Need advice on the Do's and Don'ts of coffee dates, and how to keep conversation flowing.
November 24, 2012 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Need advice on the Do's and Don'ts of coffee dates, and how to keep conversation flowing.

Tomorrow I [20m] am meeting a really cute girl [19f] who I met on instagram for coffee. I've never been on a regular coffee date with someone I hardly know, and my dating experience in general is pretty sparse.

Although I feel generally confident in my ability, I'm not a very outgoing person. Occasionally I have had trouble carrying conversations with people I don't know very well, added to the fact that I might be a bit nervous, I'd like some general advice and tips just in case.

What are some good topics to fall back on if conversation goes dry? (I just moved here to attend university, and she is recently graduated.). What should I ask about her or tell her about myself? I guess sometimes (especially when the girl is quiet) I quickly run out of things to talk about and then the conversation becomes quiet and awkward. Basically I am most concerned with keeping the conversation moving without stagnating or becoming very boring and small talk-ish, which admittedly I am not very good at sometimes.What is the best way to avoid this?

posted by Snorlax to Human Relations (15 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
"Where did you grow up" and questions along those lines (what's it like there? did you like it/hate it? what did you do for fun as a kid? etc) are always good.

Considering you guys are still in the student sphere, asking what she majored in and talking about school stuff, especially if her alma mater is your current school, would be good.

Hobbies and interests are good, too, though it's best not to ask "do you have any hobbies", which is sort of awkward, but instead notice things she says that imply what her interests are and ask more about them. For example "did you knit that scarf yourself?" or "what have you been reading lately" or the like.
posted by Sara C. at 7:15 PM on November 24, 2012

Don'ts (that are by no means hard rules and simply suggestions without context):

Don't contradict or confront, especially on matters of taste. If she says "I sure do love Stupid-Ass Movie" you do not say "Stupid-Ass Movie is stupid," you say "what did you like about Stupid-Ass Movie?" then talk about that. Debating things like art can be a lot of fun, but a first or second date isn't a great venue for that.

Don't bring up anything particularly controversial or "deep." Stick to fun topics that will make her laugh and establish a rapport. You can talk about gun control and ontology when you actually like each other.

Don't confuse being funny for quoting funny lines from movie or TV shows unless you're talking about that movie or TV show. In that vein, don't confuse knowing trivia for being smart, and (more importantly) don't confuse people not getting your references for their being ignorant or uninteresting.

Don't make negative meta-observations ("boy this sure is awkward") if things start going south. If there's no chemistry, there's no chemistry. If there's awkward silence, make eye contact and smile and gather your thoughts; don't just start blabbering. Saying something weird is a lot more likely to kill rapport than being quiet for a hot second.

Don't answer "no" to any questions that are clearly trying to start a conversation. If she asks if you've seen any new TV shows lately and you don't watch TV don't just say "no," but "no, but I did see a great movie" or "no, but have you?" or something along those lines.
posted by griphus at 7:33 PM on November 24, 2012 [61 favorites]

Instead of focusing on the standard 'getting to know you' questions (which can be useful fallbacks, but often feel formulaic & list-like), think about what you really enjoy talking about, and what genuinely interests you about other people.

For example, I love talking about Taylor Swift! I can talk for ages about the development of her lyrical skills, her constantly-changing relationships, her dress sense - anything. She's a total guilty pleasure of mine & I'm fascinated by her. On a similar note, I'm also fascinated by other people's guilty pleasures, so that's one of my favourite first-date questions.

It's also fun to turn some standard questions upside down - so, instead of asking 'What's your favourite book?', why not ask 'What's your least-favourite book?' That can tell you just as much about a person, and it can also make them think more about what they're saying - which means they're actively engaging in the conversation, instead of reeling off a stock response. (Don't do this too much, though, or it can feel just as formulaic.)

And, perhaps most crucially, it can really work in your favour to seem interested in learning stuff about your date. As Sara C. said, school stuff is a good topic - but instead of limiting that to surface-level questions, why not get detailed? Ask her to tell you about some of the really cool classes she took, or talk about your weirdest professor & ask about hers.

