Going into a first date unprepared is risky business. Certain topics of discussion are landmines that can shatter an evening. There are social cues and rules of etiquette that you might not be aware of. Meeting up with someone new is a nervous affair no matter the situation. Throw in trying to seem attractive and interesting and clever and you’ve got a stressful situation on your hands. There are ways that you can plan for a first date that are almost guaranteed to make it go more smoothly. The key is preparation and consideration.
Prepare Things to Say
By the time you’ve got to the point of setting up a first date, you’ll likely have talked to the person enough to get a pretty good idea of what they’re like. You’ll probably have at least some mutual interests, and possibly have some mutual friends or acquaintances. Before your date, take stock of what you know about the person you’ll be heading on a date with. Think of topics of conversation that are extensions of conversations you’ve had in the past. Bring up conversation topics that are related to the person’s interests. Don’t re-ask questions you’ve asked in the past or make small talk, if possible. During the time before your date, plan at least a few questions that you know can bloom into full conversations so that you don’t freeze up when the moment comes.
Avoid Awkward Money Scenes
First of all, when you’re planning a date to a bar or restaurant, absolutely avoid going somewhere unusually expensive for your budget. It will set an unrealistic expectation for possible future dates. Also, it will put an unnecessary amount of pressure on you if you’re thinking about how you cannot afford the date while you’re on the date. You have enough to worry about without bringing expensive food or drinks into the mix. Instead, choose a place that is comfortably-priced for you. You’ll be more comfortable there, and you won’t have to worry about the prices of things. You’ll be able to pay the bill without breaking the bank, which makes a good impression. If the person you’re on a date with insists on splitting the bill with you, let them. It means they’re not comfortable with the implications of paying for someone’s food and drink, and that’s ok.
There is almost no worse feeling than being on a date where both people are afraid to take action. If you want to do something, order something, go somewhere, or say something, do it. Most people are open to having new experiences and trying out new things. It’s better to suggest something that turns out being a flop than to not suggest anything and look around nervously. If your date is a passive person, they’ll be happy that you’re making decisions and steering the date. If your date is a decisive person, they’ll probably be glad that you’re suggesting things as they’ll probably be used to calling the shots. If you butt heads on ideas like what to do on the date, all the better. A little friendly disagreement is better than nervous agree-ability.
Make Sure They’re Comfortable
For some people, a mindset of acting decisively is a gateway to inappropriate behaviour. It’s important to remember that the most important thing on a first date is that both people feel comfortable and like they’re having a pleasant time. It’s unlikely that you’ll spoil your chances of a further relationship with this person by not coming on strong enough; you should be patient. On the other hand, coming on too strong is a bad idea for both people. You hardly know this person and you haven’t gotten a handle on what they’re comfortable with on a first date or in general. The mood of a first date should be friendly and inquisitive, and it’s absolutely a mistake to try to steer things towards intensity.
People are probably generally less perceptive than you think. What this means is that you may have a skewed idea of how much you’re actually communicating to someone on a first date. They may not pick up on your body language or a subtle comment you made; they’ll be feeling nervous and mostly focusing on themselves too. Be communicative and expressive.
Tell stories and talk about ideas that interest you. If your date finds what you’re talking about boring than you probably don’t have much of a future together in terms of future dates. It’s better to talk openly and express yourself on a first date and hope they’re interested than it is to be quiet so as not to bore them. If you don’t have very much in common, it’ll become apparent eventually anyway, so you’re saving time by being forthright. It’s important to remember that talking freely does not mean you should talk just for the sake of it or to fill the silence. Don’t make things up, don’t exaggerate, and don’t talk about obviously esoteric subjects that are hard to relate to. Communicating openly and honestly means finding a way to share yourself with others that is both accessible and true to your personality. While asking follow up questions will lead to some deep discussions, stay away from loaded topics. Generally try to avoid talking about politics or religion. If you’re a man, steer away from giving your opinions on issues of women’s health on a first date unless prompted. Don’t try to impress your date by dragging out your edgy or generally unpopular opinions. Don’t talk negatively about friends or family or former lovers unless prompted; it’ll make you seem like a negative person who carrying dramatic situations around with them. Don’t try to seem smart or artistic by showing off with lofty topics that aren’t representative of your true self. Again, honest communication is the big thing here.
It’s hard to truly listen when you’re nervous. It’s easy to get distracted by the things around you or get lulled by the cadence of someone’s voice when they’re telling a story. When your date is talking to you, think about the way you express yourself. What kind of follow-up questions are you hoping someone will ask when you tell them something usually? What kind of things do you wish someone would ask you about and take an interest in? What exactly is this person trying to communicate to you with what they’re saying? One of the worst feelings in a conversation is when someone isn’t really paying attention when you’re telling them something that you find interesting. If you’re running out of ideas for questions to ask your date, remember the FORD tip. Ask about their family, their occupation, what they do for recreation, and what their dreams are. These are always good jumping-off points for further conversation if you hit a lull. Ask follow up questions and make connections between different topics, developing ideas and breaking new ground.
Don’t Get Too Drunk
When you’re nervous, it’s natural to want to get drunk to take the edge off. When you’re drunk you’ll think that you’re being smart and funny, but it probably won’t be true. Of course it’s well and good to drink at the same pace as your date, but always monitor the situation and make sure you don’t end up more intoxicated than your date without realizing it. Being considerably more or less drunk than your date is always an uncomfortable situation. Try to order drinks that you’re comfortable with so that you’ll be able to accurately predict what your comfort zone will be with regards to alcohol consumption.
The point of the above tips are to, in combination, work together to give you the best odds of having a positive experience on a first date. There are a number of things that you can control. You can control the environment you find yourself in on the date. You can control how much you drink, what kind of things you say, and what you wear. You’re in charge of how your date sees you in many ways, but after that there are a number of variables that come into play including personal chemistry. You cannot prepare for every situation. If you’re being true to yourself, not everyone will always be interested in you and that’s how it goes. Still, if you prepare for the date and act with consideration, the worst case scenario is a mostly-pleasant evening with some missed cues. The best case scenario is a deep personal connection, which is what many of us are looking for.