We’ve all done it, right? We’ve gotten to the end of a first date and thought, “Wow, I really screwed that one up; I talked about all the wrong things at all the wrong times.” If you find yourself tanking first dates too often, then try to avoid these habits that can derail the first-date train before it even gets going.
Don’t Monopolize the Conversation
Talking too much is a major no-no when you’re trying to get to know someone. But it’s an easy trap to fall into. Sometimes we’re so invested in “selling” ourselves that we go on and on in our attempt to let a date know how great we are. Or sometimes we do just the opposite, displaying our insecurities by constantly apologizing for our shortcomings or complaining about our job or our family or other relationships. And sometimes we just get nervous and try to fill any conversational dead space so it doesn’t appear that the date’s not going well.
Whatever the reason that tempts you to monopolize the conversation, resist it. Instead of talking too much, try to just focus on the moment at hand and be fully present with the other person. Ask questions, try to get to know him or her, and don’t work so hard to mention everything about yourself that you want your date to know. If you can be the kind of person who listens to and shows interest in your date, then you’ll have a much better chance of getting to a second and third date, which means you can gradually highlight your own best qualities over time.
At least not right away. Vulnerability and openness are keys to deepening a connection between two people. But when those people have just met, there’s such a thing as offering too much information. It can be a major turn-off if someone immediately begins opening up about his or her deepest fears, family problems, or psychological or emotional issues. Be especially careful about talking about past romantic relationships. One of the quickest ways to tank a first date is to talk a lot about your ex.
This isn’t to say that deeper sharing shouldn’t happen early in a relationship, or even on a first date. By all means, if the conversation goes in that direction and you receive cues that your date is receptive and is inviting more openness from you, then be willing to divulge more. Sharing something meaningful that you have in common is great; purging your own issues is not. Without some clear signs that you’re both interested in letting the conversation go deeper, it’s best to remember that a little mystery is not a bad thing. (If you have to, just keep repeating this mantra to yourself: “It’s a date; it’s not therapy.”)
Don’t try to be Someone you’re Not
Another temptation we all face when we’re getting to know people is to try too hard to impress them. Bragging is never going to win over another person, even if what you’re bragging about is true, and it can cause more trouble if it’s not. After all, think about what’s going to happen if your date does like you and you two begin to get to know each other better. If you haven’t been honest from the beginning, the truth will eventually come out. So don’t get caught making claims you can’t back up once the person gets to know the real you.
Instead, try to be authentic. Again, you don’t have to over-share and expose all your dirty laundry right away. But let the real you come out, and trust that if things are meant to work out between you and your date, they will.
Of course you’re not going to literally propose marriage, but sometimes we can make people feel like we’re thinking so much about the future and developing a serious relationship that we create all kinds of fear in them. While it may be your ultimate goal to find a soul mate and/or someone to raise children with, save that conversation for sometime down the line. Even someone who’s open to the idea of settling down might be scared off by a person who, within the first half hour of the date, mentions a ticking biological clock.
As is so often the case in life, the key is to focus on the now. Be fully present during your time with this person, and save tomorrow for tomorrow. Then, if the relationship progresses and there’s a mutual connection between you, you can find just the right moment to begin discussing a possible future that includes your being together.
Don’t Ignore Cues
A successful first date depends on the ability to read social cues. This means that one of your top priorities on any first date is to watch carefully for signals being sent—either consciously or unconsciously—by the person you’re with. Verbal cues as well as nonverbal signals (like facial expressions and body language) can direct you on everything from how much to talk, to what to talk about, to whether to go in for a kiss at the end of the date. Be guided by what you observe.
The main theme throughout these different suggestions is to be both self-aware and aware of your “audience,” i.e., your date. How will your date feel if you ignore the cues he or she is giving? How will he or she respond if you do all the talking? How will your date react if you repeatedly talk about the fact that you’ve already planned out your wedding? If you can be authentic and stay true to yourself but also remain mindful of how you’re coming across to the person you’re with, then you’ll be able to avoid many of these “first-date don’ts.”