There’s no denying that first dates can be awkward. Knowing that you are both coming on the date to evaluate your level of attraction and potential interest in each other as partners can lead to pressure and stress, which then in turn may create awkwardness. Unfortunately the more pressure you put on the date, the more awkward and tense it may become.
Feeling awkward can present a barrier to intimacy and connection. If you are in your head worrying about being liked or fearing that you won’t be, you will naturally be distracted from being present with your date and it will be hard to relax. It is important to understand that nerves are a normal part of dating and what matters most is how you handle them. You can date more mindfully by shifting your focus to connecting in the moment instead of fixating on what your date thinks of you. By focusing on enjoying the interaction, being open, and building a bond with your date, you can do your part to take the pressure off.
You can also work to better understand the root cause of feeling awkward, and anything in your past that is unresolved and therefore contributing. Often awkwardness is linked to low self-esteem, insecurities, shyness, lack of dating experience or feeling social pressure to be liked and understood. This pressure can feel magnified on a first date as you put yourself out there with the goal of being liked. The vulnerable nature of dating can also make rejection feel even more brutal.
Awkwardness on dates will become less of an issue if you are willing to work on your confidence, get dating practice, and utilize the six strategies below. Again, not all dates will go well (and this is okay!), but there is a lot you can do to better handle any awkwardness that is interfering with your dating life.
Here are six practical strategies to better handle and eliminate awkwardness in dating:
1. Remind yourself that it is just a first date. It is just an opportunity to see if you have enough in common to go on a second date, and continue on the path of getting to know each other. If you are fantasizing about the future or convincing yourself you have to know how you feel immediately, you are only going to make yourself more stressed. Take the pressure off by approaching the date with a carefree attitude. When your mind takes you too far into the future or becomes preoccupied with being liked, get back into the moment and remind yourself it is only a first date.
2. Plan an activity date. Activity dates give you something external to focus on and bond over. Participating in an activity together, such as hiking, bowling, ice skating, cooking or touring an art gallery or museum, provides natural conversation starters and topics for discussion. Dating is generally less awkward when you are not completely focused on each other or have the pressure of keeping a conversation going when you are sitting with someone for dinner, drinks or coffee. Pick an activity that brings out your unique personality and allows you to show up as your most relaxed, fun, and comfortable self. Bonus: shared meaningful experiences can absolutely lead to love.
3. Talk about topics you are passionate about. It can be challenging to continue a conversation filled with superficial small talk, plus it’s not a good sign if a date feels like an interview or obligation. Boredom may crush any interest and lead to awkward pauses. Steer the conversation towards topics that you actually find interesting and intriguing to discuss. Showcase who you are by sharing your passions, values, goals, and dreams. Bonus: you are likely to be more attractive to your date if you sound excited about what you are talking about and the life you are living.
4. Listen with curiosity. Have a true desire to get to know your date. Approach each date with an open heart and mind. Set an intention to connect with your date through friendliness, understanding, listening, and asking questions with curiosity (not as a judgmental interviewer or interrogator). Let your curiosity fuel the conversation and lead to follow-up questions and jumping off points. If there are any pauses, know they are natural and you can recover by doing your best to keep the conversation going, validating and summarizing what your date is saying, and showing interest. Use other cues, such as smiling, open body language and appropriate eye contact to connect.
5. Avoid potentially awkward topics and remember your date is still a stranger. If either of you feel awkward or uncomfortable with the topic choices, the energy of the entire interaction can get thrown off. This is why it is important to avoid topics such as finances, past relationships and ex’s, and sex in early dating conversations. Remind yourself that there are layers to getting to know someone, and sharing your life story with someone and rushing this process may result in awkwardness for all involved. Look for common ground while avoiding asking questions that are too personal for a first date.
6. Pump yourself up and remember to relax. Allow yourself to relax as much as possible while owning that first dates can be awkward (and let’s face it, many will be), so giving yourself a hard time or calling yourself weird is only going to make dating feel more intimidating. Accept that dating can be awkward territory, but you can survive the worst-case scenarios of liking someone who doesn’t like you back, or not seeing the person again. In fact, you can even thrive by viewing all dates, regardless of the outcome, as learning opportunities and practice. In moments of awkwardness and anxiety, take deep, grounding breaths to release tension and promote calmness. Take good care of yourself before, during, and after all dates and be kind to yourself through the natural awkward moments of dating.
While you can’t control every aspect of the interaction (and potential awkward silences), you can laugh off any odd moments, and use the above skills to make the date fun and comfortable for the other person. Strive to have fun and take risks in your search for love. Let go of any embarrassing moments and keep trying. By plowing through any awkwardness and continuing to put yourself out there, you will build confidence that makes any potential awkwardness more tolerable and easier to smile and laugh through.
About the Author:
Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Nationally Certified Counselor and relationship coach, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals and couples via her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. Rachel’s areas of expertise include relationships, self-esteem, dating, mindfulness, anxiety, depression and stress management. Rachel is a co-author to Sexy Secrets to a Juicy Love Life, an International Bestseller, written to support single women in decreasing frustration about single-hood, leaving the past behind, cultivating self-love and forming and maintaining loving relationships. Rachel also serves as a Relationship Expert for http://www.datingadvice.com/ and other dating and relationship advice websites. Follow her on Twitter for more daily wisdom!