t know when to stop. You will know whether or not you want to give them another chance by going on a second date. Just remember that you are both in the same boat, but your date may not have had the benefit of the insightful Senior Dating advice that you have!