Going on a first date can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you’re not sure what the first words out of your mouth are going to be. Unfortunately, the longer you think about what you’re going to do next, the more awkward the situation can become. On the other hand, not saying much at all isn’t a good move, either.
Sometimes, it isn’t what you say or do, it’s how you approach the date in terms of appearance and demeanor that matter the most when it comes to positioning yourself to break the ice. If you can set the tone and create a positive initial impression through visual and social cues, then you don’t have to come up with the coolest or funniest things in the world to say, as you can lean on the preconceived image that you’re already projecting.(1)
With that said, here are five effective tips you can use to break the ice more easily on any first date:
1. Wear the Right Footwear and Clothing
While you might be hoping to find someone who “loves you for you” and doesn’t care how you dress, the real world usually doesn’t work like that on a first date. In fact, numerous dating and social surveys have revealed that people base their initial opinions and perceptions of others primarily on their outer appearance, which is mostly influenced by the shoes and clothing you’re wearing and how well-groomed you are. Of course, you’ll probably get a warmer welcome if you’re wearing a brand new pair of Givenchy sneakers than if you were to show up sporting decrepit ice fishing boots from your storage shed – after all, we’re not literally trying to break ice (frozen H2O). Why not check out SSENSE and see what designer pieces catch your eye?
2. Use Fragrances in Your Favor
Science has proven that pheromones and other natural scents are cues that the body uses to attract mates. While you don’t want to go back to the caveman times and utilize your body’s natural stench, you can still leverage the same concept by choosing an appealing cologne or perfume. There have also been social experiments done where people who had neutral or offensive odors were treated worse than people who had an attractive scent. However, be careful not to overdo this tip, as excessive fragrances could nauseate or annoy your date.
3. Don’t Talk Too Much
Your goal is to break the ice a bit, not completely melt it into a boiling lake of awkwardness. Don’t put yourself in the hot seat on purpose with long drawn out lectures. Try to think of breaking the ice like ice fishing: you put a line out there and wait a bit to see how the fish respond – you don’t just keep throwing lines out all willy-nilly. To bring the analogy even further, one properly placed line is all it really takes to put your catch on the hook. In more basic terms, the more you talk, the more likely it is that you’ll say accidentally something stupid or offensive, so try to keep your opening lines and responses short and sweet.
4. Choose the Right Setting
No, we’re not talking about your smartphone settings here. Instead, we’re talking about the environment in which the first date takes place. Naturally, it’s harder to break the ice in some places than it is in others. To build upon the previous analogy, you don’t want your date to take place in a frigid area where breaking the ice will feel like chipping away at Antarctica with an ice pick. Instead, you want to choose a warm and welcoming temperate zone that will ignite a heat wave which softens the ice just enough for you to gently break through it. In general, “warm” places are secluded, serene, peaceful, or entertaining, whereas “cold” places are crowded, hectic, noisy, or boring. (2)
5. Be the First to Open Up or Ask a Question
You don’t want a horde of crickets standing in your way when you’re trying to break open the ice with a shovel. In case you’re socially clueless, “crickets” is the term used to describe that horrible void of silence that happens when neither person can think of something to say or muster up the courage to say it. Thus, the first step to breaking the ice properly should always be to clear the crickets out of the way. Of course, in the real word, you’d probably never encounter a horde of crickets swarming atop an ice sheet, but hey, you get the point – somebody’s got to be the big enough person to open up or start the discourse. You should never feel hesitant during this step because, in all actuality, your date expects you to say something, so don’t let them down.
Be Ready to Answer Questions, But Not Over-Eager
Eventually, after a few dates you can cut loose and not really give too much thought to how you’re answering questions, but for the first date it’s always best to look at it as a job interview – try to sound good without disqualifying yourself. When it comes to answering questions, sometimes less is more. You don’t want to be that person who tells their entire life story when someone asks them what kind of restaurant they want to eat at.