Been on a good date lately? If so, I bet you’re likely to describe it as “fun.” We rarely characterize early dates as being “meaningful” or “bonding,” although those words might be better indicators of the potential for a close relationship.
That’s because we live in a culture that places a premium on the word “fun.” In fact, we view having fun as essential to our wellbeing. A recent Chase Freedom Unlimited survey of more than 1,000 people in the U.S. found that 72 percent of people feel better mentally and 57 percent feel better physically when they have more fun in their daily lives. Nearly 60 percent feel they are more irritable as a consequence of not having enough fun. Nearly 50 percent feel more lethargic.
That’s a lot of pressure on your hour-long meet and greet!
“People who think others are fun see them as more attractive,” says Psychologist Emma Seppala, PhD, science director at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and author of The Happiness Track.
So what does it mean to be fun? You don’t have to crack hilarious jokes or have a rollicking good time. It turns out that “fun” might be our cultural code word for being “uplifting,” which is a little easier to achieve, explains Seppala. “When you’re with someone who seems fun and funny, they’re like sunshine. They make you feel good, and those are the kinds of people we want to spend time around,” says Seppala. “We’re empathetically attracted to others. If they smile, you smile. If they’re angry or anxious, you become that way.”
So here are some tips on how to boost your fun factor:
1) Don’t be fake fun
Is your voice a little too high? Is your disposition a smidge too sunny? Is your laugh overly animated? Appearing that you’re trying too hard to be entertaining and engaging is the kiss of death for any date. You’re much better off going for “pleasant” than inauthentic. “You don’t want to have fake enthusiasm,” says Seppala. “But if you’re in a positive state of mind, you’ll connect easier. When we’re stressed or negative, we’re self-focused and it’s harder to focus on other people.” That means no complaining, criticizing others or bringing up downer topics. (Her pre-date trick: Think of three things you’re grateful for.)
We might be putting on an unnatural game face without realizing it. Seppala recalls her British guy friend commenting that he found it odd that American women often texted, “I’m so excited to meet you.” “He was turned off by it because it was inauthentic,” she says. Cross-cultural differences aside, a little exuberance goes a long way. Aim for warm and friendly.
2) Do something fun
Set a festive tone for your date by choosing a place with a lively atmosphere or cheery outdoor patio. Or plan a fun activity, such as a summer food festival or outdoor concert. “You don’t have to sit in a café and stare at each other,” says Seppala.
3) Laugh at the other person’s jokes and stories
Yes, it’s human nature: We think even the most humorless people are funny if they laugh at our jokes. What if your date’s one-liners aren’t quite hitting the mark? Skip the courtesy laugh. But a sincere chuckle at their goofy effort is always appreciated.
4) Be good company
Take a deep breath, lean back in your chair, and relax. You want to seem easygoing, as if you take life’s punches with a good attitude and can laugh when things don’t go as planned. You know, the kind of person you wouldn’t mind hanging out in an airport with during a four-hour flight delay. And if you don’t feel on your fun game? Seppala suggests asking your dates questions about fun times in their lives. They’ll summon good feelings while telling you their best stories.
Yes, being fun makes you more attractive, but it also makes your date feel successful, as if their presence influenced your fun time. Whatever the case, it’s a good sign if your date concludes that spending time with you made them feel more positive about their day.
What you think makes a date fun?
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.