In five words, here’s how you make your date feel comfortable: games, compliments, stories, humor, and touch. The key to putting your date at ease is to distract the two of you from thinking too much about what the other is thinking. Try using each one of the elements below and your dating life will go much more smoothly as a result!
1. Playing games (in a good way)
Having your first or second date at a restaurant for dinner is the perfect context for playing silly games which will put the two of you at ease, distracting you both with something harmless and fun. Play a people watching game where you take turns making up the rules. For example, you say, “I want you to show me which person in this room is the most likely to have gotten, say, the Employee of the Year award at work. (Analyze this: I’d probably ask something such as, “Which person here might be the most likely to have a dead body hidden in their floor boards?” What, pray tell, does that say about the relationship expert!?)
First, I said “compliments,” not rapid-fire praise. In other words, toss out a quick compliment at the very beginning of the date, and toss another compliment your date’s way before the date is over. One or two thoughtful compliments will suffice; any more than that, and you’ll come across as disingenuous or overly anxious.
Examples: “You’re even more attractive in person than you are in your pictures;” “Wow, what a nice smile!”
The first five minutes of a first date are always the most awkward. After giving your new date a compliment, try launching into a brief and colorful story about something — anything. It doesn’t honestly matter that much what the story is about; all you’re really trying to do is to give your date something to focus on and to create a friendly dynamic to open the date.
Examples: “This restaurant reminds me of another restaurant where I saw the craziest thing happen [and insert a funny anecdote];” “I’m glad you wanted to see a movie, too, and I read a review that said [insert a snippet];” “This bar reminds me of a place I used to go when I [share a detail from your past].”
All I have to say is…God bless humor! Humor can actually make the difference between a good date and a bad one, so don’t hesitate to show your sense of humor and to crack whichever jokes you happen to think are funny. Humor helps put your date at ease, but it also serves another purpose: By showing your sense of humor, your date will, in turn, show his or hers to you and the two of you will quickly figure out if your senses of humor are compatible.
Examples: “I have a few quick questions to ask you just to make sure you’re not a psychopath; would you mind if I take notes while you answer?” “Okay, now is probably a good time for us to rate how the date is going on a scale of 1 to 10.” I promise, if you use humor, you will see your date start to relax and both of you can start to be a little bit more yourselves.
Before anyone starts getting any crazy ideas, the touch we’re talking about here is just the simplest physical gesture. The vast majority of people like to be touched, and most people will allow someone new to touch them the slightest bit. On the first or second date, extend a small physical gesture of warmth. Note: The goal is to convey emotional warmth, not sexual attraction or flirting. If the two of you are going to be a good fit, there will be plenty of time to show sexual attraction and flirt later!
Examples: Touch your date briefly on the shoulder, but don’t rub his or her back because that is too personal too soon for most people; touch or pat your date’s arm and make a comment such as, “I’m glad we’re getting the chance to hang out together.”
Successful dating is about keeping things as simple and organic as possible. By incorporating these suggestions into your dating routine, your dates will appreciate the natural way you put them at ease. Remember, it’s when people feel relaxed that they let their true personalities show. My wish for you is that you let yourself enjoy your first dates and focus on enjoying the surroundings, even when things feel a little forced or uncomfortable. Sooner or later, all your efforts in dating will pay off!
About the Author:
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.