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The Guide to Scoring Second Dates

When you are seeing someone new, there are many milestones to reach and enjoy. The first amazing kiss. The first time you exchange those three little words I love you. But along the road to these major milestones, you first have to endure the dreaded first date. And if you decide you like someone on a first date, even the savviest single sometimes finds him- or herself hoping (and praying) that the other person feels the same way and is willing to schedule a second date. While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for scoring a second date, the following are some tried-and-true tips for first date success and upping your chances of snagging a second:

Tip #1: Be yourself
First and foremost, it’s important to be yourself on a first date. Yes, you should put your best foot forward—but you should NOT pretend to be somebody or something you’re not in hopes of impressing your date. In an effort to make your best first impression, wear something that makes you feel comfortable and cute and is activity-appropriate. For example, a short skirt on a rollerblading adventure is a definite no-no; so are Bermuda shorts at the fancy wine bar. When it comes to first date dress codes, follow this general rule: guys, don’t be too sloppy casual; ladies, avoid wearing something too risqué.

Tip #2: Have fun
While first dates can be nerve-wracking, they should also be fun. You heard me—fun! By putting the fun back in first dates, you take the pressure off. So instead of worrying about where this might be going, sit back, relax, and give yourself permission to be your most fabulous self. That involves making eye contact, smiling, and engaging your date in casual conversation, not grilling them about their job security, relationship history, and credit report. There will be plenty of time to assess long-term compatibility if and when you decide to continue seeing one another. But on a first date? Flirt a little and just have fun!

Tip #3: Turn down your inner critic
The purpose of going on a first date is not to decide if you want to marry the person seated across from you at the bar, coffeehouse, or restaurant. It’s to discern if they’re worthy of a second date. So do yourself a favor and instead of obsessing about what went wrong on your last date or worrying about whether or not this particular date is The One, turn down your inner critic and just enjoy getting to know your date. Ask questions, and actually listen to their responses. Share things about yourself that are genuine in hopes of helping your date decide if they would like a second date with you as well. It’s important to remember that dating is a series of give-and-take decisions; if you spend the entire date stuck in your own head with your inner critic babbling noisily, you’ll never actually enjoy the pleasure of your date’s company or be able to make an educated decision about whether or not to green-light a second date.

Tip #4: Leave your date wanting more
Just as you shouldn’t let a first date go too far physically, you should also avoid being emotionally slutty. There are certain subjects that are appropriate for first-date conversations (where you grew up, what you do for a living, what you’re passionate about), while others should be saved for later (How many sexual partners you’ve had, the many ways your ex was a jerk, how your parents really screwed you up, etc. In fact, it’s better if you just permanently bench these baggage-heavy topics.). The purpose of the first date is not to tell your entire life story. Rather, it’s to provide a brief and honest glimpse of the incredible person you are and the amazing life you have so that the other person can decide if they want to know more.

Tip #5: Don’t play games
Just as you should be yourself on a first date, you should be genuine with your intentions and actions following it. If you’re interested in a second date, say so. But if you’re not, don’t string the other person along with the promise of a call that you’ll never actually make. And if the other person calls or emails you, practice common courtesy and respond promptly, regardless of whether or not you’d like to see them again. If their invitation for a second date doesn’t appeal to you, don’t play games. Instead, be honest but kind. After all, you never know when you’ll be on the receiving end of a similar call. And if you both agree to a second date? Success!

Ultimately, the key to scoring a second date is to relax and have fun on the first date. By being yourself, allowing yourself to get to know your date, and not participating in unnecessary games, you greatly increase your odds of dating success. At the end of the day remember this: just because one or both of you doesn’t pursue a second date doesn’t mean the experience was a waste of time. After all, practice makes perfect. And in order to eventually experience those major relationship milestones we all covet, it’s important to get plenty of practice in.