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Pro tips to break the ice while chatting with a date online

Knowing how to interest your date without sounding like a loser is an art you need to learn to master. Here are some ideas

Online dating can get easily ruined by awkward silences.
Online dating can get easily ruined by awkward silences. (Photo by Madrona Rose on Unsplash)

You could be a pro at flirting, the one with the most captivating smile in the room, and always the right words to say on a first date. And you could also be the person who is at a complete loss when it comes to online dating. Or, worse still, end up saying something regrettable—something about your/their ex—to fill the awkward silences that stretch between your ‘Hey’ and their ‘Hi’.

What with the pandemic and the way the world is, it is likely for most dating scenarios to begin with an online chat these days. In most instances, the game starts with the exchange of messages—usually with a liberal embellishment of emojis—though some apps now allow you to send across short voice recordings too. But whatever your preferred medium of communication, knowing how to break the ice without sounding like a loser is an art you need to learn to master. Here are some ideas to help you get the conversation started, and hopefully much else.

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General interests: Unless you are cruising on an app with a one-track mind, it's best not to get down to business at the outset. “What are you looking for?” isn't likely to get you very far, but paying close attention to the profile of the person might. Check out the hobbies they list and perhaps ask a question or two about them. According to a study by dating app OkCupid, 34% of their users prefer to take this route. It's a tried and tested method if any, good enough to run with.

Pets: This is clearly a make-or-break factor for many relationships. Imagine you click with someone, things go swimmingly well, until they land up at your place, take a look at your cat, and run away screaming incoherently about their cat allergy? Best to get the air cleared about pets before matters progress very far. Again, OkCupid found 31% of their users trying out the “dog or cat person” opening gambit. Studies also indicate that having a pet can influence the course of finding a date significantly, with 81% respondents preferring to go out with people who are likely to have pets or rescue animals.

Books, music, movies: An old trick in the book is to test the waters by asking the person about the books, music, movies they love, have recently consumed, or are planning to. It's a tricky terrain, though, and can lead to strong opinions, even a clash of words. If you read Schopenhauer for pleasure, chances are you won't get along with someone who digs Bridget Jones's Diary. But it's best to be warned in advance in any case.

Food: Another conversation starter that can slide into potentially contentious territory—or end up with you two eating together happily ever after. If you're a mutinous vegan or die-hard carnivore with no tolerance for other food habits, it's advisable to check on the other person's dietary preferences. But if you are open to experiments, curious and eager to try different fares, getting to know someone from a different food background can spice things up, every which way.

Travel: If you see your potential date posing in exotic locations in their display pictures, you have probably found the key to unlocking their reciprocal interest. An animated chat about your favourite travel destinations or bucket list cannot go wrong. In fact, it may help you find enjoyable company the next time you're looking for someone to go on a weekend getaway.

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