There aren’t hard and fast rules about what’s a good vs. bad first date question. Research has shown that the most effective communication style in relationships is a flexible one. The examples below are intended to stimulate your own ideas rather than as rules.
Key goals of a first date are to
(a) see if you have a connection, and
(b) find out if you and your date have any major areas of incompatibility. We’re wired so that once we start to develop an emotional attachment this is hard to break away from. Find out early if there are reasons that “making it work” will be fraught.
Ideas for First Date Questions.
Select a few of these questions rather than attempt to ask them all on the same first date!
1. What sort of vacations do you like to take?
Why: Different vacation preferences or amounts of vacation time can be a major source of ongoing incompatibility. For example, if one person likes to take very long trips and the other person has a more standard two weeks vacation time.
2. How was your day?
Why: This question helps establish if your date has a positive or negative attitude? If asking this question leads to five solid minutes of them complaining you'll know the person sees the glass as half empty.
Also, if anything out of the ordinary has happened that might be affecting your date’s mood, it’s good to factor this in.
3. Tell me about your friends?
Why: When you enter a relationship with someone you’re also entering a relationship with their friends. Also, it’s nice to give your date an opportunity to answer a question that isn't directly about them.
4. Are you a dog person, a cat person, or neither?
Why: If one of you doesn't like pets and the other has 3 dogs, that's likely to be a problem.
5. What do you like to do in your free time?
Why: Helps you find out the person's preferences and also helps you establish if the person has any free time or if they're a workaholic.
6. Is there anything you're really passionate about?
Why: Does the person have strong feelings or are they more easygoing and with milder feelings.
7. Do you like your job?
Why: Is the person about to make any major life changes e.g., leave their $200K/year job to go back to school? What's their attitude to their work? Do they see it as a job, a vocation, or are they primarily motivated by climbing the career ladder?
8. Are you a morning or a night person?
Why: This is primarily relevant if you're either an extreme night or an extreme morning person.
9. Would you like a bite of my dish?
Why: This question shows you’re open to sharing. On a first date go for a friendly tone rather than an intimate tone when asking this question.
10. Is it too noisy in here for you?
Why: This shows you're considerate of other people's comfort. Don’t be afraid to change plans if you arrive at a restaurant and find it’s too noisy for a good conversation.
11. Who do you live with?
Why: If they still live with their Mom or they live with 10 roommates, this tells you something about how they like to live.
12. Are you close to your family? Or, tell me who's in your family?
Why: Are they very involved with their family of origin? Is this something that appeals to you or not? Are their family intrusive?
Do they have a lot of family conflict?
14. Is there anything you don't eat?
Why: Helps you plan future dates but also gives you an opportunity to choose not to pursue dating someone who has very incompatible food preferences from you.
15. Do you smoke / drink / do drugs?
Why: You likely have a preference one way or the other.
16. Do you collect anything?
Why: Do they spend a lot of money or time collecting something?
17. How do you feel about.... [insert the thing you're really passionate about]?
Why: Whatever you're really passionate about, do they respect it? For example, gaming.
18. Have you seen any good movies or TV shows lately?
Why: This will tell you about your date’s preferences and also if they're someone who tends to reflect on experiences and can talk about their thoughts. This might not be important to you, but it might be.
19. Have you been to any good restaurants recently?
Why: Tells you something about whether they seek out new experiences.
20. What are your thoughts about the upcoming election (any upcoming election)?
Why: The main point here is not to jump to assumptions about your date's politics. If you jump to an assumption that they have the same politics as you, they might feel too awkward to say that their politics are different.
21. Are you dating anyone else at the moment?
Why: If your date is exploring a relationship with someone else you might want to push pause at the end of your first date but offer them the opportunity to get back in touch with you if the other relationship doesn’t work out. This isn’t about you being sloppy seconds. Especially in the age of internet dating, people sometimes meet multiple people they’re interested in around the same time.
To take some of the pressure off during first dates, remind yourself:
(a) that you each have 50% of the responsibility for how the conversation flows, and
(b) you can only control how someone reacts to you to a limited extent. If you try to be too careful with what you say, this is likely to backfire.
The answers to the above questions aren't necessarily deal breakers. However it's good to know what you're getting yourself in for before you start to get attached to someone.
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You can read my prior articles for Psychology Today here.