How To Easily Break The Ice On A First Date

There's nothing quite as uncomfortable, nerve-wracking, and painfully embarrassing as a first date can sometimes be. Those first moments are always a bit stressful whether you met on Tinder or from across a bar. From that first-to-kiss-on-the-cheek-or-not-to-kiss-on-the-cheek greeting to the stilted small talk over drinks, to the awkward half-hug goodbye, first dates are undeniably challenging. However, first dates can also be wonderful, too. Who knows, you might even meet the love of your life on your next one!

If you are ready to become a first-date pro, look no further. We've compiled some of the best tips on how to break the ice on those awkward first dates and start flirting and connecting far more quickly. Whether you struggle to get the conversation going, you can never think of what to say, or you simply find yourself nervous, these tips will help you get out of your head and get into the moment so that every first date goes a little more smoothly.

Share something personal about yourself

Unsure of how to build a stronger connection with your date? Sometimes, being vulnerable is the best way to break down some barriers and make things a little less awkward.

"Sharing something personal not only gives them a better idea of you as a person, but it also gives them space to share something of theirs as well," relationship expert Callisto Adams told The List. "This increases the likelihood of you two connecting further on, and also ignites sparks here and there — at the very least, you'll get an idea of the compatibility of your personalities through the conversations you'll be having while sharing personal stories."

After all, relationships are built on trust and openness, so why not get the ball rolling by being a little more personal. Whether it's a story from your childhood, your deepest fear or an embarrassing secret, sharing something personal can always help to take away any tension in the air and make your first date feel like a chat between old friends.

Pay them a compliment

You've probably heard it before — a compliment can go a long way. Think back to the last time someone told you that you looked nice? Or that time when someone complimented you for your kindness or intelligence? Receiving a compliment makes us feel great about ourselves — but, it turns out, it also makes us feel pretty good about the person paying the compliment, too. After all, if your date knows that you see and appreciate their best characteristics, they'll feel more comfortable and happy around you.

And that's not all. By getting into the habit of giving compliments, you may start to feel happier and calmer yourself. "Being complimentary helps us create an optimistic, happier outlook," psychotherapist Marcia Naomi Berger told NBC News.

So, what kind of compliments should you use? Dating experts at eHarmony recommend thoughtful, personal, and sincere compliment, such as, "I love how your sense of humor is so [insert sarcastic, quirky, silly, and so forth]," or "I like how you seem to know a lot about (insert any subject they seem to know a lot about)." With a unique, thoughtful compliment, your date will know that you really mean it.

Use engaging body language

A successful date isn't just about the flow of the conversation. It's also about everything that goes unsaid — the eye contact, the subtle arm touches, leaning in from across the table. Body language plays a huge part in making our first dates feel either super awkward or incredibly exciting.

By using engaging body language on your next first date, you may find that the tension and formality of the occasion begin to dissipate. Focus on keeping steady eye contact and facing your date with your body. Nod along while they're speaking and smile or laugh when it feels appropriate. Basically, show that you're engaged and interested and approachable.

However, as Akua Genfi, mental health counselor and co-host of queer black sex ed podcast Inner Hoe Uprising, told Elite Daily, don't be too forward with physical contact. "You don't know anyone's previous experiences or trauma history, and do not want to violate someone's personal space/bodily autonomy," she said.

Ask them for a small favor

We're not talking about buying you something or helping you move — think more along the lines of lending you their favorite book, coming with you on a dog walk. Little favors like these not only help to break the ice, they help to build a bond between you and your date.

According to Jeremy Nicholson, ie. "The Attraction Doctor," asking your date to do you a favor is a great way to break the ice. "Rather than 'putting yourself out there,' get the other person to invest a little first," he suggested in a piece for Psychology Today. "Ask them to do something for you. Make a request. This could even be something small like, 'Could you grab me a straw?'"

