Ice breakers are an important part of a successful first date. Healthista editor Olivia Hartland-Robbins spoke to Celebs Go Dating life and relationship coach Anna Williamson who revealed 11 dating tips 

First dates can be awkward and nerve racking, especially if you’re out of practice or new to the dating world.

Of course, many of us are out of practice no thanks to Covid-19. Lockdown and social distancing rules meant that single people everywhere weren’t allowed to see each other let alone go on dates.

Have you Googled the words ‘ice breakers’ or ‘dating tips’ before a first date?

Aside from lockdown, insecurities, anxieties, fear of rejection, a breakup – there are many reasons someone may not feel their most confident and date-ready self.

Have you Googled the words ‘ice breakers’ or ‘dating tips’ before a first date? We certainly have.

That’s why Healthista editor Olivia Hartland-Robbins spoke to psychology expert and ultimate dating pro, Anna Williamson.

Williamson, 39, is best known for her role as a matchmaking agent on E4’s hit show Celebs Go Dating, where she is tasked with helping the dating agency’s celebrity clients as they face up to the real reasons behind their failed and non-existent relationships.

So it’s safe to say Williamson knows a thing or two about dating and relationships. Here are 11 dating tips she want’s you to know…

#1 Embrace your nerves

When people ask me about nerves and how to ‘get rid’ of them I always tell them that nerves are a good thing and one of the best ice breakers there is. In fact, I think it would be very weird if you weren’t nervous.

nerves also give us a nice little boost of adrenaline

I have been doing live TV for about 20 years, and the day I don’t get nervous is the day I need to worry, because it probably means I have lost my passion or stopped caring about it.

Nerves on a date are great because it shows that you actually care about how that date is going to go. Not only that, but nerves also give us a nice little boost of adrenaline which is exactly what we need for our mind and body to be firing on all cylinders.

#2 Prepare three open questions

One of the most awkward things that people often find when going on dates is not knowing what to say or not having enough to say.

That’s why when it comes to ice breakers I always advise that people come to a date prepared with three open questions. That means questions that can open up an easy and flowing conversation, not questions that deliver just a yes or no answer.

choose topics that are interesting or important to you

Oh, and choose topics that are interesting or important to you. Think about any funny anecdotes or facts that are interesting about yourself and frame your questions so that you can blend those facts and stories about yourself into the conversation.

Plus by talking about yourself, your date may feel more open to talk about themselves too and you’ll be able to find out more about them.

Tip: I like to suggest that one of those open questions asks about their family, as it’s often the most important thing to people.

couple eating on first date ice breakers

#3 Get to know yourself first

Meeting someone for a date is a personal interaction and highly intimate, and as I mentioned above, nerves are an inevitable but positive thing.

Those who seem particularly nervous though, are usually not feeling very confident in themselves. This is why first date nerves often come down to low self-esteem and a lack of confidence.

If that sounds like you, I would suggest looking at who you are first. Write down what you think you have to offer and what would make you a great date.

That can include your values, foundations, beliefs and what would your friends and family would say about you. Write them down so you can visually see what you have to offer, believe in them and make them robust. That way you’ll feel self-assured and raring to go.

write down what you think you have to offer and what would make you a great date

Plus, when someone feels confident in themselves, those feelings often radiate onto your date. It’s known as mirroring and matching, how you present yourself – with confidence – you will often find that your date will match that confidence.

In fact, mirroring refers to the simultaneous copying of the behavior of another person, as if reflecting their movements back to them. Behavioral research has shown that mirroring and matching (copying other people’s body language, mannerisms and even subtly repeating their words) helps to build trust and establishes rapport.

I like to see it as holding the hand of the other person and willing them to match your positive and confident frame of mind without even realising you are doing it. But if you give off awkward vibes and your date mirrors that, then you’re both likely to stay feeling awkward throughout the date.

couple kissing bubblegum first date ice breakers

#4 Ask your date what their five-year plan is

If you are dating to look for a relationship that will go the distance, then it may be a good idea to find out their five year plan, or even their ten year plan – without sounding too serious of course.

People may not see this as one of the better ice breakers, but I feel that asking someone where they see themselves in five years time is an important thing to establish, plus it can generate quite a good conversation.

#5 Be clever with small talk

Small talk is often the most popular form of ice breakers. What’s your favourite holiday, food, drink, film, colour and so on.

Small talk is nice and all that, but that’s all it is – nice. I think it’s best to weave these things into conversation in a less obvious way. If you have an anecdote that happens to include your favourite holiday that goes on to suggest how much you love beach holidays then great.

make sure you always reflect conversation back onto the other person

But, I think we need to steer away from cliched and naff small talk, and instead keep conversation slightly more fluid and organic.