Good luck!
posted by littlegreen at 7:34 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

A couple of random things come to mind:

If it's a nice day, consider suggesting a walk. It's often easier to chat and talk than park across the table from each other. Also there's more natural conversation starters, and if you feel like sitting, you can always find a bench.

Keep it relatively short. No need to go on for hours. Better to have a fun one-hour date than a semi-fun two-hour date.

Great suggestion above about letting her show off her local knowledge. Don't be afraid of letting her see your curiosity, about her and about the world in general. What are you interested in? There's nothing more attractive than someone being genuinely confident in his or her passions.

Stay positive and warm. Try to imagine you're already friends with her. How would you approach her? What would you talk about?

I guess there aren't many concrete conversational tips in there, but as I think you've seen from the above, there's no magic bullet, and it's generally better to avoid coming off as canned. Stay positive. Stay warm. Remember that if she's cool and aware, she's probably asking herself the same questions as you. You're at the beginning of a beautiful dating career. Enjoy it.
posted by vecchio at 8:14 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

where they're from, their family, what they do for school/work, where they've traveled, and anything else that stands out.
posted by cupcake1337 at 11:01 PM on November 24, 2012

The above advice is all excellent. Stay positive, feel free to talk about interesting things that have happened to you recently, ask her about herself. Stay positive and real!

Conversations are a lot less back and forth questions than just talking about various subjects. They can start with a question, sure, but they develop from there.

If they don't, well, that's a chemistry problem.

Example: I think on my last good date one of us asked the other about our childhood and then we spent a half hour talking about how she went to bed on time and I stayed up entirely too late to watch Star Trek and play videogames with lots of detail on each side.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:24 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not really a topic suggestion, but it has validity........

Stick with low caffeine or decaf coffee, at least for starters. You can always ramp up, but it is hard to ramp down.

If you get all hopped up on caffeine, all the various plans for good topics of conversation may be a bit moot because you will be talking about everything!
posted by lampshade at 11:53 PM on November 24, 2012

Don't think of it as a coffee date: it's just practice for a coffee date. Tell jokes and listen (you have two ears and one mouth).
posted by history is a weapon at 4:49 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't think too much.
Seconding don't get too meta.
Make observations ("look at that freak dog across the street")
I'm not big on "personal questions" myself ("Look at that dog...hey, do YOU like dogs?") I tend to act like we've already been friends for weeks. ymmv
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 7:59 AM on November 25, 2012

If you can find a coffee place that has games (dominoes, cards, Ms. Pac Man), that can be a good supplement to normal first-date-type conversation.
posted by *s at 8:31 AM on November 25, 2012

If you met from instagram it seems to me like that's always an easy fall back (Oh! I saw your photos from REALLY COOL PLACE, how did you end up there, was it a fun vacation, etc) Normally I think the social networking info could be awkward, but since you met on there it's not stalkery, just fun.
posted by raccoon409 at 11:18 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just discovered this person's book, which you can dowload for $5, and it's great for exactly this. I am about to order a real, physical copy of it. It's called Charm School for Men.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:08 PM on November 25, 2012

I like "What do you do for fun?" as a question. So many people start with "What do you do for a living?" but people aren't defined by their jobs; asking about what people do by choice gives me a much better idea of what they're passionate about, and gives an option other an awkward embarrassment for those of us that aren't working for whatever reason.

Of course, if they find their jobs fun, they will usually say that as well.

If you met on Instagram, can we assume that you both like photography? Would following coffee with a photo safari around town be an option? Chatting about portraiture vs landscapes, or whatever you know to be your mutual interests in the area? Don't fall into the trap of lecturing, of course; open questions (as opposed to ones with yes or no answers) and listening are your friends.

Also, you probably know this, but treating "girls"/women as people is an effective approach - because they are people. How would you chat with some awesomely cool guy you'd just met and were hoping to befriend?
posted by Someone Else's Story at 4:03 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Scan through a quick guide to improv comedy. Much of that information also applies to being a good conversationalist. You have to "sell" what you are given to work with and then expand on it. That gives the other person confidence to open up.
posted by 99percentfake at 6:19 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Halloween costumes.
posted by Pyrattorney at 9:15 AM on November 26, 2012

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