According to Nicholson, this kickstarts the "Ben Franklin Effect," in which people like you more when you ask them for favors. Why? According to researchers in a 1969 study from Human Relations, it's because when we do a favor for someone, our brain tricks us into thinking we like them more.

Keep it simple

On a first date, it can be tempting to dive into a deep conversation full of soul-searching and childhood trauma. However, a simple conversation can be far more effective if you're on a first date and you're still getting to know each other.

Start your conversation with a simple "Hello, how are you." By listening to your date's response, you'll find that the conversation begins to flow very simply and easily. Simply staying in the moment and listening to what your date is saying, you'll find that you don't need to work too hard to keep up a steady conversation. In fact, you may find that as you both relax with a simple conversation, things start to get more profound and more personal naturally. Just remember — while you may think that every "good" date needs to be deep and meaningful, sometimes, a simple, easy-going conversation can be just as powerful in its own way.

Ask them a question to get the conversation going

When in doubt, ask a question. Asking a question will get your date talking and potentially spur a whole new line of conversation. "Asking your date a question or some questions shows that you're interested in being present on a date with them," relationship expert Callisto Adams told The List. "This will not only allow them to express more of themselves and feel more comfortable, but it will also give them a sense of being noticed and that their presence is valued."

What makes a good first-date question? According to dating coach Clara Artschwager, it can be pretty much anything. "I'll ask about anything: why they ordered a particular drink, the story behind their tattoo, what they did today," she told Elite Daily. "I just try to get someone talking." Genfi added that open-ended questions can be particularly effective — in other words, questions that open up a new conversation and don't simply require a yes or no answer. Achieve this by creating questions that encourage your date to tell a story or get into some detail — before you know it, that ice will be broken!

Try playing a get-to-know-you game

Switch things up when the conversation begins to dry up by playing a game. This can quickly lighten the mood and give you and your date a chance to show your fun sides. A game can help take the pressure off you both to generate conversation, but it can also help you learn about each other in the process.

Depending on the nature and location of your date, you could try playing a few different games. "Never Have I Ever" is a great game as you won't need any equipment, and you'll learn a little about each in the process. 

Or, you could try playing a game like "20 Questions," another game that can be played at any time, anywhere. For example, one person thinks of a famous person, and the other can ask 20 yes or no questions to try and find out who it is.

Tell a joke — if it feels natural

Nothing breaks the awkward first date ice quite like a good joke. By sharing a laugh, you and your date will relax and feel a little more at ease. In fact, a 2021 study from Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English edition) found that humor could help break the ice in sales settings — and it's no different in the dating world.

"A joke is a very common and effective ice breaker," relationship expert Callisto Adams told The List. "If it reflects back, you'll give your date the space to do what you do, and if they tell a joke back–not necessarily at that moment — then it'll create a friendly and less tensioned space between you two."

During an interview with Elite Daily, Akua Genfi, mental health counselor and co-host of queer black sex ed podcast Inner Hoe Uprising, agreed. Her advice was to crack a joke about your surroundings. "Observational comedy can be a hit," she said. "Finding humor in the present environment around you engages your date and increases experiential intimacy."

Keep your first date short

Few things can make a date feel sour and dry like a long, drawn-out dinner or walk. Therefore, we recommend keeping your first date short and sweet. An hour should be enough time to start a conversation and see if you click well enough for date number two.

As experts at noted, putting a time limit on your date in advance can take off the pressure and help you reduce those first-date nerves. "Deciding in advance exactly when you want to end the date has two functions, it serves to cut the date short on a high whilst both of you are having fun, and leaves your date wanting more, thus increasing your chances of a second date," they wrote.

Instead of telling your date that you only want to meet for a certain amount of time, tell them you have an appointment or a train to catch. That way, you can cut the date off at the right time without offending your date or creating any awkwardness.