So it’s more along the lines of ‘this is what I like and why, what about you?’ Think of it as a game of ping pong or tennis, and make sure you always reflect conversation back onto the other person, as that is what helps keep the conversation going.

First date in cafe first date ice breakers

#6 Try online dating first

Face to face dating is important. Being tactile, having sex and kissing are all a huge part of dating and relationships. But online dating does have a place in the dating world and anyone who has been sniffy about it needs to get over it!

The pandemic was about as negative as life can get, but I still believe there is a positive to be found and that was internet dating. It really did come into its own.

One of the best things about internet dating is that you can do it safely

Over the years, virtual dating has gone from being seen as a bit of a joke to being quite acceptable. People used to see dating apps and online dating as a way to just a hook up (or to send dick pics). But now online dating is seen to have many positive benefits.

One of the best things about internet dating is that you can do it safely, as you are dating from the safety of your own home. Not only that but it’s far cheaper than going out on a date, as the average fist date costs well over one hundred pounds.

Online dating has given many the opportunity to try before they buy. Meaning people have been able to work out whether there is enough about that person to make them want to meet them in real life.

You could say that online dating is one of the best ice breakers out there, because you can get to know things about someone before ever meeting them.

That’s why I feel so strongly about why people need to get on board with online dating. I truly believe there is a place for virtual dating in conjunction with face to face dating.

Woman online dating with a view first date ice breakers

#7 Give everyone a chance

‘What if I don’t fancy them?’ Well, if you don’t, I am here to tell you that it’s completely OK.

Have I honestly fancied everybody that I’ve ever been out with? Most definitely not, not straight away at least. In fact most of the men I dated in the past often became a bit of a grower (excuse the pun).

Of course sexual attraction is an important part of dating, but what people need to remember is that there is so much more that goes into fancying someone than what someone looks like.

all kinds of other things make up a person other than looks

There’s personality, culture, hobbies, interests – and all kinds of other things that make up a person other than looks. That’s why I suggest giving someone time to grow on you.

Unless you are completely repulsed by them always go on a second date, even if there is just a tiny flicker of interest, because it’s not until you get to know someone and uncover a few more things about them that you realise how that you are in fact attracted to them.

#8 Glam yourself up and don’t drink too much

When going on a date you want to put forward the best version of yourself right?

In order to do that, my top piece of advice is don’t drink to much alcohol when trying to settle your nerves. Despite popular belief drinking isn’t one of the best ice breakers because it often ends in embarrassment.

Instead, get yourself spruced up but don’t go over the top, and make sure you’re dressed appropriately for whatever the date is that you’re going on. Wear something that makes you feel good and your most confident self. Oh and don’t forget the perfume or aftershave, scent can go a long way.

Always treat the date and your date with respect as you would wish to be treated. You wouldn’t want your date turning up as a scruff bag so don’t not make the effort for someone else.

woman getting ready for a first date

#9 Just breathe

Breathing techniques are key if you are feeling that nervous.

I recommend the 7/11 calming technique, you breathe in for seven seconds through your nose and then out through your mouth for 11 seconds – while doing this you can think of the ice breakers you want to use on the date.

Do that a few times or repeat until you feel calmer.

#10 Enjoy the date for what it is

Before you go on a date, focus on what the beginning, middle and end of a date would be like in your ideal world – aka imagine the perfect date and then imagine your worst possible date scenario.

This will help you to then put your actual date into some perspective of what you expect in a potential partner.

where possible just try and honor that date that you’re on

Go into every date with the mentality of ‘whatever I do or what ever happens tonight on this date I am going to enjoy it to the best of my ability and to be open minded throughout’.

And remember the date may not be amazing, and you may realise that this totally isn’t the person for you, but where possible just try and honor that date that you’re on, even if you get to the end of that date and know you never want to see that person ever again.

first date not going well

#11 If you really are dreading a date – cancel it

Put off after a really bad date? We’ve all been there.

I hear from many people who have experienced a bad date, and they say ‘Oh no I’ve got another date to get through this week’ – if that is you I would advise you to cancel that date right now.

Why? Because you sound as excited about the date as you would a funeral. If you go into a date saying ‘this is going to be a crap date’ then it will be.

Instead take a pause and wait until you’re in the right frame of mind.

Anna Williamson

Photo Credit: Ruth Rose

Anna Williamson also has a number one bestselling book Breaking Mad: The Insider’s Guide to Conquering Anxiety.

Available to buy in the US on Amazon. Also available to buy in the UK.

Catch up on episodes of Celebs Go Virtual Dating on All4.

You can also listen to her podcast Luanna which she co-hosts with her friend Luisa Zissman.

Follow Anna on Twitter and Instagram.

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