Date Hacks: How to Dodge Those Awkward Silences

by Charly Lester - August 25, 2015

Awkward silences: the first dater’s worst nightmare. Sitting opposite someone you have just met when conversation lulls means that a few seconds can feel like an eternity. We asked dating expert Charly Lester for her top tips on how to dodge those awkward silences.

Nerves can get the better of all of us at times, and a first date can be one the most nerve racking social situations.  When you go on a date, someone else is sizing you up as a potential match, and it can feel like every word you say matters.  When in doubt, a lot of us clam up.  So how can you avoid those awkward silences that stem from first date nerves?


Meet a friend before the date

If you’re worried you might be prone to awkward silences, meet up with a good friend before the date.  Chatting to a friend will relax you, and help bring out the real you.  It may also give you some conversation topics for the date.

The first time I ever went on an online date, I had a drink with my best friend first.  I was so nervous about the date that I dropped a pint of water and head-butted a lampshade, but the quick drink before the date helped me get all my nerves out of the way before the main event.


Fill the date with natural conversation topics

First date conversations can be rather repetitive, and if the topics are your work, or where you live, you may find yourself lost for words.  Give yourself a break by planning a date somewhere full of things to discuss.  Head to an art exhibition, and be honest about what you see.  Or visit the zoo and let the animals act as a natural distraction.

Sometimes the worst dates can actually turn out to be the best.  I once went on a ‘toilet tour’ of London, where we stood outside public conveniences in the rain.  It was hilariously awful, but certainly gave us both something to talk about, once we’d ditched the tour and headed to the pub!


Get side on

Sitting opposite a stranger and answering random questions can sometimes feel a lot like a job interview.  Avoid the awkwardness by choosing a date idea where you can chat side by side.  There’s no need for continual eye contact, and your brain can search out other topics of conversation around you, if conversation gets flat.

It was actually a particularly shy blind date of mine who pointed this out to me.  We were on a date around London Zoo, and at the end of the day he noted how easy it had been to chat to me, because we’d been walking around all day.


Prepare some fun ice-breakers

If you’re particularly worried that conversation might run dry, have a think about fun conversation starters.  It’s not cheating to prepare for a date.  Have a look online and see if there are any ice-breaker suggestions which you’d enjoy answering yourself.

I’ve also noticed people using this technique as an ice-breaker to initiate conversation online, and I have to admit, it can be quite fun to take a step back and answer a question you don’t often think about.  My particular favourite is planning a dinner party with your favourite historical characters.


Don’t panic if things go quiet

During a date there are times when silence isn’t a problem.  If you’re reading a menu, or waiting to order, don’t panic if things go quiet.  And if conversation has dried up, make use of natural breaks in the evening – like a trip to the bar, or a bathroom break – to gather your thoughts and choose a different topic of conversation.

Don’t worry if a date starts off a little awkwardly.  Give your date time to relax.  My first date with my boyfriend was incredibly awkward, and it took at least an hour for him to relax and the awkward silences to disappear.


Charly Lester is one of Britain’s most recognised dating experts.  The founder of the UK Dating Awards, her blog 30 Dates is one of the most successful British dating blogs ever. The former Global Head of Dating at Time Out, Charly’s advice has appeared in most national newspapers, and she regularly appears on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.


Think you’ve experienced some awkward silences on a date? Probably not quite like Steve and his date, reticent reptile Michelle: