How Can I Avoid the Conversation Dead Zone and Keep From Striking Out?

The Question

“I get stuck trying to start the conversation. Absolute silence drives me crazy. The ice breaker that I say usually ends up being something really stupid.” – Anonymous

The Honest Answer

We’ve all been there before – that awkward silence that occurs when you’ve just met someone and have no idea what to say…

Just picture this in your mind… You’ve just met someone new and you’re a little unsure what to say to make a good first impression. Maybe you’re a little shy and a lot nervous! Maybe you’re just tired from a long day at the office. Regardless, you’re completely stuck and cannot think of a single intelligent thing to say. To make matters worse, your date isn’t saying anything either.

It’s the “FIRST DATE DEAD ZONE!” – Help! Someone say something… anything… Quick!

Is your fax machine more articulate that you?

No, your fax machine simply has an established protocol for first dates. Think back to the last time you faxed a document to someone. Your fax machine makes a connection to the other fax machine, and then you hear all kinds of gibberish before the document starts going through.

Did you ever wonder what that’s all about? Well, the two fax machines are basically saying hello and setting the tone of the conversation, how fast they’re going to talk, what language they are going to use, and how long they’re going to chat. It’s very similar to those first few minutes with your date.

You’re getting to know a brand new person

You’re getting used to their speech patterns and body language

You’re figuring out their sense of humor (which can in and of itself change the tone of the conversation completely)

You’re trying to determine their intentions. Are they really friendly? Can you trust them? Do the mean you any harm?

Do you really, really like them?

You simply need to implement your own personal first date protocol.
It’s important to remember that WHAT is said during those first few minutes doesn’t really matter. What is important is to establish that initial, friendly connection with the other person.
Here are some communication 101 tips for getting started on the right foot.
Be friendly and genuinely nice

Show concern for the other person’s feelings

Truly listen to them – look them in the eyes (I know that’s a tough one but you can do it.)

That’s great, but what do I say? Is there a canned ice breaker for every occasion?

Not exactly, but there’s always something you can say to alleviate the awkward silence.

These ideas should work in most first date situations.

Ask about their day… How was it?
Ask about their work… What do they do? How do they like it?
Inquire about pets and children. How many? Names? Ages?
Do they have anything that they like to do when they’re not working? Hobbies? Sports? Etc.

I know these sound rather generic, but the idea behind these simple questions is to find something that you both enjoy and feel comfortable talking about. Hopefully, you will find some things that you have in common.

However, it is important to not get too personal too fast . Show interest, and ask further probing questions, but don’t be too intrusive. You don’t want to scare the other person off.

So why do we freeze up on the first date? In most cases, that uncomfortable silence (which can often cause panic for some), is based on fear. Yes, fear…

Fear that you’ll say something really stupid

Fear that you’ll have nothing in common

Fear that the other person won’t like you

Fear of being put on the spot to perform

How do you overcome YOUR fear?

Although there isn’t a magic formula that will save you every time, there is a solution to your problem. Take a little time before your date to come up with a few simple and general questions that you can ask or compliments that you might be able to make. Write them down on a piece of paper. Keep the piece of paper in your wallet or purse. You don’t necessarily have to look at it – just having it with you and knowing that it’s there will help you remember.

If you get really stuck, excuse yourself to the restroom and look at your cheat sheet. When you return, you will surely impress your date with your thoughtful and caring questions.

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