I'm amazed at how two people can have completely different views about how a date went. As a matchmaker and dating coach, I follow up with many singles and their dates the day after they meet for the first time. And I'll hear from one man that the date went phenomenally, that the chemistry was off the charts, and that the conversation flowed perfectly. Then I'll hear from his date that she wasn't sure if there was a romantic connection because of all the awkwardness. How can two people have such different versions of an event?
The hard truth is that dating is a skill, and some people are better at it than others. So while you may think you wowed your date by telling some good jokes and ordering the lobster, you may have left your date feeling empty and dissatisfied. But don't fret if you're a nervous or awkward dater — it's a skill you can practice and improve.
Ask yourself these questions to find out if you're a skilled first dater:
- Do you show up on time? Showing up is half the battle. Showing up on time could win you the war. Show your date you're respectful of his or her time by being there when you say you're going to be there. Making the other person wait doesn't build suspense — it generally makes your date wait in nervous annoyance, which can set the tone for the rest of the date.
- Do you look prepared? Looking the part is the best way to win the part. Dress for the date you want. Hair trimmed, freshly shaved, manicure done, new outfit — always put on your best look for first dates. Showing up and looking good sends the message that you care about yourself, and you're a person someone should care about.
- Do you have questions ready? Usually, on a first date, you know very little about the other person. That leaves one million unanswered questions about who he/she is, what he/she does, where he/she is from, and what he/she likes to do. Be curious about the other person, and have an arsenal of questions in your bank to fire off should there be any awkward silences.
- Do you listen? Sometimes the things you don’t say will impress your date the most. Sitting back and listening to your date will let him/her know that you care. It's the best and easiest way of showing you're interested. It's tempting to want to share more about yourself, to make the other person see who you are, so that your date likes who you are. But being a good listener speaks volumes about your character.
- Are you polite? You should always be kind to everyone you meet, but especially on a first date. The hostess, the servers, other patrons, even the guy who cuts you off in the parking lot — be polite, be cool. The first date is not the place to showcase your road rage or annoyance, even when bad circumstances arise. First dates are stressful enough — don't add to it by falling into tangential drama.
- Is your energy light? First dates should be light-hearted and fun, not heavy and depressing. If you're coming off a long day at work, shake it off at the gym before heading to your date. If you are rattled by a disagreement with a friend, mediate before your date. Come to the date with a light heart and mind, and show the positive side of you. Too often people get bogged down with the other stresses of life, and that energy is off-putting.
- Are you laughing? Laugh at your date's jokes, laugh about your nerves, laugh about the order mishap, and laugh at your own jokes! Laughing together can bond people both emotionally and sexually. Smiling invites people in, laughing keeps them there. First dates can get too serious, too fast, as you both try to get all the pertinent info out there. Laughing things off will relax you, and put you and your date at ease.
- Are you flirting? No, I'm not suggesting that you play footsie under the table on a first date. But, it's a date. Set it apart from dinner with your mom. Maintain eye contact, lean in, face your date, touch. Think of something nice to say. It can be as direct as, "You look gorgeous," to an observation, "I like that you're so close to your family." Even if you're not 100% sure that your date is the one for you, a little flirting could tip a "maybe" over into a "yes." Not flirting will keep you solidly at a "no." So, give it a go.
If you answered "yes" to most or all of these questions, congrats! You're a skilled dater. For those of you who mostly answered "no," don’t worry — there's still hope. Practice makes perfect, so next time you catch yourself nervously gabbing too much, stop, ask a question and sit back and listen. Hone those first date skills, and you’ll get so good that your next first date may be your last first date ever!
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