Avoid the job interview vibe

Nothing is worse than a first date that feels like a dry job interview. Try to avoid questions you might hear from a potential employer like, "Where do you work?" or "Where did you go to school?" Instead, as dating expert Susan Trombetti told Bustle, you should ask wackier questions on a first date. "Too often dates turn into jobs [sic] interviews, and job interviews can make you nervous," she said. "Don't get too serious. Just have light, fun conversations."

Relationship expert Callisto Adams agreed and suggested that fun activities can help to remove that job interview vibe. Adams told The List, "There's nothing wrong with sitting face to face discussing, and talking, however, if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable with such a way of doing a date, then propose something else that gets you engaged in activities," she said. "It will be easier for you to break the ice if you're doing an activity you're both engaged in and that you both enjoy doing." Pretty sound advice if you ask us!

Get into a pop culture debate

If you're struggling to break the ice, getting into a passionate conversation about something can both relate to can work wonders — and pop culture is common ground for just about everyone. As dating experts told Bustle, asking your date for their most controversial pop culture opinion can be a great place to start. For example, "Were Ross and Rachel on a break?" tends to get people into a quick passionate debate.

Not only will the debate help you break the ice, but it will also help you understand your date on a deeper level. "The answer to this question will tell a lot about a person," Kate Maclean, dating expert, said. "FYI:  According to 60 percent of singles, the answer is yes, they were, and no, Ross did not cheat!" Maclean recommends thinking of a few interesting pop culture takes to bring with you to your date — "Just remember to match your questions with your own interests, and you'll have nothing to worry about," she said.

Make some preparations in advance

Coming into your first date with nothing prepared can feel authentic and natural, but unfortunately, it can leave you floundering and sinking into plenty of awkward silences. So sometimes, making some preparations is a good idea.

"Having yourself prepared about things 'just in case' is a good idea when it comes to going out on a first date," relationship expert Callisto Adams told us. "Your date is likely a stranger, and there are slightly more chances for the conversation to go silent." Therefore, she recommends preparing a few topics in advance. 'Have a few topics in your mind before you go out on your first date," she suggested. "Something that'll seem unforced and something you're genuinely passionate or curious about."

A dating expert at LCAHouston also agreed that making some preparations can help you steer clear of any awkwardness. "Choose five topics that interest you ahead of time, so you know you can default to those if organic conversation doesn't flow right away," she said. While it may feel a little forced, it may save you some stress later.

Do a 'social warm-up' before your date

Have you ever shown up on a first date feeling awkward and croaky before you even begin? You may need a pre-date social warm-up. Grab a coffee with a friend or give a family member a call on the way to the date. This will help you get used to speaking out loud and get your socializing muscles in working order. Then, when you sit down with your date, you'll find that the conversation flows more naturally.

As dating coach Emyli Lovz wrote for Insider, "I always tell my clients to warm up socially before a date. Go to a coffee shop and talk to the barista. Sign up for bootcamp at the gym. Heck, go to the grocery store and chat with the clerk if nothing else." In other words, find someone to have a quick warm-up chat with before the date. "It'll help calm your nerves and remind you that talking to new people isn't really all that scary," she wrote.

Let it be awkward if it's awkward

Unfortunately, first-date awkwardness is sometimes an inevitability. Even with all the icebreaker tips in the world, sometimes you may find yourself sinking into an uncomfortable silence.

"Awkwardness on a first date is normal and very common," relationship expert Callisto Adams told us. "If you managed to try to lighten up the conversation, to break the ice a little, and the situation is still awkward, then let it be so." Nothing is worse than trying to gloss over awkwardness or pretend it isn't there. In fact, it will probably just make things feel more awkward than ever.

According to dating coach Clara Artschwager, communicating honestly is sometimes the best policy. "If things aren't jiving, a simple, 'I have to be honest, I'm struggling in this conversation,' or, 'I have to be honest, I'm not sure we're enjoying each other's company' [can work]," she told Elite Daily. If it's awkward, let it be awkward — you'll either find common ground or realize that this isn't the person for you.